Nah, not moving up the ELAC ladder. And I don't dig the looks of either 330 or 310.
I prefer variety. The next handsome mini to enter solidschateau (in the distant future) will be ProAc's Tablette Anniversary. It would make a very delectable ornament.
ps: yeah, I thought that Pro PMC looked a bit plasticky...
Proac Tablette are very good as ornaments! Not so good as working loudspeaker tho! Dreadfull little things! Yuch!!!!!!!
I am just a soul boy at heart.
Speaking of lovely little things, I'm still vacillating if I need the QC-24 preamp. The 909 on the end of a tubed MF pre achieves the same soundstaging and clarity as the QC-24. It's a preliminary assessment, but it's leading me to look at other preamp solutions like the passive Creek OBH-22. Or MF's M1 HPA headphone preamp.
And then there is this...
^ Project's Pre Box SE. Like the MF M1 HPA, its output stage is biased into Class A. Sounds promising. And what I love most is the reference -dB volume display. That will make up for not having Arcam's A38 which offers this audiophile display option.
If anyone has any experience of this oh-so-cute preamp, say something!
Talented Quartet (Sugden Mystro, Arcam FMJ A38, Rega Elicit and Roksan Caspian M-2)
Jan to May will go down as the most frenetic span of time I have had to endure at work. So much so that evening treats of donuts and gourmet ice-cream could not assuage the stress. What better to perk me up than the narcotic thrill of unwrapping a new piece of audio kit and taking in the scent of fresh metal? I decided thus to bring forward my August amp purchase.
First stop on the shortlist was the Sugden Mystro. Mystro - I just can't shake off the thought that it is a modern lingo for a bistro that serves high-end miso soup. In the flesh the Mystro looked and felt gorgeous (especially that firm volume knob). Its partnering CDP, although sharing the same chassis, is the fugliest thing I have ever seen thanks to its ghastly inset drawer and display window. Chalk one up for dreary Yorkshire aesthetic sense.
The Mystro amp, though, is blessed with minimalist good looks. Its limited inputs and lack of mod cons like a preamp out or main-in appealed to me, an addict of MF's X series which offer scant features in exchange for big sound. The Mystro's seemingly meagre 50W/ch is of the same miraculous quality as similiarly-spec'd MF or Naim amps. It goes a long way and was unfazed by high volume levels. I had used the A21a previously to demo my Spendor S3/5R and sound-wise the Mystro shares its elder sibling's traits. But it had an extra bounce in its step and a slight disregard for fine detail that is reminiscent of an Exposure 2010S. I enjoyed its sonics but drew the conclusion that there was nothing it could do that my MF X-T100 could already. The Mystro is a step up from entry-level amps. If I were a starting audiophool, I'll take it over Naim Nait 5i, Rotel RA-1520, CA Azur 840A V2 or Roksan Kandy K2 (my past demos). It sounds more natural than any of them, of whom a couple are afflicted with HF brightness and crudity/thinness in the midrange.
Any enthusiasm I had for the Mystro was smouldered when I went to revisit the elder sibling of my Arcam FMJ A28, the A38. After five months with the lovely A28, I was now unsure how the A38 is better. The refresher demo showed the areas where the A38 is superior. It had more dynamic clout, an ability to dig out musical nuances (which escaped the Mystro) and a quicker pulse when it came to rhythms. The soundstaging was also bigger with precise placement of instruments. Best of all was its emotive handling of voices. It is a league above other Brit marques I'd demoed.
I was about primed to buy an A38 in black. But over the years I have learned that it pays to be patient and explore further. A crossover to the Rega dealer paired a Saturn and an Elicit for a test run. Wow, the black-clad Elicit looked so metrosexual and the ring of orange-red LEDs around its volume knob adds to its slightly menacing aura. If Darth Vader had an amp, it could only be the Elicit. Same black sheen, same LED light-sabre colour. Elicit - the choice of Sith Lords. What a handsome amp.
However trouble was brewing on the horizon. Just like my demo of Spendor's SA1 and Harbeth's P3ESR last year where both inflicted damage on the other through their unique arsenal of strengths and where I ended up buying neither, the Elicit commenced to damage my esteem for the A38. I had heard one Rega amp before the Elicit, the Brio 3 many years ago with the Apollo CDP and was underwhelmed. I was expecting the Elicit, however gorgeous-looking, to sound like a Brio 3 only with more juice. Was I wrong. From the first note, it was evident that its reproduction of bass is very special. Lower frequencies had a startling hear-through clarity! The A38's bass was now slightly veiled and opaque by comparison.
