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Cafad

Integrated Amps: An Addicts Guide Part, The Third.

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Hi Cafad,

I love my Pulse/Stream, of the 4 contenders I compared they came out on top. The have good control over my 1SC's, especially over the slightly blown up bass. I love Leema's speed and precision. Slightly on the warmish side to my ears.

In the price segment I was looking around they were a blissful match to my ProAcs.

Cheerio moonstone

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I’ve decided to take a bit of a trip to Denmark with the next two integrated amps, first up, the Mighty Gryphon Callisto 2200.

 

At 200wpc into 8 Ohms, 400 into 4 and (limited to) 600 into 2 there isn’t much in the speaker world that the Callisto can’t handle.  There’s also a lot to be said about the dual mono design and rock solid construction, and all of it good.  The Callisto has a great reputation, but then it’s a Gryphon so that is expected as Gryphon has a great reputation, it is rare indeed to find a negative word said about anything that they make. 

 

post-130663-0-57140000-1462682268_thumb.

 

Oh my, that reflective perspex panel makes this look like an out of control selfie.  Let's try that again but with me hiding behind something.

 

post-130663-0-67840600-1462682294_thumb.

 

Foam bass traps!  101 uses.

 

I bought this unit from Towny fairly recently and while it has been everything I was expecting (tons of bass, excellent level of detail, excellent clarity of vocals) I don’t think it is quite endgame material.  While it is hard to find fault with the Callisto it doesn’t quite speak to me, there’s an expected level  of emotional connection that just isn’t happening here.  I suspect it would be a very different case if I were using a tubed cd player.  BRMSlash bought around his new tube headphone amp last week and we used it as a pre with the Callisto’s input 3 set to AV mode (or HT bypass, if you prefer the term) and the combination was astoundingly good.  But… since I’m lacking in tubes (and in much of an interest in tubes) that isn’t going to happen here.

 

The first thing you notice about the Callisto is the bass, it is powerful, deep and damn-near-perfectly controlled.  It doesn’t overpower the upper frequencies but it does quite often take your attention away from them.

 

Anyway, enough bits and pieces, time to get down to brass tacks.  As usual for these reviews of mine the source was my YBA Heritage A100 cd player feeding to the Callisto via Aurealis R1 interconnects and the speakers were my (now impossible to source) Lenehan S2R stand mounts fed via some 10AWG Ugly speaker cable with banana plugs from Jaycar.  Sometimes the speaker cables vary but I’ve settled on these for now.

 

Highs:  Clear and airy but no hardness or harshness to be found (this actually detracts a little from the sound of brass, trumpets for instance sound like they are being played under a large tent).  Triangles are all sparkle and no twinkle (although they are well placed and can be heard to be behind the other instruments).  There is a lightly dry feel to the presentation that seems to limit the reach on the top end, nice light piano is more plin-c than plink which takes much of the ‘zing’ out of the top end.  Since the Callisto is the most expensive integrated amp I’ve heard so far I was expecting a bit more of it in the upper treble.  It doesn’t sound bad but it doesn’t sound impressively extended either.  I’m going to give it an 8.5 because it is rather good but I had hoped it would be better.

 

Mids:  There is a light dryness to the mids (and the top end too but it is more noticeable in the mids) and this is a bit of a surprise since I was expecting to be using words like lush and rich to describe things here, however, not so.  It is interesting to note however that this slightly dry character does wonders for soundstage placement, it also allows for impressive articulation in the vocals.  Again the mids are good, very good in fact, but they lack that extra few percent.  They just don’t make my ears tingle with excitement in the way that I feel they could.  I’m going to award an 8.0 here, I wish I could give it more, but I can’t.

 

Bass:  As I said above, powerful, deep and damn-near perfectly controlled.  This is the bass that all other amps should aspire to have.  Probably the best percussion that I have heard to date.  Interesting to note that in comparison to the Plinius 9200 (which I still hold in high regard) the Callisto is tighter, faster and more accurate while the Plinius is much smoother and wider and more calming.  I like the effect of the Plinius but I’d take the Callisto over it at least 9 times out of 10.

