So I've spent about ~10 hours listening now, thought it might be beneficial to others if I posted my initial thoughts/notes. Thankfully the loud noise issue seems to have gone - only happened once.
What I've got: lossy/lossless > iTunes > MacBook Air > (via USB32) Audio-GD M7 > GS-X mk2 (balanced in & out) > LCD-3.
Where I've been: Woo Audio WA2 with upgraded tubes.
- So where I've been is important. My previous amp is considerably cheaper, single-ended, not optimal for orthos, etc, etc. Also, I haven't personally heard any higher-end rigs than what I've got (attribute this to the lack of local high end headphone stores and my anti-social tendencies). So please consider these 2 facts when reading my opinions - I'm not going to claim what I've heard is the best ever, 'wire with gain', etc, cus I don't know what "better" is quantitatively.-
Bass is extended, clear and powerful.
Power: You can really feel a tangible thump in some tracks (e.g. Tool - The Pot, Taylor Swift - Fearless, Gorillaz - Stylo, Kanye West - Clique, Lorde - Buzzcut Season, insert your favourite bass track). I am enjoying the quantity of bass in my setup - it feels just right, but I haven't played around with EQing yet.
Clarity: The tracks mentioned above also help demonstrate clarity performance. Another bass test track I use is Daft Punk - Giorgio by Moroder: In comparison to the WA2, the bass in the early portions of the track are clearer, you can discern individual bass notes better - but I still think it can be improved further. There still seems to be some muddiness and I think it's due to the DAC and the use of USB32 in particular (based on feedback from others). The next step for me is to implement an I2S reclocker/transport before the DAC and see if that resolves things.
Extension: E.g. Radiohead - All I Need, Massive Attack - Protection, Lorde - Buzzcut Season. You can really feel the bass reach dooooooowwwwwwwwwwwn loooooow and pull you down with it. Coupled with the power and clarity qualities, the GS-X really does deliver good bass.
Amp is very resolving. I wanted to see what high end SS was like and I'm liking the sound. Coming from tubes, I was hoping for the lower noise floor and more 'clinical?' sound - which I think is achieved. Again, caveat, I haven't heard what high-end tube amps sound like - e.g. EC amps - which seem very popular.
- It seems like a very clear amp. I'm noticing additional detail on tracks such as artists breath/movement during recordings, nuances of audio tracks - e.g. Coldplay tracks with Chris Martin. More detail extraction with Radiohead tracks - but with detail, sometimes I just notice more detail when I'm listening to new gear, if I go back and listen carefully with old gear sometimes I can hear the same detail.
- Massive Attack - Inertia Creeps, can hear the nuances of the drums, the reverb.
- Taylor Swift tracks, lots of small details in the guitar strumming and backing instruments.
- Quite a few tracks where I'm noticing chimes where I didn't before. Can't think of an example track off the top of my head - this is why I should take notes during listening sessions...
Songs do sound more open. I think the clarity and resolution qualities of the amp contribute to this. Can more easily hear echoes, details in the recording studio, etc.
Think that's all the major points for now....
Was it worth the wait? Don't know - don't know what else is out there that is able to deliver the same performance without the wait. Liquid Gold, EC amps, Auralic Taurus mk2? But I am very happy with the amp's performance and am really enjoying the tangible improvements - stayed up till 2 am last night just relistening to my library. Was awesome. I'm sort of scared of how much better things can be from this point - but the journey continues...