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post #1 of 100 Old 10-07-2003, 10:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Need a break from Wilson and speaker talk, so want to open up the forum to high end preamps (some of which hit 20k)

In particular, who has auditioned ARC Ref II, BAT VK51SE, Aesthetix Callisto, First Sound, CJ ART II, etc. I guess it could extend to Goldmund, Burmester etc although less common in the States (Franz!)

I have been leaning towards the BAT, as commonly used (designed as well) with Avantgardes but I am open to other ideas. In particular, ARC vs. BAT would be most welcome as both are balanced working better in my system.

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post #2 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 06:13 AM
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You should strongly consider the Boulder line. I just heard this gear a week ago and it will knock your socks off.

I wouldn't touch Goldmund with a stick (even though I own a bunch of Goldmund gear). Their service and reliability on their new products are questionable (have had several bad experiences).
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post #3 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 06:56 AM
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KeithR


I have not heard the Callisto or the VAT but have heard extensively the ARC Ref and the CJ ART, they represent the pinnacle of what can be done with tubes in preamps.

The best and most neutral preamp I have heard is the Burmester 808, The second best in term of neutrality, silence, frequency extension and sheer musicality is the Burmester 011. I have found, that, so far, a preamp makes the music more "alive", driving my amps directly with the DAC or CDP has not satisfied me.. Dynamic are constricted and the soundstage "darker". music becomes unnatural and canned.

Before I get tagged a Burmester zealot. Please give ANY of their gear a serious audition if possible, you are in a for a singular experience, a discovery.

BTW . I am supposed to prefer tubes to transistor but gears such as Spectral, Gamut and Burmester reset the game. If ever I am to go back to tubes the 1250 watts VTL is high on my list and so is the ARC Ref 600

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post #4 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 07:09 AM
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The only problem with Spectral is that it forces you to buy a Spectral amp as well...
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post #5 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 07:27 AM
 
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As far as SS goes, I agree with Scooter--Boulder flat out is top of the list--very pricey and in the range of Burmester which is also excellent. Knowing KeithR's speakers, the BAT preamp pairs well with them. At a personal level, I am entrenched in tubes and find the sound of the ARC Ref 2 Mk ll more to my liking. If I ever returned to solid state Boulder would be at the top of my short list. Spectral not only forces you to use their amp (which IMO is terrific for the price) but so also MIT cables--in other words you must buy the entire system otherwise the warranty is void
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post #6 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 09:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Actually guys--new Spectral pre and amp are "universal" now and don't require the whole MIT/Spectral system...

I am leaning towards tubes...
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post #7 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by KeithR
Actually guys--new Spectral pre and amp are "universal" now and don't require the whole MIT/Spectral system...
Interesting... it was always rediculous that they claimed their gear had to be mated with each other (plenty of other products in this world had the bandwidth of the Spectral)... now you just have to buy their "universal" version at a premium that is probably no different than their regular version.
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post #8 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by scooter_29
... (plenty of other products in this world had the bandwidth of the Spectral)...
Not many gear have the flat to Mhz frequency response of Spectral. Can you name three?
I have successfully used Spectral with other gear a friend of mine in Haiti still has after 20 years almost the unusual but interesting combination of Spectral DMC-10 with Lumley 100 Watts amplifier + Quad ESL 63...

If you are leaning toward tubes it is a hard one, ARC against CJ... I would go CJ for the sheer musicality and neutrality but the ARC is magnificent in its glorious and expansive sound... A toss-up IMHO, I would not like to be in your position but you owe yourself to listen to the Lamm pre-amp to complicate the situation:p

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post #9 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 01:03 PM
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Goldmund, MBL, FM Acoustics, Krell all can go to 1 Mhz... Spectral isn't the only one.
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post #10 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 01:51 PM
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What's with the fascination of a 1MHz frequency response anyway?
I know the step response is more "square" (better impulse response), but I doubt you'd notice if the 50th harmonic of a 20kHz step is "rounded". Right?
Don't forget, the higher the bandwidth, the higher the noise floor. Pure physics.

