St. Paul. "If I ask myself how I ended up with a wildly costlier digital front end than I'd normally consider [Mola Mola Tambaqui + Grimm Audio Mu1 – Ed.], all roads lead back to my icOn 4Pro SE. It's the really disruptive piece in the internal dialogue that's traditionally guided where I spend money in the hifi chain. For $3'500 I now have a preamp whose sonics may possibly be unrivaled by any other active preamp and with none of the classic user or sonic limitations of passives. Throw in the clear gains of high-passing the mains which you've elucidated and which the professional world has embraced for decades in various iterations. You now have a very disruptive system centerpiece that throws the allocation flow-chart a bit on its ear. In terms of mains amplification, the icOn grows the list tremendously then expands the price ranges considerably with a bump in performance at all price points. It's also partly responsible, I am guessing, for your confidence pursuing the ultimate sub integration in your main system. At the end of the day you know that if the manufacturer of the sub gets you 90% there, Pál will take you to the finish line with his products.

"I also believe that it takes an experienced ear—one that had the financial luxury of trying many top-tier components in the chain over the years—to discern the contributions that source can produce vs more of the sonic 'seasoning' impact of downstream components. I'd add to keep in mind that the amp/speaker interface rivals source. I'd argue that there are certain intangible architectural elements to a sonic picture elucidated only by source which inexperienced listeners either miss to allocate altogether or believe could be recreated downstream. Appreciating when your source is taking you to a higher plane also requires a minimum degree of 'risk on' system resolution if you will. With the wrong source, that can easily (and I'd suggest most likely) backfire with a misstep in a personally sonic wrong direction. If you get it right however and the downstream resolution is there for the taking, then you will have moved the needle far more considerably than one might assume. In that setting, source is king."

"I personally want max illumination with zero fatigue. I want flesh, bone and body on male vocals and guitar strings. I want to hear the smallest ambient detail but not feel like the system spotlights it with fake resolution. I want scale, unrestricted dynamics and impact when called for. That's a relatively uncompromising list. Systems that have all of those boxes checked would rarely offend any listener despite personal preferences for more this, less that. In the end it was the icOn and the exceptional new status quo that now exists for standard Redbook 16/44, the music for the rest of my life, that gave me confidence to roll the dice on the most expensive source I have ever owned and see how far it might elevate the system. It was not an impulse buy, rather a thought-out recognized gamble with the door opened by the icOn 4Pro SE."

That was Dr. not St. Paul Petelin, regular reader and happy Pál client. As he confirmed, high-passing our main speakers stress-relieves our main amp too. That can now be of lower power or use a simpler circuit since it no longer sees the most challenging signal parts. As my review of the 10wpc Vanderveen Trans-SE10 showed, it's a really ideal solution to uncork the full flavor of single-ended triodes.

In French cooking, butter makes everything better. In hifi, a Pál-style precision analog filter improves both speakers and main amp. To overwrite for effect, it turns wall flowers into warriors. To hell then with diets. Bring on the butter that makes everything better.