9.25

 

Vocals:  Female:  Not as breathy or seductive as some but very expressive of detail.  I was listening to Big Pigs Bonk album earlier today and was a bit perplexed to hear that the vocals sounded a bit on the dry side, and yet one of the songs on this album is on my test disc so I’ve listened to it many times and the vocals on it are not at all dry.  So I listened on, and when the album reached “Charlie†(the song on my test disc) the vocals were not dry at all, so I was forced to go back over the rest of the album again just to be sure.  It was then that I found I could hear slightly different inflections within Sherine’s voice.  It’s sort of a measure of how much effort she is going to to put a sense of emotion into each song but it feels a bit more academic than it does emotional.   I’m going to go with a 7.5 here as while it is technically impressive it still doesn’t really connect with me.

 

Male:  That slight dryness works better for male vocals than it does for female ones.  Both Mark Knoffler and Freddie Mercury benefit from it but I’m not sure my descriptive skills are up to the task of explaining why that is.  Maybe they just sing a little better when they’re slightly dehydrated.  8.0

 

Soundstaging:  So seamlessly integrated that stereo and 3D effects don’t seem to stand out.  They just appear as a smaller part of the greater performance.  The Callisto is not a forward amp, it is rare for an instrument or effect to come forward from the plane of the speakers (although it does happen every now and then).  8.5

 

Overall Performance Integration:

I’m given the distinct impression that the overall slight dryness is what allows the details of vocals and the soundstage to shine through so easily.  If the Callisto had a richer or more lush nature I’m sure that those abilities would be seriously curbed.  The overall performance is very good, it could just use a little more zing and a bit more breath.  8.5

 

Ability to Emote:  7.5  It just doesn’t grab me as much as I thought it would.  If I were to add an “Ability to Impress with Technical Expertise†I’d be awarding a 9.0, but I don’t have a section like that.

 

Electric Guitar Test:  8.25

No shiver down the spine here but it did bring a smile to my face.  I actually didn’t expect the Callisto to perform this well as I didn’t think it could convey the edge or the sense of barely controlled energy that makes for a good electric guitar solo, but it did rather well.  A bit of a surprise since it places control over emotion.

 

80’s Rock Test:  8.0

Bit of a mixed bag here, most of my 80’s rock was sounding very good indeed and yet a few songs were a bit lacking.  I’m hard pressed to say why as I haven’t really come across this before but I’m going to go with the majority of what I heard and let it pass with an 8.0.

 

I did notice that the detail the Callisto is capable of portraying is greater than most would think.  This can be a mixed blessing as I did notice that some of my 90’s recordings (victims of the loudness wars) really came across as very unsatisfying to listen to, they sounded like the musicians were just not trying.

 

Now that review feels like it has come across as a broadly negative one (which may be a first for a Gryphon) but that is how I feel about the Callisto.  With all the hype about Gryphon I was expecting the best thing ever invented by mankind and what I received was ‘only’ an extremely good amp.

While it is very good in the area of bass and instrumentals I have heard several amps with more preferable vocals and several more with far more extended top end treble, while none of those was as good at everything as the Callisto is it does make you think about what is important to you in a musical presentation. 

For example, if you like slow music with female vocals then I wouldn’t be recommending the Callisto to you (unless you have a tubed disc player, or a turntable, since I don’t use either I can’t offer an opinion about those).  You would likely get far more enjoyment out of a cheaper Perreaux 80i.

 

So as a stand alone integrated amp I have to say I’m only moderately impressed with the Callisto and when you consider the RRP of $5000US (couldn’t find an aussie price, I’m guessing somewhere between $7K and $9K, anyone know for sure?) I was really hoping for more.  In fact, considering the hype surrounding Gryphon I was expecting to be awarding several nines, perhaps even many!  But instead there is only one.

 

 

I think I may have just written an entire review that could be summed up by the phrase “The law of diminishing returns applies hereâ€.

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I wonder if classical would be the amps forte. The hardest genre imo for a test of a system and amplifier. It is an excellent amplifier none the less.

