DAC, Preamp, Headphone Amp: Corda Soul and Oppo HA-1 (4 of 8)

This is part 4 of an 8 part series comparing the Meier Corda Soul and Oppo HA-1. Click here for the introduction.

Subject Listening Comparison, continued…

Tue 12/25; speakers; direct, no EQ

  • Beethoven; Piano Sonatas Op 13; Apassionata; Brendel; Decca
    • Soul: purity, timbral accuracy
    • Oppo: +HF, more earthy, dirty tone
  • Chopin Op 58; Mapleshade, Gampel (Fazioli piano): this is a good but slightly flawed recording of a huge “in your face” sounding piano with a bit too much midrange presence.
    • Soul: bright, slight edge on HF, some distortion in upper RH dynamic peaks (sounds like analog tape overload)
    • Oppo: virtually indistinguishable
  • Schubert; flute/piano songs D911; Naxos/Grodd: one of few truly excellent Naxos recordings
    • Soul: slightly rounder flute tone; less air, but extreme HF information is there (lip/air overtones & light whistletones)
  • Oppo: a touch more air
  • Doppler; Andante & Rondo; Rampal, Arimany, Ritter; Delos
    • both excellent: tone, dynamics, voicing, virtually identical

Tue 12/25; headphones LCD-2; with EQ (+3 dB @ 4500 Q=0.67)

  • Volume test
    • Soul click 31 / 12:00 noon → -7.5 dB on Oppo
    • set to -8 dB by ear, fine tuned to -7.5 dB with SPL meter and white noise
  • Doppler (from above): indistinguishable
  • Taheke track 13 (from above): indistinguishable
  • Chieftans 7: indistinguishable
  • Notes
    • Are the Magnepans are more revealing than the headphones? Probably.
    • Is the Oppo’s headphone amp slightly different sounding than its line level outputs? Certainly.
    • Either way, the Soul & Oppo seem indistinguishable on headphones. Both are excellent!
  • Before today, I’d say the HA-1 is the best sounding headphone amp I’ve ever heard; the Soul is its equal.

Tue 12/25; speakers; direct, no EQ

  • Brahms piano quartet; Belcea 96/24: despite its high bit rate, this recording is imperfect with slightly edgy voicing and the piano sounds distant.
    • Soul: purifies the tone, smooths the edge
    • Oppo: detailed yet slight grain/edge
  • Krall; Quiet Nights; 96/24; track 4: this recording is good overall but like most of her albums, it adds an edgy presence to Krall’s voice
    • Soul: smooths the vocal edge, but all the highs, cymbal brush, still there. Three dimensional imaging.
    • Oppo: voice is just a bit over the top with edge, HF more present but dirtier. Image has depth but a touch less 3D deep as the Soul.
    • Which is more true to the original master is unknown, but the Soul sounds cleaner.
  • Krall; Girl in the Other Room; Temptation: another good but edgy Krall recording
    • Soul: surprisingly, not apparently smoother or more pure sounding
    • Oppo: bass during solo has slightly greater perceived depth
  • Mokave; first album; Audioquest; tracks 1, 3, 5: this is a near-perfect recording!
    • Soul: rounder, more pure piano tone; smoother extreme HF transients, may be slightly rounded off. A touch more mid-bass, less bottom depth.
    • Oppo: extreme transients sharper, slightly accentuated.
  • Lily & the Rose; Binchois, Kirkman; 96/24; tracks 16-17: a superb recording from Hyperion
    • Soul: slightly more pure midrange voicing, a tiny tad less sibilant
  • Monteverdi; book 7; Naxos: one of few truly excellent Naxos recordings
    • Disc 1 track 2
      • Soul slightly more distinct and pure
      • Oppo more emphasis on harmonics / overtones
      • Differences very slight, nearly identical
    • Disc 2 track 3
      • Soul: a very thin slight veil lifted from the music
  • Schubert; Schiller-Lieder vols 3 & 4; Naxos: very good but too much midrange edge on the voices (why do mastering engineers feel this is necessary!?)
    • Soul: may be smoother but so slight I can’t be sure; virtually identical
    • With this recording having a bit of edgy midrange presence, I expected to hear the Soul smooth it to a more natural presentation. Against my expectations, I was surprised to find it virtually identical to the Oppo.

Next, subjective listening notes part 5 (day 4)