Hey guys, please let me jump in here. While Im in the Midwest, not the North East, I very recently joined the Doshi fan club after acquiring an Alaap Line Stage.
My goal was to use the Alaap for auditioning purposes. It has served that purpose better than I could have imagined and my imagination was highly fueled before its receipt!
My first foray into a higher end preamp was a Supratek Chenin that I purchased in 2004 to mate with my newly purchased Galibier Quattro tt. In addition to the Tri-Planar tonearm, both pieces were purchased to support a return to vinyl after a 30-year hiatus of chasing digital bliss!? Not knowing how much I would gravitate to spinning vinyl (its now my software of choice), for the time and place, the Chenin served its purpose well.
However, I recently upgraded my amplification from CAT JL1s to JL3s and believed (in concurrence with Jafoxs sage advice), that the Chenin was the weak link between my Amps and Soundlabs. Indeed, within moments of connecting the Doshi, Ive found that to be the case!
After connecting the Doshi, I had to also reconnect and reconfigure my brains sonic reference points. It was simply that different! But I instinctively knew that it was better! I just didnt really know why or how!
Of its many sonic attributes, and it is across the board better than anything Ive heard in my system, the most noticeable and appreciated difference is soundstage. Before, I thought I had one, but as Im sure weve all found out, things we thought good in our systems, can oftentimes be changed for the better the much better! And better it is!
My wife whose audio opinion I have come to value (but not one to critically listen for pleasure) is happy at my behest, to critique new hardware. Upon listening to the Doshi, she advised in a stunned tone, its 3-D. My thought by comparison to my previous reference, was essentially the same, it is painting an image more holographic than Ive every heard (or should I say seen? [grin])!
I must admit that soundstage and imaging especially highlighted by the new CATs -- were bugging me. Pronounced left and right information was coming more out of the fronts of the S/Ls rather than suspended in the space of the soundstage. Much to my happiness, that all changed with the insertion of the Doshi.
Although my audio rooms width is small (14) and the S/Ls are big, they simply get out of the way of the presentation disappearing like never before!
Instruments are now anchored in space. Im not sure if thats simply attributable to soundstage, or because sounds are coming from a much blacker blackness? My thought is both go hand in hand, so both are probably producing the end result.
Low level details are superb! Ive never been so happy listening at low volume levels!
At low levels its all there, the bass, the nuances, and the dynamics. That was the biggest difference that I had to get used to. Because the soundstage and dynamics were so much better, low level passages were well,
lower level, but the more robust passages were also more robust.
I initially thought that I was missing something and after having my audiophile son over, he initially sensed the same thing. After going from studio performances to ones that were recorded live, we realized that the soundstage was sooo much broader and with a depth we werent used to, that the presentation seemed more laid back. After further discernment that wasnt really the case. Not listening to a flat, much less dynamic presentation was playing tricks on our abilities to assess the differences the Doshi was bringing to bear on our listening status quo.
Three live performances and one symphonic one, enabled us to hone in on what the differences really were. These were Hugh Masakelias Stimela (the coal train song). It is one of my favorite reference recordings because it is very musical, but it has low level details, amazing dynamics, wonderful soundstage, great bass, and visceral vocal impact. Alison Krauss and Union Stations live recording, and Eva Cassidys live at the blue note and Reference Recordings Fanfare for the Common Man were others. The length of the gongs decay at the start of the latter recording was simply astonishing.
Moreover, nuances on Stimela were wonderful, increasing the you-are-there feeling. This is a poignant piece about the use and movement of men in the coal mines of Johannesburg. Ive never heard Hughs voice so expressive, exhibiting such angst. Part of this is because his voice is now firmly attached to a body. It has substance. I have found that the Doshi is presenting all well recorded vocals in this fashion.
Since my youth, Ive always wanted to increase the volume of symphonic pieces to hear the more restrained passages, but in some cases, this made the crescendos either too loud or too compressed. Any measure of needing to do that has vanished with the Doshi! Thats a first, and until I heard it, I didnt think it was possible in my home system.