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Hi @@Cafad

Thanks for an honest review.

It just shows that we have to listen to stuff before we buy/ get an opinion.

Keep up the good work.

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I wonder if classical would be the amps forte. The hardest genre imo for a test of a system and amplifier. It is an excellent amplifier none the less.

It certainly was sounding better at your place the other week.  I tried 3 different DACs as well and while I did get more speed and dynamics from the Burson Conductor and more clarity from the DAC built into the YBA Passion 350 neither of them lifted the vocal performance or made a significant difference to the 'zing' factor.

 

Oh well, plenty more amps out there in the big, wide world of audio.  Look!  There's one over there.

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Love your work. If only every review included an 80's Rock test!

Your a man of the people......

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After hearing the amp on my system the other week, I was interested in what your review would be like Jeff. I can say I agree with pretty much all you say and also that I would trust your ears and opinions on any amplifier you choose to review. I think this amp would be what many people would be after in an amplifier in that it doesn't colour the input signal at all. The "synergy" in this case would be found by changing the other components in the system. The Gryphon being the neutral item. Well neutral apart from that gorgeous verrry well controlled bass.

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Hi @@Cafad

Thanks for an honest review.

It just shows that we have to listen to stuff before we buy/ get an opinion.

Keep up the good work.

Very true JV, very true... unless... you happen to be an obsessive like me in which case you buy first and develop an opinion second.  And then go out and do it all again.

 

 

Love your work. If only every review included an 80's Rock test!

Your a man of the people......

80's rock tests should be mandatory for any review of any amp.  The fact that they are not is simply more evidence that we live in an imperfect world.

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For the second part of my “trip to Denmark†I have on hand the much more ‘normally’ priced Densen B110.  At $2300 it is still a bit on the expensive side but nowhere near the price point of the Gryphon Callisto.  Unfortunately the B110 is now a superseded model but since Densen products are so hard to get hold of down under it is the only one I could easily get my hands on.

 

As the baby of the range the little Densen measures 60wpc into 8 Ohms and supposedly doubles down into 4.  The nice 500VA transformer backs this up but I’m not sure the power supply caps do.  The blurb on the B110 claims it has 70,000uF of filtering capacitance and while this is true when you pop the top and look inside you find that 50,000uF of those caps are rated at 25V and seem to be for the preamp section leaving only one, 63V, 10,000uF cap per channel for the power section.  I believe this lack of available current is part of the issue with the bass, but more of that later.  On more efficient speakers I’m sure it would perform just fine but my 86db Lenehans are insistent that they need a few more watts to work with in the bass area.

 

Densen believe in only using one pair of output transistors per channel, a couple of other companies also take this approach and I have to say that every time I have heard an amp that only uses one pair of black squares per channel I have heard something that I liked.  The Sonneteer Campion springs to mind as one example and it was a little light on the bass too.  Although back then I had Osborns so there was an extra 7db of efficiency to play with.

 

I did some research on the net and found out a few interesting things, the first is that earlier Densens seem to have suffered from reliability issues, I’m certainly hoping that was all sorted out.  The second is that while Densen quote a doubling down of watts from 8 to 4 Ohms on all of their amps there are some people out there who disagree, I’m not enough of a techie to follow the whole thread on that one and they lost me at the beginning of the technical argument so I’m still not really sure what the go was there.  Thirdly the pics on the Densen website are incorrect and misleading, the lidless shots on the integrated amp pages B130, B150 are both the same pic and it is of the B110.  Only the B120 and B175 pages actually carry pics of the correct amps.  The lidless pics on all of the preamp pages are actually of the top of the line Densen cd player, also… well, I could go on but you get the idea.  I sent an email to Densen informing them of this and how I felt it was a shame as to those of us who notice such things (and many people wouldn’t) it really detracts from the otherwise very professionally developed site.   The replay said that they were aware of the lack of proper pictures are they are working on the issue so I am hoping to see things change soon.

