I’m still a little while from having owned the Sprout in a month, but I reckon it’s close enough for me to share my thoughts here as well.
I’m remain extremely happy with it. Much like Fritz, this is my first “proper” audiophile system. The sound is excellent compared to the stereos I’ve owned before. I agree with Andrew that the sound is very warm, but not overly so. I’ve written elsewhere on the forum that I used to own an old B&O stereo which had very, very boomy bass which - I can tell now that I have a better reference point available - turned everything I played on it into ugly, bloated mud.
By comparison, the Sprout sounds much more clear, dynamic and vivid. The volume suits my needs very well too; I’ve never needed to turn the volume up much further than the 3/4 mark. Its compact size and no-frills approach to listening to music are also huge boosts; I’ve looked into getting a proper stereo many times before, but have always been put off by the monstrous-looking receivers that dominate the market. This thing looks and sounds gorgeous and on top of that, it’s convenient. I personally haven’t seen any other manufacturers of audiophile equipment pull that combination off so convincingly.
The digital inputs are probably the ones I use the most. Playing hi-res audio from my Macbook is obviously very enjoyable, but I’ve also been getting a kick out of how good this device makes CDs sound, even on my cheap Philips Blu-ray player. I’m actually enjoying spinning CDs again, which I haven’t in a while. I’ve always had simple setups where I relied on whatever crappy DAC was in the player, so I also consider this my first foray into listening properly to digital audio. I have also only got nice words to say about the Sprout in that regard. Might be worth mentioning that, back during the first two weeks, I did experience some dropouts when using the digital inputs. Sometimes as often as once per album. But I like to think this has to do with warming up/acclimatising; it’s been a long time since it has happened.
Owing to the compression, Bluetooth obviously doesn’t sound as good but this is where the convenience wins for me. If I want to immerse myself in the music, I’ll connect my Macbook via USB. If I need a quick fix or some background music, the Bluetooth functionality is well above average. Again, I really like this marriage between quality and convenience. It’s nice to have both options, and I feel that I’m getting a lot more bang for the buck out of my Spotify Premium subscription than I did before.
Finally, I have the analog input connected to my TV. I was positively surprised by how good this sounds, and it kills me that I don’t have a turntable at the moment, considering the praise that other users are leveling at the phono stage. So I’m definitely looking forward to being able to utilise that.
It is, admittedly, hard for me to tell whether I’d have spent the full $800 on this. But that probably says more about me and my budget. Considering all of the above, I would say that the Sprout is well worth the money. If you can market this thing properly (and I agree with Fritz that it might be tough - but not impossible), I have no doubt that you can connect with an audience that isn’t necessarily part of the group of established audiophiles.