I thought i would try to capture some of the thought from the weekends testing and listening. All kit is run in and all kit was kept warm or allowed to warm up before listening. Three / four pairs of ears helped form the opinions to ensure a balanced view was obtained. I apologies in advance for me terminology I find hifi hard to put into words at times.
Starting Point for ease of reference for all - > NDX/XPSDR > HiLine > 52/SCap > 135 > SBL - Fraim
First test was more for interest sake and comparison of the 135 to the 250DR. As we had the cables we tried this a full loom setup (borrowed from a mate).
NDX/XPSDR > 52/SCap > 250DR > SBL - Fraim - SL Full Loom
- Harsh top end gone - check
- Instrument separation and reproduction better - check
- Overall engagement and drive - gone ! - Fail
While the 250DR was a very nice amp to listen to and did not have that fatigue / harsh top end that the 135's had it also did not engage you or provide the emotional connection like the 135's do. This was not unexpected
Next came the first active test. As we did not have enough SL to full loom this and it would not be in the final system either we removed all SL and reverted back to HiLine and NACA5
First Test was
NDX/XPSDR > HiLine > 52/SCap > 250DR(Hi) / 135 (Low) > SNAXO 242/HiCapDR > SBL - Fraim
Being my first listen to active SBL all i can say is wow !
All the Drive that was lost from the test above was back and the Instrument separation and reproduction was leaps and bounds ahead. Emotion, engagement both there in spades and just a delight to listen to. The harsh top end removed , just so easy to listen to. Base extension and definition was massively improved and the overall sound stage increased.
There was little bad to say about this combination at this time ! Only comment in the room was the 1D nature of the SBL sound stage remained but all agreed it was a minor concern.
NDX/XPSDR > HiLine > 52/SCap > 250DR(Low) / 135 (hi) > SNAXO 242/HiCapDR > SBL - Fraim
The instant reaction was just No, this is not good ! That fatigue and harsh edge was back, not as much but it was back. The base definition and extension was reduced as well. The overall active benefits did remain around separation, dire, engagement etc.
After a few tracks it was noted that though a bit harsh the top end had a nice zing to it that was missing on the 250DR variant above. Nice Decay and nicer on the volcals when not really high notes.
I guess this shows the capabilities of the 135 over the 250DR but also the weakness of the Olive 'sound' in this combination. It begins to suggest the harst top end if a result of 135>SBL combo in my room with the rest of the electronic.
Third Test - back to first active but added Full Loom to the 250DR on the high (as we had enough cable). The thought was to balance the results a bit from above.
NDX/XPSDR > 52/SCap > 250DR(Hi) / 135 (Low) > SNAXO 242/HiCapDR > SBL - Fraim - SL Full Loom (Hi amp Only + Interconnect)
So could we gain some of that top end 'zing' that the 135 gave from 250DR and the Lumina, while keeping the base extension and removing the Fatigue/Harsh
Answer yes - not all but a good portion of it.
So far this was the best combination by a long way. We got the base and overall drive from the 135's and the nice top end from the 250DR/Lumina Combination
This setup sang very nice and was a joy to listen to for a few hours for sure.
Fourth Test - Due to rack space needed to test without the 135's
NDX/XPSDR > HiLine > 52/SCap > 250.2(Hi) / 250DR (Low) > SNAXO 242/HiCapDR > SBL - Fraim
Options around rack space and integration into living space may mean keeping the 135's is impossible. So we removed the second Fraim stack (borrowed) and setup what could be the final system as a single stack. This would be the test bed for the next 3 days.
We had to choose a way around so started with the unconventional option of the DR on the Base.
While not quite as refined overall as the 135 option the combination of all classic series amps did seem to gel very well. The music flowed and tearing ones self away was very hard.
I could very much seem this as the final solution to this quest!!
The Final Test will be the below but ran out of time - will try Monday Evening
NDX/XPSDR > HiLine > 52/SCap > 250.2(Low) / 250DR (hi) > SNAXO 242/HiCapDR > SBL - Fraim
The tests are conclusive on the benefits of active - Stunning, even more so that when I heard the Kudos 707 go from Passive to Active. The instrument separation, decay, vocal emotion and overall engagement from Active is hard to compare or even put into words.
It does raise a few question and i will start a new thread to consider those. The interesting thing is it seems the Harsh top end is, for me, a combo of the 135's and the SBL's. The mate who lent me the 250.2 is trying the 135 in his system (S400) and does not report the same issue at the top end.
The journey continues, I have a speaker demo booked in two weeks to be sure on the way forward but Active is going to be hard to beat.
I must say its been good fun so far...
Thanks for reading