Last night I visited a local audiophile's home to listen to the new Soulution 520 preamp with a built-in phono stage.
Full system consists of the following components:
VPI Super Scoutmaster Reference with a ZYX cartridge
Zesto Andros phono stage
McIntosh MC601 monoblock amplifiers
Soulution 520 preamp with a built-in phono stage
Auralic Vega DAC and Aries streamer
Kharma dB9-S speakers
His regular preamp is VAC Renaissance MKIII, but it was not hooked up during my visit.
The speakers were not new to me. 2 years ago I heard this exact pair in the DVL Audio room at TAVES 2015. The owner of this system heard them at the same show and bought them right on the spot. Excellent choice in my book! With 89 dB efficiency, 250 wpc into 4 Ohms and frequency response of 26 Hz - 30 kHz, these Kharmas are amazing!
We played a wide variety of music mostly on vinyl, but also some streaming from the owner's digital file collection as well as TIDAL.
In the beginning he did some switching between Soulution's built-in phono stage and the Zesto playing the same track both times - "Kitty" by Harry "Sweets" Edison and Ben Webster from the Ben and "Sweets" album (1962).
The difference was quite apparent. Zesto, being a tube phono stage, provided a nice and rounded sound. But it was not as clear and detailed as Soulution. All the people present commented on how Soulution phono stage made this track stand out. Without further comparing it to the Zesto, I have to point out how Soulution presented the music with a very clear and convincing imaging of each instrument, excellent soundstage, tight bass, clear mids and highs. It was a real pleasure to listen to the music. Which is what this hobby is all about to me.
We then played the following tracks:
"Chan Chan" by Buena Vista Social Club from Buena Vista Social Club (8 x LP single sided, 45 rpm, 180g vinyl box set)
"Guero Canelo" by Calexico from Feast Of Wire (vinyl)
"Pueblo Nuevo" by Buena Vista Social Club from Buena Vista Social Club (8 x LP single sided, 45 rpm, 180g vinyl box set)
"Exodus (Noah's Ark 2001)", "Wild Planet" and "Future World" by Boney M. from 10,000 Lightyears, part of the newly released Complete 9 x LP box set on Sony Music Germany
"Goodnight Irene" and "Around The World" by Pete Seeger and The Weavers from The Weavers at Carnegie Hall LP
"Work Me Baby" by Junior Kimbrough from All Night Long LP
"España" by Chabrier, Detroit Symphony, Paul Paray from España / Danse Slave / Fête Polonaise / Suite Pastorale / Gwendoline Overture LP
"Les Sept Paroles Du Christ: Septieme parole - Priere" by Chouer Radio Ville-Marie from Les Sept Paroles du Christ (digital audio file)
"Darn That Dream" by George Coleman from A Master Speaks (TIDAL HIFI stream)
"Manha De Carnaval" by Dexter Gordon from Gettin' Around LP
The last track simply blew us away! While this was a very old and noisy record with lost of clicks and pops, the superb quality of the recording translated into an immaculate reproduction with amazing clarity, detail and balance.
Here are more photos of the system.
Overall, a very enjoyable experience and I hope to hear more of this system, and Soulution 520 in particular, in the future! And a big thank you to a very gracious host!