Jump to content

Apex Arête v. Apex Peak


blessingx
 Share

Recommended Posts

Likely due to laziness, I don’t have much patience lately for writing or even reading reviews so I’ll keep this short. It may be of limited use to others as it’s primarily a two amp comparison.

My interest was how the new Apex Arete and Volcano competes with the earlier introduced (and owned) Apex Peak and Volcano. This is especially so as (another member pointed out not long ago) I tend to prefer solid states traditional strengths with a touch of tube-like warmth. I’ve kept a Luxman P-1u over a B22 for this reason and it’s also where I think the hybrid Peak is especially strong. The flavoring of the tube I used for the tests, and the one I use over 90% of the time, the Shuguang Treasure CV181-Z, is similar. All comments concerning the Peak are with that tube - other tube, other results.

I jumped around tracks, but focused mainly on Alison Krauss & Union Station’s Paper Airplanes (24/96), Julianna Barwick’s A Magic Place (16/44.1), and Domnerus and company’s Jazz at the Pawnshop (Redbook layer of the SACD set). Each fed to a Lavry DA10 from a Squeezebox Touch or Sony/GoogleTV GT1 and then split to the amps. A Sennheiser HD800 (stock cable) was used predominantly, however a Grado HF2 was included.

To cut to the chase - the Arete competes extremely well. It is nearly everything the Peak is, with a tad more linear signature (v. CV181-Z again), at times maybe ever so slightly harder, and of course without the option of tweaking the sound with tube changes. They share so much in common across the tracks - great placement and staging on Pawnshop, nice tone across the board (with the HD800s issues caveat of course), proper decay on strings, fine speed (as much as I pushed), great detail on known albums, female vocals soar as they should, and clarity, clarity clarity - that it would difficult to miss these are both born of Pete & Todd’s union. Overall their sounds are surprisingly very similar, and when differences show, they perform as expected. At the risk of over-exaggerating, on Barwicks the layering of vocals had a bit more three dimensional presentation with the Peak’s tube, but the Arete’s extension etched [meant complimentary] objects in a ever so ever so wider soundstage. On Airplanes there was slightly softer edges and a splash of sparkle on the Peak. Pawnshop was even closer by all measures. As mentioned, The Magic Place had the greatest differences, and even here I call a draw. There will be those that will prefer the additional “distortion” of even a pretty clean tube and a little bump in the middle (I do), and of course those who will want the opposite. These are extremely transparent amps (likely why they sound so similar), yet also both offer, if you consider a B22 dry with some combinations (I also do), that touch of warm that handles a greater variety of situations and gear. It's very hard to imagine falling in love with one and not the other.

If asked which to recommend, it would be difficult to answer. Their prices are close (though I would love to hear the Arete with the much cheaper switching PS to know what’s possible in the near $1K range). The Peak’s cost can of course climb depending on your tube hunt (plus replacements). And there’s a decent chance if looking at the Peak after visiting other manufactures options, including some with lusher aims, your tube goal may take you right back to the Arete’s sound (it nearly has for me). While there are several tubes I’ve never heard and likely some that would excel beyond what I know, without hearing them I would probably recommend the plug-n-play Arete, unless you always lean towards tubes, want to experiment [possibly] moving ever higher, or wish to customize the sound (personal tastes or across recordings). Then again that last bit of Peak functionality may well be worth a few hundred more just as "insurance". Either way you win.

One edge I give the Arete is on case design. Although I’m not sure anyone focuses on Apex for their utilitarian exteriors, the Arete nicely stacks with other half rack items. The Squeezebox, DA10 (or DAC1 turned, etc.), Arete and Volcano for instance makes a great system with a small footprint. This is more difficult with the Peak.

I also included the Luxman P-1u with all three repeated album tests. As mentioned, it’s one of my favorite solid state amps and remains so, but if you don’t mind giving up a little gold and silver, you’ll be rewarded with greater transparency with the Apex offerings. You'll also get a solid preamp. Overall the Arete is now my favorite solid state heaphone amplifier.

I want to thank Todd for the opportunity of testing. If I was beginning the hunt, I’m honestly not sure which Apex I’d eventually choose. Either is a great all arounder, but either is especially a strong choice for the HD800. If you want to “fix” that phone you may want to look elsewhere, but if you want to play to it’s strengths, I’d start looking here.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You might not like doing reviews anymore, but you sure are good at them. Nicely put, and very much consistent with my very limited experience with the Apex Twins. I think I heard the Arete with the switching PS and it sounded very nice, but that was in the CanJam room at RMAF and not very critical listening to boot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Guys,

Ok, so you are correct, don't get to the threads anywhere near enough. But with some kindly proding I do show uprolleyes.gif

Tyll will be getting a switching supply (the stock supply with the Peak and Arete) on Thursday. I will be delivering it to him and look forward to seeing Tyll and saying hi!

Blessingx, I can send one to you also if you want to hear the Peak/Arete/Volcano/Switcher. Let me know via e-mail and I'll send one out to you tomorrow... that will then be included with the traveling loaner Arete/Volcano

Todd

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi All,

A power supply was delivered to Tyll yesterday by my lovely wife and we shipped a power supply to blessingx too! So you will hear something from these two wise men soon.

I have 2 people on the Arete loaner list and am willing to extend it to 2 or 3 more folks if you want to sign up. Just e-mail me with your contact info and user name and I will add you to the loaner program. The rules are: you get it for 2 weeks and then you send it to the next guy (or gal). Then you get to write a review of what you heard.

Let me know if you want in on the loaner program!

Todd

Edited by Todd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

John, lemme know if you get in on the loaner program, maybe we can set up a bro-date and demo the gear together. I'd like to see how the thunderpants perform on Todd's stuff. smile.png

Great idea, I can do that! Todd said I'm currently 3 on the list, so is estimating 6wks. I'll let you know.

Edited by jvlgato
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.