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    The Computer Audiophile

    Review | Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 1.0 Amplifier

     

     

    I've heard many Constellation Audio systems over the years, and have lived with one since 2015. To say I have experience with and admiration for the brand is an understatement. The best part about this is that Constellation Audio gained my respect the old fashioned way, they earned it. I wasn't a student of the HiFi game when members of the Constellation Audio dream team, such as John Curl and Bascom King, were designing the best components in the business for other companies. Thus, there was no fawning admiration for Constellation on my part. I assumed Constellation Audio products would be good, but I held on to the possibility that too many rockstar cooks in the kitchen could produce a disjointed inedible meal.  

     

    The two things that first put Constellation on the map with me were endorsements by trusted friends in the industry and my conversations with company founders Murali Murugasu and David Payes. According to friends, the products were magnificent. This piqued my interest. I subsequently talked to Murali and David a couple times, and determined right away that these guys were the salt of the Earth. They were genuine and honest, had a great grasp of high end audio history, were music loving audiophiles themselves, and had the intelligence and ability to successfully deliver state of the art products. 

     

    Once the stage was set, I started listening to Constellation Audio components in many different systems. In the early days, this meant the Reference Series with vertical standing Hercules mono amplifiers and dual chassis Altair preamplifier. When the Performance Series was released I listened to Centaur mono amps and Virgo preamplifier at several audio shows and in friends' systems. The Performance Series was a bit more palatable to one's wallet, but clearly was a direct descendent the Reference Series.

     

    Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 00.jpgIn the middle of 2014 Constellation announced its Inspiration Series and I knew it was time to make a move. By doing everything in-house, using much of the technology already developed for the previous product lines, and working with the same industrial design team at Neal Feay, Constellation was able to produce this series of products that is remarkably similar to its higher end components. Roughly one year later, I had the Inspiration Mono 1.0 and Preamp 1.0, driving TAD Compact Reference One loudspeakers in my system. Today my system still contains the same amps and preamp as the front end for Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2 loudspeakers. Over the years I've had many manufacturers offer to place amplifiers in my system, but I kindly declined every time. I love the Inspiration system as it isn't crazy money, sounds fantastic, and is produced by a blue chip company. In fact, I almost always recommend this series of components to people looking for upgrades. I use it by choice and recommend it for all the aforementioned reasons. 

     


    Integrated 1.0

     

    An integrated amplifier isn't something I'd looked at or considered for years. I thought the height of living was monoblocks and I wasn't turning "back." I put the word back in quotes because a great integrated amp shouldn't be saddled with the connotation of going back or being less than anything else. In fact, I once talked to someone at the revered Spectral Audio who told me an integrated could possible deliver better performance over separates because of the complete control afforded to the designer and reasonable proximity of all the components. But, the realities of consumer behavior and market forces drive what companies deliver. At the very high end, integrated amps just don't sell as well as separates. 

     

    My audio world was disrupted in 2020 when I received the RAAL-requisite SR1a headphones. In my review I said the following. 

     

    • "The RAAL-requisite SR1a headphones are unequivocally the most sensational audio product I've ever heard."
    • "Honestly, no product has ever captured my attention, caused me to listen to more music, or garnered my enthusiasm like the SR1a Earfield headphone monitors."
    • "I frequently sit across the room from a $100,000+ audio system, looking at it, while listening through these headphones."
    • "These headphones literally change the game."


    What do these stunning headphones and the Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 1.0 have to do with each other? One is the best headphone on the planet and the other is the best amplifier, for this headphone, on the planet. OK, I haven't heard every headphone and every amplifier. From my point of view that's still a bold but true statement. The next thing everyone must understand is how these headphones are driven by an amplifier. The Inspiration features a headphone output jack, but this isn't used with he SR1a. The SR1a headphones connect to the speaker output terminals of an amplifier, in this case the Inspiration's Argento speaker cable binding posts. That's right, speaker cables run from the amplifiers speaker outputs, to an interface box, and from the interface box to the headphones. The interface box and headphones put a load on the amplifier just like loudspeakers, and require at least 100 Watts of excellent power. In addition to being power hungry, these headphones are the most unforgiving audio product I've ever used. If there is a flaw or weakness in an upstream component, it'll be identified immediately through these headphones. Wearing the SR1a is essentially placing one's ear a few centimeters from a tweeter. We've all done this on a traditional audio system and heard hum, grunge, or even worse. Once I started using the SR1a daily, I knew I had to try them with he Constellation Inspiration Integrated 1.0.

