Having a Groove Plus on hand, already loaded for the Titan i, and an SRX with identical gain, it was possible to run back to back comparisons, taking the effects of loading out of the equation. I have to say that this is possibly the biggest single performance improvement I’ve heard from the Groove since its inception. It always had great transparency, focus, detail and dynamic resolution, coupled to a temporal and spatial organization that made for that winning combination of simultaneous musical insight and involvement. It was also exceptionally even, top to bottom. Adding the SR frontend changes things significantly, without losing any of the established attributes. As impressive as the Groove Plus is, it’s not until you hear the benefits of solidity and overall coherence that come with the SR version, that those strengths really get bound together into a musical whole. But such is the way of hi-fi (and a good thing it is too) that with such sins of omission, until you hear that difference you don’t register the lack.
Swapping from the Groove Plus to the SRX, the first thing you’ll notice is the dramatic (and I use that word deliberately) increase in sheer substance and colour. Listening to a complex pop mix like Lloyd Cole’s ‘Lost Weekend’, the SRX makes the Plus sound thin and bleached, lacking in separation and presence. The SR board brings a weight, tonal richness and body to the sound that gives Cole’s familiar voice its correct character and scale, creating a convincing image that has a physical dimension as well as a location. That richness extends to the instruments, giving each one greater individuality, the tonal separation I’ve talked about before – the ability to separate a player and his contribution as much by the harmonic character and the energy pattern of his instrument as its location in space. So the harmonium drone that gives the track its infectious Waltz rhythm is lifted out of the complex mix, an instrument and a musical intent rather than just aural wallpaper filling in the gaps.
What’s responsible for the change? In large part it seems to be about the low frequencies, which definitely go deeper but also provide a foundation that roots the instruments and music in time and space. There’s a new-found weight and stability to the Groove sound, a sense of authority and poise that was lacking before when compared to the likes of the Connoisseur or Zanden. Interestingly, it can be heard as a heaviness in direct comparison to the Plus, hence my choice of ‘Lost Weekend’ where the earlier version initially sounds fleeter of foot and more toe-tappingly involving.