My CSP2 Review:

NOTE:  This is actually a review of an SE84CSP (the original preamp before the anniversary edition shown at left.) that Steve upgraded to a CSP2.  Sonnically and part for part the same. Nice to know owners of the original CSP aren't left in the dark but offered an affordable upgrade path.

 

As I mentioned previously, I have never been a big fan of active preamps.  Most of the ones I tried over the years created a "haze" over the music that I simply could not ignore ..... even some of the more costly ones.
 
Steve Deckert suggested a couple of years ago trying one of his preamps in my system, saying that I might be pleasantly surprised.  The Camelot Uther DAC that I have been using for the past few years was designed to be used without an additional preamplifier ..... and I had the factory bump up the output voltage to 4+ volts.  Since it has remote volume and balance control in the analog domain, I felt that I was good to go.
 
Based on the first few hours of listening, I would have to say that Steve is telling it straight about the CSP2.  The first thing I did was play a couple of familiar well recorded tracks with cymbals.  Good news ..... the shimmer and delicacy was intact ..... and better yet, the body of the cymbal was much more evident than without the CSP2 ..... fuller and more realistic sounding with better presence.
 
In fact, the presence of all instruments and vocals is greatly improved.  The dynamic contrast is much better as well.  I'm thinking that it was Zygi who said that the CSP2 improved the instruments at the back of the soundstage ..... improving the clarity.  I can vouch for that.  It's now easier to follow all of the instruments and vocals in a recording.
 
The tonal balance is much more natural.  As an example, the body of an acoustic guitar is now in much better balance with the strings.
 
The CSP2 works very well with my new Zanden DAC, which only puts out 1 volt.  Out of curiosity, I put the Camelot Uther back in the system ..... first with the CSP2 and then without it.  Despite the fact the Uther was made to work by its lonesome, it sounded a little "dead" after the CSP2 was removed.  Since I make no claims as to knowing why this would be the case, I won't try to explain the reason ..... but I have no reservation in saying that the CSP2 made the Uther sound better ..... a lot better.
 
The only "downside" I have found to this point is the tendency to push the Select a little too hard.  With the nicer tonal balance, the temptation to crank up the volume is very real.  Running the Parker Audio Behemoths and Decware SO Imperials in parallel, the impedance is somewhere around 2.66 ohms.  The Select loves a low impedance load, but that is a lot of speaker for a power amp with 2 watts per side.  With the potential of 36 volts, you can not only drive the Select to clipping ..... you can launch it from the audio rack .....  Tongue

Since the Select clips so gracefully, it's not too hard to get into dangerous water before you are aware of it .....  
 
This will not be a problem once I am used to the total system.  The volume will be more than adequate for my needs and the CSP2 makes the overall sound better by far.
 
Ah, yes ..... the bass ..... I know that everyone wants to know about the bass .....  Smiley
 
Well, if you have speakers that are capable of producing it, the CSP2 will make you happy.  Using only the Parker Audio Behemoths without the SO Imperials, the bass is very nice indeed.  I am now plainly hearing instruments in the lower registers that were previously "background instruments".  With the Imperials in the system, the bass has a wonderful presence that "pressurizes" the room in a very pleasant way.  The CSP2 also adds a nice amount of well controlled bottom end to Ed Schilling's Horns ..... which were in the system for a good portion of the listening sessions.  In fact, the CSP2 might very well be the icing on the cake for owners of The Horns and a Decware amplifier.  The Horns sound a lot "mightier" with the CSP2 pushing them.
 
Like everything else, I'm sure that the CSP2 will improve with break-in ..... but, based on what I have heard so far, I'm just sorry that I did not make this move sooner.
 
Randy

 

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