     

    In addition to the SR1a headphones (my main reason for reviewing the Integrated 1.0), I connected the amp to my Wilson Alexia Series 2s and the more recently arrived Wilson TuneTot loudspeakers. The level of performance on all three systems was fantastic. On the SR1a and TuneTots, the sound through the Integrated 1.0 was second to none. Connected to my main system, the Integrated had serious competition from the rest of the Inspiration line and was bested, as it should've been, by the mono amps each driving a single speaker. There is much more nuance to that statement and I'll dig further into it a bit later. 

     


    Driving The RAAL-requisite SR1a Headphones

     

    SR1a.jpegI've driven the SR1a headphones with numerous amplifiers, including the direct drive Schiit Audio Jotunheim R, Audio Research VT80 SE, McIntosh MC275 (MK V), Parasound HINT 6, Pass Labs XA160.5 and a pair of Schiit Audio Vidar monoblocks among others. Given that I listen to headphones at my desk, I have to walk the tightrope with crazy audiophile off one side and practicality off the other. Huge pure class A monoblocks sound great, but the excessive heat and added cabling of monoblocks put me too far off into crazy audiophile territory. The Schiit direct drive amp is certainly good, but compared to the best available, it's more practical than ultimate audiophile. The perfect balance is struck with an integrated amp powering the SR1a headphones. The epitome of this in execution is the Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 1.0. 

     

    The Integrated 1.0 is a pure analog amplifier in that there are no digital inputs. This is exactly what I want because I like to use different DACs and don't like paying for a DAC built into something else like an integrated or preamp (in most circumstances). The resistor-ladder volume control of the Integrated 1.0 is Digital controlled, giving it an ultra smooth feel, but this digital has nothing to do with the audio signal. It also enables precise level matching between channels that potentiometers can't reach. 

     

    In addition to the Integrated 1.0 enabling me to remove extra cables to and from a preamp and amplifiers, the size of this integrated is really surprising at just 5.5 inches high. Yet, the balanced and single ended inputs, and speaker binding posts all have plenty of space separating them on the rear of the unit. It isn't necessary to call in a five year old with miniature hands when it's time to dis/connect the system. 

     

    Listening to the SR1a through the Inspiration Integrated 1.0 was pure bliss. I haven't heard anything make these headphones sound nearly as good as this integrated amp. The amp somehow manages to strike a perfect balance between solid state and tube electronics. It's a Constellation thing that is done in my main Inspiration system and throughout the other higher end series. Endless slam, delicate intricacy, and a realness that have me listening all day every day. 

     

    I've waned to play guitar since I was severn years old. Back then my parents wouldn't let me, for whatever reason, but now I'm on a quest to learn. While researching the perfect guitar, I've been listening to Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds album Live at Luther College. This is one of my favorite acoustic albums because I relate to the music and like the performance and sound quality. It isn't perfect by any means,  but it's endlessly enjoyable. The one track on this album that's my favorite is called Christmas Song. 

     

    The combination of the SR1a with Integrated 1.0 put me righting the crowd for this performance. Hearing a guy cough in the audience, Tim Reynolds guitar finger work between chords, and Dave Matthews low key performance make this sonic experience legendary. The acoustic guitars on this track, Matthews on the right and Reynolds on the left, are just beautiful through this amp. There's a brilliance and unvarnished feel to each string and chord. 

