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