To Garrett Hongo,
I am interested in Keith Herron's equipment but there are not a lot of direct evaluations of his gear available so I'm sort of forced to e-mail people who have it. I have not been happy with any of the gear that I've heard locally so I thought I'd take a chance and buy something (possibly used) unheard. I was wondering what your thoughts were about the Herron M1s. I'm debating between the Herron VTSP-3a and the Aesthetix Calypso (with or without the Signature upgrade) as a preamp and the Herron M1s or the Bob Carver Cherry 180s as monoblocks. Most of the reviews out there have focused on the preamp section. Those of the M1s (or the prior version) are favorable but don't sound enthusiastically so. If you don't mind, can I have your thoughts on the M1 monoblocks? Any input is really appreciated. Thank you for your time.
The Herron M1 monoblock amps are my reference, particularly during the summer when it's too hot to run tube amps in my study, which doubles as my listening room. I find their sonic signature very close to the 40Wpc deHavilland KE50A tube monoblocks that are my other reference amps. The M1 sound has, to my ears and in my system, a fairly flat frequency response, superb timbral contrasts, great timing, and superior dynamic contrasts for things like opera and orchestral music. I find the M1 amps particularly terrific for the human voice, as I listen to a tremendous amount of opera and Renaissance choral music. This ability to render the human voice properly is what defeats most electronics, to my mind, particularly solid-state components, as they tip up the treble, overemphasize leading-edge transients, and lose the ability to render microdetails of vocal performance like tremolo, vibrato, glissando, melisma, etc. -- all stock-in-trade for operatic singers. The M1s do all this exceedingly well. Moreover, with massed strings like the violin section of an orchestra and with numerous choral voices singing several parts, the M1 amps keep all open, clear, and airy -- something a lot of electronics cannot do. In short, they are perfect for me.
As for the Herron VTSP-3a, I have only heard it in Keith Herron's rooms at audio shows, where it has sounded terrific with the M1 monos and Keith's own speakers. Moreover, given Keith Herron's superb ears, quality service, and years of engineering experience, I'd assume the Herron pre to be a solid choice and matched perfectly with the M1s. I also admire the VTSP-3a for its multiplicity of features -- switchable gain, balance control, remote control for volume and component selection, easy-to-read control panel, switchable absolute and AC polarity, etc.
I can't comment decisively on the other electronics you mention to compare the Herron M1s and Herron VTSP-3a with, as I've not had them in the system. I have heard Aesthetix gear at shows, however, and have always come away impressed with their sound and flexibility (balanced and single-ended hookups both).
As for the new iteration of the M1 amps, I have them, as I've upgraded my own pair to the current version, but I have not yet had a chance to run them in my system because I'm reviewing other electronics right now. I hope to place them in the system and give them a good listen in the next two weeks or so. You might ask me again later what I think. Malama. . . . Garrett Hongo