The LL might have been defective, but I doubt it as other experienced people did not find issue with it and even preferred it over the 727 amp when we had mini-meet in Tokyo some weeks back. For me, the first thing that jumped at me is the lack of drastic differences with the stax amp when using the sr009. I was so disappointed after hearing all about how critical it was to pair the 009 with a high end stat amp. I thought this whole thing was just wishful thinking and major mind conditionning to spur a market of third party makers. I want to post more detailed impressions at some point but was waiting to hear the BHSE to do so. My appreciation of the Electra when I heard it at anackhan's place the other day came as a total surprise as I was quite skeptical coming in, based on extended home audition of the LLmk2.
One thing that sounded really off with the LLmk2 is the transients. The bass is both forward and cuts very shortly so it completely lacks realism (I am talking about acoustic bass here). The 727 is wooly sounding in comparison but quite a bit more natural to my ears (I probably got used to this presentation). The Electra is both much more dynamic but also has just the right amount of bass quantity, and most important of all, it sounds natural in that register.
Along the same lines, I could not get used to the treble presentation of the LL which was laid back but at the same time sizzly, completely missing the texture / decay which makes cymbal crash sound like it should. It's as if the LLmk2 had strong overshoot in its transient response but somehow masks micro-information such as the decay after the attack. The Electra managed to sound more lively / brigther than 727 amp while keeping it all so convincing and effortless.
The 727 amp does sound stressed and dynamically challenged compared to both amps. The 727 simply sounds anemic and boring compared to both other amps. The LLmk2 sounds punchier but it feels artificial in terms of decay. The Electra simply outshines both amps in that regard.
Last but not least, imaging. I was again here quite disappointed with the LLmk2 as it did not bring anything to the table coming from my 727 amp. I had so much more success with the short trial of high end ladder dac (TotalDAC D1) that superfred21 brought with him to japan for us to listen. Before I hear the Electra, I was so convinced it did not make any sense to upgrade the amp before DAC. The thing is, the Electra again very positively surprised me here. Mind you, this criteria of instrument placement in the room, soundstage width and depth requires more than a couple of hours of audition but the improvement from the Electra coming from 727 was significant enough to be immediatly noticeable.
Overall, what I loved about the Electra is the prat, sense of ease / lack of strain, abundant macro and micro dynamics (reminiscent of craig's gear I heard in the past), realistic soundstaging, placement and separation. It's pretty difficult to put this into words but the easiest way for me to express it is I had the goose bumps when listening to such tune as Dire Straits "You And Your Friend" from the record "On Every Street".
Which brings me to the list of tunes I listened to during this three way comparison:
Miles Davis - Sketches Of Spain - Will O' The Wisp
Chris Isaak - Wicked Game - Blue Spanish Sky
Carla Bruni - Quelqu'un m'a dit - L’excessive
Ben Harper - The Will To Live - Faded
Rebecca Pidgeon - The New York Girl's Club - The Word Around Town
Dire Straits - On Every Street - You And Your Friend
Bounce - This Is K2 HD Sound - Star Dust
Beck - Sea Change - Paper Tiger
Feist - Open Season: Remixes & Collabs - Tout Doucement
Hugh Coltman - Stories From The Safe House - Could you be trusted
Tigran Hamasyan - Red Hail - Chinar Es (You Are as Tall as a Plane Tree)
Emily Loizeau - L'autre Bout Du Monde - Je Suis Jalouse
Marilyn Mazur - Elixir - Mother Drum
As a conclusion, I am now anxiously waiting for the BHSE, with the hope that I will not be disappointed like I was with the LLmk2, and hopefully finding similar qualities to the Electra. At the moment though, I cannot guess I will be preferring the BHSE with the 009. One reason is because I never heard it, the other is because the electra just sounded plain awesome with the Electra.
Now, about the Abyss outshining all this, I guess it will depend on what you're looking for in your sound system...
Edited by arnaud - 11/30/13 at 10:36pm