     

    Matthews doesn't have that Pavarotti vocal prowess, but I much prefer his unique vocal characteristics and imperfections over any traditionally perfect singer any day. Through the SR1a / Integrated 1.0 his voice has this strangely relaxing feel to it, perhaps because it sounds like he is singing right in front me and my brain isn't interpreting the sound, it's just absorbing this realistic performance. 

     

    Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 05.jpgAnother great track on this album that sounds really good is Halloween. This one is engaging for the emotion that Dave Matthews puts into the track and what can be heard through a great amp like the Integrated 1.0. The track is three minutes of Dave singing like he is pleading his case, going from a brief falsetto to a near scream. This SR1a / Integrated 1.0 combo reveals his quivering vocal cords as clear as day, but his straining to get the words out is presented beautifully. This is one of those tracks that a non-fan of Dave Matthews would hear and think it's ear splitting drivel. However, when played through this system, the emotion comes out, one hears into the track as if one is part of the story or at least present for the performance. It's an experience that vaults over preconceived notions of screaming being unmusical or grating on one's eardrums. I can seriously listen to this track over and over and enjoy it every time. I want to know more about the track's origins every time I listen. This is what an incredible audio system can do and it's what the Constellation Audio Integrated 1.0 does when combined with the SR1a headphones. 

     

    OK last note while on this album. I enjoyed the track Halloween so much that I looked for other performances of it in Dave's catalog. A great audio system can encourage people to listen more and dig deeper into their music catalogs. This brought me to his EP named Recently and the awesome cover of All Along The Watchtower. If one wants to hear a fantastic, seven minute, cover with good sonics, a fantastic performance by the late saxophonist LeRoi Moore, and plenty of emotion, check it out. 

     

    Switching from acoustic to electric, and as "dirty" electric as it gets, I recently was tipped off to Jack White's new track called Taking Me Back and I can't stop listening to it. This isn't a track for those listening for the finest of nuanced details when auditioning an audio component. Rather, it's a track that's full of great music, great musicianship, and will give one's system a workout. Headphones, an integrated amp, and workout in the same sentence? Yes, remember these headphones/interface box present a speaker-like load to the amplifier and require the best from upstream electronics. 

     

    The SR1a / Integrated 1.0 combination sent this gritty, distorted, and full of fantastic kick drum track directly into my brain with ease and aplomb. Listening to this track through other amps on the SR1a can leave the listener with a different impression of what the artists intended. This track is supposed to sound live, in your face, and full of leading transient edges capable of cutting right through a smokey club. Through the Constellation Audio Integrated 1.0, this is exactly how the track sounds. Through other amps, there is a softening of the transients and a melding of many of the sounds into a flat musical landscape. This is the antithesis of anything created by Jack White. The Integrated 1.0, on this track, sounds like it's Jack's 1960s Fender Twin Reverb “Blackface” guitar amplifier rather than the amp driving the best headphones money can buy. It's like several layers of production and electronics have been removed, and the SR1as have been connected right to the guitar amp. Quite an experience for the music lover who loves great sound. 

     

    One last note on the SR1a / Integrated 1.0 combo. Given how these headphones act like a microscope examining the upstream electronics, they can be a double edged sword. If there are flaws upstream, it's going to be a struggle to enjoy the music because once you hear something, you can't stop hearing it every listen. The great part about the SR1a is when using them with stellar electronics, all one hears is the music. Listening to Reference Recordings' Britten's Orchestra (Michael Stern / Kansas City Symphony), "track" 9 titled Passacaglia, puts all audio components through the wringer. The track has a dynamic range score of 26 (R128), and starts with the most delicate strings and a black background. If there is an upstream electronics issue, it'll be apparent from the get-go with this track. Through the Constellation Audio Integrated 1.0, I heard dead silence and delicate strings, even with the volume set to its maximum level. Yes, the volume was at 00.0 and it wasn't too loud because this track has incredibly quiet parts, mixed with bombastic crescendos. Anyway, the Integrated 1.0 absolutely handled the delicate and the thunderous parts with grace and power. 

