RESULTS - Integrated Shootout with LSiM703

DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
edited June 2015 in 2 Channel Audio
This is an extension of the original preview thread found here:

http://forum.polkaudio.com/discussion/168111/a-shootout-with-lsim-703s-integrated-amps#latest

We spent about three hours doing this, so its not an in depth review, but more a presentation of our initial thoughts. I asked Paul to write up his thoughts before I posted mine so I would not influence his. I tried not to offer too much input during the trials unless Paul didn't know how to describe what he was hearing. I will be mixing in my own thoughts with Paul's.

Paul's thoughts will be in normal font.
My thoughts will be italicized.

Here are the results:
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Comments

  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    edited June 2015
    1. iFi Stereo 50 - $1500:

    2.jpg
    Paul

    This will be the hardest piece to review because we actually hooked it up twice (first and last). In the initial set-up, the bass was boomy and the highs were bordering on shrill. This is the piece that I wanted to like the most because it looks so cool, but it just wasn’t what I was hoping for at the beginning. After moving a few things around in the room, we tamed the bass quite a bit. It was still boomy, but it was better. I believe Skip was running an external DAC during the initial listening session which was around 3:30 in the afternoon (nod to the “Listening and Time of Day” thread). We hooked this piece back up around 6:30 and while not bad, it was clearly my least favorite piece to this point in the afternoon. WOW! What happened in the 3 hours between the initial listen and the final listen? I believe the external DAC was removed, but it sounded like a totally different unit. The bass had the slightest boominess, but the borderline shrill top-end was gone. I went from disappointed to impressed.

    Skip

    The stereo 50 initially disappointed me greatly. It has been a great pairing with the Usher Mini X, and I expected its qualities to pair up very well with the 703. However, it didn't happen. The first go around, I had put some new components into the mix (iPurifier and iUSB Power) that obviously needed some break in time. Paul hit it on the head. I had decided to run through the rest of the gear and come back to the piece at the end, only after removing those pieces from the mix. The results were much better and more in line with what I expected. The bass was still a bit touchy, but the top end smoothed out drastically and the magic of tubes were evident. The sound was organic and naturally presented with realistic control. For obvious reasons, I am leaving the stock tubes in my demo piece, but one could easily make this thing sound MUCH better by rolling in their flavor of tubes.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    2. Parasound Halo Integrated - $2500:

    slide-hint.png

    Paul

    After listening to a couple of songs I wasn’t sure I wanted hook up my Plinius because I was afraid that it had been bested by the Parasound. I found the sound to be very balanced, clear, and natural with no listener fatigue whatsoever. I was very impressed with this piece.

    Skip

    I will admit that this piece impressed me more than I expected. I think this is a nice piece for sure, but I expected the iFi and Menuetto to best it from the beginning. I think we spent the most time listening to this piece because it sounded so much better than the first trial with the iFi. On the Mini X, this piece can be a little over the top with bass and highs. It has a little different sound than most Parasound gear I've heard - more neutral in tone as opposed to the warm sound they get credited with - but it paired up beautifully with the 703. Bass was very controlled, the tone was very well balanced, and on a few songs, it had Paul and I trading expressions of impression. I think this would be an excellent fit for any of the LSiM's.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    3. Dayens Ampino $560:

    99158211.jpg

    Paul

    Next up was the tiny little Ampino. After listening to the Parasound, I found the vocals to be just a bit forward. (Note: I defer to Skip on the use of “forward” here. Though accurate I’m sure, to be more specific, the vocals were just a bit louder to me.) This unit has deep accurate bass, plenty of depth and a nice sparkle on the top end. Though you will see where it ranks in a moment, this is the piece that left me most impressed. Though I’ll admit that I don’t have the experience of many on here, $560 new for sound like this in unheard of in my somewhat limited time in the hobby. If you only have two sources and you want great sound for little coin, stop looking.

    Skip

    The Dayens products were ones I really wanted to hear with the 703. They are nice little products that offer a lot of bang for the buck. I decided to start with the Ampino because I expected the Menuetto to perform better, and didn't want to take away from the Ampino's abilities. This one had a very rich midrange to it, but did bring the lead singer out into the room more. It felt like he was about 3 feet out in front of where he was originally. This has to do with the emphasis on midrange that Paul mentioned above. Separation was good and it really didn't do anything poorly, but also didn't do anything exceptionally. At 25 watts per channel, its a tiny amp that packs a lot of punch.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    4. Dayens Menuetto - $995:

    ampino_menuetto.jpg

    Paul

    A step up in price and a step in performance from the Ampino. My ears are not good enough to find any flaws with this piece. This was the Jordan Spieth of integrated amp world…it doesn’t necessarily do anything great, but does nothing bad. Solid all the way around. I’ll contradict myself here a little bit by saying that this piece was the most transparent of all the ones we listened to.

