Ok, I received my sr-lambda and srd-7 today and am taking a short breaking from listening to them in order to leave a couple of impressions. First I should say that my expectations were not very high, given that my solid state bryston b60 integrated amplifier was not expected to be a good match for the sr-lambda/srd-7, and the fact that the sr-lambda ("normal bias") are so outdated that, even on head.fi.org one does not find them mentioned in many threads at all.
So after hooking the 2 pairs of speaker leads up to the pair of speaker terminals on the Bryston, and letting the Sony 9000es play an SACD for a while to warm up everything, including the Cardas Cross interconnects, I popped in the SACD "Orchestral Suites of Bach", Pearlman conducting the Boston Baroque on Telarc.
At first, sounded a bit thin and 'shiny' or ever so slightly metallic, but withing several minutes I was hooked. I should mention again that my reference up to this point has been the Sennheiser H600 with Cardas headphone cable, using the Bryston as the headphone amp (purportedly one of the best headphone stages available on an integrated, at least under a few grand, driven directly from the preamp stage without any op-amps in the path). My other digital source has been the Linn Ikemi cdp.
Now then, after of few minutes of listening to the Bach suites, it became apparent that what initially sounded like thinness, gradually started to seem more like a pleasant leanness - but not a lean and hungry kin dof leanness but rather a 'svelt, ready for action' kind of leanness combined with a delicateness. Not only were instruments noticeably more textured through the sr-lambda (energized by the srd-7 'adapter;), but it was easier to following a given rapidly meandering melodic line, such as played by a flute or one small fraction of the otherwise large string continuo, even in cases where it would normally be swallowed up for at least a few moments until a given en masse crescendo had begun to taper a bit, whereupon said melodic line could be homed in on again.
I'll use the analogy of one watching a train enter one side of the tunnel, and even though one cannot see the train while traversing the tunnel, one can interpolate approximately where in the tunnel it is at any given point in time, because one also sees where the tunnel exit is and can thus interpolate the train's position.
Well the above scenario is what listening to very complex arrangements through my HD600's is analogous to - I follow one or several melodies, occasionally lose it amidst the multimbral smearing that can occur in the parts of music which seem to challenge a given recording medium the most, and momentarily draw one's attention away from an otherwise convincingly semblance of reality (ie. highest fidelity), and then when everything 'simmers down' a bit, can lock on to the melody once again.
Not so with the sr-lambda as heard in my system tonight. I found that I could focus on just about any musical line or follow any musical idea to its conclusion - without mental interpolation - and likewise abandon any particular mental committment to any one line, or lines, and simply absorb the arrangement's gestalt.
I'll assume for the time being that this is what reviewers mean when they describe a source component or one of reproduction (such as the headphones) as sounding 'effortless'. The music coming from this electrostatic was at once immediate and laid back - a combination of attributes that until tonight I thought was only possible on very very expensive systems (read: 10+grand speakers and similarly priced separates).
Yet I only acknowledge the *possibility* of very expensive rigs, with their expensive dynamic drivers, being able to pull the same kind of stunts to which my ears have been witness tonight, because it seems only logical such allure and finesse it what drives people to purchase such expensive gear in the first place.
In actuality, I myself have never heard such music reproduced so well, not even from some very expensive speakers in a high end audio boutique. I then put in the Telarc Classical Sampler 2 SACD and began with track one, a piece by the Empire Brass. Harmonically richer and more coherent than the HD600/Cardas combo, and with much more actual brass character than I've heard before. Otherwise the piece wasn't all that much more impressive on the sr-lambda, but I was about to get rattled listening to the following track. Beginning with track two on that same sampler, this being an excerpt from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet Suite (conducted by Paavi, on Telarc Pure DSD). As good as this dynamic and richly multitimbral piece has sounded through my HD600's, the HD600 were simply no match for the Sr-Lambda in that piece and every one to follow on that sampler. Again, the most surprising irony of the Sr-lambda that came to mind as I listened, was the hitherto unfeasible combination of immediacy and relaxedness. If anything, the presentation was even more laid back than that to which I'm accustomed with the HD600, yet the sr-lambda were so extendedand airy, that it sounded as if real string instruments were playing loudly - but at a moderate distance away from my ears, in a performance hall will great acoustics that rendered any moderate distance between listener and performer irrelevant. That is, when hearing a *real* violin play under the stone archway in one of the main pedestrian entrances to Munich, I did not have the urge to place my ear in close proximity to the violin itself - I was plenty close enough, thank you.
