Holy cannoli (or mackarel if you're the salty type)! Li'l shiggy was kicking colonial butt. Replacing my reference AUDIOPAX monos and Bel Canto PRe1, Shigaraki preserved the rhythmic and emotionally supercharged drive of this stunning ensemble from Marseilles in all its spellbinding glory; portrayed the intense bell and cymbal tree swirls on "Guadalquivir" without artifical sizzle while perhaps not the very last word in decay lengths; and gave a thoroughly full-blooded, harmonically dense rendition of the founding sibling's incendiary vocals. In short, I wasn't missing da tubes. Oi veh, what was the solid-state world coming to now?

To be honest, Shigaraki's presentation was so much balls-to-the-wall fun and suffered no obvious shortcomings in any of my personal top must-have categories -- dynamics, transient speed, timbre, emotional projection, in short lively, energetic, robust and colorful vivaciousness -- that I had to chase down my serious reviewer cap to begin getting critical. Let's start out easy: With its attenuator in the fully opened 10 position, Shigaraki produced an ocean-type noise in the DUO's midrange horn. At 6, this noise disappeared. Happy listening levels? Between 2 and 3. Totally normal and duplicated by every single amp ever hitched up to these 103dB efficient noise magnifiers, some tweeter hiss was audible only in extreme closeup.

As the headphone test had alread proven, the 4717 is a very quiet amp when not unduly pushed. Perhaps because of its minimized circuit complexity and shortness of signal paths, it's also super-fast - without getting unnaturally edgy, sharp or crystallized. This translated into head-boppin', foot-stompin' jump factor across the whole bandwidth. Slap bass snap and growl were world-class - Big Whoppers without the arterie-clogging fat content of the fast food chains. Rise times were equally athletic. The attack of oud and guitar strings á la rasgueado (the blindingly rapid chordal tremolos beloved by Flamenco players) were fierce and viril without appearing in a hyper-realistically dry, ambience-deficient sound space that would create a similar but fake sense of clarity or speed by severely clipping decays.

When good ambience retrieval combines with timbral saturation, the result is sometimes referred to as "wet". Nearly always the domain of better tube amps, it juxtaposes against this dryness. That's often exhibited by sand amps to, in my book, become one of their greatest liabilities. Shigaraki's wetness was confounding. Truth be told, it was somewhat of an affront to my tube loyalist leanings. Time to change colors? I really couldn't find anything to complain about. If in doubt, go large-scale symphonic. Nothing like a huge orchestra to show off a dense mix of multitudinous timbres, expansive dynamics and high-head-count soundstaging. Hence, Pjotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony in F minor [Bernstein, New York Philharmonic, DG 429 778-2] would be next.

The very martial opening of full-throttle trumpets answered by trombone and French horn chorus had realistic bite without transitor glare, opposing weight without resistant drag. The unison bassoon/clarinet motif served up wonderful timbral separation to distinguish both instruments blended into one. Like the voices before, Shigaraki now passionately embraced massed strings with the kind of developed glow that's always a big challenge for electronics. Tympanies had astonishing displacement impact. Dynamic range -- already expanded with Tchaikovsky to begin with -- was mindbogglingly explosive, then exquisitely scary on the concluding "Allegro con fuoco". Where my resident tube monoblocks go further still is in the depth and layering dimensions, as well as generating additional air or further ambient visiblity.

To a more pronounced extent, I had already noted a reduction of these spatial characteristics with the Shigaraki DAC. I was beginning to think that the overtly visual domain of soundstaging, i.e. extremely resolved ambient & spatial retrieval, wasn't as high on Kimura-San's priority list as tactile oomph which -- to drive the point home -- is the opposite of ethereal, bleached-out see-through-ness that distinguishes ghosts from real people and separates lesser electrostatic from better dynamic speakers.

Shigaraki distinctly reveled in the tactual domain. On this symphonic fare, it manifested as a very palpable sense of large registers of sound being moved about - a sense of colorful richness, like an orator emphasizing meaning with powerful body language. It's a different kind of resolution, one less obviously data-centric and more concerned with artistic intent. Its primary means of expression are dynamic and transient rise times coupled to the sheer weight of tonal fullness. This timbral ripeness acts as the physical mallets that pound with precisely delivered attacks on the drumskins of your heart. It's stimulating, visceral and thus very much of this world rather than cerebral, emasculated and otherworldly.

On "Faces of Spain" [Dan Ar Braz, Made in Breizh, Tinder 861072, 2002], this dense voluptousness manifested in the heft of the drum and bass accents, the burnished autumn colors of Dan's lyrical e-guitar, the Breton-flavored melody exuding proud resolution rather than dreamy melancholia - which, with shifted tonal values, it easily could have. Ditto for the fiddle reel of "Spike Island Lasses". Rather than flitty or light-footed, the conjoured-up dancers stomped the ground with powerful blows, faces ruddy rather than faint pink, the uilleann pipes richly weathered rather than forbodingly screechy. In summary then, the following character brief for Shigaraki the amp: A British PRAT champ with plenty o' ale down his gullet for that wet complexion, his fencer's speed wedded to a slugger's punch to welcome any pub disputes with both hard and precisely placed fast hits.

Okay, okay - this last album did taint my imagery. Guilty as charged! But it's true nonetheless. At least with this kind of speaker load (I'll briefly report on 87dB 2-ways on the next page), the Model 4717 is another solid-stater to bridge the gap with the glass bottles. It retains the rhythmic incisiveness of superior, often lower-powered (and thus not endlessly paralleled) transistors; gives great bass weight and displacement; caresses voices and strings like a thermo dude in control of his harmonic distortion (some plainly go way too far into fog-land); and emphasizes the fun'n'boogie factor over the last word in spatial delineation.

And did I 'xplain how dynamic this sucker is? Marry it to horns to become a believer (Avantgarde owners alert: This really is as no-brainer a combo --albeit financially counter-intuitive -- as you may already have been told). Trade your current land yacht speaker ride with its plush make-every-road-the-same shocks for a race-tuned roadster. You'll now sense every little dynamic bump or major pothole on your aural blacktop to appreciate its uniqueness. Depends of course on what kinda driver you are. If you want to fall asleep behind the wheel, Shigaraki's dynamic fortitude's definitely not for you. Let's now visit the YBA and Unison Research integrateds to detail out these key points in direct comparisons.