But a proper ABA session will soon underline the additional fluidity and the far more complex rhythmic picture that emerges from the SR, the track taking on a proper, undulating feel rather than the helter-skelter onrush of the Plus, which now sounds hurried and tumbling over itself. Switch to slower tracks like ‘James’ or ‘Perfect Blue’ and the difference becomes even more marked, the SR imbuing the music with a poise, a stately inevitability to the pacing that adds dramatic weight and pathos to the songs. And all the while, the extra space around and behind instruments (musically and dimensionally) makes the multiple layers, the interlocking elements of all these tracks so much easier to hear, a pleasure that titillates rather than a test that challenges. You want one, single aspect of performance that will encapsulate the difference between these two, the advance and new confidence represented by the SR? Select a single instrument in a natural acoustic; I used the Tacet recording of the Bach Partita III with Florin Paul. Here the Plus presents a quicksilver account, the instrument small in the large and cold acoustic space. Swap to the SR and the violin snaps into focus, more concentrated, more physically present, richer and more harmonically complex. The phrasing of the playing, the bowing and the shape of the melody, the shape that Paul brings to it, all emerge. Where the Plus pushed the speed and quickness of the playing to the fore, the SR adds a whole dimension of meaning and artistry. It also adds a sense of height. Not the height of the acoustic per se, but the height of the instrument within it – which has a surprising effect on just how convincing the sonic picture is. But the big, big difference in presentational terms is the way in which the acoustic space is presented. With the Plus you are aware that it’s large, but it is wider than it is deep and it’s also rather diffuse with ill-defined boundaries. The SR locks the instrument into a solid space, with a real sense of depth that now goes way back. The boundaries are much more obvious, particularly the rear corners, and the notion that this is a three dimensional event (and that all three dimensions matter) suddenly makes itself felt.
Of course, using the Titan i eliminated the influence of loading from the sonic equation. Time spent with the Koetsu Urushi (preferred loading 200 Ohms) and the vdH Condor (which was happier at 500 Ohms) actually underlined the differences even more. Running these cartridges at 100 Ohms (as per the Plus) actually reduced the benefits of the SR mods slightly, but as soon as you dialled in the correct loading the differences became wider still, especially with the