- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 29 July 2010
I listened to the ca21 with a McIntosh MCD500 SACD player, OPPO BDP-83SE/NuForce universal player, VPI-HRX turntable, Manley Labs Steelhead phono preamplifier, Mystère pa21 power amplifier, McIntosh MC1201 monoblock power amplifiers, and Carver Amazing Mark IV ribbon speakers. Cables were Emotiva and Legenburg.
The ca21/pa21 pairing produced a lush, sweet, smooth - yet still detailed - sound that is typical of high quality all-tube setups. Voices are silky, rather than overyly sibilant, which is something I appreciate. The music flow, like gentle rapids on a river. You can just sit back, close your eyes, and enjoy the sensations as well as the music. The pa21 only has 55 watts output, so I stayed with my favorite chamber music SACDs here. For larger venues, so to speak, such as full orchestral music, or just some jazz quartets that I wanted to play at floor-stomping volume, I connected the ca21 to my MC1201s, which will deliver several thousand watts peak. As I have said before, my favorite combination is a triode tube preamplifier with large solid state power amplifiers.
Shown below is a photo of my lab, where I have a full drum set that I often play along with my collection of classic jazz LPs. Normally, when I am doing some critical listening, the drum set is disassembled and set against the rear wall near the door. All of the drums and cymbals are on four stands connected together with chrome steel tubing and three clamps, so to assemble or disassemble the kit, it is only necessary to loosen the clamps, and move the four stands with drums and cymbals still attached, into the room or back against the wall.
I can't impart upon you how much fun this is. And, I did it with the ca21/pa21 pair, as well as the ca21/McIntosh MC1201 pair. The snare and main cymbals are acoustic, while the toms and crash cymbals are electronic samples (I recorded them from my cymbal collection) which are triggered via a MIDI controller, through the computer, using BFD2 drum software, output to a second preamp, power amp, speaker system. I could not get the loudness I wanted with the pa21, but at its available volume, the quality of reproduction was marvelous.