 

Densen like their connectivity, but in both modern and older fashioned ways.  Every integrated model can have a DAC fitted to it (or at least it will be able to, I’m not sure if the DAC is in production quite yet) and they also possess 2 stereo pre-outs.  The full on Preamps have four stereo pre-outs, I thought I was spoiled for choice with two but I suppose if I was to bi, tri or even quad amp then that is what I’d be needing.  Spoiled for choice indeed.

They also offer a full function remote (as an optional extra, you pay for it but well worth it IMO) and a standby function.  I mention this because although most mainstream amps offer those there are quite a few boutique manufacturers that do not at this low-ish price point so it is nice to see that even the baby Densen gets the full functionality treatment.

 

As usual for these reviews of mine the source was my YBA Heritage A100 cd player feeding to the Densen via Aurealis R1 interconnects and the speakers were my Lenehan S2R stand mounts fed via some 10AWG Ugly speaker cable with banana plugs from Jaycar. 

 

Highs:  Nice zing, not super fast as such but pleasantly fluid.  Trumpets sound hard and brassy but not harsh which is quite adventurous as many manufacturers either soften the top end or roll it off altogether, it’s nice to hear an actual top end that is allowed to sound very realistic.  Cymbal taps are nice and lightly crisp.  Piano really soars, it has a soft sense to it but it sounds phenomenal all the same, rather like it’s so light that it’s floating on the wind.  Loving this top end, to the tune of an 8.5.

 

Mids:  This is where much of the magic happens, all the strings (from violin to guitar, both acoustic and electric, somehow manage to directly tickle my soul.  There is a sense of air surrounding the soundstage that just gives strings (and everything else, but it really, really works for the strings) such vibrational energy and zest that all I want to do when I hear them is close my eyes and increase the volume.  Words like ‘orchestral’ and ‘musical’ come to mind but they don’t quite convey just how much love for the music is on display, anyone who hears an amp like this is left with a sense of absolute certainty that the designer truly loves their orchestra and wants recordings to sound as good as they can.  I have to award a 9.0 here, I could sit and listen to this for days on end.

 

Bass: More smooth and broad than deep and not generally delivered with enough impact for a hard rock or heavy metal fan.  It does a good job when there is only one instrument playing, drums or a bass guitar, but when the whole band is playing then the bass is given a back seat, it is pushed back to the job of supporting the rest of the instruments by adding a sense of weight but it loses out in detail and punch pretty severely.  If you up the volume, and by that I mean by 10db or so, then the bass quality and impact improves quite a bit but it still isn’t forceful enough to measure up to similarly priced amps like the Burson PI160.  I think more 63V caps are required here, but as I said above this is the baby of the range so we shouldn’t be expecting the world. 

Hard Rock, 6.5, Heavy Metal 5.0 but for softer rock, jazz and slower styles it may just manage to score a 7.5 and maybe even an 8.0 with a cello or a double bass.

 

Vocals: 

Female:  Breathtaking!  There is no additional sweetening going on here just a sense of space and air around the singer and a feeling that you are getting a stronger, slightly more honest  version of exactly what you normally get.  The little Densen really lets the ladies sing.  8.75

 

Male:  The same treatment for the gents just doesn’t seem to do them anywhere near as much good as it does the girls.  Nothing wrong here as such, a solid performance, but it is a bit of a let down after the way it highlights the efforts of the fairer sex.  7.0

 

Soundstaging:

2D  Very subtle, often the instruments are sitting in between the speakers and in some songs there are almost no instruments coming direct from the speakers at all.  This is an admirable effect but it does vary greatly and it also detracts from the impact of stereo effects.  In the 2D world it only gets a 6.0.

3D  Loving the way it can put an entire performance on and not have you notice the speakers at all, it isn’t forward and it isn’t really recessed as such.  Most of the action happens in the plain of the speakers but it does throw an instrument forward every now and then, and back too and the way it seems to lift the singer up above all the instruments playing at the same time is extremely effective, if a bit spooky.  In the 3D world it gets a 9.0.

 

Overall Performance Integration.

Plenty of air underneath and around most instruments.  There is a lot of utilization of the space between the speakers (although this is very song dependent).  I repeated find myself looking up whenever a female vocalist raises either the volume or pitch of her voice.  Shows a great deal of love of the highs and mids over the bass. 