One track on my demo CDR, Britney Spear's Toxic, revealed the Elicit's LF finesse. I am so familiar with this song already but the way the bass guitar came alive shocked me. Its notes darted about with a delicious agility and it also seemed to acquire a wordless voice of its own, commenting with wry overtones on the lyrics' innuendo. This is the first time I have heard a bass guitar 'sing'. Nuance, clarity and articulation - the Elicit's bass borders on reference quality.
As promised to Elicit-owner CultureCrammer, I had Mahler's Symphony No.7 on hand and the good-looking Rega handled the Nachtmusik sequences with marvellous finesse. There is a favourable review of the Elicit on 6moons, a 'pro' site I don't rate very much due to its penchant for including reviews of foo items. A strange paragraph from it has stuck in my mind since:
"the Rega clocked advances with free swing-outs of tones, what's technically called their sustain/release phase. This doesn't pertain to tone body per se which undoubtedly is supported by accurate decays where the Elicit is strong. I want to focus here on a form of audiophile finesse however which might be called the temporal shifts of tone color through complete decays."
Trying to make sense of that was more headbanging than studying a convoluted physics paper.
But after finally hearing the Elicit for myself, I think the Rega's finesse in tonal shading can be put this way: Imagine the instruments in a piece of music as pebbles thrown into a placid lake. The water ripples radiating from the sunk pebbles are like the decaying tones/trailing edges of the sounded instruments. In most amps, the trailing edges of the dominant instrument or voice will override those of the backing instruments, just like the bigger water ripples from a heavier pebble will sweep over the ripples from a smaller pebble. Through the Elicit, all these tonal decays are reproduced intact. Depending on where you focused your attention, you could pick out the trailing edges of the vocalist's notes or those of an instrument positioned further back in the soundstage. Neither obscured the other. As such, Mahler's Nachtmusik was reproduced with a skilful care for balance and nuance. The melodies flowed and ebbed like a shifting phantom full of swirling, shimmering unearthly beauty.
In that way this Elicit is the most nuanced and artful integrated I have heard to date. But all that emphasis on tonal delicacy seems to come at the expense of some dynamic clout and body. 6moons said it had a fleshy sound. I beg to differ. The Elicit sounded sparse and light-weight at times with music that had fewer instruments and performers than classical music (i.e. pop music). Arcam's A38 definitely had the fleshier sound and it strikes back with its ability to make vocals soar. Singers and saxophones are much more enticing, fuller and silkier. If there is a place for the Elicit in solidschateau in the future, I'd use it as a high quality amp to play complex orchestral and non-vocal jazz music during late-night hours. Its agile and transparent bass could be the perfect foil for the ATC SCM11's muscle-bound bass grunt. But for vocal music the A38 is better, but it in turn gets a black eye from the Elicit for its comparatively opaque bass lines. Argghhh...!
So, two bruised combatants already. I wasn't expecting the Elicit to put up this much of a fight as it was the next integrated I'd sized up to be the one to beat off the A38: the Roksan Caspian M2. I had used its predecessor, the Caspian M1, as demo amp when I bought several of my previous speakers and so the Caspian sound is very familiar and well-liked. Firstly though, the looks. I almost did a sex wee upon beholding the black M2 with its shiny chrome knobs. It is the perfect visual complement to my gloss black ELACs with their silver-trim JET III tweeters.
Sound-wise the M2 continues the Caspian sonics of the M1, but with significant improvements. The M2 has superb definition throughout its entire frequency range. Those wammers who go on and on about all amps sounding identical if played at the same levels should be presented with the M2 and the A38. In the M2's company the A38, nominally firm in tone, will sound comparatively slack and loose. The M2 doesn't have the A38's silkiness in the midrange though; here it is sinewy and taut. But it has a rugged rough-hewn quality that is textured and peculiarly appealing. It is not the most relaxed sounding, and once again I pick the A38 as the better performer with voices.
The M2's bass reproduction sits between the A38 and the Elicit - neither as opaque as the former, nor as nuanced and transparent as the latter. Where it trumps both is in rhythm. This is a master of PRaT. The sheer drive in the bass. I put on Scissor Sisters' 'Any Which Way' and heard it reproduced to perfection for the first time. The propulsion given to the synthesizer basslines! My toes were dancing about inside my shoes. The previous champ in the PRaT stakes was the NAIT XS demo of last year but Flatcapped or not, it wasn't as good as the M2. The XS's low damping factor (15, according to HFW Feb'09) must be responsible. I dunno the M2's figure but its grip of basslines was so tight and fast, better than the XS's. One salsa music extract played with an immense 'live' feeling and the rhythm section crackled with energy.