     


    Driving The Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2

     

    Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 04.jpgMoving the Constellation Audio Integrated 1.0 over to my main system with Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2 loudspeakers wasn't on my original plan. However, the Constellation team was 100% confident in the Integrated's ability drive the Alexia and my curiosity got the best of me. I had to know how close the Inspiration Integrated 1.0 could get to the Inspiration Preamp 1.0 and Mono 1.0 amps. For this comparison to work, we have to put all other considerations aside, even though that doesn't make much sense. By that I mean ignoring the fact that placing an amp in the middle of my speakers really messes up the flow of my room, and other listeners may need additional inputs offered by the Preamp 1.0 among other things The Constellation website says the Integrated offers 3 XLR and 3 RCA inputs, but this is incorrect). Again, this comparison and evaluation is solely based on sound quality. 

     

    Replaying the new Jack White track called Taking Me Back, through the Alexia loudspeakers, reveals very small differences between the integrated and full separates system. Granted these small differences are what audiophiles, myself included, pay good money for in a heartbeat. The proverbial wife listening from the other room isn't going to notice the difference between these two systems, but once an audiophile hears it, it's game over. On to the differences. 

     

    I'll cut right to the chase, the biggest difference in my system was the full separates' ability to move air and push the Wilson speakers to hit me in the chest with every kick of the bass drum. Pure power from the monoblock amps can't be equaled by the Integrated and it shouldn't be equaled by the Integrated. What I heard through the integrated was still very powerful, but every so slightly flattened compared to the monoblocks. When it came to the tone of Jack White's guitar, the dirtiness of his amp, and hearing all of his masterful guitar work, the Integrated 1.0 was extremely close to the separates. In fact, I'm not sure I could pick out each one in a quick blind listening test. To me, this shows the masterful design work inside the chassis to isolate all the components and get performance as if the system was in three separate components. 

     

    Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 02.jpgPlaying some of my of my favorite Japanese jazz from the There Blind Mice record label, through the Integrated / Alexia Series 2 system revealed even more of this amplifier's magic. On Moon Ray from the Yoshio Otomo Quartet (XRCD), the Integrated reproduces Tamiko Kawabata's opening double bass notes of track one without breaking a sweat, and does it with a lovely level of transparency. Audiophiles into ultimate detail will be leased to know it's possible to hear Yoshio Otomo taking a breath immediately before starting in with his opening saxophone solo. 

     

    The Constellation Integrated 1.0 is a stellar integrated amp that I most certainly could live with full time connected to my Wilson Alexia Series 2 speakers. Sure, it isn't 100% equivalent to the separated components in the Inspiration series by design, but without those components here to A/B test, I'd be hard pressed to find a fault with the Integrated / Alexia system. When I briefly compared the Integrated 1.0 to the Parasound HINT 6 integrated connected to the Alexia speakers, it was no contest. The Integrated 1.0 is in a different league driving my Alexia speakers. Full bodied, powerful, and capable of the finest delicate details. 

     


    Driving The Wilson Audio TuneTot
     
    Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated 01.jpgFinding the ultimate desktop audio system is critically important to me, as it should be for most people. Think about how much time we all spend sitting in front of a computer, at least five days per week. If we could spend this much time in our listening chairs, the positive impact on our lives would be immeasurable. I strive to make my desktop system as good as my main system, given the space constraints and practical heat considerations (no pure class A sitting next to me). To that end, I setup Wilson Audio TuneTot Loudspeakers and the Constellation Audio Integrated 1.0 in what I consider to be the best desktop system available. The simplicity of an integrated amp with fewer boxes and cables on my desktop is a huge plus as well. It doesn't hurt that the Integrated 1.0's silky smooth volume knob is right next to me, enabling a quick volume up/down using the physical control rather than a software based or button press control. Little things like this matter to me. 

     

    Rather than wordsmith what I previously wrote into something new but not really new, here is exactly what I wrote about using the Constellation Integrated with the Wilson TuneTot.