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post #11 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 02:19 PM
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Not sure either. Hearing is tapering into nothingness at 20kHz. I could well believe that frequencies a few tens of thousands Hz above that could alter your perception of the music. I think in extreme cases with an oscillator attached to your skull, something in the order of 100kHz might be processed in one form or another by your brain. But 1MHz? C'mon.

Square waves are nothing but a series of sine waves. If you can't hear the component sine waves, you won't notice that the corners of the square wave are rounded. For proof of this, tests have shown that humans have an extraordinarily difficulty distinguishing a pure sine and pure square wave at a fundamental frequency above ~10kHz. I think much past ~20kHz it's practically impossible. What chance do you have of noticing a rounded corner on an otherwise square 50kHz tone?

Sorry to get off topic, couldn't resist that digression on the Spectral topic (BTW, the best system I've ever heard contained Spectral, so I think highly of their products, but since I wasn't able to hear the same system in the same room with different electronics I'll never know if the Spectral gear contributed much to that sound).

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post #12 of 100 Old 10-08-2003, 02:59 PM
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Spectral gear is first rate stuff. I too have had excellent auditions where Spectral gear was used. My only point was that Spectral wasn't the only gear that had ultra-wide bandwidth and their original requirement to only use Spectral gear with other Spectral gear was rediculous.

As far as the merits of that extra bandwidth, I have no opinion one way or the other.
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post #13 of 100 Old 10-09-2003, 07:01 AM
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Spectral gear has always been universal. It gives its best performance when you stay within the brand. It is no different than Levinson, Krell, or Classe. They give good performance in a mixed brand environment, but they kick ass when all the nameplates are the same.
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post #14 of 100 Old 10-09-2003, 09:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by BillyD
Spectral gear has always been universal.
While it will work with anything, Spectral wouldn't honor the warranty if you didn't use Spectral amp and preamp with MIT cables.
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post #15 of 100 Old 10-13-2003, 08:57 PM
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Preamps, preamps, preamps...

Hmmm.

Leaving aside the argument for the best preamp being no preamp (in a digital system), i.e., a straight run from the DAC to the amps, which I'm certain you're all sick of hearing from me, I vote along the following lines:

SOLID STATE
1) ML No.32. I love that thing. It just sounds right to me. And the single best resale value of any audio component of any kind from any manufacturer. Which means it's expensive, even used.
2) I've heard pretty good things about the Halcro but the one time I had it hooked up, it sounded terrible. But since there are different ways of hooking it up (as you'll immediately see if you look at the back of a unit), I suspect we botched it and didn't have it connected properly. I'm dying to give it a try again with a Halcro amp this time -- alas, this time the amp is the problem.
3) Spectral in a Spectral system (including Spectral/MIT wire). If you like hyper resolution, as the Porsche copy writers said, there is no substitute. It's the analog (forgive the pun) of a 1920 X 1080 native digital projector. Razor sharp. For better or worse.
4) Burmester -- I really want to like 'em, but I just can't get past the BS chrome and surreal pricing. They're pretty good, I guess, but I'd never buy one. I'd have left it out actually, but was too worried that I'd look like an uncultured, inexperienced oaf to all you Ultra HE guys if I didn't include the thing. Ask Frantz if you want a proper, unbiased opinion.

TUBES
Well, while I've yet to a hear a preamp that topped my CAT Signature MKIII (just kidding -- unless you need a phono stage and have no money in which case the CAT makes this list!), here's what I like and would actually spend money on right now (in no particluar order):
1) VAC Reference -- huge money, unfortunately.
2) Nagra -- just a hair veiled, but still something very special. A little jewel for not all that much, relatively speaking.
3) ARC Ref MKI, MKII...it doesn't matter which one. They all sound great.
4) BAT VK31SE (I'm waiting to hear the VK51SE). A bargain. 80 to 90 percent of anything you can name. Anything.
5) I'm not as big a fan of the cj ART as some others are, and to me, it really works significantly better in all-cj systems (unlike the other brands which can be mixed and matched very successfully). So, I'd conditionally recommend it by saying I think it's good and respect its presentation, but it's just not to my taste so I wouldn't buy it. But go hear it for yourself. You may categorically disagree.
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post #16 of 100 Old 10-14-2003, 05:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by PF
Preamps, preamps, preamps...

