Finally got a chance to go over to my buddy Steve's last night, where my system is patiently waiting to come home while I paint and renovate...
His system consists of Acoustat Model 3s with modified amps, Cary 306/200, lots of clean power including a PS Audio labs transformer, Transparent Cable speaker cables and interconnects. His are the 2nd best model, but we had the TC reference on hand, so we got to compare a ~2000$ cable to a ~6000$ cable, both balanced.
Room is fairly big, probably 20'x30', untreated save for two medium sized bass traps behind speakers, and two cardboard "diffusers", or so he says, the pictures show them. So as I was saying, untreated.
My system consists of Reference 3A Royal Masters, two Decware Zen Selects, Panasonic DVD-A7 as transport, Ack! dAck!, and crappy interconnects and speaker wires. Those are the weak link right now, and will be replaced.On to the listening!
We started with Steve's system...
First, we listened to this
album, mostly track #8 (Danny Boy) which is just female vocals.
I wasn't familiar with her, but I must say she has a very beautiful, seducing voice. Anyways, we started out with the Acoustats and Steve's 2nd from the top TC cables, which proved to be very nice.
We then swapped in the reference interconnects, and let me tell you, for an extra ~4000$, there wasn't a hell of a lot of difference. There was more of a sense of "presence", but overall I honestly couldn't tell much difference. We did it a few times, and it really wasn't that
big a difference, definitely not worth thousands. Steve said there was a big one, his girlfriend agreed with me. So either he's hearing things or we're not.
We then swapped over to my system, with his interconnects, did a rough mesure on the speakers and ended up having them 7 feet apart, and my (middle) seat roughtly 105 inches from each speaker.
The goal here was to compare my digital front to his Cary 306/200.Cary 306/200
My system is most definitely different than the Acoustats. To me it wasn't quite as clear, not as big a soundstage, not quite the presence. Very nice, nonetheless. Keep in mind I have a big handicap with my welfare cables and interconnects, AND a Radio Shack Y cord on my Decware amps, as I haven't hardwired them into monoblock mode yet.
This was done with upsampling off, as Steve does not care for it, and it's a better comparison with the dAck! anyways.Panasonic DVD-A7 by itself
We listened to Danny Boy for about a minute or so like this for shits and gigles, and it honestly wasn't bad. Soundstage was pretty good, but it didn't have the transparency or clarity and depth of the Cary. Different sound, but I preferred the electrostatics to mine so far.Ack! dAck! with Panasonic DVD-A7
Sounded better, but we wanted the Cary. We listened for a minute then swapped to the Cary as transport.Ack! dAck! with Cary 306/200
We listened to Danny boy again with the Ack! dAck!, and we all kind of looked at each other and went "Niceeeee...". It just had a sound that was...... right. It didn't have the huge soundstage of the Cary, not as much resolution, but it just had a great smoooooth sound to it that both Val (girlfriend) and I loved. She actually preferred it to the Cary. Steve agreed that it was a very nice DAC, and I definitely enjoyed listening to it. It's a sharp contrast to the Cary, which is very in your face, dynamic, detailed. Not to say the dAck! is lacking detail, it's just more laid back, easy to listen to and very untiring. It was late at night, so maybe that influenced our ears... I'm not quite sure which I prefer yet. But I will say that "Danny Boy" with the dAck! gave me shivers at the end of the track, which the Cary didn't.
Anyways, I spent a few more hours listening to some Dave Brubeck, Dave Matthews, Miles Davis, The Doors, etc. It's definitely a good match for jazz and acoustic tracks, things with more guts and busier stuff sounds a bit weak.
To be fair, Steve's room is quite large, and I'm using 5W of Decware SET power, with an Ack! dAck! that didn't have as high an output as the Cary, and smallish speakers. Overall it was pretty good, but I think it'll be a lot better in my small room.
So in conclusion I'm pretty happy with what I've got, I'll probably look to upgrade my transport as it made quite a jump in sound when I swapped from the Panasonic to the Cary. Maybe an EA Sony 7700 is in the cards, it'll wait for now.
Next up is cabling, which should help a lot, and then room treatment. Steve doesn't seem to believe me that it will make a difference, so I'll have to set up the fiberglass and prove him wrong. Pictures are in the "At Steve's place" album, enjoy!
PS - Charging the Ack! dAck! is such a non-issue. You turn it off and it charges, then you use it again when you want. Big deal.