Audio Note Preamp VS Power Amp
As a continuation to my search for a good SET for my Tannoy Turnberry SE speakers, I landed up at the Audio Note showroom this evening. I listened to a OTO SE Signature and Conquest Silver Signature, both driving a pair of 88db sensitive 8 ohm impedance Eggleston Dianne speakers. The Conquest was being driven by a Triode Labs preamp. For a comparison there was a Leben CS600 which was also played. After a 3 hour long audition one thing that stood out was Audio Note is a supremely realistic sounding gear, it sounds so much like the real thing. The Leben, which is otherwise a fine sounding amp, actually ended up sounding very artificial. I loved the Audio Note sound.
Now, here is the situation. While the OTO SE Signature sounded superb, it was brand new out of the box and has done roughly about 30 hours of burn in which the dealer said is not enough to hear its potential. To me it sounded a bit lazy, lacking in agility and over pace. I am not sure if it can really drive my Tannoys too. The Conquest Silver Signature on the other hand sounded lively and fast. For whatever reason though, on big classical orchestral music the Conquest did not do dynamic swings as gracefully as the OTO. That somewhat amazed me. It has nearly double the power of an OTO and in fact handled the speaker with more grip in bass region, sounded more lively too but somehow it doesnt scale as gracefully as the EL84 based OTO. The dealer said it could be that the Conquest needs an Audio Note preamp in front of it to actually scale better. Which could be correct, but I have my doubts. In the past too I have noticed that 300B based amps dont do big dynamic swings well. Anyway, I still loved the Conquest quite a bit and that is the only alternative for me to get a higher powered Audio Note than a OTO. I have three options at the moment:
1. M1 Signature preamp + Conquest Silver Signature
2. M5 + P1SE Signature
3. M6 + any decent EL34/KT88 based amp for roughly under $2k
All these options are available to me in the pre-owned market. I cannot listen to these combinations. My question is, which combination will give me the best sonics considering that I love the Audio Note house sound. To put it differently, where does the bulk of Audio Note sound comes from, preamp or power amp ?