......4) Burmester -- I really want to like 'em, but I just can't get past the BS chrome and surreal pricing. They're pretty good, I guess, but I'd never buy one. I'd have left it out actually, but was too worried that I'd look like an uncultured, inexperienced oaf to all you Ultra HE guys if I didn't include the thing. Ask Frantz if you want a proper, unbiased opinion.
:D :D

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post #17 of 100 Old 10-14-2003, 07:14 AM
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PF

Burmester has several lines. The Reference line is the statement. They are expensive. Next come the Top Line which while still expensive is in-line with many Hi-End prices. The 001 Preamp is to me the second best preamp around, it deserves to be heard and it is $14,000 not pocket change but many Hi-End preamps are priced in that vicinity. If possible give the 935 MKii an audition and prepare your bag of superlatives, about $6,500, still not cheap but the performance are in a special league. For some reasons people just think Burmester and see their most expensive systems.
It is very difficult to have experience Burmester's absence of coloration and truthfulness and not be taken by it. The SQ and built quality are exceptional.
Now PF you had to start me... :).

They are moving in Europe more than people think. There exist a core of Hi-End brands that just go on churning incredible gear. They may be at times quite idiosyncratic, but good they are, Burmester, Nagra, FM Acoustics, NAIM, Linn, Gamut, Jadis, to name these, are continuously producing gear of exceptional quality. They are not standing still on the speaker side either, B&W (which I do not like), Dynaudio (which I do), Kharma (Which left me indifferent but is excellent from what I have heard from some friends whose ears I believe), Sonus Faber (Good and what a finishing), Piega, Acapella (Ionic Tweeter, Horn everywhere, virtually unknown in the USA but Woah!!!).

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post #18 of 100 Old 10-14-2003, 04:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Re: Burmester

At the HE2003, with all Reference line equipment, had to be one of the most lifeless presenations I have heard in some time. Not sure if just too much burmester in the system or what. Maybe the room, maybe the burm speaks. Who knows. Not 100k sound for sure...
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post #19 of 100 Old 10-14-2003, 05:14 PM
 
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Keith--It was my exact impression--so much so that I went back the next day to see if it was just an off day--it wasn't. I was unsure if it was the room which was small but with room modifications. The sound, I felt was just as bad with their $58K CD Transport/DAC as with their less expensive sysytem
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post #20 of 100 Old 10-15-2003, 05:39 AM
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Hi Guys

I also have heard horrendous sound from _________ (Plug here your favorite brands) under show conditions. I know better now.
Anyone who has assembled an Hi-End system knows how delicate this can be. Do not take my word for it. Give them an audition in-house and that goes for any gear of High distinction.

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post #21 of 100 Old 10-15-2003, 09:02 AM
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Hey guys... I tend to just lurk, but since I've been on my own pre-amp hunt, I'll throw in my 2 cents regarding what I've actually auditioned and keep my mouth shut about things I haven't heard first hand :o

Quote:
Originally posted by PF

SOLID STATE
1) ML No.32. I love that thing. It just sounds right to me. And the single best resale value of any audio component of any kind from any manufacturer. Which means it's expensive, even used.
I officially don't "get" ML. I auditioned the 380S followed by the No.32. The No.32 is certainly better then the 380S, but I didn't enjoy the 380S at all. I listened to the 32 in two systems (dealer and my own) and each time it dramatically decreased my enjoyment. It sounded dead, muted, slow. For example, instead of a string instrument having a noticeable attack and decay to each note it instead seemed smoothed out or rounded off. I had read such wonderful glowing reviews about this preamp and really wanted to like it and call off the search. So much for that... like I said, I just don't "get" it.

Quote:

3) Spectral in a Spectral system (including Spectral/MIT wire). If you like hyper resolution, as the Porsche copy writers said, there is no substitute. It's the analog (forgive the pun) of a 1920 X 1080 native digital projector. Razor sharp. For better or worse.
It's been a while since I listened to an all Spectral/MIT system (2-3yrs), but from what I recall, I'd tend to agree. Nothing to sneeze at, and prices aren't too obnoxious.