 

Ability to Emote: 

Hell yeah!  On lighter music I’m giving it a 9.0, on heavier music probably an 8.0 because the preference of the treble over the bass can be a bit distracting.  Serious bass heads would probably rate it far lower, maybe a 5.0.

 

Electric Guitar Test:

I really can’t have everything can I?  It does fairly well but it really has too smooth and polite a personality to be able to convey the raw energy effect of an electric guitar.  I’m giving it a 7.5, however I found if I crank the volume a little harder I may just be able to call it an 8.0, but that’s with the volume on the equivalent of 7 out of 10.

 

80’s Rock Test:

A bit too composed and mild mannered for most 80’s rock, 6.5.  Once again it improves with volume but it just doesn’t have much of a wild streak to work with.

 

In summary I really like this little Densen.  It just lets me love the music so much more than most amps, OK, not all the music but like I said above you can’t expect everything from the bottom of the range amp.

In my opinion the Densen B110 is up there with the Sonneteer Campion, the NAKSA 80 and the Dayens Ampino in that it offers and delivers far more for your dollar, and your listening pleasure, than you would normally expect.  It isn't a high performing all rounder but it is just so damn good at musical interpretation in the treble that many people will be happy to welcome it into their home with open arms.

I like it so much, in fact, that I have already made Densen related upgrade plans, but more on that later.  No need to rush.

 

Many apologies but pics will have to wait until tomorrow, I need the assistance of natural light, the artificial kind just doesn't cut it in my lounge ATM.

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Cafad,

again two excellent reviews, many thanks,

Cheers moonstone

You're more than welcome Moonstone, and there's more to come too. 

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Porridge without a pinch of salt!

A lovely analogy and I know exactly what you mean.

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Finally, I have managed to sit myself down and get busy with the Leema Pulse.  A great amp, I can really see why it was so popular and so well loved.  It really comes across as a happy amp, almost as if it is just more enthusiastic about its job than the next amp in line.

 

The Pulse is an 80wpc into 8 and 150wpc into 4 amp and I can certainly vouch for it in the "sounds significantly bigger than it is" stakes.  It delivers a nice full sound, slightly warm and rather fast.  And it really works some magic into that mid range, a great amp to listen to.  Very enjoyable!

 

For those who care about direct comparisons the Pulse isn't quite as machine gun fast as the ME240 and isn't quite as rhythmically addictive as the NAKSA 80 but it occupies the middle ground in that it is almost as fast as the ME with a slightly fuller sound and it is almost as rhythmically addictive as the NAKSA but it has a much larger bass delivery.  In this case at least the middle ground is pretty good ground to occupy.

 

As usual this listening test was conducted using Aurealis R1 ICs and Redgum speaker cables (I actually meant to swap back to the Ugly cables but never did, my bad).  The source in use was my YBA Heritage cd100 spinner and the speakers were my Lenehan/ETI S2R stand mounts. 

 

Now to the details.

 

Highs: Really nice Xylophone, there is a sort of 'fluid poise' to the sound that is mesmerizing as if you are listening to sweet ripples on a pond it manages to be just a little bit more than your average sensory experience, piano is almost as good as the xylophone but not quite.  Trumpets are nice and raspy but not as hard as they really should be, this means they don't sound quite right but they do sound easier on the ears, sort of a plus and a minus.  Triangle is all sparkle and no twinkle, but not hard sparkle.  8.25

 

Mids: Love those woodwinds, they carry something extra with that eerie resonant sound of theirs, the sort of sound you would accept without question that thousands of rats would indeed follow it to their deaths.  The acoustic guitar just hangs in the air in a magical fashion, in fact almost all strings are just deliciously addictive, I could listen to these mids all day.  They do loose a little of the magic if you take the volume too far up however, of course that can be easily fixed.  8.75

 

Bass: Solid and expansive and full without being in your face, plays very well with the mids and highs, has a very light level of leading edge, it concentrates more on the middle and end of each note to give it that full mid section and fluid fade.  8.25

 

Vocals:  F: 8.0  Very good, nice and expressive but just not in the same league as the instrumentals.

