Next up was to move upstairs to compare on the Big Legacy's.
HTR used for comparision consists of Amp: Sunfire 400 X 7 & Pre-Amp: Using Marantz 7.1 receiver pre-amp outs
Carverfest Tube Amp & Adcom Pre-amp
Some CD Cuts auditioned: Dave Brubeck's Take Five, Marc Cohn's Ghost Train and Perfect Love, SRV's TinPanAlley, Sara K's various cuts and other Chesky recordings.
As some of you are aware, 95% of my listening is watching concerts, which most, if not all are not what I would not consider audiophile recordings. After two days of listening, I have drawn some thoughts:
First, when I substituted the Carverfest tube/Adcom pre combo I noticed a difference in sound. Instruments had a little better separation and a wider soundstage, saxes had a more natural, reedy sound so to speak and transients had a little more attack. Vocals sounded very good with either combo, but maybe a tad more real with this Carverfest tube/Adcom combo. Brushes were more distinct moving from side to side on drum surface on the Adcom/Carverfest tube combo. All of this listening was done at around 85 db. as to not tax the Carverfest tube amp. Legacy Whisper XD's are very efficient, believe 95 db's or so., but didn't want little Carverfest tube amp to run out of headroom. No difference in Bass-will explain why later.
Next was to determine if the Adcom or Marantz HTR was the difference or the Sunfire vs Carverfest tube amp. Took Mtz HTR out of loop and inserted the Adcom with the 400 X 7 Sunfire. There was most of the difference I was hearing. Not night and day, but surely significant. The Adcom pre had a better presentation, more lifelife detail than the MTZ. HTR receiver/pre-amp combo as mentioned in above paragraph.
Comparing the Adcom as a pre with the Sunfire 400X7 vs the Carverfest Tube amp. This was a much tougher comparison. I would say the instruments may have had a little better soundstage and separation with the tube amp. Vocals were a toss up, sounded very good in both scenarios. Bass sounded the same, probably because of built in amps in Legacy's driving the subwoofers. I think I may have preferred the reedy sound of the sax with the tube amp over the Sunfire. Very close in this dept., but believe edge to Carverfest tube. Both amps sound very good and I think it is up to listener preference as to which one would be preferable over the other. Happy with either one. I would love to do this one blind tested.
My Conclusion: There is a significant difference between a dedicated 2 channel pre-amp vs using the Pre-amp of a 7.1 HTR at least in the shy side of $1K to $1.5K range while listening to audiophile recordings.
As a result of this comparison, I have on the way a VTL 2.5 dedicated 2 channel tube pre with a HT bypass. Didn't know they made such an animal until a forum member recommended. Thanks Dan for spending my money.
This should be an interesting upgrade based on my experience with the lowly Adcom.
I have not considered yet converting to full blown tubes. Still a plug and play guy. However, my research shows tube Pre-amps are pretty darn reliable.
Stay tuned for part 2
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RIP BILL D. RIP WRABBIT