Finally have a few seconds to jot down some random comments!
First, I got to listen to the JFET amp a lot. I tried it with two sources, my Muse Model 9 Signature and Al's Cambridge Audio Azur. From a source standpoint, this was sort of a strange trade off, as the extra voltage was nice to have from the Cambridge Audio as it got the orthos to a moderate volume without any obvious nasties. However, I just don't think this source is worth it's weight. It's been in Al's rig long enough that I've sort of forgot that the source is where it all starts, and once I listened to a a few different amps on it (my KGSS in the past, now the JFET amp) I'm thinking that a lot of what I hear with the Cavalli electrostatic amps might just be colored by the source. For a tube guy, Al needs to consider a tube output stage I think
Al mentioned that this source has some of the same processing as the Capitole, but that's sorta an apples to oranges comparison due to the radically different output stages. All this to say, I think Al should try a tube output stage with solid state amplification some time, rather than the reverse. Either way, tubes are in the chain, which he says is his preference, right? Or even go tubes in every amplification stage and avoid the inconsistency
I dunno, just a random musing...
Back to the JFET amp. I tried the HD800, AD2000, LCD-1 on it and liked the AD2000 the best. I didn't care for this can on some of the Woo amps last meet, but it sounded pretty good on this amp. I think I'll probably pick one up down the line to have a more extended audition once I finish that other FET amp. I wish the HD800 had a bit more midbass presence, which could be a fault of the amp I suppose, but I'd like to hear what others have to say when they get it in their rig. Anyways, someone who was listening pointed some sibilance out on a recording or two, and when we compared that same track on the Cavalli 'stat amp, that particular track was much smoother. I'm not sure if this is to the detriment of the JFET amp, or the 'stat amp. Cans were HD800 and HE60 respectively. Again, no final judgment either way, just an observation. I did this with a number of recordings and just came to the conclusion that this little amp is pretty honest in it's presentation, as DC coupled all discrete amps tend to be. However, it's not dry, lifeless honestly, if that makes any sense
I had a chance to listen to a few other dynamic rigs, including K701 / Channel Island combo the LD mk5 HE-5 combo, the latter particularly nice. I've made a few comments in regard to the HE-5, but I think they can be best summed as a oddly unortho sound. I'm just not sure why these are getting such differing opinions. Anyways, I'm still looking forward to the LCD-2 if and when it is released. For some reason I'm just not in a hurry to get the HE-5 back in my rig, perhaps down the line, but there are bigger fish to fry at this point, and perhaps a K1000 is in order!
On to the 'stat setups. Given the immense pressure to jot down some impressions, I'd like to say that both sources were a bit of a wild card to me. The Ayre source had audible glitches at times (I showed one to Asr in fact, who commented that the rips were at 100%) that were at repeatable spots in the track. This was a bit unnerving and sort of caused me to by hypercritical. The Blue Hawaii SE sounded like... well a Blue Hawaii. I remember the first time I heard it, I was amazed by the bass. Al pointed out a few tracks that he thought the bass was a bit overblown. Not being familiar with the tracks, I tended to agree with him. The material I was more familiar with though seemed to be more even in the low region. My qualm with the Blue Hawaii has always been the treble, and I just sort of noted "yup, still that way" and moved on. I just prefer the KGSS treble signature I guess. But with the KGSS, you find yourself nudging the volume up to get the bass to lock in just right. Anyways, no real complaints of Asr's rig, it was a familiar sound to me. I tried the 404LE, which I was really excited to try, but I felt like I was having fit issues. Things seemed to lock in place once I pushed the earspeakers in at the temple region and held it there. This had the result of less force at the bottom of the pad and a tighter seal at the top of the pad. This was the only way I could get a somewhat realistic stereo image. I felt the sound staging was a bit off with these for some reason I guess. I didn't hear any midrange etch of any kind, which I sorta felt could have been a bad thing (?), which was fueled by my mistrust of the source. They're a bit different I guess, but there are plenty of cans I'd own before these I guess.
Listening to the Cavalli amps, I immediately noticed that the current version is a vast improvement over older iterations. I couldn't get that strange clipping to happen and it never seemed to run out of steam. However, in the back of my mind the analogy went like this: Gen1 SS > Gen1 tubes && Gen2 tubes >> Gen1 tubes so, does Gen2 SS >> Gen2 tubes?
If you don't follow, I'm very excited to hear the newest solid state version. The frequency response relatively even to me, with perhaps a slight dip in the midrange. I felt there was some artificial detail in the highs that I more or less attributed to the upsampling source. The bass was pretty even I though, extending very low but without as much midbass impact as the Blue Hawaii. I listened mostly to the Stax and didn't really bother with a HE60 comparison. I felt that the overall sound was a bit better with the 404LE, with my "fit adjustment" outlined above. I think the HE60 / 404LE was a better comparison than either with the SR-007mk1. They were in fact rather similar, and at the price point I think I'd take the 404LE over the HE60. Anyways, I enjoyed the Cavalli amp and cannot wait to hear the new solid state revision, as I have high hopes for it.
Anyways, kudos to the Dallas crew for making this happen! I cannot wait for the next Texas meet, whenever that might be!