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Sound - a selection of recordings used during my auditions: Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, Friday night in San Francisco, Philips 800 047-2, CD/FLAC; The Oscar Peterson Trio, We Get Request, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 032, CD/FLAC; Beethoven, Symphonie No. 9, Deutsche Grammophon, DG 445 503-2, CD/FLAC; Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11, EMI Music Poland, 5651702, CD/FLAC; Marcus Miller, A night in Monte Carlo, Concord Records, B004DURSBC, CD/FLAC; Eva Cassidy, Eva by heart, Blix Street 410047, CD/FLAC; John Lee Hooker, The best of friends, pointblank, 7243 8 46424 26 VPBCD49, CD/FLAC.; Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin, Atlantic/Warner Music, WPCR-11611, CD/FLAC; AC/DC, Back in black, SONY, B000089RV6, CD/FLAC; Hugh Masakela, Hope, Triloka, 7930185215-2, CD/FLAC; Pink Floyd, Animals, Capitol, B000024D4R, CD/FLAC.

Before my audition I had some concerns whether the preamp wasn’t tailor-made to fit Audiomatus amplifiers and hence wouldn’t work as well with another maker's amplifier. Just a few minutes of listening paired with my ModWright power amp was enough to know that my fears were unfounded. In recent months during which I auditioned a lot of DACs, I developed a habit of writing down my first impression that often very accurately described the most important feature of a given machine. Here I jotted down what dynamite! In the case of tubed preamplifiers or amplifiers, dynamics are very rarely the first feature to draw attention. Smoothness, fluidity, sweetness of midrange... that’s what I expect instead and usually get unless we consider great amplifiers from Gerhard Hirt, say the Ayon Crossfire III when indeed dynamite blasts from the speakers. But that's a pretty much isolated example additionally concerning an integrated amplifier and not a single part of the amplification chain, in this case a preamp.

Because I know the ModWright amp very well, I’m fully aware that dynamics are not its strongest suit. Yet the Audiomatus preamp added an immediate ‘Wow!’. The KWA100SE simply had never before rocked out this hard. And it wasn’t even AC/DC that started the audition but one of Marcus Miller’s albums on which his bass turned into pure TNT. Excellent strong tight extension—downright liver-massaging at times and charged with heaps of energy—gave the impression of greater dynamics than with the ModWright. preamp. The latter was admittedly a little weightier in the bass but not quite as fast. With the Audiomatus it was not however sound on steroids artificially inflated but pure raw energy which the bass guitar doesn’t lack live but its reproduction on a home hifi so often does. Each pluck of the string was a snappy lightning-fast attack either instantly suppressed or deliberately decaying at length. Great timing and rhythm complemented this set of features which made me look slightly different at Marcus Miller’s music which gained a new personal status of über-dynamic string plucking.

Following up I just had to listen to the Australian rockers from AC/DC. Again I was impressed by the dynamics and energy of the reading. This is of course exactly what that music is like - always dynamic, with constant charges of energy which many younger bands should envy against these after all no longer youngest of musicians. With my LS100 and my speakers there wasn't this same level of expression and momentum as the Audiomatus preamp delivered. At the same time there was no trace of excess aggression, no loss of control or sight of the whole picture. Dynamic yes, energetic very much so, clear and lucid exceptionally so yet no chaos, no sharpening or any other negative manifestations of such a unique expressiveness.

The TP-01 also did very well with older rock music like Floyd or Zeppelin. I would describe its sound as very clean and transparent which worked perfectly with older recordings because they grew a bit clearer and more vivid than they'd been with the LS100. The ModWright is rather focused on weight and body, hence it appears warm especially in the midrange. This kind of modification affects our perception in a particular way. The sound seems somewhat less resolved and transparent. Is it really - less resolved? No, it’s not but our ears are easy to fool. Old rock recordings seem a bit darker than most current productions so when the TP-01 springs into action with its spontaneity and transparency, it brightens them somewhat in the most positive meaning of the word. This brightening results in apparently higher resolution simply because it is easier to see all the details, nuances and subtleties.