             M: 7.5  Good, certainly good enough but not up there with the instrumental quality.

 

Soundstaging:  This is a bit curious as the soundstage is very relaxed and stereo effects are as well, they don't sound distinct and there is no way anyone would use words such as "razor sharp separation".  Words that would apply would be relaxed, fluid, slightly recessed and ghostly.  This is a very easy sound stage to listen to, but a very difficult one to describe.  I'm giving it an 8.0 because it works really well despite being so damn difficult to explain.

 

Overall Performance Integration:

Nice and fast but not machine gun fast, more fast and rhythmic, has a happy feel to it, great instrumentals with a big sense of scale and good vocals too, but mostly great instrumentals!

 

Ability to Emote: 

Can get quite trancy with pop songs, it takes that glare effect that a lot of pop songs have and uses it to enhance the atmospheric effect of the music, works well on pop and rock.  Also great with woodwinds and anything "eerie" 8.0.

 

Electric Guitar Test:

8.0, not really edgy or raw (which is what I am usually looking for here), I suspect it is too well composed for that, but it does have this energetic vibration that it uses to good effect.  Not quite as impact-ful on the showy lead guitar (again, which is what I am usually looking for here) but so damn awesome on the "wandering electric guitar" that it just feels decadent.  Again it's difficult to explain, have a listen to Joe Satriani's Oriental Melody three or four times and I think you'll start to get what I am trying to say.

 

80's Rock Test:

This was completely unexpected, that energy mentioned above in the Electric Guitar section pushes its rendition of 80's rock up into the stratosphere.  Hell Yeah!  I'm following this write up with a few greatest hits albums, Poison, Motley Crue, some 80's Alice Cooper and Kiss, anything even vaguely 80's-ish.  8.75

 

It's one hell of an amplifier guys, if you can find one you really should try it out.  This one cost me $1200 second hand and it was worth it.  OK, I guess it's time to annoy my new neighbours.

 

I know I'm going to have to move this amp on at some point but I think I may have trouble letting go.  Oh well, no rush.

 

 

Oh, and THOMO, I would have said "Porridge without a teaspoon of golden syrup." but the meaning would have been the same.  As with porridge, so it is with audio, it's all about personal taste.

Edited by Cafad

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Another nice review Cafad. I agree with you in that it does a lot of things rather well and not too much wrong.

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Great review as always @@Cafad. :)

 

Your impressions seem to concur with pretty much everything I have ever read about the Leema. The nice thing that comes across is that it prioritises musical engagement  rather than trying to wring every last detail out of the music and missing the emotion

Edited by rantan

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Thanks @@rantan.  The Leema does certainly put music first but it is pretty good in the detail department as well, it's just that it sounds so musical that you get caught up in the performance and forget that you are meant to be actively seeking out the minutiae.  There isn't really much need to worry about the micro when the macro sounds as good as the Leema does.

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Hi Cafad,

great review as always.

My Leema is here to stay, it does an excellent job with my 1SC, I really love it. Great to see smaller manufacturers emerging in those times.....

To keep the slightly upper bass bloating of those ProAcs in control I use Kimber cables, with great results.

A beautiful day to all of you,

Moonstone

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Hi Moonstone, glad you liked it.  Sorry it took so long for me to get to it, I know you've been hanging out for it.

 

The Pulse has definitely made me a Leema fan, I'd love to get my hands on one of their more recent models just to see where they went sound wise after the Pulse.  Maybe one of these days, they aren't exactly thick on the ground here in Oz.

 

Next up (and I really hope I can get to it this coming weekend) will be the YBA Passion IA350.

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Kylin just read your post and her mind went straight to the gutter. Haha.

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Oh-kay then, not sure how she managed that but if she did then she did.  And who knows, maybe I even meant it to be read that way (although she may have to point out to me which way that is).

 

Did you know that avatar of yours looks decidedly unsettling when it has "666 posts" listed below it? 

 

Music loving feline of evil!

