I was lucky to get a preview of the Arete/Volcano through Todd's loaner program, so here's my brief take on his Millett-designed SS amplifier with the Volcano PSU.
Headphones used were the Senn HD800, and to a much lesser extent, a Grado RS1. The upper equipment chain included a MBP/Amarra/Jkeny MK3 and Anedio D1 DAC. Music is the standard fare I'm used to--about 50% classical with jazz, vocal, and acoustic genres to round things out.
My current amplifier is the Headamp GS1--a piece of equipment I've been very happy with, and which has a sound signature I'd like to stay close to. The GS1 is described as neutral and if that is so, then the A/V follows a similar path. In those terms, for me the A/V provides a seamless transition from the GS1.
I wouldn't call it a warm amp, but the A/V has its warmth in the right places. Its midrange presence is outstanding, and in that context it excels with acoustic instruments and voice. This warmth exists without bloat, as witnessed by the sharpness of the strumming of an acoustic bass, or the sweet wholeness of Eva Cassidy's voice in Live At Blues Alley.
The A/V's other strengths lie in its clarity, detail resolution, and extension. I think part of its clarity is due to the A/V's ability to maintain its poise through demanding sections of music. In that sense it stands out with classical music, delivering great insight into the different sections of an orchestra at play. It handles the pizzicato in the 2nd/3rd movements of Paganini's No. 1 just wonderfully.
In the high frequencies the Arete/Volcano is extended, with outstanding detail resolution, and an attack that can bite when needed. The same might be said about the trailing edge, with a decay that completes the picture with control and finesse.
These are my random thoughts--not quite organized or complete, but perhaps and hopefully complete enough. The bottom line is the enjoyment of music, and for me that's what the Arete/Volcano is all about. You basically forget about the details, and what's left is the music. I want one, badly.
I'd like to thank Todd for sharing the TTVJ/Millet through his loaner program, and also for being the champion that he's been all these years in supporting the headphone community. Bravo dude!
Edited by pigmode - 1/13/12 at 9:08pm