To Garrett Hongo,
I read your most thoughtful reviews and think you got the EAR sound right and did a very good job delineating the 868 and 890. However, the comments on changing tubes in the 890 make it sound far more difficult than it is and I think you scared people off unnecessarily. While not convenient to remove/replace the cages, it isn't that tough and can readily be done in 20 minutes -- hardly a deal breaker, especially considering the sound. Of course, with the cages off, it's virtually instantaneous to change tubes.
What I think makes the 868 and 890 really special is their ability to put a very real image of a performance in the room with awesome tonality and dynamics. More than audiophile traits like being the airiest or most finessed, they get to the heart of the matter by being no-nonsense reproduction machines. They sound like real music and lots and lots of people really love this.
Thanks for bothering to read and comment. Appreciate the feedback.
Regarding tube changing on the 890 stereo amp, I just quoted Dan Meinwald (EAR distributor), pretty much. Maybe I shouldn't have included it, but, since I'd first gotten the amp with KT90 tubes . . .
In my review of the EAR 868 preamp, I pointed out that the Mercury preamp versus the 868 was airier, but that I preferred it on very specific, likely idiosyncratic music -- opera and choral -- while the 868's character was more suited to jazz and rock than the Mercury. I think readers might easily figure out for themselves which preamp might better appeal to them based on this comparison. Mahalo. . . . Garrett Hongo