Originally Posted by gulliBELL
I was surprised as well. I was expecting it to be a long night trying a wide variety of different content to try and differentiate only subtle nuances of difference. Much like when comparing different interconnects or speaker cables or power cables because they can be difficult to reliably tell apart (which is why I don't use insanely expensive cables in my setup), and in any event I really don't have much motivation for these sort of tests.
After I wrote that initial piece I went back to the Foundation in pre-amp mode and listened for another hour, because sometimes initial impressions can be off the mark. But the more I listened the more I had to accept the Foundation as a 2ch pre-amp flies at a noticeably lower altitude in the performance airspace than the Halcro. Which is a finding consistent with what Paul McGowan said a few months back in the PS Audio forums, even talking down the sonic attributes of his own products when compared to a quality 2ch dedicated pre-amp.
I don't want to sound as if I'm rubbishing the Foundation 7.1, because I'm not. As a one-stop-shop piece it is outstanding value for the performance, and I'm very happy with mine. But it is clearly evident there is better stuff out there if your focus is 2ch, and you're prepared to drop $20k+ to get there. All the more reason to congratulate Krell for what they've delivered in the Foundation.
Thank you very much for the time and effort you put into this comparison and review! It's really helpful to read a comparison like yours that was obviously executed in the proper manner.
Though I don't hear what you are describing in the Krell, it's all relative of course, and to me the results aren't shocking when you consider what you are using for comparison. I have always been a preamp kind of guy. I have still not heard a dedicated 2 channel system sound better than when I had my Conrad Johnson Premier 17LS tube preamp hooked up to the CJ MF2250 ss power amp. And the 17LS, while more expensive than the Krell (given that it was a preamp-only and was $4,200 back in 2000), was nowhere near the price of your Halcro even if adjusted for inflation. I'm not even sure that I consider speakers as central to a system's overall musicality as I do a preamp (or preamp stage in a processor or integrated amp).
What's interesting to me is that I hear much of what you describe in your Halcro when using the Foundation as a preamp. I agree with both you and rhale that the soundstage is not very deep (at least with the Oppo analog input), but I find it very wide and enveloping, with imaging that makes the speakers vanish, to the point that I often have to confirm that the center and rear speakers are not on. And, I find it very musically engaging with my CJ MF2250. With the HDMI input, I do find the soundstange deeper, but not particularly wide, and with the coax input, I get the depth of the HMDI input with a wider soundstage, but not quite as wide as the analog inputs. I also find that internal DACs in the Foundation produce a smoother, somewhat richer texture than with the Oppo. To a certain extent, I prefer one over the other based on the recording I have chosen to listen to.
Your Halcro must be wonderful indeed! I am immune from an audio-nervosa reaction for now, though, as I find the Foundation quite magical for 2 channel music, especially given it's price and synergies in my system. Also, it's relatively simple to add a preamp with a theater loop back into the system if I ever feel the "need" in the future . . . and my dear wife allows it! Oh, and 20 large for a preamp may be a bit out of reach for me even if my dear wife were to allow it.
Thanks again for taking the time to do this. It's this kind of interaction that makes the hobby interesting, beyond the sheer joy of listening to music that is.