About us

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History

The North Star Design company was founded in 1997. We started with working at a project of a nautical control system. That's how the name of the company was born, a reference point for navigating.
But the passion for audio started to become visible in the same year when we designed one of the first Analog-to-Digital converter, the Model 1, one of the first to be an 96/24 unit.
This unit will remain only a prototype but it introduced us in the world of the high resolution audio. We went to an mastering studio in Milan to test this unit and for the sound engineer it was the first time his Audio workstation Sadie was working at 96/24.
After we designed the Model2 a microphone preamplifier. Also this one remained a prototype.
The real break through we made instead with a digital-to-analog converter: the famous model 3.

In 1998 high resolution Audio start to become popular but there were only few companies involved in digital audio. The record label Chesky Record produced some DVD Video (with Audio only) with 96/24 music that could be reproduced by DVD Player.
In October of the same year at the Top Audio in Milan we present a 96/24 DAC, Model 3, that connected in digital with a Pioneer laser disc player can play these DVD at the native 96/24. This was first step of the North Star Design in the high end audio market and over specializing in high resolution audio helped us to be well-known by the public.

The North Star Design has always been a forward-looking company. We like to think which progress could be useful for improving the listening experience of the audiophile. That's why in the history of the Northstar we were between the first to elect the 96kHz/24bit in 1997 and in 2000 the192kHz/24bit...

In 2001 we thought of the I2S connection as the best way to transfer high resolution digital audio 192/24 even before the CD-transport was designed.
In 2011 we adopted the USB 192/32 and in 2013 we previewed the great success of the DSD conversion. The North Star Design designed a DA converter that can play 384kHz/32bit files and DSD256 at the dawn of the DA converter on a global level. We produced a DA converter that can play 384kHz/32bit files and DSD256 before others, even though high resolution files were few.

Design philosophy

In our DAC the focus is always the choice of the DAC IC. Starting from this choice we redesign analog, digital section and power supply. In particular analog and digital power supply of the DAC IC is the secret to meet the expected performances. It is very easy to lost many dB of dynamic range if the power supply is not exactly designed for the particular DAC IC. Only with the best fitting power supply all the information will come out from the DAC. The second step is to design the analog stage around the DAC IC. So, for sure, the experience in digital audio design is necessary but sometimes it is necessary to start from scratch.

High-End production process

In our almost twenty years of experience in design and production of high-end unit we have refined our quality control and improved our electronic test to offer always units that meet our high levels of standard. The quality control, assembly and test process are enterely done at the North Star facility; each step is done by specialized personnel and all the most important steps are stored in a database.
Each part of the unit both mechanical and electrical is controlled before to be stored in the warehouse; all the parts receive a first visual inspection and the electronic boards are fully tested and the measurements are stored. The assembly and test procedures for each unit are described in detailed reference manuals.
On our flagship units we use matched electronic components; the selection is enterely hand made using ad hoc test equipment.
We complete the assembly and test procedure with a final functionality test, visual inspection and final measurement test; we careful clean and package the unit before the shipment. For us it is vital not only to provide a unit that fully meet the customer expectations but also to ensure over the years a great user experience.

Timeline

  • 1997 Model1 ADC
  • 1997 Model2 Microphone preamplifier
  • 1998 Model3 DAC
  • 1999 Model4 Upsampler
  • 2001 Model192 DAC
  • 2001 Model192 CD Transport
  • 2002 I2S White Gold cable
  • 2003 Monoblock
  • 2003 Linestage
  • 2004 Phonostage
  • 2005 Extremo
  • 2005 Model192 CD Transport MK2
  • 2006 Sapphire CD Player
  • 2007 Model192MK2
  • 2008 Sapphire SACD Player
  • 2009 Linestage SE
  • 2010 USB dac32
  • 2010 Essensio
  • 2010 USB-to-I2S interface
  • 2011 Essensio Plus
  • 2012 Fluxio
  • 2013 Impulso
  • 2013 Excelsio
  • 2013 Supremo
  • 2014 Intenso
  • 2014 Incanto
  • 2015 Blue Diamond CD Player
  • 2016 Blue Diamond Integrated Amp