     

    Several weeks of listening through the Schiit Audio system proved to me that the TuneTots didn't require the world's best components to sound spectacular. Yet, when one has the opportunity to put racing gas in the tank and step on the accelerator, it should be taken enthusiastically. I replaced the the Schiit Vidar mono amps and Freya+ preamp with the Constellation Audio Inspiration Integrated amp. The digital front end remained unchanged. The sound of this combination was nothing short of powerful, controlled, detailed, and full of palpable textures. The Constellation amp has enough power to push my Alexia Series 2 speakers extremely hard, yet it has enough finesse to place incredible detail a few feet from my eardrums without any undesirable attributes, while driving the TuneTots on my desk. We've all experienced putting our ears right up to a tweeter and hearing some nastiness on systems over the years. This TuneTot / Constellation system was dead silent and cable of anything. 
     
    I played plenty of my favorite Japanese jazz from the Three Blind Mice record label through this TuneTot / Constellation Audio system and was wowed every time. A desktop system this good is a life changer. Listening to the Tsuyoshi Yamamoto Trio's album Misty (Impex 24K Gold version), I heard incredible detail, transients, and tone in Yamamoto's piano throughout the track. Yamamoto goes from a mystical sounding soft style to hammering on the keys in an instant. The TuneTots with Constellation amp start and stop on a dime, all the while delivering the Wilson Audio complete experience. My desk was transported to Aoi Studio in Tokyo, on August 7, 1974 as I was sucked into the presentation. 
     
    The start of the title track, Misty, is full of delicate playing by Yamamoto. This enables a great audio system to reproduce brilliant decay, sustain, and release. The TuneTots were masterful in this respect. While Tetsujiro Obara brushed the snare drum, Yamamoto's piano strikes went from the fundamental to beautiful lush overtones that trailed away gracefully. The TuneTots enabled me to experience everything on this recording like no other similarity sized system I've heard. 
     
    When Yamamoto's trio kicks into gear on the second track, titled Blues, the TuneTots reproduce piano, drums, and bass in their own spaces, delineated and from each other and delineated notes within each instrument's range. These speakers reproduce the opposite of one-note bass, as the textures of Isoo Fukui's bass are readily evident, and the subtle queues from the musicians can be heard as if the listener was sitting in on the recording. 
     
    In an opposite display of power and prowess, I listened to Rage Against The Machine's self-titled debut album (Audio Fidelity remaster) through the TuneTot / Constellation system. The track Take The Power Back provides the perfect example of why so many of my friends love Wilson Audio speakers, including those in the music industry. In addition to delicacy and detail, Wilson speakers are known for an ability to punch the listener in the chest when appropriate. With the volume a touch louder than usual, I pressed play and was happy to hear and feel Brad Wilk's kick drum right in my chest. Yes, through this desktop system I had an experience as close to my main system as I've ever had. Of course the Alexia and Constellation mono amps take this up a few more notches, but the TuneTots put on a serious display of competence on this track. 
     
    Roughly ten seconds into Take The Power Back Tim Commerford starts plucking his bass and it's really hard to believe the TuneTots cut off anywhere near 60 Hz. The bass sounds much deeper and tighter than these speakers have any right to reproduce. One great thing about Rage Against The Machine is that all sounds its albums are made form guitar, bass, drums, and vocals and there are plenty of sounds buried in each track. Tom Morello can be heard in his gritty guitar solos and placing tons of fills with wicked sounds throughout this and most tracks. A fantastic HiFi system enables the listener to experience Rage Against The Machine truly in the way the artist intended. These guys days laboring on each track, putting so many small details into the songs. The listener is rewarded handsomely by the TuneTots, hearing things that one couldn't dream of hearing on another system or even live in concert. The experience is exquisite whether one is listening to Rage, Reggae, or Rachmaninov. 


