I have been meaning to audition this component. Your post has inspired me!
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"OP: I have no idea how he does it but the designer truly achieves a sound that is uniquely detailed, smooth and imminently musical"
I believe it may use the same "Pleasure Control" (volume control) as their flagship NHB-18NS $25k preamp below, which is an LED/LDR series shunt volume control which has no switches or contacts in the signal path, as all normal volume controls have.
"DartZeel NHB-18NS: A whole new volume control module, which completely avoids the use of any potentiometer, stepped attenuator or analog switch array in the signal path. The sound signal is attenuated in a fully passive way, using special analog optical couplers"
I can say that the units that I thought(know)it exceeded were very highly rated at TAS being editor's choices and cited to be among the top of the heap. I personally can't imagine what more one could ask for sonically. Then there are the ergonomics and superb build quality. I love turning the damn thing on everyday. I will not say any more about it so as to not give the impression that I have some motive at play.
it's no accident how the darTZeel sounds so organic and musical. if you read the owners manuals for the darTZeel products there is a consistent theme of low parts count in the signal path, very non-intrusive volume control designs, and a fundamental focus on eliminating the right sort of distortion leaving the musical message complete. the sound is never 'choked to death' yet the noise floor is very low and the darts exceed at microdynamic life and tonal richness.
I've spent time at a number of audio shows with the CTH-8550 integrated and it's a remarkable product. 'real world speaker' powerful, with an excellent preamp amp and phono stage. it can be the centerpiece of a very high end system.
another product that might also be one to consider is the new LHC-208 'danalog' streaming DAC with integrated amplifier. it's amplifier circuit is more similar to my NHB-458's and I absolutely loved the performance last year at the Newport Show. it's dac performance was breathtaking.