Very nice statement JB of your thoughts regarding the Filarmonia. Seems to be coming from your heart and that says something in itself. Hope to get an email from BP anyday now telling me mine have shipped.......
Would you mind terribly if I just copied and pasted your review and put my name to it :)
Your review pretty much hits the nail on the head with my thoughts and feelings as well, especially this:
"I really hesitated before going for such a "reasonably" priced amplifier, and such a small one at that. How could it rival bigger, much more expensive machines? What would be the trade-off? Well the proof is in the listening, and I can happily and honestly report that there's no trade-off. The Filarmonia made me a happy audiophile, which probably means I'm not an audiophile anymore. Thank you Ricardo @ Ars Sonum (and Bobby @ Merlin for insisting I wait!)."
Oh, hold on now... with respect to that "audiophile" comment, didn't you just purchase that Esoteric? :)
Here, the pot is calling the kettle black. I figured that with this reasonably priced integrated, this freed up some money so I bought a VPI turntable (the HR-X).
What did you have previous to the X-03 SE? I really like that SACD player as well.
Actually, I did copy that bit you mention on you from AA... ;)
As far as the Esoteric is concerned, I went for it for two reasons: first because my brand new Audio Aero Prima Mk2 died one week before I received the amp, and second because after hearing what the Ars Sonum was doing with my turntable, I figured I might as well use the money I saved with it on a better digital source! So far, the X-03 SE sounds very impressive, but the sound changes almost everyday so hard to make final judgement. It becomes smoother and smoother as it breaks in. It does some things which really make my head spin and which I'd certainly never heard from digital before. Also, once you've seen and touched this machine, it's hard to go back. Even 20.000 dollars wouldn't get you that build quality from any other manufacturer... You would probably get much more chrome and gold though... :)
Congrats on the HRX, very nice turntable!
Hi JB. I'm at the stage where you said,"I really hesitated before going for such a "reasonably" priced amplifier, and such a small one at that. How could it rival bigger, much more expensive machines? What would be the trade-off?". I've ordered the ARS and will be comparing with my Placette Active and CAT JL2. I too hesitated to do this and asked myself how could it be possible to beat (or at least be comparable in terms of musical satisfaction). Well we'll see, but I do buy into the idea that the CAT might be more amp (a truly world-class amp that can make almost any speaker sound glorious) than is necessary to drive the VSM-MXe (easy to drive)and the ARS may be so well matched to the needs of the speaker that it just might pull it off. I would love to go smaller and simpler if I don't have to compromise on sound quality.
Just heard the Ars-Sonum at the NYC Stereophile show. Your review makes perfect sense to me now, and clearly this integrated has to be considered by all Merlin owners - it is a special pairing that certainly produced one of the best sounds of the show. A simpler path to great audio. Get on the waiting list now, you won't regret it IMHO.