The sports analogy is appropriate to contrast the roles the Topping and the Constellation played in my system.
The albums (R&R, pop music) formerly located where the Pass amp now sits) now located in the upper right-hand corner of the second photo, on the shelf just above the ladder rail. Album storage is in several locations due to space constraints.
In a different league than the Topping. Like a great point guard, brings out the best in all the other components of the system. When picking the brains of much more seasoned members of the area audiophile club regarding the importance of preamps in a system, they all thought it to be the most important component. Borrowing a member's spare preamp (his earliest DIY effort!) provided initial evidence of that. The Constellation provided further proof.
Pass Labs X250.8
Needed a quality preamp to truly show its potential. The Topping was good at details, but compared to the Constellation, had limited bass and the high end was bright.
DS Audio E1 cartridge and equalizer
Another component which improved the sound significantly when added to the system. The Constellation in turn made it sound even better.
Magico S3 Mk II
What began my post-Roon upgrade cycle? While the change improved the sound of the system when these replaced my Volent monitors, the S3s needed more oomph than my Brinkmann was capable of. The Pass with the Bricasti directly fed into the Pass was an improvement, and the Topping allowed me to use my turntable. Borrowing a friend's DIY preamp showed there was room for improvement. The Constellation readily demonstrated what the Pass/Magico/Bricasti/E1 was capable of. There was a section of Le Sacred du Printemps where my pant legs move from the sound waves- and the sound wasn't that loud!
Blue Jeans Cable Ethernet CAT6
My Router and Roon Core are in a different room. Purchased the cable unterminated, borrowed the tools from my work network tech and cut to length and terminated
DIY. Any other audiophile grade cabling would have been cost prohibitive. And I'm happy with the sound.
Aruba Instant On 1930
Non audiophile network switch.
ANTICABLES Level 4.2 FLEX Speaker Wires
I'm somewhere in the middle on the importance of cables. What I liked about this company was their position on unequal lengths not being a factor in sound quality with their cable's properties.
Seldom used. Economical as only paying for a transport with the Bricasti doing the DAC duty.
Bricasti Design M1 SE
Has network card which is Roon Ready. Its output quality was as good as the VPI with a Grade gold cartridge. However, the VPI with the E1 cartridge has it beat now. However, its sound, especially paired with the Constellation, is stellar. It's much more convenient, and, with Roon and Qobuz, has all the advantages of the digital/streaming age.
VPI Industries Scout
At this point, the longest-tenured component in my system. Upgraded the motor a few years back. The improved quality of the digital arm led to exploring cartridges which led to the E1. As mentioned elsewhere, analog once again is the leader when it comes to the highest sound quality.
@jond The Topping could be returned w/in 30d and as mentioned elsewhere swapping a friends preamp exposed its limitations. The Constellation had the advantages of being 1) used and 2) auditionable at home before purchase. The sound difference was sufficient that DW readily signed off on the purchase. The Constellation is at the same level of quality as Pass/Magico/Bricasti and it's evident in the sound.
Hey smortega that was quick seems just the other day I left a comment on the Topping pre in your system and boom now Constellation. That is an order of magnitude upgrade monetarily I hope the increase in sound quality was just as massive!
@mjcmt Thanks for your comment. The speakers (Magico) are listed in the components. I thought of this post as an addendum to the "RoonInterdependency" system post. Will list the remaining components as well since I placed it in the. "Done for now" category.
You list your pre and power but I curious of your speakers. Is that a DAC below your transport? Is that a vpi turntable? Did you know Audiolab has a new hi-end CDT9000 transport talked about on Steve Hoffman music forum?