     


    Conclusion

     

     

    cash@3x.pngThe Constellation Audio Inspiration Series Integrated 1.0 is a phenomenal integrated amplifier from a blue chip company. The Integrated has all the internal design elements over which engineers drool and the external design details from the best industrial design team in the business. The innovative Balanced Bridge circuit design (developed for the flagship Hercules), high-precision field-effect transistors and servo circuits, dual-mono DC stages with separate rectifiers and capacitor banks for left and right channels, and a huge toroidal power supply that ensures a doubling of power into a 4 ohm load without issue, are some of the reasons why this integrated is so good. The end game is all about listening, regardless of specifications and design prowess. 

     

    Whether I listened through my SR1a headphones connected to the speaker output terminals, Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2 full range loudspeakers, or the Wilson Audio TuneTot two-way speakers, the Constellation Audio Integrated 1.0 delivered more impressively than any integrated amp I've heard in these systems. I've tried some other big names such as Audio Research and Parasound, but neither had the ability to bring it home like the Integrated 1.0. 

     

    On the continuum of sound from tiny delicate bells to bombastic orchestral pieces and everything in between, the Constellation Integrated 1.0 delivered. My beloved Three Blind Mice jazz came through the Integrated absolutely unscathed and was presented without alteration to the speakers of my choice. Listening through the SR1a headphone, the Integrated was a black hole of silence that held the music out on a three dimensional pedestal. As an audio writer the Integrated 1.0 is an indispensable tool of transparency. As a music loving audiophile, the Integrated 1.0 is an indispensable piece of a large or small system capable of delivering endless enjoyment. Unequivocally recommended and CASH Listed.  

     


     
     

     

     

    Product Information:

     

     

     

     

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    Listening Room:

     

    This graph shows the frequency response of my room before (top) and after (bottom) tuning by Mitch Barnett of Accurate Sound. The standard used for this curve is EBU 3276. This tuning can be used with Roon, JRiver, and other apps that accept convolution filters. When evaluating equipment I use my system with and without this tuning engaged. The signal processing takes place in the digital domain before the audio reaches the DAC, thus enabling me to evaluate the components under review without anything changing the signal further downstream. 

     

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    Headphones

     

    My RAAL-requisite SR1a headphones using a convolution filter created my Mitch Barnett of Accurate Sound. The blue trace is the raw measurement and green is the corrected response. Here we bring down the two peaks above the green curve, in addition to smoothing out the response.

     

    Here is an article all about the headphone filter - Taking the SR1a to Another Level

     

     

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    User Feedback

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    Looks like a very interesting Integrated.  Also looks like they took some design clues from Apple on the side panels of the Amplifier.

     

    I need to sample some of that Japanese Jazz you keep talking about!

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    "I've driven the SR1a headphones with numerous amplifiers, including the Pass Labs XA160.5"

     

    That must have been an interesting combo to hear. The XA160.5 is a beast. Do you know what load is presented to the Amp when running the Outputs thru the external interface box for the SR1a headphones?

     

    Would love to get my greedy mits on the XA160.8's. If the 160.5's didn't wow for some reason the 160.8's just might. The .8's definitely have a different sound to the .5's IMO...for the better, but I'm biased of course. The .8's are not as "Tube like" sounding but both are excellent either way you slice it.

     

    Anyway, a nice enjoyable read of the Constellation Integrated.

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    2 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:


    Yeah, the Pass with these headphones was good but over the top ridiculous, even for me. Full class A heaters. 
     

    The interface box presents a 6 ohm load. These things require excellent amplification that’s for sure. The .8 amps would be great I’m sure, but the heat factor with a close to the listener headphone system would be a bridge too far for many :~)

     

    I have a really long cable that goes from the Pass 30.8 to my headphones... I can't imagine having more heat in the room though.

     

    Fun fact, the Pass XA30.8 is less powerful than HiFiMan's own amp for the Susvara, the EF1000, which puts out a whopping 20 Class A Watts at 35 Ohms, if I remember correctly. I'll check and edit if necessary.