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Wow. Up to 666 posts now. Found it really hard to not reply ever again to keep the number of the beast. Oh well too late now.

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Not if you happen to have taken a screen grab just seconds before you made that 667th post.  If you had done that (and then emailed it to yourself because you found that you can't attach pics from the work computer) then you would have a copy for later use.  Maybe it could go on a T-shirt, or cap or something.  Isn't there a hat competition of some kind coming up?

Edited by Cafad

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I'm running in the YBA Passion IA350 again, even though I ran it in previously and I'm finding that it sounds more pleasing than I remember.  This is a good thing because I found it a bit stark the first and second time around, there's hoping the third time will be the charm.

 

post-130663-0-33624100-1468027779_thumb.

 

I'm finding it more and more interesting as I go along this path that the more expensive amps give you more detail and clarity but show far less obvious personality and often less musicality.  If I was a pessimist I would probably have arrived at the conclusion that more expensive amps are harder to enjoy than less expensive ones long ago (and harder to system match too) but I obviously have a health dose of optimism mixed in to my attitude to audio.

 

The Passion 350 (because the full name is a bit of a bugger to type) is both an impressive amp and a slightly disappointing one at the same time.  The level of detail available from both its amplifier (analog) and its digital (DAC) sections are very good, impressive even, but at the expense of musicality.  There is almost too much detail on hand for me, now I could live with that detail if there was a bit more life to the music, a bit more rhythm and emotion, but there isn't so it falls a bit flat.  It is certainly livable with, there is no hardness or harshness about it at all but technical excellence in the reproduction of music is not necessarily a success if the soul of the performance is left on the sideline.

 

Now let me elaborate on that previous paragraph.  The amplifier section is very good, and when used without its internal DAC (fed by my standard YBA Heritage cd100 at one quarter the price) it still manages to extract more detail than I am used to but it also maintains a light level of musicality that still manages to draw you in to the music and get your foot tapping.  It has a sense of air and a drop of warmth to the presentation that lends itself well to dimentionality and, probably more importantly, to vocals.  It won't knock your socks off or get your head banging but it will allow you to appreciate the additional detail while still retaining a strong link to the "musicality" that draws us to keep listening to our favourite tunes over and over again.  

When using its internal DAC (which is a double chip DAC, very snazzy!) the level of detail jumps up but the level of musicality drops off.  It still manages to sound very good on some tracks, those with a bit of warmth already on the recording, but it can get quite matter-of-factual (or robotic even) when fed songs that are a bit on the cool side.  I can't find a reason to dislike it strongly, it does everything very well indeed, except for the thing that matters most, to draw you in and get your feet tapping.

 

These are my preliminary findings, performed with my usual source and cables.  I have yet to get serious and swap cables about, my gut feel says it would work well with my Aurealis speaker cables so I'll have to give those a try later today.  And I have taken the extra step of ordering a new coax cable for use with the Passion 350, a new Aurealis (that will be pre-burnt in prior to delivery) so we'll see how much that helps, but won't be on hand until late next week.

I may find a cable combination that turns it into something special (here's hoping!), but as of right now it seems to be an expensive piece of kit that really only appeals to the detail lovers amongst us.

 

 

Edit:  Tried swapping the coax cable from a silver one to a copper one and that made a nice change, not a big one but it was noticeable.  Tried out the Aurealis speaker cables and while I liked what they did with the mids I only half liked the effect on the bass, the bass gained fullness and warmth but slowed down and didn't sound as clean.  Tried my cheapo 10AWG Ugly cables with the Jaycar banana plugs next and they are definitely preferable to the Redgums and the Aurealis on this amp.  May have to try Little Blue Penguin's cables next.

 

2nd Edit:  I tried Little Blue Penguin's Taranui speaker cables and the Passion did not like them.  Unless you enjoy the sound of lightly frying bacon with your music I would strongly recommend that you not use cat 5 speaker cables with this amp.  No lasting damage was done but I can assure you that sound is the stuff of nightmares!

Edited by Cafad

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Mate, did you ever get your hands on a Perreaux?

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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