Hello and welcome.@HiFiRuss71 Thank you SOOOOO much for posting this thread. I just created an account here to join your thread. I'm in the market for a small desktop power amp for my bookshelf small/medium sized living room setup. When The review for this popped up on ASR it had my interest. It sounded like the perfect device even if it isn't quite as good as the reviews suggest. I've been scouring the internet for subjective listening test by people that really know high quality hifi. I really value ASR's objective tests, but I find his forum a bit of a cult made up of people without very much experience in anything subjective. There are amps they didn't like that I love like various Cavalli headphone amps or some of ifi's products I find very good.
Anyway, my point is I was looking for the opinion of someone like you Russ. Thank you. What I was especially pleased to see is you use Dirac live and that's exactly what I plan to run in a 2.2 system based on a miniDSP flex prepro/dac/preamp. It being balanced with TRS the topping PA5 looked like the perfect fit. it will have more than enough headroom for my space.
I was curious your thoughts as someone who has built a system using the PA5 and Dirac live. Are you using it in a AV system with dirac bass management or just a regular dirac live setup?
Just a bit of background on me, because my join date/post count hides some stats. I have been on here since 2009. At one point I was doing all of the speaker and subwoofer reviewing on here - Search 'Kreisel 12012' in the reviews and the very last picture leaning against the stack is (fat) me. I then went off to work for Arendal Sound and was involved in the original 1723 Series speakers & subs, although I can't take too much credit for those. However, if they still send out that glorious 100+ page brochure/user guide; I wrote that.
When the reality of increasing demands in my real job got too much, I stopped that and at that point my by now 'professional' login got deleted along with my connection to 12k+ posts.
Gone are the days where I obsess over measurements and repeated shuffling of boxes only to re-EQ again and again. I do thoroughly believe in measurements as a reference baseline, but if I don't enjoy the resulting sound... So, REW comes out to nail down speaker and subwoofer positioning and once you've done that a few times in any given room (really just to avoid any severe dips in the frequency response) you tend to find that position will pretty much hold for any similar device placed there. Big changes (including things like a new sofa) need remeasuring as far as I am concerned.
After that, I run full phat Dirac (the middle set of measurement positions, not the wide or focused ones) and it EQ it to the Harman target curve - broadly +2.5dB(SPL) @ 20Hz to -2.5dB(SPL) @ 20 kHz with reference to 1kHz being the relative 0dB point. Very rarely does something require me to deviate from that target curve.
'Wisdom' would hold that if everything is near as to that target and performing within its limits, then it should all end up sounding the same, which is broadly true. However, even with the FR nailed down, time domain gripped and sub/speakers time-aligned, most components do sound different at various listening levels.
The euphonic distortion of valve amps impresses the amp's 'character' through the EQ and you can't EQ out power compression, hard or soft clipping, etc. Essentially, EQ reveals the pure character of components and the judgement of that result IS subjective. I won't own something because it is right, if it doesn't entice me to keep playing music. The objective measurements do inform the pool of equipment I would consider buying from, hence my distaste for any speaker that isn't dispersion controlled.
My system is in my signature, but is very much 2.2 stereo. The NAD C658 (I'm eyeballing the MiniDSP SHD but wonder if de-integrating Bluesound is a step backward) streamer/DAC/pre plays Tidal MQA and Spotify for background. This feeds the poweramp(s) into the modified Klipsh Forte IIIs which are crossed at 80Hz into the stereo 15" DIY subs. Much time is spent listening to vinyl, because it sounds fabulous regardless of objectivity.