It should be noted that my experiences with fine preamps is very limited, so unless I simply happened across one of the very best pres (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), my comments are not very easily related to others experiences with a much broader spectrum of component auditions. To help remedy that deficit, I obtained a well burned-in CAT ($10K) Renaissance last weekend. Upon placing it in the system and letting it warm-up sufficiently, both my wife and I were unexpectedly underwhelmed by what we heard.
Because of my positive experience with CAT Amps, and knowing of CATs preamp reputation, I figured that we would be hearing a competent contender. Differences were expected, but some of the positives found with the Doshi were also expected. With the CAT, those Doshi positives werent in evidence.
What we were presented with, was a return to a not so harmonically pleasing, much flatter soundstage. My wife and I thought it was Supratek like. My son the next day said the same thing. While Im sure it was better than the Supratek, especially in the bass where it perhaps it also bettered the Doshi, none of us cared, because it lacked the Doshis positives of air, space and a wonderful portrayal of low level details.
I also stopped by a local high end, but mainstream audio dealer yesterday. He had a pair of the Magico floorstanders being driven by Mcintosh electronics. I had him spin Hugh Masakelias Stimela, and called my wife in for a sensibility check. After leaving, and comparing notes, she nor I were impressed!
We were unable to visualize the body behind the voice and the 3-D depth that we have quickly come to expect wasnt in evidence. Was it the electronics, the speakers, the room, or simply because the Doshi wasnt present? I would like to think the latter, but obviously, without an in home audition, I wont be able to judge.
Whew, perhaps this posting should be placed in the review section. Im just brimming with excitement about my experiences, and wanted to share, but I do have questions.
I need to ASAP acquire an outboard phono, or a multi-function pre-amp to get a fix for my vinyl addition. Based on my comments thus far, the Alaap is the logical choice, but the other preamp that has me very intrigued, is Mike Elliotts Aria WV5.
Because of Mikes legendary Counterpoint preamp designs, and because the tricked-out Aria is $3K less than the Doshi, Im vacillating between the two.
Having both in my system would settle the debate, but thats all but impossible! The Aria is new, and I dont have the inclination to buy one simply for auditioning purposes; doing so with a used Alaap was more than enough to kick-in my risk aversion tendencies.
I know Jafox has an Aria, because he has shared his observations in an absorbingly detailed review here on the gon.
Moreover, I believe John and I own the same amps and speakers, so his tastes and mine are assumably similar. In fact, I PMed John last night prior finding this thread, asking him if had any experience with the Doshi or knew anyone who had experience with both the Doshi and the Aria.
Seeing that John is scratching his head above, about the same question as I, but in reverse, I believe I already have my answer. Nevertheless, John: if youre reading this, please dont let my assumption prevent you from chiming-in either herein, or via a response to my PM. As I mentioned in my PM, I believe you have much broader and deeper auditioning experiences in this hobby, and I would greatly appreciate your assessments.
So, as Tom (Auditomb) who began this thread, I too would love to hear a preamp -- only because Ive heard the Doshi line stage, I would love to be able to compare it to the Aria line. More interestingly still, would be phono comparisons.
Sigh, Im interested in buying something as soon as I can! But I would prefer getting these questions answered, or at least sorted out before committing.
I probably couldnt go wrong with either product, but preferences and system synergy being what they are, and the price of admission being what it is; Im experiencing a real conundrum! Comments, assistance, direction, and suggestions are welcomed.
PS. While composing this, Im listening to Dr. Johns, Duke Elegant CD, and had to pause it, to have my wife listen. The instrument separation, tonality and bass licks on Perido Street Blues are nothing like Ive every experienced! My chair is back about 12 from the Soundlabs, the lights are on and my eyes open, but there are no speakers in the room, only a stage amazing!
Cheers to all,