This was an enjoyable thread to read. The opinions by each contributor were thought out and well received.
smoothlondoner, I wish you luck in finding your next DAC. I am going to be following your journey.
conlinharding, every one of your comments are pleasant to read and they have answered questions that my subconscious has yet to ask. You made me realize more about my taste in music reproduction. Thank you for that. I've heard numerous systems in the last few years especially at two RMAF (2009 and 2012). The overly transparent sound you have been describing makes me think about what I am listening to preventing me from hearing what it is being played. Sidney Deane describes what I am getting at, "...you can listen to Jimi but you can't hear him. There's a difference man. Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him."
It was the Quad 2905 that made me fall in love with Hi-Fi sound. It's imaging and realism they can create are undeniable. However, to this day, I don't perceive "the colors", I prefer, in the sound ESLs produce. You explained it wonderfully in an earlier post which I have included here:.
"You've been given a canvas with a sketch on it, if you want to paint it neutrally with just one color then fine, just as well you can paint it all white and bright yellow for a harsh grating effect, but I prefer a pallet of expression. Van Gogh didn't get there with a paint by numbers kit and nor should you, he observed his emotional responses to real life experiences and painted them with equal amounts of saturation. Let you equipment get in the way, let it move you, after all; isn't that what music is made for?"
All this time I have believed ESLs to be the epitome of speaker technology but I am now rethinking that. They "snap" and "sparkle" and "decay" unlike any other but I don't ever see myself closing my eyes and losing myself in a far-off, distant place like I do with more "colored" speakers. You're a cool dude Colin.
P.S. I heard the Stax-009 and I think those are the bomb! My comments are strictly confined to the home audio realm.