Until recently i was using a Pioneer LX88 Amp. During that time, i tested quite a lot of different configurations.
Source components included an Oppo 103, Cambridge Audio CXN, Mac Mini.
DAC’s included the NAD M51, The inbuilt DACs in the Pioneer, CXN and Oppo, plus an Apogee Ensemble connected to the Mac.
I was able to do a side by side comparison with most of these and to my ear, the NAD gave me the best results but was closely followed by the Apogee. The CXN and the Pioneer weren’t too far behind, but the Oppo 103 was clearly off the pace.
To simplify the setup, and return the Apogee to my office, I settled on the CXN as it was also a streamer with a nice interface. For CD/s, i used the Oppo as a transport and connected it to the DAC in the CXN which passed analogue to the pioneer. For movies I used the Oppo connected by HDMI to the Pioneer. I sold the NAD, even though it was the best sound.
The Oppo 205 changed all that. It seemed like a huge step up. As I had already sold the NAD, I couldn’t so a side by side test but it clearly blew away the CXN and Pioneer and I am almost certain it sounded better than the NAD as well. Clarity is the thing that seems to stand out. In particular, the Noordpool Orchestras rendition of Radioheads Weird Fishes was simply stunning.
At some point, I will take the Apogee home again, but from my recollection I don’t expect it to compete. I ahve sold the CXN and Oppo 103 and started looking at Roon as an interface. Work got the better of me and I’ve not had a chance to play for a while.
I recently got a good deal on the Anthem AVM60 and two MCA325s so I will be curious to see how everything compares now. I’ve still got the Pioneer but will sell it soon. I have a long weekend of testing when I can find the time! I expect I will use the Oppo DAC for stereo and the Anthem DAC for movies. But we’ll see!