Quote:

TUBES
4) BAT VK31SE (I'm waiting to hear the VK51SE). A bargain. 80 to 90 percent of anything you can name. Anything.
Agreed. Auditioned this at length earlier this year. I wonder how much better (and in what way) the VK51SE is.

For some perspective, I've been comparing the preamps against one another and in comparison to my Lex MC12, which is configured for 2ch analog audio using the analog bypass feature (i.e. no A->D then munge it around and D->A cycle).

I've also auditioned the Linn Klimax Kontrol (stop snickering!) recently.

The Linn pre has a very similar user interface to the awful one in their old AV5103 system controller (AKA surround sound processor) and it's small wonder the Linn Engineer responsible for it hasn't been "made redundant". However it's mostly just a pain to setup and config - not a pain in the butt for normal use.

As an amusing side note, the Klimax Kontrol committed fratricide and nuked the power supply in one of my Klimax Solos the first time I brought it up out of stand-by. Off to a great start.

Once repairs were complete, I got up the nerve to try again and with some success. I still noted a fairly loud anxiety inducing thump when switching the unit off into stand-by mode and it made an unpleasant phhft phhft phfft noise when you adjusted volume before starting up a CD. Sound-wise vs. the Lex MC12 it was merely on par. Soundstaging was ok, detail was ok, noise floor decent, but all in all not nearly good enough for me to fork over $10K USD.

So thus far the only pre that I've auditioned recently (ignoring the Spectral as it's been too long) that actually noticeably improves the sound quality of my system is the BAT.

I'd still like to audition the VTL 7.5 and the ARC RefII MkII before deciding. As usual, it's a matter of deciding if it's actually worth spending the money on this area of my system vs. somewhere else... ah well, it's fun ;)

Mike
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post #22 of 100 Old 10-15-2003, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
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The VTL 7.5 is an interesting piece, and I look forward to your comments Mike. I'm not even sure where to listen to one here in LA (actually Chris Hanson's old place carries the line i think)

As for myself, a BAT 51SE seems to be coming my way I think...

Although, lots of buzz about Supratek

www.supratek.biz

Talk about audio jewelry...
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post #23 of 100 Old 10-15-2003, 02:18 PM
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Check out the Jeff Rowland Synergy IIi. It is a great preamp. If you are looking for something to "flavor" the sound, this isn't it.
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post #24 of 100 Old 10-17-2003, 09:59 AM
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Pardon me. I have only read/looked at the first page. There is a case for full 100kHz and slightly beyond human hearing characteristics,and this manifests itself in the realm of time response, harmonics, phase, locational cueing, etc.

The other fundamental and critical component is dynamic linearity in timing and amplitude. Basic facts about the human hearing mechanism create a situation were these components are most critical. Textbook design and measured numbers rarely reflect this in terms of explaining why a given piece of gear sound musical.

Ken Hotte

"Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream." -- Malcolm Muggeridge.
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post #25 of 100 Old 10-17-2003, 04:49 PM
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I'm pretty sure I agree with KBK. Probably. I think.


Quote:
Originally posted by MikeMacKinnon

I've also auditioned the Linn Klimax Kontrol (stop snickering!) recently.

The Linn pre has a very similar user interface to the awful one in their old AV5103 system controller (AKA surround sound processor) and it's small wonder the Linn Engineer responsible for it hasn't been "made redundant". However it's mostly just a pain to setup and config - not a pain in the butt for normal use.

As an amusing side note, the Klimax Kontrol committed fratricide and nuked the power supply in one of my Klimax Solos the first time I brought it up out of stand-by. Off to a great start.

Once repairs were complete, I got up the nerve to try again and with some success. I still noted a fairly loud anxiety inducing thump when switching the unit off into stand-by mode and it made an unpleasant phhft phhft phfft noise when you adjusted volume before starting up a CD. Sound-wise vs. the Lex MC12 it was merely on par. Soundstaging was ok, detail was ok, noise floor decent, but all in all not nearly good enough for me to fork over $10K USD.

Mike
I was most interested in these comments. Even though it's the de facto processor standard in terms of sales, the Lexicon is NOT renowned for it's two channel sound quality among audiophile types.

