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Confused? To be frank we were. But by now the X-DREI had arrived well protected in a flight case and was ready to be put to work. We started by installing the Spaniard between a Tron Seven preamplifier and Tron Discovery 300B power amplifier. Speakers were our Arcadian Audio Pnoe, source was the PS Audio PWT/PWD combination. Installation was as easy as can be.
At the back of the X-DREI there are matching pairs of balanced and RCA i/o ports. Above the RCA outputs sits the rotational ‘scene’ selector to alter the subjective relative listening position vis-à-vis the virtual soundstage. We initially set it to the middle position. A toggle switch selects between monaural or stereo input and finally there’s the power mains inlet and associated switch. On the front are two LED indicators and a headphone output with its own volume controller. Alberto added that later production models sport a black rather than silver center line.
As the Seven preamp has RCA inputs, we used unbalanced connections all around. With the X-DREI in place we started our first listening session with its power switched off. Despite the extra interconnect and additional signal routing through the X-DREI, we noticed no degradation in the sound. Time to flip the switch of the X-DREI. This meant walking over from the seat and back again. Neutral anticipated this and built in their own delay to compensate. After about 5 seconds a relay activates the DREI. The big question - would this contraption really work? In the pro versions mated to many active preamplifiers, users report enhanced clarity and better definition. But in a home situation close up to speakers in a fully tuned environment where soundstage and imaging are known factors, can this wave reshaping and signal splitting slash recombining make any improvements?
The inconvenient answer was yes. The X-DREI definitely altered perceived sound quality. Individual instruments and voices became more ‘individual’. Most remarkable was the fact that decays were now more natural. When the X-DREI was switched off in again very gentle fashion (no clicks or other transients), decays ended earlier - more abrupt and less natural.
While playing dozens of CDs alternating between X-DREI on/off, we noticed that some recordings were more influenced by the inclusion of the secret circuitry than others. Older recordings were less prone to the X-DREI effect than more modern ones. When we switched to vinyl the same was true. Here there was some sort of pivot point around the mid 1980s after which the X-DREI could make a very noticeable difference to enhance the musical representation of newer albums. With vinyl in general the influence of the X-DREI was not as remarkable however as with digital media.