A very fun meet, as usual. Thanks to all who attended especially those who drove long distance to Cary and those who hauled heavy equipment, which adds up to everybody.
Selah Audio Epico speakers were well tested and enjoyed. We nicknamed them the epi-pen because they are so exciting! Incredible performance, one of Rick's best ever, imo. The 6.5" ceramic composite woofer really cranked out the bass, clean, clear, low and loud. I would never have cranked the 'little guys' that loud, but Jason was at the controls and he gave them a good workout, playing bass heavy audiophile recordings, and Epico definitely rose to the challenge. We were all impressed with the bass extension, intelligibility and tonal texture. Of course the Accuton mid and SS Be tweet are state of the art high frequency drivers; their refinement (with Selah filters) surpassed my Legacy Focus SE dual ATMs, imo. The Legacys had deeper bass, of course, but with onboard EQ, you can adjust the Epico tone to suit the room and preference. The Epicos had to be placed way far out (5 feet!) into the room because of the Legacys' position, and some of the guys said they sounded a little thin in upper bass in comparison to the Legacys, but I think they would fill in nicely if they were a foot or two closer to the front wall, like where Rick places them while voicing the crossover. But no complaints about the low bass, especially considering it's only a single 6.5" driver per side. Rick says F3 is 38Hz, iirc, from a 6.5! And the bass high pass is adjustable with DSP to whatever you need. You better like detail for these babies! The internal amplifier and DSP were excellent, no hint of coloring or missing anything, they seemed up to the demands of these drivers for signal purity and refinement. Rick demonstrated the software used to adjust the internal amp's DSP, it makes the speakers very adaptable to any room and for blending with any subwoofer. I have a relatively bright room, and I prefer a couple dB rolled off in the treble, but these days it's almost impossible to find a speaker that's voiced the old fashioned way, these days they are all flat flat flat, and of course this is good. But I liked the idea that I could use the DSP to experiment easily with a gentle rolloff of 2dB from 1k-20kHz if I wanted to try. We (the peanut gallery) discussed the perceived value of the parts and labor and we couldn't figure out how Rick makes any money at the price. We all agreed that Epico is a great value. I owned Revel F208s a couple years ago, same price, but Epico sounds much better to me, even the bass. My room is big and I'm accustomed to large speakers, but I was still impressed with the bass extension and detail of the Epico. My passive-xo Kairos 2-ways have same size woofer (ported in smaller box) but not close to the clarity and extension of Epico. Bravo Rick!
We all delighted in an encore performance (from last G2G) of the PS Audio DirectStream stack. The disc spinner connected to the DAC via I2S was spinning early Doobie Bros, Tchaikovsky 4th, sounding really incredible. So detailed yet smooth. Tidal streaming to the DAC with bridge also sounded great. The integration of Roon and DS was better than my Vega/SoTM combo which occasionally needed to be rebooted when switching Roon zones with the DAC swaps. Vega still holds it's own for great tone and powerful sound, but DS sounds more relaxed and has better space. I will be getting one.
The "cables don't matter" BS started up again as usual, from "Mr. Belden" (show me the data,) with the professional speaker designer egging him on, but the cable beliebers just smiled, knowing we had them outnumbered and the night was young and this time there would be no escape. The professional speaker designer / cable disbelieber wisely left before the brutal AB comparisons began. By the end of the night we all agreed that cables do matter, and the best ones are among the most expensive. But we could not agree on how much it matters (meaning is it worth the money?) TBD at future G2Gs! In this case JPS XLR ICs were superior to the few cords Marty brought over (thanks) I have some Mogami and Canare bulk quad wire that are beloved by DIY audiophiles that I will solder up for more comparisons next time. During a chili break we looked up the JPS prices, which is always the proverbial 'bucket of ice-water' dumped on any reasonable intention of actually buying JPS' best, and we discovered that the mighty Superconductor3 series that we listened to last night is finally being replaced after more than a decade with SuperConductor4, and the prices seemed to me a tad lower than when I checked last month (or am I just wishful thinking?) Hopefully the new SC4 will make jealous SC3 owners panic to upgrade and flood the market with used SC3 at low prices.
We didn't get into speaker or power cable comparisons this time, we wanted to avoid seeing grown men cry so we only swapped the single run of XLR ICs between DAC and amp. But it was a lot of fun! Thanks to the hard working cable-swapping slaves, (pull your pants up.)
We compared the Hypex NC502 amp to the ICEedge 1200AC2. My impression was that ICEedge has more audiophile detail, more air and space, reveals more harmonic complexity on acoustic instruments and more recording flaws. I like it on my Legacys with ATM tweeters, but others preferred the more organic and wholesome personality of the Hypex. Hypex has plenty of musical detail easier to enjoy with non-audiophile quality recordings, still extremely detailed compared to most amps. It's not audiophile, it's tonally balanced. When pseudo-blind-tested I did like the Hypex very much and I could still hear plenty of metallic texture and air that I so enjoy on the ICE. But when the amps were switched back to the ICE I always felt, Ahhh, yes! It's ALIVE! When I heard JBL M2 with Crown pro amps I longed for more refinement and emotional involvement for audiophile listening. I think the ICEedge would be too much for the ultra-detailed M2 horn, so I can't wait to hear M2 with the Hypex, should be perfect compliment, and that's what Jason says it is, a perfect match. But he prefers NCore on my speakers too. It is fuller and warmer, while ICE has (to my ears) harder hitting bass, more texture, with cooler personality and more treble information (harmonics and air,) imo. ICE sounds harmonically richer to me and is more rewarding to listen to, but I listen as a former musician, so instrumental texture and the electrical damping (driver control) that makes texture happen is among my most important system requirement. I think ICEedge is one of the best amps for midrange texture (with no perceptible treble distortion.) I love the ICEedge, it's night and day for me. Even the epipens has ICE plate amp and I loved the high freq of those too. I liked NC502 better than NC400 and UcD's I've heard over the years. I could easily live with NC502, and may at some point because...
... I had been wondering if the slight mid treble emphasis I occasionally hear in my system was from my DAC or speakers or what. The others say there is nothing wrong, don't mess with it! But I was kinda relieved to hear that it remains audible (to me) even after swapping DACs from Vega to DirectStream so I suspect it might be the Solen caps on the HF filters which Legacy advertises as a feature but in my experience Solens are notoriously non-audiophile despite being the most famous audiophile cap brand. So they are now scheduled for replacement with my fav. high-value caps, Jantzen Superior-Z. I guess that means I've decided to keep the Legacys, for now... They're very good!
Thanks to all the guys for the advice and encouragement at these past few G2Gs as I overhauled my system piece by piece. I'm very satisfied with it now, both the performance and the $value.