I first encountered the Sprout back in early February this year when taking my pre-amp to the distributor after a thunderstorm had left it for dead.
The Sprout was on demo/display in the foyer and was driving a pair of Sonus Faber Chameleon bookshelf speakers with digital streamed source material. I was intrigued initially by its diminutive form factor and asked the rep to demo the unit. Some typical audio demo material comprising lush female jazz vocals followed.
After the session, I spend some time checking out the rear panel for connectivity options and was further impressed by just how much had been squeezed into that tiny case - Bluetooth, MM phono, DAC, headphone amp plus a 30wpc amplifier section (without any significant compromise in sound quality).
Later that week, I started doing some digging via the web as I’d tried (and failed) to position the Sprout within what I recalled of PS Audio’s typical target market and eventually came to the conclusion that the Sprout had been positioned to address a very different market to PS Audio’s more typical customer-groupings - one that comprised two sub-groups: one, existing clients looking for a second or third system to be used in either a study or bedroom where space was at a premium; and two, for newish entrants into audio (comprising a younger demographic) looking for a compact “starter system” that was not as compromised as the majority of “micro-systems”.
In addition, the evolution in source media preferences (with the one anomaly of the resurgence in vinyl) had shifted the design criteria for any “starter system” and the “newish entrants into audio” were more likely to look for connectivity that matched the current mix of source media available today.
So, it seemed that the Sprout was an ideal product for this second sub-group - initially anyway.
For the first sub-group (those mainstream audio enthusiasts looking for a second/third system) the connectivity on offer seemed to also match their needs - also initially.
But when looking beyond both sub-groups initial needs, it seemed that the Sprout - on its own as a standalone integrated - could be somewhat limiting in capability which, without any upgrade options, could result in it being replaced at some point - by a product that is missing from PS Audio’s portfolio.
One option for PS Audio would be to regard the Sprout as the first member of a new family - a family that could, over time, be expanded to include additional units adding to the functionality to satisfy the next upgrade(s) of these two sub-groups.
I was in the process of replacing a micro-receiver in the study and took a hard look at the Sprout (and its main competitor - NAD’s D 3020). This hard look was driven by a space constraint (and the acceptance that the constraint was a given). My immediate requirement was for CD replay (CD rack is in the study) and a future need would be to support the move of a turntable from the main rig to the study. This would have been a challenge as the cartridge is an MC.
(The main rig is probably going to have to go - after downsizing to a smallish duplex, there is simply insufficient space).
Other inputs would be needed to cater for TV audio and, potentially, for an FM tuner.
While the Sprout itself is nice and compact, the number of other source components available that shared the compact footprint was virtually non-existent - which, for me, posed a problem.
Hence this thread…
Has PS Audio given any consideration to matching components (i.e. same footprint - height may need to differ by function) to augment the Sprout “family”?
Maybe a nice compact matching CD transport?
Or maybe a nice compact matching FM tuner?
Or maybe even a compact matching digital network audio streamer?
Or - selfishly - maybe even an off-board MC phono “booster”?
Any obvious natural (and matching) upgrade path could have the potential to increase the Sprout’s “lifespan” beyond any typical “we need more” endpoint. (A point at which the customer will look elsewhere if PS Audio has no candidate offerings).
So, while the Sprout’s positioning and target markets offer a new market opportunity for PS Audio, the window into this market is a bit constrained by a lack of a defined same-brand upgrade path - something which could, over time, see PS Audio lose some of the new customers gained by the Sprout “strategy”.
Just some thoughts…