Product Review

Muse Model Eleven Universal DVD Player

Part I

September, 2005

Jason Victor Serinus



   -R, DVD-R/W, DVD+R, DVD+R/W
● MPEG Decoder: ST Micro Omega Series
● DACs: Burr-Brown
● Analog Gain Block: Burr-Brown
● Analog Output Block: Burr-Brown
● Power Supply: 13 Regulated Stages
● Dimensions: 4" H x 18.9" W x 12.75" D
● Weight: 24 Pounds
● M
SRP: $4,300 USA Two-Channel, $4,700 for Multi-

Muse Electronics



Normally, Secrets reviews begin with a list of specs. Obtaining specs from Muse, however, was no easy task. They're not printed in the component manual, and they're not listed on-line. Nor has Muse updated its website since 2004. The company doesn't even list a phone number on the web. All you can deduce from the website is that they're located somewhere in Garden Grove, California. Perhaps Muse has taken its cue from Greta Garbo, and wants to be alone.

Multiple e-mail exchanges with Kevin Halverson, CEO of Muse, produced some highly technical information, such as what components are in the analog gain block.

In further correspondence, I attempted to obtain some simple basic specs such as frequency response, signal-to-noise ratio, etc. I even sent Kevin the specs I had included in my review of the Theta Gen. VIII DAC/preamp, asking him to supply Muse's version of same when applicable.

Here are excerpts from Kevin's reply:

Analog inputs: "If equipped with the optional analog input module, there would be two input pairs. One unbalanced via "RCA" connectors, one balanced pair via 3-pin female 'XLR' connectors. The input impedance of the unbalanced pair is 10k Ohms, the balanced path is 10k + 10k Ohms."

Frequency response: "This is highly variable, depending upon the mode of operation. In the case of 44 kH source material, the upper frequency response is dominated by the DF (digital filter) as opposed to the analog or reconstruction filter. Typically, the filters stop band attenuation begins at .454 FS and is 'flat' below that point with a passband ripple of +/- .002 dB. At higher sampling rates, the analog filter begins to dominate this measurement. In all cases the analog filters pole is - 3 dB by 75 kHz. The low frequency is not high pass filtered so there is no pole at the low frequency side. If you want a table of bandwidth let me know which sample rates (and data types) are of interest."

THD, Noise, etc.: "Our FS (full scale calibration) point is 2 Volts RMS from either the balanced or unbalanced (fixed) outputs. With the attenuator option installed, the range is up to 6 Volts RMS from either output. Reproducing a 1 kHz FS sine wave, the fixed output THD+N (un-weighted) is less than .002%. With weighting, this will change depending upon the weighting parameters used."

Dynamic Range and Signal to Noise ratio: When I told Kevin that Theta claimed 125 dB ref 18 VRMS Balanced, he replied:

"This is an absurd specification as 18V RMS represents a level that would have overdriven virtually any amplifier (or even most preamplifier) well before this level was reached. This specification is also dimensionless in terms of bandwidth."

"A more "realistic" measurement would be either the weighted or un-weighted noise performance compared to the typical FS output. This could be expressed as "dynamic range" by inverting the sign of the noise floor. The Model Eleven exhibits an "A weighted" noise floor of approximately 10 uV RMS. Contrasted to the 2 Volt FS output, this would be a -106 dB. (Note: the difference between 2 Volts and 18 Volts would be an additional 19 dB difference). In the case of the Model Eleven, the unbalanced and balanced outputs have similar noise performance."

"The DF (digital filter) used in the Model Eleven is monolithic and concurrent with the converter. It utilizes a different architecture than does a general purpose DSP."

"The Model Eleven, being a multi-format device (and not one that converts DSD to PCM) utilizes a mixed architecture configuration or 'Advanced Segment' topology. In its PCM mode of operation, the DAC uses an 8x interpolation (oversampling) filter driving an 'Advanced Segment DAC Modulator' with differential outputs for both channels. The data path consists of an upper 6-bit ICOB decoder and a lower 18-bit 3rd order delta sigma modulator."

Volume Control: "When equipped with the attenuator option, the Model Eleven utilizes a differential pair of digitally controlled analog attenuators (configured as ladder divider and programmable feedback gain combination attenuator/amplifier)."

Digital Filter: "8x FIR in PCM mode, N/A in DSD mode."

Size: "Not inclusive of the rear panel connectors, the Model Eleven's dimensions are 18.9" W, 3.5" H (not inclusive of the machined aluminum feet - if so equipped), 12.75" D."

Weight: "Depending upon the configuration (and options) the Model Eleven has a weight of 22-24 lbs."



Beyond the Technical

Until Scot Markwell of Elite Audio Distribution spoke to me about this player, I had not heard much about Muse for a number of years. I still recall the praise that several audiophile publications lavished on Muse's old preamp, and welcomed the opportunity to review the Muse Model Eleven Universal player.

The Muse Model Eleven is not the first Universal player I've reviewed, but it is the first I can comfortably call "high-end." After months of listening to this component, I'm convinced that its price tag reflects quality of design and execution.

The Model Eleven is available in either two-channel or multi-channel configuration. Owning a two-channel system, I requested the two-channel version. This does not imply any value judgment concerning multi-channel reproduction. Rather, it reflects the realities of financial, space, and lifestyle constraints (the spouse acceptance factor, you know).

Were I to win the lottery tomorrow with a California Super Lotto track record as poor as mine, the only way to go is up I would not hesitate to assemble a multi-channel audio and home theater system whose sound would hopefully surpass that of my current two-channel audio reference system. Given current realities, however, this review reports my observations of two-channel audio performance, which are my primary albeit not sole areas of interest.

Bench Testing

Regular Secrets readers understand that this site cannot bench test every piece of equipment submitted for review. Since the Muse was shipped directly to Casa Bellecci-Serinus, which is not equipped with sophisticated testing apparatus, bench testing was not an option.


The Muse comes equipped with both single-ended and balanced outputs. It also offers the option of an internal, remote-controlled analog volume control that enables the user to bypass a preamp and connect the player directly to a power amplifier.

It took all of two minutes to confirm that, as good as my Theta Gen. VIII's internal preamp may be, the extra circuitry it adds to the signal path detracts from the level of transparency and openness achieved by directly connecting the Muse to my Jadis DA-7 Luxe power amplifier. Connecting a CD player's variable output directly to a power amplifier does not always produce a benefit, especially if the output is just through some inexpensive op-amp modules. However, in the case of the Muse, direct connections produced the best sound.

I used Nordost Valhalla 1.5 meter single-ended interconnects between the Model 11 and power amplifier, and Nordost Valhalla 1.5 meter balanced interconnects between the Model 11 and an AV123 Rocket subwoofer. When I wanted to listen to my tuner or my regular Theta transport-Theta DAC/preamp-Jadis configuration, the interconnect switchover took 90 seconds to accomplish. Most of the time was spent untangling various interconnects and insuring that they weren't touching power cables.


Click here to go to Part II.

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