    Skip

    I have one word to describe this pairing - LIQUID. Holee crapola. This pairing rivals some of the best I've heard. Everything just sounded so natural, like watching water flow. Everything was in its place, had a sweet sound to it, and was extremely organic. It wasn't forward or recessed. Nothing was overemphasized or underemphasized. This is approaching that nirvana that people spend years, sometimes decades, trying to achieve. If you own LSiM's, you'd be doing yourself a disservice by not giving this one a chance.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    5. Plinius 9100 - Roughly $1500 on used market (Unless you get it on CP at a great price):

    HFC319.plinius.9100cut-1200-80.jpg

    Paul

    I’m obviously familiar with this piece since I listen to it on a daily basis (albeit in a terrible room). When we all heard this piece at Skip’s January get together I thought it was the perfect match for the 703’s and that it couldn’t be beat. No need to say much else because I’ve raved about this combo many times on the forum. Comparing it to the others I realized it’s a tad brighter than I had realized.

    Skip

    I had my doubts that this would've been beaten. Through experience owning it, I know this amp needs some good warm up time that it was not afforded in this trial. However, when everyone was in complete awe of it at my house back in January, it was under similar circumstances. The presentation was more forward than I remembered and had more midrange than I remembered. Compared to the others, it had much more serious competition when paired with the 703 than it had in January.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    edited June 2015
    RESULTS!!!

    Paul

    Overall: Let me be very clear that I could take any of these units home and be a very happy man. In my opinion the difference between #1 and #5 is a very slim margin. I do think #1 and #5 were pretty clear, but you could easily switch the middle three. As a matter of fact, I might even call the Plinius and iFi 50 a tie.

    5: Dayens Ampino
    4: iFi Stereo 50
    3. Plinius 9100
    2. Parasound Halo Integrated
    1. Dayens Menuetto



    Bang for the buck: These rankings aren’t as close in my opinion. The Ampino is clearly the winner, Parasound is clearly #5, and the Menuetto is clearly #
    3. As in the previous rankings, I might call a tie between the Plinius and iFi 50.

    5: Parasound Halo Integrated
    4: iFi Stereo 50
    3: Plinius 9100
    2: Dayens Menuetto
    1: Dayens Ampino








    Skip

    Overall: The Menuetto walked all over everything else. It was ridiculously good. The remaining pieces are a little tougher to differentiate because it can really come down to preference.

    5. Dayens Ampino
    4. Plinius 9100
    3. iFi Stereo 50
    2. Parasound Halo Integrated
    1. Dayens Menuetto



    Bang for the buck: Like Paul, price separates these much more. The Parasound and iFi still represent great values because of the built in DAC functions. I have factored in cabling and separate components that would need to be added.

    5. Plinius 9100 (Sorry Paul, didn't feel this way until the shootout)
    4. Parasound Halo Integrated (great piece, but also most expensive)
    3. iFi Stereo 50 (excellent value and would be higher if I also used vinyl)
    2. Dayens Ampino (great piece, but not the best pairing with the 703)
    1. Dayens Menuetto (Killed everything, and at $1000 new, might be the best option for the LSiM lineup, period)
  • vmaxervmaxer Posts: 3,505
    Great review, thanks.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 26,537
    Great reviews guys, much appreciated it and love the way you both put your thoughts down.
  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,457
    Nice review!. What is the power on the Dayens Menuetto, is it 40 or 50? I am seeing 2 different ratings on the web.

    If the speakers weren't as efficient as the 703 or the ohm was 4 do you think the results would have been different?

    Not to derail the thread but since the Dayens amp was so impressive to both, have you looked into their speaker line?

  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    I haven't considered their speakers yet but I have looked at them. It is possible that I'll be picking up another Italian brand here soon.
  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,457
    Cool. It sounds like it was a fun night!

    So after the 1st round, the iPurifier was taken out of the mix correct?
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    Yes. I need more time on it. I can hear the improvements it offers, but it still has that new component sound to it.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 26,537
    DSkip wrote: »
    I haven't considered their speakers yet but I have looked at them. It is possible that I'll be picking up another Italian brand here soon.

    of course you will. ;)
  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,457
    Looks like you both are on the same page. Nice.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    erniejade wrote: »
    Nice review!. What is the power on the Dayens Menuetto, is it 40 or 50? I am seeing 2 different ratings on the web.

    If the speakers weren't as efficient as the 703 or the ohm was 4 do you think the results would have been different?

