How did the MBL combo compare to the EMM, dCS, etc?
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The MBL 1611/1621 is a great front end. It is musical, involving and detailed. Unfortunately it doesn't do SACD for 40K. I would say the MBL is closer in sound to EMM. The dCS P8i had more micro, macro dynamics and resolution. The soundstage had the same width, but was deeper. The P8i was however less musical and organic then the MBL. The Puccini retains what dCS is known for - best resolution, soundstage, focus and imaging compared to all I have used. However in the new series the sense of musicality and "organic" presentation is presented not only in a better way than their previous models, but superior to all the other front ends I known. I couldn't be happier.
I use the Puccini on 6V. The integral preamplifeir sounds as good as my old Pass X1 and presently the VAC. I kept the pre just for the phonostage. The pre of the Puccini is so much better than the one in the p8i which was ok but not great.