Observations on the Lavardin IT and Karan K 180

I am in the process of changing integrated amps and am fortunate to briefly have the Lavardin and karan amps in my system at the moment. They are arguably 2 of the best SS integrated amps around at the $6000 mid price zone, with due respect to other great amps from Musical Fidelity, Macintosh, Classe etc. They are both also, hard to get to audition, so I thought a comparison might be of interest, before I sell on the Lavardin. I changed to the Karan(bought from Stereo, thanks) as I have changed from 94db Living Voice Avatars to 89db Acoustic Zen Adagios and thought an increase from 50 to 180 watts would be a step up.
System used in the comparison: Origin Live Resolution/illustrious/ Koetsu Rosewood Signature.
K&K Audio Phono Stage
Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers
Acoustic Zen Silver Ref/Hologram cable
Music used amongst others: Verdi Otello with Domingo, Eric Clapton "The cream of", Harry Belafonte Sings the Blues.
Firstly, I was struck by how similar they both were, in fact how good, fast, dynamic, neutral and uncoloured. The Lavardin has more air and clarity and is more forward. Perhaps, microdynamics are better than the Karan. It seems easier to follow the development of a note or chord. Soundstaging was good, but not as deep as the Karan, imaging equally good.
The Karan had a richer, less airy tone than the Lavardin, in fact nearer the Viva Solista 845 SET I use also. The biggest difference is in the base, which is deeper, tighter and better developed than the Lavardin. As you might expect from the greater power, the Karan had clearly more Macrodynamics and drive than the Lavardin. I use Otello, because the opening is very busy, with big changes in volume, complex chorus singing, even a loud cannon in the left channel. The Karan was much better at sorting this out, with enough dynamics to make you jump at the cannon, even though you were expecting it. The sound is more mid hall, with a deeper soundstage.
Which is better? neither, both are truly excellent and should satisfy anyone. Perhaps because it is new and different, I prefer the Karan. It also seems nearer to the "tube" sound I like in the Viva amp
I am extremely interested in your post as I am considering both the Lavardin and Karan integrateds as well as the Living Voice and AZ speakers. What are your thoughts on the speakers and why did you decide to go with the AZ's? Have you listened to the Living Voice OBX-RW's? I have heard they are Living Voice's best speaker by a large margin.
American Flag; I used the Avatars, not the OBX for 3 years. I heard the OBX when I bought the Avatars and thought them different rather than better. The reports suggest the OBX RW is a big step up, but I have'nt heard them. Much as I like Kevin who makes LV speakers, the Adagios are in a different league. It has been said by a reviewer "maybe the best value in HiFi". In comparison, they are more dynamic, better base, more uncoloured, though LV speakers are good in that respect too. I auditioned speakers up to £10000 and did'nt find them bettering the Adagios by any margin. I am British, much as it pains me to say it, build quality is better too. When you factor in the $ price too, if you live in the US,the adagios seem a no brainer.

The Conrad Johnson CA200 is very viable option in this price range.

If only that were true about the price, as I really like CJ amps. I think the CA200 sells for $6000 to 7000 in the US, in the UK it sells for £6900 or about $13400. Someone seems to be making an obscene profit, the importer perhaps?
I was unaware of your locale. In that case,what about the AM-77? http://www.amr-audio.co.uk/Templates/am77.htm
I agree with you on that insane mark-up(from $6500-13K+),especially since the British Pound and Euro are trouncing the dollar.