Well, I drove to my favorite Audio Store. Not the Magnolia Hi-Fi, I usually visit, but the "Audio Video Showroom", in Santa Rosa, California. Anyway, I was their to talk with them about the Anthem D1 and D2, which I did (Thank you Joe...) Well, to make a long story short, I asked them if they had any tubed mono-block amplifiers. They had a pair of Stereo / Mono McIntosh 275's (set-up in mono-block mode), they in turn were hooked-up to a McIntosh MCD201 SACD/CD Player, with leveler, no pre-amp. this player sent the signal directly to a pair of B&W 800D speakers. The manager put on a SACD of Cris Thile - "All Who Wander Are Not Lost" (track #7)... All I could say was "Oh my God!" What beautiful, rich, warm tones and clarity of sound image. It was so tight and crystal clear. Each high note and each bass note had depth and a smoothness, so mellow and alive with fullness. The Mandolin was vividly pure as was the horn notes. It was like these instruments were being played in a jazz club on Lincoln Blvd. in Calistoga. I was sooooo blown-away...
I was so moved, I actually started to tear up a bit. No, I'm not a drama queen... I was just trying to imagine what these beautiful sounds would sound like on my Ascent i's at home. This tube sound was so moving and as close to live music as I have ever heard. The sad thing is this store doesn't even carry Martin Logan speakers anymore. I guess they used to a year ago. The Manager got my attention, after I dried my eyes. He told me these mono-blocks did sound even better on ML's. I guess, he had heard this set-up with Ascent i's they used to carry in the store.
The McIntosh 275's cost $3,900.00 (USD) new from the store. The good thing is, I could use one McIntosh 275 in stereo mode, then later (when I had more funds), acquire another McIntosh 275 and use both as mono-blocks.
The McIntosh MCD201 left a wonderful musical impression on me as well. Being able to be played SACD / CD's without a pre-amp employing built-in leveler, as a more direct signal path really sounded fabulous. I think he said it was $3,400.00 (USD) new in the store. I kept thinking, I got to get me one of these.