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    I particularly appreciated the comparison with the Parasound amp👍

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    Quote

    I've driven the SR1a headphones with numerous amplifiers, including the direct drive Schiit Audio Jotunheim R, Audio Research VT80 SE, McIntosh MC275 (MK V), Parasound HINT 6, Pass Labs XA160.5 and a pair of Schiit Audio Vidar monoblocks among others.

     

    Does "among others" include RAAL's own HSA-1b amplifier? It was reviewed here by @austinpop, but have you heard it yourself?

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    I am also a little nuts with my RAAL SR1a. I should first say that the CODA 07x preamp is incredible with the RAAL. I have tried 2 other preamps with the SR1a (Topping pre90 and Benchmark LA4). The CODA 07x also has dual XLR outputs so I was able to run one set into my SR1a amp and the other to my 2 channel amp for my office floor standers.  I also have the Accurate Sound Convolution filter for the SR1a and my floor standers. However, I no longer use either one. Changes I made to the room and also my RAAL SR1a gear made it not so essential. I will redo the filter for my floor standers in the future. 

     

    The RAAL SR1a needs a lot of power. The power meters on one of my amps confirmed this to me. The meters danced more with the RAAL SR1a than with my power hungry floor standers. Here are the amps I have used with the RAAL.

     

    - D-Sonic M3a 800s (lot of power, cheap, Class D. Pretty good results)

    - LSA Voyager 350 GAN (modded by EVS). (excellent clarity after the mods,, however it sounded a little lean on SR1a)

    - Benchmark AHB2 stereo and mono (what the RAAL designer uses, but too bright for me. My favorite amps with speakers)

    - CODA #8 (great sound but not as clear as the AHB2 or modded LSA Voyager. Sold the Voyager and kept the better overall #8)

    - Parasound A21+ (a surprising result, I love the pairing with the SR1a, I currently use this in the office with the SR1a)

     

    The very best amp with the SR1a is none of the above, it is the KRELL K-300i integrated. It is very smooth, very powerful, and has enough detail for the very detailed SR1a. This amp is one that really makes you relax on 2 channel speakers. Thus, this is a great match for the SR1a, which can be bright. I use the KRELL in my bedroom with a Accuphase tuner. My KRELL has the internal DAC and it also supports ROON READY streaming so it is a very clean solution. I prefer the KRELL K-300i to the CODA 07x and Parasound A21+ SR1a combo of my office. though that could be because I am laying in bed and super relaxed when listening to the KRELL. It was suggested to me that I should check out the upcoming RAAL tube amplifier, however, I do like this rolling of amps that I can do with the CODA 07x.

     

    My next decision is whether to get the new RAAL SR2a (in 2022) or a second (better sounding) SR1a for my bedroom. The SR1a is not ideal for putting your head on a pillow. Though I do make it work by raising my head up on pillows. The SR2a would be ideal on a pillow but does not have that incredible SR1a 2 channel sound.

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    A data point….currently own the Constellation Preamp 1 and until recently, the Wilson Tune Tots.  When hearing that Chris was planning to review this pairing, after some initial surprise, (so small and ultra luxe) I was immensely curious to read of his conclusions.  Once getting past the price points for this two piece system, excepting server/Dac, the pairing seems inspired.  I can easily imagine anyone with the requisite financial resources and no interest in the continual fussing we all seem inclined to, ending up with a simple, beautiful and completely musical system.  Stand mounted Tune Tots are effortlessly expressive, the Constellation a great pairing.  
    Simple, clean and endlessly involving.

    i recently added the Conny Pre to my system after putting it between a Bartok DAC running directly to my Pass Lab.  I have, since my very early days with a Berkeley Alpha Series One, always run the system directly, DAC to Amp, assuming this was the “cleanest” path so was completely surprised when borrowing the Conny for the weekend.  I am a convert.

    The influence of this preamp was immediate and completely obvious.  Music was fleshed out and broadened in a way I hadn’t anticipated .
    Well, I bought it directly.
     

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