I had the big audition today, and am feeling a bit unsure about it right now, even though it ended with a purchase. As it turned out, I listened to only the tube units, the C2300 and ARC LS27. I used various familiar tracks:
Wondrous Stories, Yes (prog);
My God Called Me This Morning, Fairfield Four (a cappella gospel);
Hallucinations, Eliane Elias (jazz piano trio);
The Golden Striker, Modern Jazz Quartet (I’ve read where some don’t consider MJQ jazz);
Fanfare for the Common Man, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (brass/percussion);
Dust in the Wind, Kansas (prog);
Frankenstein, Edgar Winter (rock);
The Strife is O’er, Anthony Newman & The Chestnut Brass Company (organ/brass/percussion).
The system was a Puccini dCS U-Clock and CD player, McIntosh 601s, Magnepan MG 20.7 speakers, Nordost cabling and power cords, MIT power cord on the preamp, and a Richard Gray power conditioner. The system was, frankly, bright and a bit of a challenge to listen to; I am sensitive to such things and was a bit ill as a result. Fortunately, my system at home doesn’t do that to me.
I listened to the 2300 first, then the LS27. For the most part, I preferred the LS27 but bought the 2300 demo unit for two reasons: it was more dynamic, probably due to its larger power supply, and I got a nice deal on it. I thought at the time these things offset the LS27’s advantages. The LS27 tamed the system brightness some and was easier to listen to; it has only two tubes; it’s a line stage; it fits into my rack as is; it looks (to me) more elegant and is less obtrusive. But its downfall was dynamism, as it didn’t have the punch the 2300 did on tracks like Fanfare with its kettle drums. When they were whacked, you felt it more. And Jack DeJohnette’s drum solo during Hallucinations had more punch. Chris Squire’s bass in Wondrous Stories had more weight as well. I was able to pick it out in spots and follow it pretty well with both preamps, but it had more authority and was easier to follow on the 2300.
Despite all this, I’m feeling a bit unsure because, I think, ultimately I’m not getting what I want. I did indeed prefer the LS27’s overall sound in the demo system, but its comparatively light balance was its undoing. Otherwise, I’d have spent the money. Also, I’ve said before I liked the C2500’s look more than the 2300’s. But the deep discount that goes with a demo unit (and the last C2300 in the store, by the way) was hard to ignore. Still, part of me wants to cancel and get the 2500 instead, as it’s said to measure better than the 2300 and has preferable (to me) cosmetics. I have some time to do that if I want. But do I want to spend the additional $1135, which would just about pay for a new equipment rack if I choose/need to get one? I’ll see how I feel over the next day or two.
On tubes, the salseman has a C2300 himself, and has Gold Lions in there. He says they’re excellent, but perhaps a bit to the warm side, with Mullards and Tung-Sols being more neutral. I don’t believe I need more warmth in my system, so I’ll try the other, less expensive options first. I suppose the Magnepans were responsible for this brightness; the 601s are fairly neutral, too. And the 2300 (or maybe 2500 still) means a system reconfiguration, which I’ll need to come up with since having it creates an imbalance in the racks and kills setup symmetry, since the onboard phono stage is better than my Aragon 47k; no need to keep it in the rack.
Of course, things grind on.
VPI, Grado, SME, Pioneer Elite, Magnum Dynalab, Oppo, DVDO, McIntosh, JJ, Mirage, Kimber, Transparent, MIT, Pangea, Wireworld, Shunyata, PS Audio, Furman, Sanus