The unit to compare the MC12 to, though, is not the Klimax, but rather the $13K Kisto System Controller. From what I'm hearing the Kisto is superb, the equal of virtually every high end solid state audiophile preamp, and not a few of the absolute top audiophile tube preamps. Hard to believe and hopefully, you'll get do this comparison.
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post #26 of 100 Old 10-17-2003, 06:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by PF
I was most interested in these comments. Even though it's the de facto processor standard in terms of sales, the Lexicon is NOT renowned for it's two channel sound quality among audiophile types.
Ur... um... the MC12 is at least supposed to be a decent improvement on their past efforts in the 2ch realm. Honestly, I've always wondered if people are referring to a processed 2ch playback or the analog bypass. By default, a 2ch analog input is going to be converted to digital, get processed and run back out thru the Lex's DACs. I know I certainly prefer the bypass mode and I would love to hear other people's opinions about this mode's performance (in general or vs. some other dedicated pre-amp).

Quote:
The unit to compare the MC12 to, though, is not the Klimax, but rather the $13K Kisto System Controller. From what I'm hearing the Kisto is superb, the equal of virtually every high end solid state audiophile preamp, and not a few of the absolute top audiophile tube preamps. Hard to believe and hopefully, you'll get do this comparison.
How interesting! I had a chance to listen to the new Unidisk this summer and if you're familiar with the sound of both the Linn Ikemi and the CD12 then I'd say for CD playback it fits neatly in between them (sound quality-wise) with the added bonus of also playing back DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, MP3, SACD and who knows what else. Not too shabby for a universal player.

At the time, the Unidisk we listened to was still a pre-production unit, so the Kisto wasn't available yet. I may have to harass my dealer to harass Linn for a demo unit.

On another note, the Musical Fidelity Trivista KWP Reference Preamp and the KW Laboratory Reference Power Amps are allegedly arriving for demo next weekend. Stay tuned if you happen to care...

Mike
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post #27 of 100 Old 10-17-2003, 10:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by MikeMacKinnon
Ur... um... the MC12 is at least supposed to be a decent improvement on their past efforts in the 2ch realm...
Absolutely no disagreements there.

Quote:
How interesting! I had a chance to listen to the new Unidisk this summer and if you're familiar with the sound of both the Linn Ikemi and the CD12 then I'd say for CD playback it fits neatly in between them (sound quality-wise) with the added bonus of also playing back DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, MP3, SACD and who knows what else. Not too shabby for a universal player.

At the time, the Unidisk we listened to was still a pre-production unit, so the Kisto wasn't available yet. I may have to harass my dealer to harass Linn for a demo unit...

Mike
I have spent a great deal of time with the Unidisk 1.1 lately. It's absolutely sensational -- possibly the best, most enjoyable (finally!) CD playback I've ever heard, even though you must introduce a preamp into the system which otherwise never helps the sound in my view.

I would say -- and so would Linn -- that it's dramatically better than the very, very good Ikemi that I persuaded a non-believer friend to buy (who now swears by it, of course). Linn would disagree with me on this however: To me, the Unidisk is fully the equal of the CD12 on Redbook CD in every respect, and, not suprisingly, utterly destroys it on SACD and DVD Audio.

Plus you get absolutely state of the art DVD video thrown in for good measure. What a machine!
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post #28 of 100 Old 10-18-2003, 07:40 PM
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I have made the switch to tubes (and analogue) and I could not be happier..

I have a Conrad Johnson 17LS preamo and a CJ 140 power amp..

No more CDs for me!!

loving it

I would consider the CJ preamp even without a tube amp.

I replaced a Krell FPB 300 something...

Good luck in your search.

Mark
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post #29 of 100 Old 10-19-2003, 08:10 AM
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Mark, while I really am happy with my decision to invest in a nice turntable and preamp, I find it impossible to listen to all music I enjoy without turning to CD's, more often than not.

While I don't think it's easily achieved or even technically possible, it would be cool if someone could come up with the right recipe for post-processing of the CD bits to make them 'analogue'.

The DSD upsampling on my DCS units is supposed to somewhat provide that effect.

rotary subwoofer install blog ultimate subwoofer install : http://bassment.wordpress.com/ ... c
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post #30 of 100 Old 10-19-2003, 10:47 AM
 
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As is the DSD upsampling on the Meitner DAC
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