To Hans Wetzel,
Nice review on the KEF R900. Do you have any experience with PSB's Synchrony One? Any idea how it would compare? I also noticed the Hegel Music Systems H300 in your system. Have you heard the Hegel separates?
I do not have any experience with PSB's flagship Synchrony One, but I know that it was one of the best speakers that the SoundStage! Network has ever measured in the anechoic chamber at Canada's National Research Council (NRC). We have also measured the KEF R900's little brother, the R500. There is not much of a difference between the two sets of graphs, and that is very much a good thing. The Synchrony One looks to offer a bit of a difficult load for an amplifier to handle, so having a heavy-duty amplifier on hand isn't a terrible idea. Its pickiness is offset by being terrifically linear in its frequency response. The R500 has an averaged frequency response (via the "Listening Window" graph) that is a bit more contoured -- notice the more pronounced depression in the 700Hz to 4kHz range -- that should manifest itself in the form of the speaker sounding slightly relaxed. I heard this quality in the R900, and I suspect it will measure largely the same, but with greater bass extension, a more benign impedance range (making it a suitable partner for many more amplifiers), and less distortion in the bass (via the "Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise" graph). In all, I think the PSB looks quite a bit more attractive than the KEF, and may approach the R900's performance from the midbass on up, but will not have quite the low-end extension that the British speaker does. This is just a supposition, though -- go and listen for yourself, if possible. I know both are very well designed.
With regards to Hegel, I have only heard the $2900 P20 preamplifier, as my brother Erich just finished up his review of it for our sister site, SoundStage! Hi-Fi. Hegel really, really knows how to make a preamp. I heard the P20 in his system for no more than about 15 seconds before realizing that I was hearing a great deal more micro and macro detail than his older, but still very capable Audio Research preamp. Given how resolving the amplifier section of my H300 is, I wouldn't be surprised if their power amplifiers are just as impressive. If I were you, though, I wouldn't make the assumption that the separates are necessarily better than the H300. The Hegel folks told me that the power and pre sections of the integrated are eerily close in performance to their flagship H30 and P30, respectively. With the convenience of a highly capable built-in DAC, I'd suggest starting with the H300, then see if you can justify the (significant) additional outlay that will be required to outperform it. It's really quite good. . . . Hans Wetzel