The experience left me doubting my ears. After I'd performed all the measurements of Ayre Acoustics' KX-R preamplifier ($18,500) to accompany Wes Phillips's review
in our November 2008 issue, I spent a weekend listening to it. To my astonishment, the sound of my system with a Transporter
D/A processor feeding the preamplifier was better than when the DAC fed the power amplifier directly. Through the KX-R, images sounded more tangible, and the sound was better focused, despite the signal's having been passed through not just another set of interconnects but also through the preamp's input and output socketry, switches, a volume control, printed circuit-board traces, and active and passive parts. Logically, you'd think that having nothing
in the signal path would have less of a degrading effect than so many somethings
. But no, that was not
what I heard, much as I would have preferred otherwise.