It's mind-blowing how much better the AE-2 is over the AE-1! There's absolutely no question, the AE-2 is a leap from it! I can't believe I ever put up with the AE-1 - not that it's bad, but man, after you hear the AE-2 there's no going back! Air and space is so much more audible, and the treble is actually refined and not messy. It also captures timbre accurately instead of fuzzing it out.
If I haven't said it anywhere yet, it was great to see you at HeadFest, and of course I really enjoyed your last batch of pics!
I've posted a few times in the HeadFest threads that I was really happy with how much Justin improved the AE-2, not only over the AE-1, but even significantly over the SQ of the (hurried) prototypes I heard and liked a few NY meets. ago.
As I've posted before, the AE-2 more than holds its own with the best portables. Of course I'd love to hear it side-by-side with some other portables in different setups in a quiet space, but I was very happy to have had the opportunity at HeadFest to hear the final product (apparently thoroughly "burned in" from the sound of it).
I listened a bit through 701s, but then changed the dip switches to low gain and listened a while with my ES2 IEMs (which was more practical given the level of happy background chatter around me) via my 80G Video iPod via ALO Jumbo Silk Dock. Whereas the prototypes were very smooth with contiguous frequency spectrums and a relaxed presentation, the show amp I heard had even greater extension bottom to top, much more dynamic presentation, the kind of deep, layered, immersive imaging I love that gives you a sense of the space around performers.
I really felt that the AE-1 sometimes presented some instruments and voices all wrong, and was inconsistent depending on the recording — guitars presented beautifully, but saxes and horns often sounding odd (as an example). It also had a mid-bass prominence that besides its presence being disturbing, also seemed to impinge on the midrange. Sometimes imaging was okay, and sometimes I felt that with certain live recordings it had an artificial/exaggerated separation of instruments as though an energetic, well-blended live performance sound was turned into a close-miked studio session.
Anyway, rather than continue with the limitations I'd found in the AE-1, I'll say that AE-2 has none of them and is really a very different amp that presents instruments and voices so naturally you're sucked into the performance. (I would have said "drawn into" but sucked into is so much more dramatic.)
Asr - when I listened to your amps (great opportunity) — pristine and beautifully stacked/set up — I spent a fair amount of time comparing your AE-1 and AE-2. I was very perplexed and was trying to find time to write to you, but this thread may have cleared up the odd results I found.
In your meet setup your AE-2 sounded very much like your AE-1, despite the fact that Justin's AE-2 sounded glorious and very different from yours. I was trying to find a tactful way to ask if there might have been something in your setup that was interfering and leveling the field between the 2 amps.
Now it would seem that your AE-2 simply had not had the necessary play time before the meet to present it at anywhere near its optimal sound.
BTW - I don't care if the AE-2 has an AD8397 or XY1234 opamp, since I simply listen to an amp for its sound quality, whatever its body is composed of — and the AE-2 is marvelous. The technocrats can thrill in dissecting it, which of course won't change its sound.
I am so glad your AE-2 is finally on the path to arriving at the sound I heard from Justin's.
Fun, ain't it?
I can't really write a more extensive critical essay about the new amp because I only heard it for a relatively brief period under meet conditions, and I don't have one to study in depth — so I can't "wax poetic" or write in any detail, but I think I've at least conveyed how good I feel it is, and how very enjoyable it is to listen to.
Congrats on owning and enjoying a really splendid amp.