Thanks for your impressions. I've been thinking... I'm sure the ACSS input/ouput circuitry minimizes loss between components and the input/output parts are of very high quality in general to begin with in all Audio-gd products, but still, I'm a big believer in minimizing components in the signal path and keeping things as simple and short as possible... I've talked to Kingwa about this and his opinion is that separates are always best - and I can see his view of how having separate power supplies and better isolation between components and what not is beneficial , but still, given all things equal, I have a feeling that the Ref 10 may in some dimensions actually outperform a higher end two-box solution such as the Ref 7.1 + Phoenix or Master 8 purely by the virtue of getting rid of extra components in the signal path.
That said - it is interesting that you found the DAC/pre-out of the Ref 10 to be somewhat lacking. Is this in comparison with higher-end Audio-gd DACs or among a larger group of high-end DACs? My question is... were you able to also connect your external headphone amps to the Ref 7.1 as well and find that produced excellent results while the Ref 10 did not - or is it just the sound signature of Audio-gd's non-ACSS outputs that don't mate as well with other headphone amps?
Anyway - thanks again for your impressions!