January 12, 2021 § Leave a comment

A great reference system truly is a sum of its parts. If you take high-end components, pair them with entry-level speakers, with entry-level sources, and place them in a less than ideal space, you most likely won’t be blown away by what you hear. The McIntosh C2700 Pre-Amplifier and MC462 Power Amplifier are monsters. They are big, expensive, and beautiful slices of high-end audio. They deserve to be paired with reference-level speakers and the best sources and connections possible.

If you’re ever afforded the opportunity, you should give them a listen. Once my kids are older and I have some expendable income. I too will finally pick up my own preamp and power amp combo. My listening room will be sound treated, and my reference speakers will be befitting of the electronics. And McIntosh will be the first brand I audition.

BAT’s REX 3 Preamp Review $30K

December 26, 2020 § Leave a comment

Rotel Michi P5 preamplifier Review

December 3, 2020 § Leave a comment

Schiit Freya+ Preamp and Bifrost 2 DAC $899 Review

November 18, 2020 § Leave a comment

Getting set up was pretty straight forward. I connected my Cambridge Audio CXN v2 to the Bifrost 2 via coax, connected the Bifrost 2 via unbalanced RCA to the Freya+, and ran the Freya+ into my Parasound Halo Integrated 6 in home-theater bypass mode, which essentially turned it into a power amp. Later on, I swapped out the HINT 6 for a more traditional power amp, the Emotiva A-150. However, I actually preferred the sound I got from my HINT 6 over the Emotiva, so all my listening notes will be based on that setup, unless otherwise noted. I also stuck with the supplied 6SN7 JJ tubes, frankly because I don’t feel like tumbling into the tube-rolling money pit again, but rolling is a real thing and worth trying out if you have unlimited cash, patience, and a masochistic streak.

Okay, all of that out of the way, I powered everything up. And my first impressions were very positive. Schiit claims the Freya+’s tube stage is quiet, and it’s definitely right about that. I’ve had some noisy, hissy, angry tubes in my system, but I can hear absolutely nothing at a moderate volume from my listening seat through my fairly sensitive GoldenEar Triton Three+ speakers. 

Rotel Michi P5 preamplifier $3999 Review

November 8, 2020 § Leave a comment

Beck’s Sea Change MQA (Geffen Records 0694935372, 24/384 Tidal MQA stream) rendering via the P5 was an unalloyed delight, each instrument full of tone and super-intimate, his voice dead center and massive in an upfront but rather flat soundstage. Morning Phase (Capitol Records XUNI30711F96, 24/384 Tidal MQA stream) was the best-sounding file of the MQA bunch that I played through the P5, a vast improvement over the 16/44.1 file in depth, impact, clarity, density, and aliveness. The sound was beautiful but also eerie in a way I couldn’t put my finger on.

My conclusion: MQA via the P5’s DAC is allowing me to hear deeper into these recordings for what they actually sound like. Each MQA file sounded very different. Some sounded incredible, some ordinary, a few hard to listen to. The Beck files were incredible on every level.

Overall, MQA files played through the P5 had superior resolution, clarity, weight, intimacy, saturated tones, and a seemingly bottomless noise floor, while also sounding somewhat “treated” and otherworldly.

Allnic Audio L-8000 DHT Preamplifier $22,900 Reviews

November 5, 2020 § Leave a comment

So, what was different than the already expensive and wonderful L-7000? Can you imagine living with repertoire for fifty plus years, playing it, conducting it, studying it, eating and sleeping the damn stuff, and still managing to be so moved by something new, something magical? The audio cynic in me was asking a lot of questions. As I choked up.

But there it was, the slow movement of the Jupiter Symphony, with Mozart weaving magical spells in the violin opening melody and daring us not to cry at the utter genius of it. The L-8000 allows more magic in. Simple. You’ll get more sweetness, more event space, better imaging and the aforementioned timbral accuracy, which to my old musician ears is super accurate. 

This went on all morning.

Later in the month and after many hours of listening, the magic spark was still there, poking at me this way, tugging another. Yet, the auditory system is a cruel mistress, at least in audiophile terms. In fact, most neurological systems are too soon to forget. I had a cataract done a year ago after the blur was getting too much. As soon as the bandage came off, it was if I had X-ray vision. 8K clarity. It was amazing. A day or two later, meh. Back to the standard here and now. If only we could maintain that new car smell.

Audio Research Reference 6SE line preamplifier $17,000 Review

November 1, 2020 § Leave a comment

“My first postbreak listen was in the COVID-19–mandated masked company of Erik Owen, co-owner of Gig Harbor Audio (footnote 3), and his 21-year-old daughter, Natalia. As befits listening during the pandemic, they shared the sweet spot on the front sofa while I sat in the back, way over to the left. With my neighbors’ permission—I warned them that it might be loud, and that they could cry uncle at any time—I also left the door of the music room open to increase air circulation.

The three of us soon narrowed down our track choices from an initial six to the two most telling: the hi-rez remastering of Dolly Parton’s less-than-superbly-recorded “I Will Always Love You (Original Version)” from Jolene (Qobuz 24/96 FLAC) and Yello’s hot-on-top, depth-plumbing, wall-to-wall “Electrified II” from Toy (Tidal 24/48 FLAC). Both tracks include recitations: Dolly does her best to sound sincere as she repeats, in deadpan fashion, words that might embarrass a Hallmark card writer, while Yello’s Dieter Meier’s tongue remains firmly planted in cheek.”

Yamaha WXC-50 streaming preamp with MusicCast

October 29, 2020 § Leave a comment


October 5, 2020 § Leave a comment

Read Here

“If you prefer to relax and read while you listen to music, you will have to de-tune and romanticize your source components. If you’d rather attend the performance and engage with the music and the performers who are creating it, AGD will take you to the venue. And if you’ve developed a personal taste for design as sophisticated as your ear is for music, and the design of these components resonates with your style, you will experience a pride of ownership that is typically reserved for only the most expensive brands.

If you prefer being unique and to follow your own path, AGD’s Andante stereo preamplifier and Vivace monoblocks amplifiers have my highest recommendation! The accolades continue to mount for this fine American manufacturer whose future looks very promising.”

SPL Phonos: A Muscular Phono Preamp

October 3, 2020 § Leave a comment

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