Yet sometime lower-high end components give one a veritable taste of high fidelity but almost tempt one into drawing ever nearer to the reproductive source (such as removing the layer of cushioning covering the driver inside the HD600 so as to enable one to access more ambient information, a trick recommended by some on head-fi.org to compensate for what some claim to be the HD600's 'veiled' character, but which I've never tried). I found that the longer I listened to the Sr-lambda, the more it became apparent that speakers or headphones based on a dynamic driver will always have limitation, that is unless(possibly) room acoustics are perfect or the gear is sufficiently high end. Yet even these humble sr-lambda, which can be found used for in the range of a few hundred dollars, decidely trounced the Sennheisers and
So now my hunt for good transducers is not over. I have decided that electrostatic is the way to go for classical, and possibly jazz, but my present setup still leaves something to be desired. For one, there were certain passages in the non-Pure DSD recordings (ie. the SACD recording of the Prazak perfomances of Beethoven Sring Quartets) that exhibited a slight glaring or harshness not quite intuitively attributable to the source component or recording itself. My take on it is that my sr-lambda could benefit from a better driver, such as the tubed Stax srm-T1 or srm-007t (the latter is quite expensive compared to the earspeakers), or possible the slight harshness claimed to be a property of even SACD playback on my Sony 9000es (soon to be modded), previously understated on the smooth HD600, is now be made manifest by the sr-lambda - especially fed by my solid state integrated. So now I'm in a but of a quandarry; do I have the Sony modded, by say Modright, in an attempt to tame that *slight* harshness which is purportedly rectified my modding the inferior grade analog output stage of the Sony, or do I spring for one of the tube Stax drivers mentioned above? Perhaps both would help or be synergistic. So I guess my tentative plan at this point is to pick up a used tube amp for the sr-lambda, knowing that later I can always pick up a second , higher grade pair earspeakers such as the Omega I or II, (thus freeing up the speaker terminals on my Bryston) and then reevaluate my rig from there. To be fair, I never got to hear the HD600 hooked up to a dedicated headphone amp (though I did own a Headroom Max which I used with my Hd580 *years* ago, before they were thefted), but neither were the sr-lambda auditioned tonight on a dedicated headphone amp. At least, one could hardly call the 1971 srd-7 energizer unit an 'amp', when it needs to be fed by an actual power amp in order to drive the earspeakers.
I don't suppose anyone out there bothered to read most, or any of the above, but what type of sonic benefit do you suppose could be had by using an admittedly overkill Srm-007t or Srm-T1 with the sr-lambda? My only intersting lead in this prospect so far is a brief post on head-fi.org, in which someone who had just picked up a pair of sr-lambda, and listened to them through a dealer's Srm-007t, claimed to 'like [the combo] MUCH'. He went on to say that he and his friend both thought the difference between the sr-004 and the sr-lambda was equal to or less than the difference between the HD600 and HD650. Has any HD600 or HD650 owner out there (with primarily classical and jazz interests) noticed a distinct improvement in transparency, timbre, and overall musical perspective when upgrading to a high-end headphone amp? if so, which model did it for you? If you also have experience with electrostats, then that's all the better, but I'm interested in other comparisons as well. I've tried to avoid head-fi.org for the most part because I gather that their listenening tastes seem to run more in the jazzy rock and pop areas and less in straight classical jazz (not 'classical' in the strict sense but rather in the more encompassing popular sense of ancient instrumental) and classic. I'm also big into classic rock and even techno and trance, but if those were my main focus then i wouldn't be an 'upwardly spiraling' audiophile - that is, I would have remained content with the HD580's and my first Rotel turntable with Grado Ref. Platinum cartridge.
Now I'm off to listen to some redbook on the Ikemi, having given it ample time to warm itself and the Sr-lambda up!