However, the M2 isn't the right amp for my speakers. Its quest for utmost definition gives its treble a 'take-no-prisoners' quality. It is not sibilant per se, but with treble-rich material like massed violins, I noticed a sand-papery quality emerging. I can only intuit that the M2 won't flatter my ELAC's JET III ribbons. Had I gone for the Spendor SP 3/1R2 instead of the ELACs, the M2 would be the perfect match. Spendor's smooth soft-dome tweeters would complement that treble while the M2's bass grip would make the 3/1R2's slightly fruity bass dance. Plus, the Spendorian talent for big midrange would help fill out those sinewy Caspian mids. If I do invest in a pair of bigger Spendors next time, this M2 amp would be my first port of call.
With the day's demos concluded, the M2 and Elicit were KIVed for potential future addition. Neither quite fit my needs at the moment. So it was down to the A38 but I couldn't bring myself to buy one now after hearing the talents of the Rega and Roksan. That's the peril of demoing other alternative amps which are so fiercely competitive.
With some time to spare and procrastinate, I saw the well-formed QUAD 909 and asked to hear it with the QC-24. The glorious midrange that poured forth was superior to the four integrated amps'. While the Caspian and Elicit had special attributes going on in their bass, the QUAD combo's mids were just so superior I decided to go with QUAD. Part of me is actually a bit miffed that on this trip for a shiny new amp I ended up with a 12-year old design that isn't the most metrosexual-looking. The other part of me is a bit tickled to learn that 12 years aren't such an eternity in the evolution of amp design and that it is possible for an older model to still trump the latest hot kit in certain areas.
This 909 will keep me entertained until Dec where I'll no doubt feel the need to scratch the upgrade itch. Day Four of running in and the sound is so good, I wonder if it is possible for me to find an integrated amp on the right side of £2k that can match, let alone surpass, the 909's superlative midrange. Gulp.
SS...I love QUAD() ahhh...
ps: for pedantic sake, here are my beauty pageant scores for the various amps (the Naim and Cyrus were demoed on earlier occasions) All IMO and IME, of course.
pps: the ones listed below the QUADs have zero chance of entering solidschateau
(Treble-Midrange-Bass / PRaT-Soundstaging)
Caspian M2.....88-90-93 / 97-90
Elicit................90-92-95 / 87-90
QC24+909.....92-99-88 / 85-95
FMJ A38.........90-95-87 / 90-95
NAIT XS..........75-85-87 / 95-80
Mystro............78-85-80 / 88-85
8XPd...............45-50-55 / 85-70
You could try a Quad Elite Pre to go with that 909...
Been looking at pics of the Elite Pre all week and it has turned from NAD-esque matte-black-bleh to classically understated. The lozenge buttons are similar to the ones on Arcam's Alpha One cdp and aesthetically better than the 99Pre. A week on and the 909 has given me so much pleasure already that a purchase of the Elite Pre becomes ever more inevitable. I could live with this combo until the reincarnation of the 909 into the Elite series which I will be very interested to have. And then I will have two versions of the 909 and be a certified Quadist. Can you imagine it: me turning from MF's product ranges (each lasting as long as a butterfly's fart before being replaced) to Quad, whose models run for a decade at least.
This may be a sign that the world is coming to an end next year.
Yeah! The man knows how to really use a sexy small speaker.
I myself too have marked my territory with all the ported standmounts I'd previously owned and sold on. Blessed by Solidstouch.
Twas scouting the Myryad site for the MXP2000 preamp and saw this:
^ Myryad's A170 speaker. Intended as a partner for the all-in-one Mi component. Lovely clean lines. Matched with the Mi, Myryad christened it the 'Ami'. Is this the advent of celebrity-styled hifi monikers a la 'Bennifer'?
Retails for a sweet £350 only. Don't think it'll be an upgrade for me now, but if I were a noob starting out, I'd love a pair.
guess who makes them for myryad?
Bets on it being a re-badged Q-Acoustics (all owned by ArmourHome)
350 not soo sweet now...but they do look great!
Last edited by pa79ul; 17-06-2011 at 11:04 AM.
Oh yeah, they sure do! Pure metrosexual chic.
HoopsBoy, your time spent at Frank's has made you an astute observer of the brit-fi industry. You could well be spot on - chances are high Q Acoustics may have had a hand in the design of the A170. If so, it's all good. Q Acoustics' '10 and '20 series have been well-reviewed and commended for punching above their price bracket, performance-wise. Even if the A170 is a 2020 in nicer clothes (and fitted with a more phallic phase plug, squeeeeee!!!), its modest rrp is still reasonable IMO.
Plus, the brains behind Q Acoustics are ex-Mission engineers who split after Mission came under the IAG umbrella. The A170 could have truer Mission legacy in its veins than the current Mission company's piddling models. Hmmm, now I reckon I'd better hear the A170 if poss. when I go demo the MXP2000 preamp.
