To Jeff Fritz,
I find you have some of the best insight and knowledge in the business and would appreciate your advice in my own pursuit of purist sound.
My system is built around Magico Q3 speakers driven by Bryston’s 14B ST. The preamp is the Bryston BP25, and sources include the Weiss DAC202 using Amarra on a MacBook Pro, and a Rega Jupiter. Interconnects are Shunyata Aries and Cardas Neutral Reference, and speaker cables are Nordost Heimdalls.
What would you choose for the next step to provide the most improvement to my system? I am considering either an Ayre KX-R to replace the BP25 preamp or a Boulder 2060 amplifier to replace the 14B ST. I hope to eventually get both but can’t afford to do both at the same time.
You’re in a place where your system is already pretty high level, and improving upon it will require some careful considerations, though I do think you are on the right track. As for the amp, the Bryston you have is plenty powerful; however, I do believe the Boulder 2060 is a better amplifier. It should be for the massive difference in list price, and its 600Wpc into 8 ohms will provide plenty of thrust for the Q3s. I feel the same way about the preamplifier: Your Bryston is fine as far as basic preamps go, although you should expect better from the Ayre -- the KX-R is a true cost-no-object design. I have had both the Ayre KX-R and KX-R Twenty preamps and Boulder 2060 amplifier in my system and I think very highly of those components.
There is the notion of component synergy to consider, too. The Brystons no doubt work great together, but the Ayre/Boulder combo is a little less predictable. I’d be more inclined to find a used Boulder 2010 preamp to use with the 2060, for instance, to ameliorate the synergy consideration. I’ve always found that you get the most reliable results when you pick the preamp and power amp from the same manufacturer. I think your speakers and sources are good to go.
Perhaps a strategy is to get the amp first and then see if you can get an Ayre preamp in your system on loan to assess how they sound together. . . . Jeff Fritz