To Garrett Hongo,
I own a Leben RS28CX preamplifier and have been thinking of auditioning an EAR 868 preamp for a listening test soon. I read your SoundStage! review of the EAR 868 and liked it a lot.
Anyway, the thing is, I also have been thinking about buying the deHavilland KE50A amplifier, but it is impossible to listen to before buying in my area (Finland). But EAR products are easily available here, so: Have you yet listened to the EAR 890? If so, do you have any musings about how it compares to the deHavilland KE50A?
I've heard very good things about the Leben line of electronics, but I've had no experience with them myself.
Since you are seriously considering purchasing the EAR 868 preamp, you might be interested in my recent review of the EAR 890 amplifier in which I compare it to the deHavilland KE50A monoblock amps.
Both are great products and operate in class A. The EAR 890 has more power and a glorious midrange sophistication. The KE50As have a top-to-bottom balance and sparkle and resolution at the top. Both are extremely well-built. The EAR 868 preamp worked very well with both amps, but I found it to be better with the EAR 890 stereo amp.
One tip I have, though, especially as you are in Scandinavia. Dan Meinwald, distributor of EAR in the US, always uses cables from Jorma Design in his systems. I've just visited him (article forthcoming) and heard two different EAR systems with Jorma Design cables and found them utterly wonderful and revealing. I've been in his demo rooms several times over the years and always find his sound among the best. I think the cabling has much to do with it -- along with the EAR electronics. Good luck and good listening! . . . Garrett Hongo