Not much inside:
Shame it's got a fixed 12dB of gain - too much given the high output levels of modern sources IMO.
What's wrong with 12dB? MF puts 18dB+ into most of its X integrateds and headphone amps. The results are the sonic equivalent of a large pair of bollocks. The Exposure 3010S2 Pre on my Xmas wishlist has got 18dB too.
Thanks for the tip-off on the Pre Box SE. I haven't been able to find any Inglish reviews of it. Its innards looks pretty sparse. Now relegated to the No-Chance list.
Day 12 of 909 ownership... Most of the music-making has been splendid... but tonite I clicked on the FLACs of BWB's Groovin' album and can't help feeling that the bass guitar could bounce and pop to perfection if... I were playing the music through Rega's ELICIT. Oh, that gorgeous ELICIT.
What is it with me?!! This effect of "the grass looking greener on the other side" seems to come into effect ever more quickly as I get older and more jaded. I can't sit on my couch in peace now.
Will see how many flowers I shift on Father's Day to replenish my toys fund. But I'm not hopeful. Fewer sentimental dopes buy flowers for Daddy, compared to Mummy.
Interesting that you preferred the Quad over the A38. I've only heard Quad kit at hifi shows and my experience from casual listening was pretty positive. they certainly have a big following and a long legacy.
Are you going to get one of their CDP/Pre amps at all?
Still loving the FMJ A18/rDAC combination - smooth. detailed and a very enjoyable toe-tapping listen. I've got to the point that I'd have to spend considerably more to better what I have. If the funds were there, I'd be buying more Arcam, as I find the sound so damn addictive!
Sony RCD-W100/MDS-JB980JE480/RDR-HXD560/PS3 Slim 250GB, Denon AVR-2308/TU-1800, Rega P1, Arcam DiVA DV79/FMJ A18/rDAC, Pioneer BDP-140, Ultramatch Pro, Mac Mini, Wharfedale Diamond 10.3/10CM/10.0/10MX, Samsung UE40D5520
You are a model example of a Capricorn audiophile. Appreciative and loyal to the kit you have chosen carefully with long-term pleasure in mind. I, on the other hand, am a fidgety Gemini and must flit from sidegrade to sidegrade for an eternity it seems.
Yes I can envison you being on cloud nine forever if you move up the Arcam ladder. The CD37 and A38 is a beautiful combo dripping with musicality. However, there's a possibility Arcam could up the ante and deliver a stunning successor to the A38 in a couple of years' time. Maybe you can keep enjoying the rDAC/A18 combo for a while and let your funds grow for that flagship Arcam integrated. Arcam goes 6 years between updates, so the current 8 range is due to be replaced by end of 2013.
RE: Arcam vs Quad
I reckon the sonic signature of their amplification fall in the same camp of being tonally uncoloured, smooth and 'cultured' sounding. The difference I've noticed between the A28/A38 vs 909 is that the former has a sleeker midrange presentation while the latter is lusher and highly-resolved. The A28 is sweet with jazz ensembles, with its nimble bass and rhythmic timing. The 909, on the other hand, is jaw-dropping with orchestral and opera! My 4-ohm ELACs are sucking 250W per side from it and... the sheer scale of the sound. But it's capable of surprising delicacy too.
btw before moving the A28 to my office, I tried its pre-outs into the 909. Mmm... not bad. The sleeker FMJ sound slenderized the effusive Quad output. It's like an extension of the Arcam sound but with greater depth to the soundstage, plus... unflappable power! Another option for you to consider if you want to extract the last ounce of soundstage depth from your Waffies.
ps: the Elite Pre is on my radar but the Tipocan dealer hasn't stocked any yet. As for a Quad CDP, nah. I have gone all FLAC and Rega's DAC is more desirable. It's garnering raves everywhere.
Update: The Elite Pre has arrived in Tipoca and I am in danger of popping down today for a listen. The even bigger danger is that I will like its compatibility with the 909 and buy one! The unique 'Tilt' function may be exactly what I need to ameliorate 50yo classical and opera recordings that suffer from tape hiss, recessed midrange or lean bass. Quad amplification does seem to be designed with classical music fans in mind.
^ it looks nicely-built to last for ages, but the un-sshiny front panel... It doesn't exactly scream "SSM" now, does it?
I can forsee myself staying with Quad amplification for many years if I do make this second Quad purchase. Quick! I leave work in 90 minutes' time and will be at the dealer's in another 60. If anyone objects to me and Quad being joined in holy audiophony, please suggest other alternatives now.
The new Audiolab stuff i thought went well with the ATC's, especially the big monoblocks!
Buy it, if only cos I want to read your report on it ;)