|several head-fiers tell me just recently that they preferred the Meta42 and equally inexpensive opamp based designs over the Gilmore Lite and these were people who have listened to many head phone amps.
Honest electronics are what every one says
they want until they actually hear it many times.Then it is the colored or the artificially exciting that draws initial attention.Folks want their amp to DO SOMETHING and not just raise the volume level so they look for any tonal difference and when they hear it announce it sounds "better" even though they are hearing coloration.
System matching,taste,need to cover up other flawed areas in the system withthe amp,all kinds of reason why choices are made
I do not think I would live to see the day when someone would pay $5,000 for an "Op-Amp in a box" (OK,Maybe a headroom but that is a different creature
) but see that in the discrete arena often.Is this just elitism and having no merit ? They are being suckered because they could have purchased an opamp based amp just as good for $500 and had $4,500 left over for CDs ? My opinion is no.My opinion is you get what you pay for even though less for more as you climb the scale and that means discrete or tubes but NOT opamps.
opamps are fine up to a point (strictly portable for my taste) but once that point of "can't make it better" is reached discrete takes over and runs down the path to the next "as good as it gets" at which time usually it is triodes that take over if the ultimate is the goal though some may prefer solid state even at that plateau.Notice there are no opamps up there ? there is a reason for that and all about limits and just how much you can squeeze out of a "closed box" such as an I.C. chip.
You can fake the output into some part of class-a,you can improve the output drive and dynamics by adding a driver stage after the opamp but you can not change the basic structure of the chip unless you "unplug" it and replace it with a potted discrete class-A opamp module because you have no control
over the actual operation but only over what you hang on it and that means it must be comprimised since no way can the designer see all posible uses for the device before they occur,even a so called "audio" opamp is mostly accidental except for a rare few like the 627/637