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Capped. Ecstasy III vs. Khozmo/Job 225 instantly brought up various elimination schemes from outside of audio. The best 'x' is a dead 'x'. You surely know various such snide comments about sundry groups or jobs. Hifi equivalents? How about the best crossover is no crossover? In this case as made by the budget Goldmund, the best coupling cap is no cap at all. DC coupling to exterminate signal-path capacitors is very tough with tubes. Thus Andria Sabolcki's breakthrough claim for his valve gain stage for Beyond Frontiers Audio. It's direct-coupled to eliminate both caps and transformers. Yet disdain for coupling rather than power-supply filter/storage caps isn't exclusive to valvers. Many transistor designers too view them as colored parts which incur phase shift, frequency distortion and sonic blurring.

SPEC Corp.'s Japanese owner Shirokazu Yazaki designs tube-inspired class D amps. By design their outputs must use simple coil/cap low-pass filters. Shirokazu is very outspoken about just how much final sonics are influenced by the cap quality in these filters. Since he can't avoid them, he made a virtue of necessity and pursued the manufacture of custom NOS-style oil-filled capacitors. Zu Audio's Sean Casey went similarly extreme when the Druid V was introduced. In collaboration with Sicilian importer Salvo Giardina, he identified a three-tier cap option menu for the 1st-order high-pass on their Radian tweeter, with the dearest choice an exotic cast Duelund part. There's thus plenty of evidence. Signal-path capacitors are voicing devices. My comparo of a cap-coupled vs. direct-coupled circuit certainly reiterated this belief.

This wasn't a bad thing, just obvious. At least it seemed that way, not that anyone could be certain without also hearing the Dayens circuit in DC mode to isolate this specific wrinkle.

In a nutshell, the Ecstasy III exhibited a pervasive sweetness coupled to mellower transients, softer separation and weaker jump factor. By contrast to the hard-hitting highly lucid incisive and fast Job 225, this reading felt less direct, more distanced, golden-hued patinated and quite gemütlich. I soon began to think of Zoran's favored Mundorf polypropylene caps as mellowing prettifying makeup.

Things sure were pretty. Could anybody object to sweet? Having just returned from an Indian meal in a Mongolian yurt which was - um, capped off with rose-flavored khulfi desert, I imagined a clear correlation with edible sweets. Afterwards they don't leave you invigorated but more lazy if arguably pleased too.

That's the unobjectionable bit. Surely feeling pleased is king with a capped 'K'. But the response to feeling lazier—more chilled, relaxed, less alert—shall diverge from individual to individual. For one thing, the louder one plays stuff, the more aggravating become embedded aggressivity, edge, glare and compression. Throwing a blanket of chill over that becomes the antidote. Moving in the opposite direction benefits from more-is-merrier directness. That's because vigorous reflexes and sharp front-loaded articulation retain intelligibility and charge deeper into subdued playback levels than sweet, mellow and soft do. Greased reflexes enhance readability. One better understands what the constantly changing musical form is up to from moment to moment.

As a townhouse denizen—in our village's historic section to be sure which makes for massive walls between old buildings along a picturesque one-way cobble-stone street—I'm not in the habit or position to let 'er rip to THX-approved levels. Neighbourly peace of mind is far more important. Yet both job and inclination mean many hours of music action each day. Satisfaction now is about the sooner the lower the better. And here the passive/DC-coupled combo was the sparkier rockier solution not only on the uptake of attacks. It also was keener with how it expressed fine nuance, prevention of clump and coagulation plus higher charge or transmission of energy. Toothy bite versus kissy lips.

Yet there could be no arguing. The Ecstasy III was expertly, beautifully and sophisticatedly voiced. Having settled the first of two A/Bs for obligatory bigger context, I couldn't help but think on how some of the design choices here paralleled certain tube qualities. Having owned a number of glow amps this is no uninformed chatter. That doesn't mean the Dayens will give you the peculiar flexible fluidic gestalt of valve circuits which appear to add on to decays. Not! The overlap are watercolor transitions with softer edging; and a constant undercurrent or shadow of sugar.

A different word for this effect is the type of warmth that's just a tad humid. Think hot summer day before the rain. It's a musical climate or mood. It should be ideal for high SPL and/or bright forward systems. By the same token its focus goes a bit soft for systems which were dialed to tell it as it is. But audio is about highly individuated pleasures. Taking sides only serves those who agree. It's sufficient to describe core tendencies. Then one trusts the intelligence of one's audience to know what's best for them. Here the core appeal is sweet, slightly soft and mellow, warm and distinctly not dry plus very spacious without being ultra specific about it. It's not a tube sound but for transistors has a bit of commonality. Referring to my Ampino review, I'd wager a guess that in a direct A/B the Ecstasy III would primarily trump the li'l guy with richer more glowing tone textures and as such a richer overall milieu with more 'wetness' and refinement. How would this play out in the encounter with Wyred4Sound's all-in-one mINT integrated?