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I realised when making a post just now that I haven't written much anywhere on comparisons I've done with my Phoenix to other high-end amps. I've only had experience with 3, including the Phoenix, so I wouldn't regard myself as knowledgeable. I bought an Audiovalve RKV from another Head-fier because I was keen to find out what high-end tube amps were capable of. At present I'm using it as a speaker amp of all things, using the impedance adaptor, and the Phoenix as a pre-amp to it (and a kind of overkill balanced-to-SE adaptor for the Reference 1), which works very well. Anyway, this is the post:

Originally Posted by Currawong View Post
Originally Posted by Patu View Post
Many people seem to suggest that balanced connection is far superior than normal RCA. Has anyone done thorough comparison with identical setups (including same model cables but with different connectors) between RCA and XLR? This forum seems to suggest that the difference is huge but I've heard many comments saying that it isn't so. I have never had fully balanced setup and I've never have had a chance to compare XLR to RCA.
Patu: From my own experience it seems to very much depend on how the gear was designed to run. The Ref 1 and Phoenix, for example, are designed to run balanced ideally, or you just don't get the full benefits of their potential. I also have an Audiovalve RKV here that, single-ended isn't so far behind the Phoenix balanced. The same with a Luxman P-1 I had the chance to compare. Both are highly regarded amps, by me included. Overall, the Phoenix balanced bests both in soundstage balanced and detail SE, but the RKV and P-1 best the Phoenix single-ended in overall musicality, if with a small expense in detail, but not by a large margin IMO. I've also used the Phoenix with single-ended input and pre-amp output to a power amp and found with speakers that the differences in the capabilities of various DACs I've tested were equally apparent and less dependant it seemed on whether they were SE or balanced (and more so on whether they were being used to their best potential or not). I'd take a good bet that a DAC19DSP plus one of the well-regarded serious tube amps such as my RKV would make a very pleasant rig.