    50 watts at 8 ohm. I can't comment on the impedance question, but hopefully will eventually have a chance to try that out.
  • voltzvoltz Posts: 4,141
    Nice, And it sound like you all had some fun too!
  • adabroadabro Posts: 176
    Good thread, love reading feedback on equipment, especially stuff I may never get to try out myself.
  • Polkie2009Polkie2009 Posts: 3,830
    This is the kind of stuff I really enjoy seeing, hats off to DSkip and Paul ! Would love to see more of these shootouts in the future, especially with tube preamps , tube amps DAC's and ss power amps. Would be interesting to finally see how the Emo amps really compare to other 2 channel ss amps.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    Being a dealer now you may see more of these kinds of things from me. It depends on what products I get in and what I can actually have in house at a single time.

    The next 'shootout' I will do is probably going to be the Usher Mini X vs. the Rosso Elba. I'll be using selected integrateds from above, as well as my reference Shuguang gear. This one will take a bit as I'll need to burn in the new demo cables and the Rosso before I can put them on equal footing.

    Actually, I should follow up this one with the 3.1tl's in the same shootout, minus the Plinius since its made its way back home. I don't really want to do these without a second viewpoint though. I don't want to come across as just another salesman.
  • Erik TracyErik Tracy Posts: 4,654
    Hmmm....the Halo sounds like it did ok, but over priced.

    Too bad.
  • gcegce Posts: 1,994
    Yeah, sounds like the Parasound can compete but is over priced I this shootout.

    Great job guys, keep em coming.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    edited June 2015
    Keep in mind the Parasound includes a high end Dac and phono.

    Also keep in mind that the only bad sounding combo we heard was the first attempt with the iFi. The second attempt was much better and on par with what I expected.

    This is one thing I don't like about shootouts. If you don't win, then people take that as it being a bad product. It wasn't the case here. The Menuetto just waltzed away from the pack, while all the others performed very well, but not anywhere near the magic of the Menuetto.

    The Parasound actually did a lot better than I expected. Hell, I liked it better than the plinius and that was my reference going in.
  • F1nutF1nut Posts: 36,568
    I don't see the Parasound as over priced one little bit.
  • gcegce Posts: 1,994
    Well is just if I was going to spend 1 to 1.5K over the others I'd expect better.
  • gudnoyezgudnoyez Posts: 5,263
    I bet the Parasound redeems itself with the 3.1tls when the time comes.
  • DSkipDSkip Posts: 12,433
    For $1.5k over the Menuetto, you are getting a fully functional remote, high end DAC, nice phono, upscale finish, lack of $ invested into extra cables, and the ease of installation and use. Seriously all you have to do is plug a power cable in, speaker cables, and a USB and you're ready to go. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

    The Dayens gear is superb and the Menuetto is my go to recommendation now with the LSiM's. It honestly rivals the best sound I've heard before. How Dayens is able to keep cost down is that they keep it simple. While the amps are simple, you will have a more complex installation due to the factors above.... lots more cables, and you know how expensive that can get if you don't have them laying around.

    Realistically, the iFi still represents the best value of them all without factoring in the speaker matchup. This includes their $500 DAC, $430 Phono, tube preamp, tube power output with good power, and remote volume control. All in about the best looking piece I've seen in a long time. Nobody can compete dollar for dollar with that performance. Nobody. It is a great pairing with my Ushers and has already given me a handful of nights of enjoyment.

    Part of my goal with this was to try and introduce other great pieces that others should consider. Those are the types of products I'm trying to bring to the table. Who here has ever heard of Dayens or iFi? Maybe one person with the Dayens, and outside of those who visit Music Direct, only very few with iFi. These are performers man. Absolute performers.

    If you want the truth, you should hear that Parasound integrated on the 3.1tl's. Wow buddy! It would take your breath away. Keep the shootout in perspective - that's why I included the speaker in the title.
  • ConradiclesConradicles Posts: 5,306
    Nice review guys. Good job.
  • vcwatkinsvcwatkins Posts: 1,535
    Excellent. Thanks guys!
  • gcegce Posts: 1,994
    I guess Simplicity wise the Parasound has it all for someone that wants an all in one 2 channel that has good sound. Just wish it had a 1/4" headphone jack. :p
  • erniejadeerniejade Posts: 3,457
    Crazy question on the parasound remote. One of the things on my wish list for the remote on the p5 was to have the subwoofer control on the remote. Did they do it with this one?

    That Daynes doesnt have a bad review out there. Lots of good raves. In your opinion if the tubes were changed in the ifi, would it hang more with the Daynes? I get and agree why you guys didn't change it for the shootout. I do like the looks of the ifi the best out of all of them but, i am a sucker for the classic silver pioneer / kenwood /marantz looks.
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