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The Ampino is a mini power amp with integral volume pot. Single-source users won't need a preamp. In today's digital-only scenarios where a DAC routes diverse computer, streaming client or CDP signals and spits them out analog that's no longer rare. Those with multiple discrete sources or even turntables will add the Prepino, the matching preamp of the same footprint. With a matching 13 in its name, it offers six analog inputs and an optional MM phono board which converts the 6th input. And there's one output for Ampino or a competing power amp.

Whilst Prepino is the ideal playmate for Ampino, due to its special line-driver circuit whose feedback loop extends all the way to the destination including the connecting cables in-between it's particularly recommended for active speakers of which Abacus has plenty. This circuit scheme eliminates distortion and handles very long cables without issues.

Prepino surprises with its lack of input selector. That function is exclusive to the remote control. The blue display confirms the active input whilst the wand adds volume control and standby. If Ampino connects to Prepino's power outlet (a special cable is included) both machines get switched down and up in sync. The upshot? In daily use there's no reason to even touch these evil 13 twins. But before you stow the preppy one out of sight, consider whether you use headphones. There's a 6.3mm port whose adjacent 'mute' switch kills the speaker outputs.

Lending an ear (or two). The headphone thing would have to wait. I was curious what toll the intervening 5 years had taken on my ears where Ampino was concerned. Had memory added gold leaf sheen where it didn't belong? Certainly not on bass. The latest version once again surprised by just how much pressure and control this demure little box could dish.

I was in fact certain that the Ampino led my Geithain ME150 deeper underground than my Musical Fidelity AMS 35i. And we better not look at the price discrepancy. Here it was completely unbelievable what the dwarfish amp could do. It wasn't even necessary to shanghai my Exposure 2010S into action whose price more or less equals the Abacus duo. The 2010S plays it decidedly lean in the bass to be a kind of polar opposite. The shocker was that Ampino didn't just mine deep but with great control. No boom, no mud.

Though it's not really my music, I quickly developed keen pleasure of serving my neighbors with Kruder und Dorfmeister's DJ Kicks. Check out their version of “Tainted Love”. I'd immediately sign on the dotted line where Abacus claims that their amps grip speakers like a vise. But to protect the honor of my class A champion I must add that bass isn't merely about reach and grip. The Ampino was less impressive than the MuFi on color and plasticity. The latter better differentiated an upright's plucked strings though for sheer energy of tone the Ampino nearly had the advantage.

Preceded by Prepino I first noticed that the entire reading grew a tad fresher as though it was a bit brighter. I'd not invoke a shift in tonal balance, rather an injection of treble air and a dose of added dynamics. Led by its stable mate, Ampino seemed to dynamically perk up over going solo or teaming up with my Antelope Audio Zodiac + as preamp.