Quick Tour III
This system – the Audio Note Ongaku 211-based integrated amplifier into $7K AN/E HE speakers, driven by a little $3.5K Audio Note CD2.1x Mark II Player [Valhalla speaker cable and AN interconnects] – is obviously somewhat unbalanced – the amplifier costing a wee bit more than the rest of the system put together.
But it sounds VERY engaging. The amp is just tossing note around like they were wisps of air [:-)], it so completely dominates the sound.
Is this approx. $100K system better than a more balanced one with, say, $30K AN speakers and a $30K Conquest-like amp and $20K digital transport and DAC and $20K preamp?
But it is really fun to listen to – especially if you are familiar enough with listening around, and to, individual components in the system. You can HEAR all the flaws, and unsuspected strengths, in the weaker components.
For example, the upper-mids and highs of the little 1-box CD player are really quite good – but the lower mids are a little laid back, and complex passages do not have quite the separation, in comparison to $10 and $20K digital. Pretty good trade-offs, I think.
And, often, perhaps it is the lack of sophistication, the lack of complexity, to the overall sound that makes it really surprisingly straight-forwardly exuberant sometimes – when it all just comes together.
You know, they say happiness is the removal of pain. Like the scratching of an itch. So, perhaps for ultimate musical enjoyment, there has to be some pain, something not quite EXCELLENT, mixed in with the excellent sound, for us to feel that ultimate Audiophile High? [if so, boy do we all need therapy or what? ;-)]