Reviewer: Hadi Özyaşar
Financial interests: click here
Transport: Auraliti PK90
USB bridge: SOtM dX-USB with mBPS-d2s
DAC: Aqua HiFi La Scala MKII, Chord Hugo
Integrated amp: Ayon Spirit 3
Speakers: Harbeth Super HL5 Plus, Quad 9L
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD-2
IEMs: Lear LCM BD4.2, CustomArt Harmony 8 Pro, Hidition NT6
DAP: Lotoo Paw Gold
Headphone amps: Sennheiser HDVA600, Ear Stream Sonic Pearl 2 [on review], Cembalolab Spring 1 [on review], Burson HA-160DS
Cables: Acoustic Revive loom, Skogrand Beethoven interconnects [on review], Skogrand Wagner power cable [on review], Ear Stream SunSet interconnect [on review], Ear Stream Digix3 S/PDIF cable [on review], Ear Stream Optimal v.2 USB cable [on review]
Review component retail: €1'150

“I am little concerned with beauty or perfection. I don't care for the great centuries. All I care about is life, struggle, intensity.” ― Émile Zola
In Ovid's Metamorphoses, there is a mythical story I like. Pygmalion, ancient king of the island of Kypros, falls in love with the ivory image of a maiden he had made. He prays to Aphrodite to breathe life into it. When his request is granted, Pygmalion marries his beloved and with her fathers Paphos [incidentally also the name of a Cypriot town in whose outskirts we lived for 2.5 years - Ed]. Afterward the statue sprung to life was called Galatea. Sometimes I think about that story and ask myself that if I had been Pygmalion, would I have created Galatea as the perfect woman? A woman without a fault, with perfect skin, impeccable alabaster breasts and a dazzling scent? I have loved women with a scar on their face, anger in their talk, asymmetry across their eyes. Sometimes I loved their flaws more than the rest. And I am not alone in this. We fall in love including all the faults which aren’t even really that. For me the same is valid for art, too, be it paintings for example; or musical readings. Think about Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, even Bach the Great. We don’t want only what they wrote. We want more. We want to hear a more personal intimate account; an inspired interpretation!

Murakami explains this better than I could in his book Kafka on the Shore. See what he writes about Schubert’s "Piano Sonata D. 850": "That’s why I like to listen to Schubert while I’m driving. Like I said, it’s because all the performances are imperfect. A dense, artistic kind of imperfection stimulates your consciousness, keeps you alert. If I listen to some utterly perfect performance of an utterly perfect piece while I’m driving, I might want to close my eyes and die right then and there. But listening to the D major, I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of – that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally, I find that encouraging. Do you know what I’m getting at?"

I do! Think of Mitsuko Uchida’s interpretation which she did rather too literal compared to Gilels' or Richter's. Even though it was a perfect score on playing the right notes, the performance suffered. The same is valid for some hifi gear. Sennheiser’s HD800 is acclaimed for being one of the most advanced dynamic headphones for example. But next to its technical superiority, it’s very fussy to drive. I tried supreme amplifiers that read unimpeachable on paper but whose results were lacklustre. Then last year one of my friends told me about Ear Stream and claimed that their amps were the very best solid-state contenders for my HD800. I thought I should follow up and wondered whether this stuff would only be best on paper or in the actual act. Catching something in flagrante delicto this time would be most desirable.