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But let's leave the Redbook scene. After all, we're €7'000 deep into this game. Time for fancier fare and Ahmad Jamal's Saturday Morning, an 88.2kHz FLAC piped in via Samsung Ultrabook with installed Vega ASIO driver. Good lord! The "Back to the future" opener, essentially pure groove improv without much compositional ambition, is based on deftly accentuated percussion, propulsive congas, virtuoso piano and a humorous acoustic upright. Now I felt right back at the mixing console. When the crash cymbal hit for the first time, I nearly flinched. That's how direct, powerful and surprising it zapped at me. This was truly sensational and well beyond what I'd heard from any headphone until now. But these weren't cheap FX. Any drummer knows how vital the harmonic envelope of a cymbal is. It can range from the glassy, crystalline and bright to the dull and dark, grainy, hissy or rattling. And it were exactly those distinctions which our trio excelled at peeling out.

Time to A/B. I left the Vega and fed the Taurus from the analog output of my B.M.C. PureDac. That deck too includes a quite ambitious headfi amp with dedicated volume and 6.3mm plus XLR outputs. And much to my reviewer's relief, there were clear differences particularly on tonality and staging. Were one to approach treble visually, the PureDAC painted the cymbals in silver, the Taurus in gold. The latter's HF felt rounder; not rolled off but a tick softer without sacrificing detail. In the LF the Taurus was a bit grippier and bigger. As noted elsewhere, low bass isn't a high point for the B.M.C.

On soundstaging meanwhile I preferred the latter. I personally fancy a soundstage that's Teutonically sorted by laser yet grand. And the PureDAC nailed each sound source to its very own cross as it were . That's a matter of taste. Some could find such a presentation a tad too static. I dig it. On these fronts the Taurus played it more casual and allowed each performer a bit more leeway. That said (and it's important to mention) it likewise cast the sort of depth which with headphones is predominantly axial. On dynamics both machines came to a draw, doing it fresh and wide awake but not caffeine hyped. To discern more differences would devolve into audiophile bean counting. I did an extra round with the 8200CDQ as DAC to compare its headphone output to that of the Taurus which tapped its XLR analog signal off the Audiolab. This was a short-lived detour. In all disciplines the AURALIC ruled. Going back to the Brit moved downward particularly on resolution. The Taurus simply loved detail and also moved the listener a bit closer to the action. With the 8200CDQ even staging suffered some precision and scale.

Taurus as big-rig pre. Having toasted my pink bits under Audeze's posh leather pads, I was keen on a solo drive with the Taurus preamp. With two inputs it's fully prep'd for more minimalist high-zoot systems. And it delivered. Source duties came from a loaner Marantz SA 7003 whose analog output fed either Taurus or Audiolab. I spun up The Schramms' Dizzy Spell. The AURALiC won on clear points. "Tell me again" starts stately nearly as chamber music: guitar, bass, a sadly synth not real hammond and a foot-pedaled hi-hat as beat keeper. At 1'16” the tune swings into a rhythmic refrain which opens the guitar's reverberant zone. The Taurus impressed on all fronts: detail obsessed, dynamic and with a broad but believable stage. Even the foot-activated hi-hat retained harmonics. The calm intro had deep contrast and appeared in high gloss against a jet-black canvas whilst the refrain ran off with undeniable joie de vivre. With the Audiolab this image lock loosened up to get less specific. The entire reading felt paler and poorer of contrast.

Audeze LCD-3 check. More fun and games. I swapped LCD-3 for LCD-2 and started my audio parcours at the beginning again. And lucky me, there were more differences. To keep it brief, the 2 felt a bit plumper particularly in the frequency extremes though any 'complaints' at this level are quite the luxury. The earlier referenced crash cymbals had the even more direct attacks and energized air with the LCD-3 and Peter Tosh's bass too gained a tad of tonal vigour. Also subjective 'room size' seemed to extend a few square centimetres farther out. But here I must stop and reiterate how both designs are absolutely fantastic. And how the 2 costs half. Putting it plainly, if I had to choose, the LCD-2 would be plenty sufficient for me. [I concur – Ed.] For the substantial savings, I'd rather eat out twice at Berlin's Paris-Moscow.