Teajay and other fortunate MBL owners,it is very interesting that the "solid state" weaknesses of past components seems to be diminishing as time goes by.
Yet there is still a contingency who, still, are absolutely resolute about anything solid state being the least bit musical,as compared to tube units.
Now we have some products(I'm sure there are quite a few more,BTW)like the Dartzeel,ASR,MBL and some of the Pass products,all of which I have heard,that are getting very good "press"(sadly too many 'philes are way too influenced by the "mags")and deservedly so.
My own system consists of highly modded equipment,all solid state,but a hybrid tube phonostage(three tubes).I have always felt it competed with the better configurations I have heard,yet if one is/was a tube lover,in my highly biased "tube worshiping" audio group,then hearing my set-up almost always came with a preconceived notion that it would "have to be better" if more tubes were in the circuit.I've actually had it that way,in the past.
I NEVER fell for that line,as I have had every possible configuration (Tubes and solid state)over my years in this hobby,and felt my current rig (one that I have been very careful in voicing to my tastes,and nobody else's)had what I was looking for.
Yet if one goes back,only a year or so ago,and looks at some of the "roundtable discussions" in magazines like TAS,we find the findings of what are considered to be the more experienced journalists around,to clearly not only favor all tube set-ups,but also go on to state that solid state cannot possibly be musical due to certain distortion artifacts,which are endemic to such designs.
"Tubes were music,with solid state being nice,yet Hi-Fi"!!
Personally some of the better systems I like(and don't own)are low powered tube amps,driving simple speakers.Yet they too have limitations.Everything does!If something is good,it's "GOOD".Period!!
My overall point being that I am thrilled to see "quality design" being rewarded,as in the case of this new MBL unit.I don't give a damn whether it's tubed or solid state driven(as I understand it,this is a solid state design).
I never cared for the MBL demos I had heard.Always at audio shows,and played far too loud,for me,but I have no doubts that this preamp is the real deal.
Yet my little audio group,of tube lovers,could never allow themselves to hear the virtues of that design.Say "solid state" and they automatically put the KIBASH on it!Of course if I got one,and told them it was a tube unit,it would be a whole different scenario,and I guarantee a different listening perception would be conveyed.SAD!
Teajay---Good for you(and your friend),that you can be unbiased.Even the most experienced among "many" are hard pressed to simply hear what is in front of them.
Time to really listen with the ears,and not our eyes!