Sonic Frontiers Line 2 line preamplifier Page 3
And yet, when the music demanded presence and wide dynamics, the Line 2 delivered. With the DNA-1s and the EOS, I've reveled in the crackling high spirits of the Valentina Lisitsa/Sarah Caldwell recording of Shostakovich's Concerto 1 for Piano, Trumpet, and Orchestra (Audiofon CD 72060). Recording engineer Peter McGrath warned me that in this recording he intended to recognize the importance of the trumpet, and he has succeeded in matching the balances on the old mono EMI with Shostakovich and Cluytens. The strings are well-spaced with a good edge to them, the piano is strong and prominent, but the Line 2 lets that trumpet rip into your room. This is "in your face," but that's what McGrath (and Shostakovich) wanted!
Going further afield (for me), the Los Lobos recording of "Rio de Tenampa" on Kiko (Slash 26786-2) is intentionally raucous, presenting a raw, boozy bar band that the Line 2 places only a few feet away. Turn it up, but watch out for the suds!
What about the HeadPhone jack?
I generally abhor headphones—I've never been comfortable with them, nor do I even own any—but I borrowed a pair of the new Sennheiser HD 600s from the manufacturer and a pair of Grado SR-125s from a friend. While listening to the Line 2 and DNA-1 via the EOS, I plugged in the HD-600s and was mightily impressed: The tonal balances were almost identical. (The Grados were a bit brighter and closer.) The EOS Bass Module certainly had more energy at the extreme bottom and the spatial rendition was distinct; nonetheless, I could switch between the HD-600s and the amp/speaker system and never doubt that I was hearing the same recording. It struck me that, either way, I was hearing how naturally the Line 2 rendered the music.
If one can find fault with the Line 2, it is only because of what it does not do. It will not impose emphasis or richness or false dynamics, and, if you expect to be impressed with it at a brief audition, you may be disappointed. Moreover, if you're seeking pizzazz, or your system/room needs some, you won't find it with the Line 2. I tried balanced and single-ended at the inputs and the outputs, but, in any arrangement, the Line 2 retained its gracious lack of personality. It's one of the most neutral-sounding components I've ever used.