TL;DR – Old half-deaf guy loves his little streaming stereo system anchored by the Sprout 100, wonders if the next feeding of the addiction should be a slightly more powerful amp or nice headphones…
A few months ago I dipped my toes back into the audio waters, and got a Sprout 100, Bluesound Node 2i, and KEF LS50 Metas.
My initial impression was that I enjoyed the sound quite a bit, but a few songs, particularly some ‘classic rock’ tunes, were a bit ‘muffled’. I put it down to the system showing the quality of production of the song.
I played with using the Sprout’s DAC vs. the Node 2i’s, and they were pretty similar to my old half-deaf ears. Note that during my trial of Amazon HD Music, the optical input of the Sprout wouldn’t work, but I wound up settling on Tidal HiFi, which had no such problems.
I dropped a few bucks on an NRG-YA power cable and PowerQuest 3 for the Sprout and overall power, respectively. I even added an iFi AC purifier, for giggles. The sound seemed to improve noticeably, but that might’ve been wishful thinking.
After I did a little research, I decided to put a Chord Qutest between the Node 2i and the Sprout 100.
Now, I don’t know if it was just the Qutest or in combo with the system breaking in after a few weeks, but all of a sudden my reference tunes, and pretty much all songs of any production quality, sounded really wonderful!
I next got to thinking that while the LS50s have pretty impressive, tight bass response for their size, I wanted a little more foundation in the lower frequencies.
I got a REL T/7i and dialed it in, using the high-level connector cable, with that cable’s wires wrapped around the banana plugs going into the Sprout. I found it interesting that with all the debate about cables and multi-thousand dollar offerings in that area, the REL cable was a very simple, small-stranded affair.
Once it was set up, I was knocked out with how good everything sounded in my 13’ x 15’ room (system on a long wall). I found myself laughing while listening to tunes, because the details and quality was just so good.
I believe the Sprout 100 is showing itself to be quite a capable driver of the KEFs, at least to the volume levels I desire (I don’t need it to be ear-splitting, I only have one ear left to split).
The addiction continues, and now I like to look at reviews of headphones and also think about maybe adding on, say, a Stellar S300 or some other amplifier, as I’m happy with streaming only (using Tidal HIFI), and assume the Sprout 100 pre-amp is a nice minimal front-end to any amp I choose.
I’m honestly so happy with the sound right now, I’m not sure how I could find another power amp more enjoyable.
Comments welcome, but I just wanted to share.
Thanks to the PS Audio crew and community for all the great work and opinions.