I am spending my first night with all the parts of the new rig in place, with everything functioning properly. It took most of the day to sort out some problems, which eventually proved to be an issue with Audirvana Plus (in all fairness, it's likely operator error).
The Lampizator is a 4th Gen/Level 5B (which refers to the fact that it is in a single big box, versus the typical two box Level 5). I had thought I was getting a gently used one from the Lampi North American distributor, but the distributor determined that it had an issue with one of its tubes. So, the distributor offered his own personal unit (a 5B as well), which (in addition to DSD, volume control, Duelund Caps) had some upgraded tubes. Let me say that the level of service, and their conscientiousness, was exenplary. We spoke off and on all day about the issues I was having. At one point, he even called the owner/founder of Lampizator (in Poland) to see if he had any suggestions (but, again, the problem had nothing at all to to do with the Lampi). Extraordinary, caring personal service.
The KGBH had arrived a few days earlier. Stock tubes, but if the upgrade bug hits, I'll likely get a quad set of Psvane EL34s, which come highly recommended. The final piece of the puzzle were the 009s, which I ordered from Elusive Disc, an authorized dealer. Yes, I had to pay a bit of a premium over price japan, and a pretty significant premium over what Headamp sells them for, but I just couldn't stand waiting the 4 to 6 months it was anticipated to take. Elusive Disc had them in stock, and they arrived 3 days after placement of the order.
I will not attempt a comprehensive review, because it would be pointless, given the impossibility of pinpointing where any sonic improvements are coming from. I am coming from a decent quality amp/dac + Denon D7000s.
Instead, some more random observations might be in order. Before I do so, thanks to all who posted their suggestions in this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/709048/8-years-ago/. I had originally thought that I wanted to move away from electrostatics (even though I am a confirmed 'stat fan in my speaker rig). Eventually, I concluded that I was hopelessly addicted to the clarity, detail retrieval that could best be achieved through electrostatics. Glad I did.
1. I was frankly scared to death about the brightness issues I had read about with the 009s. And, no, listening to them in the flesh, I cannot hear anything that sounds like sibilance, brightness, or tipped-up treble. Of course, these are my ears, and they're unique in that regard. What I do hear as compared to the 007 Mk. 1s I used to own? Yes, the 009s lose a bit of a veil of darkness that I recall from the 007s (though, in all fairness, it WAS eight years ago). What I believe I'm hearing from the 009s isn't brightness, but authenticity. Of course, this isn't verifiable. But, my gut tells me that I am merely hearing something closer to what the recording engineer heard when the song was originally performed. But, what I am sure I am not hearing is an undue brightness.
2. What I don't hear is glare, which I distinctly recall from my old rig, even with a reasonably capable Musical Fidelity DAC and, later, an Accustic Arts CD Player. Of course, it has been 8 years ago, and one should anticipate a significant increase in what one should expect of digital gear in the ensuing years. I suspect this absence of digital glare is due to the Lampizator working its magic. The last time I heard this degree of naturalness and correct timbre was back in the 70s, when last I had a serious turntable. How ironic that those audio memories should prove to be the gold standard against which future choices were judged. But, damn, I'm listening to Jimmy Webb's "Ten Easy Pieces" and the piano (an instrument I've played for 50 (!) years, just sounds so amazingly accurate. I know it's the combination of all my new components, but I have to give significant credit to the Lampi, for its exceptional ability to make a piano sound precisely like it should, without edginess, without glare, without even an ounce of harshness. I have never heard a piano sound so perfect in my life. Listening to the intro to "Wichita Lineman" is all the proof anyone could possibly need.
3. I havne't been able to figure out the role of Justin's KGBH. Sure, it isn't an SE, and it's a bit long in the tooth I suppose. But, even with its age, it's performance is top notch. Stock tubes, no fancy cabling, straight wire with gain . . . it drives the Stax with aplomb. I'm sure the SE would be a step up, but it's a step I feel no present inclination to take. It is dead quiet, with just a touch of warmth, but without coloring the sound otherwise.
Again, thanks for you kind advice, and apologies for my inability to fashion a proper review. But I'm back to listening, and loving every minute of it.
Edited by bahamaman - 4/13/14 at 4:32am