DAC, Preamp, Headphone Amp: Corda Soul and Oppo HA-1 (7 of 8)

This is part 7 of an 8 part series comparing the Meier Corda Soul and Oppo HA-1. Click here for the introduction.

Fri 12/28; speakers, direct, no EQ

  • Beethoven; Early String Quartets; Emerson; Deutsche Grammophon
    • both great, only slightly different but equally good
  • Brahms; Cello & Piano; Pratt, Bailey; Telarc
    • Oppo: slightly darker, muddier
  • Dvorak; Takacs; 96/24: a bright recording with slightly excessive midrange echo
    • Same differences observed; the Oppo is kinder to this flawed recording
  • Moussorgsky; Pictures at an Exhibition; Oue, Minnesota; Reference Recordings: a superb recording in every way; natural tonality, huge dynamics, depth, detail
    • Soul: slightly more resolving, but a touch sterile
    • Oppo: familiar organic tonality, but details are slightly veiled especially with entire orchestra playing (higher IM distortion?)
  • Schubert; Impromptus; Lupu; Decca: an incredible solo piano recording, and sublime performance.
    • Soul: more like a real piano; could be the best I have ever heard?
    • Oppo: slightly more earthy and veiled (still very nice)
  • Tabula Rasa; Fleck, Bhatt; Waterlily 88/24; Tracks 2-6
    • Soul: tighter mids and upper bass, incredible micro-detail of finger/hands hitting the skin of the drums. Plankton!
    • Oppo: fast transients, slightly looser bass, more organic sound
  • Rebecca Pidgeon; The Raven; Chesky: mostly forgettable music, but has a couple of good tracks. Recording is not as good as it first sounds
    • Soul & Oppo indistinguishable; both reveal the flaws in this recording. The Raven is a beautiful song, but I don’t know why audiophiles use this recording. It sounds artificially enhanced; probably sounds great in the car.
  • Red Stick Ramblers; Bring it on Down; Tracks 2, 11: a fantastic recording, sounds great at first and gets better with deep listening
    • Soul: tighter, more clarity, image depth, sweetness – WOW. I used to think the bass in this recording was less than perfectly tight and controlled, but the Soul changes that!
    • Oppo: veiled especially in bass & mids; slight emphasis on air & transients (above treble range). Sounds great, but not on par with the Soul.
  • Gillian Welch; Harrow & Harvest; same as above, dynamically compressed but otherwise great recording with very subtle voicing & details
    • Soul: tight, pure, dynamic, microdetail/plankton
    • Oppo: a touch more upper midrange edge to voices, softer
  • Pizzarelli; Kisses in the Rain; Telarc
    • Soul, Oppo: very similar, virtually indistinguishable
  • Phil Woods; Little Big Band; Chesky: great performances, a good recording but a bit thin sounding
    • Soul: cleaner, tighter
    • Oppo: slight emphasis on harmonics accentuates timbral differences of the saxes and trumpet
  • Observations
    • Again, a day of listening for musical engagement and enjoyment rather than criticism.
    • Yesterday I found that I enjoyed and preferred the Oppo on about 2/3 of the recordings I listened to across a variety of genres.
    • This was contrary to my expectations. I know the Soul is designed and built to higher engineering standards and wanted to like it more. But my ears told me a different story.
    • Last night I was almost convinced that the Oppo was a keeper and I’d be passing on the Soul. The Soul might be a “better” amp but I found the Oppo more engaging and enjoyable to listen to.
    • I almost boxed up the Soul. But I told myself, you have another day, might as well use it.
    • Today those tables started to turn. On almost all the recordings I had a slight preference for the Soul. Perhaps it takes some time to get comfortable with a different sound.

Next (and finally), conclusion and summary