I just got the obsolete protos in today, and while I won't bother with an actual review, I have had a chance to gather some early impressions with a variety of amps. Just listening to vinyl so far, but I can see that while it's not that hard to get them going, really lighting them up is another story.
On my WA22 I can see where they got that clinical reputation. They took the volume to about 3:30 with the 7236 tubes and the phono stage level boosted a bit, and they reminded me of my HD800 somewhat but I am not driving the HD800 balanced yet so it's not a fair comparison; the HD800 only needs to go to 11:30 on the dial. Then I hooked up the speaker adapter to a Cityspot 20wpc t-amp and the bass blew up and detail/refinement suffered, that was a fail IME.
After that I hooked up to an old 50wpc Alesis RA100 pro audio SS power amp, and even single-ended through a Pro-ject switchbox these protos really took off. The bass was clean and fully extended which reminded me of the LCD-2, but the rest of the spectrum was represented equally well so the similarities ended there. There was no annoying lower mid emphasis, and nothing sucked out of the upper mids either.
I would have to say that the balance was perfect and the clinical sound was gone, they do get more musical when fully powered. This really is a good combo, and the Alesis was dirt cheap in its day for what it is. I would be tempted to buy these (if it was possible) for no other reason than to have an excuse to keep the Alesis out of storage.
I will also try my EF5 with these, as I have a Black Dragon SE adapter on hand. I was surprised that the HE-6 didn't come with an SE adapter, I thought they would for some reason. I am looking forward to hearing them with digital sources as well, and I will probably try my secondary A/V receiver with them.
I do have a couple of questions about the production model. Obviously one of the ways they were able to lower the cost was to get rid of the custom-tooled leather and paint or plate or anodize these babies instead; no one seems to mind (I know I don't). Another way is to make them available to more people by making them easier to drive, a gamble that counts on quantity of scale to make up for a lower margin.
Are the drivers still made of gold or did they change? I wouldn't be surprised if they did, as they reportedly sound totally different and are more efficient.
But my most critical question is:
Does anybody know if the USA loaner programs will get the production version for evaluation?
Edited by grokit - 10/5/10 at 10:28pm