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What remains the same are premium parts including an Alps pots, top-line WBT connectors, Topcap and Nichicon capacitors, RS switches and pure silver signal wiring. The tubes are top 10% Chinese sourced. The proprietary floating sockets for the 300B tubes are maintained as is the massive chassis construction.

"The components below deck are housed inside a double-layer chassis. The inner layer is a 1.2mm alloy casing while the outer shell is made of heavy-gauge top-grade stainless steel polished to a mirror. The twin layers provide excellent shielding against RFI and RMI. Front and rear panel are 15mm aluminum in brushed clear anodize. The black anodized heavy-gauge square aluminum pipes on either side cancel out high-level microphonics exhibited by the 300Bs. They also absorb unwanted vibrations and act as heat sinks for the internal parts, keeping them within their thermal operating range. The special designed spiked footers and aluminum disks provide added vibration isolation for the system."

"Our original floating sockets benefit the critical direct-heated 300B drivers. These floating sockets are based on seismic shock control technology and contain the same patented rubber material that is used in earthquake prevention devices in the construction industry in Japan...
There also are high performance transformers with low leakage geometries and multiple shielding."

All this adds up to a lot of sophisticated hardware at a fair price - and the promise for a high level of performance.

The 45lb/20.5kg Reference 2S arrived double boxed and cradled inside a good quantity of thick formed foam, with additional foam around each tube. The aluminum discs for the isolation feet are individually packed, then group wrapped in foam as is the remote. Befitting a reference product, Audio Space also includes a cleaning cloth and a pair of white gloves plus the obligatory owner's manual and power cord.

Overall build quality is heavyweight, with premium parts that live up to their name. The controls function perfectly, the  volume control is silky smooth, the selector knob positive in action and all connectors fit snugly. The 3/4 pound metal remote is attractive, simple and solid. The RCA connectors are fitted with color-coded soft rubber caps. The integral resonance control of floating tube sockets to counter microphonics as well as spiked feet on a set of padded aluminum bases appear well thought-out and executed.

In short, the product exudes luxury and proudly displays its assortment of valves on deck.

The designer recommends that the Reference 2S not be kept powered up indefinitely. His machine incorporates a muting relay and will achieve optimum performance in about 15 to 20 minutes. It defaults to low feedback mode when powered up. My system was configured with the preamp run directly into the Bel Canto amplifier to check for coherence and tonal accuracy with my Apogee speakers running full range. It was also configured with the Paradigm electronic crossover inserted between preamp and amplifier to examine compatibility and extreme low-bass character. Outboard isolation devices were not used on the preamp to maintain the integrity of the designer’s own resonance control system. The unit was run with both stock and upgraded power cord. The principal benefit of the upgraded power cord was improved low level resolution. CDs were chosen to test the capabilities of the Reference 2S and included the following:

Cut 3 "Lost in the Stars" from the Radka Toneff Steve Dobrogosz CD Fairy Tales [Odin CD-03] - a piano with rich luxurious decay and warm luminous vocals.
Cut 1 "El Choclo" from the CD Sera una Noche La Segunda  [M.A recordings M062A].  A superb minimalist, high sampling rate recording in a cavernous acoustic space. Warmth, delicacy, natural instrumental timbre and an energetic interplay of percussion, clarinet and guitar.
Cut 1 "The Little Barley-Corne" from the Toronto Consort CDThe Little-Barley-Corne Winter Revels from the Renaissance  [Dorian DOR-93186]  Warm acoustic. Simple miking with good dynamics and soundstage takes advantage of a large airy venue with good instrumental and vocal timbres.
Cut 5 "Korngold: Violin Concerto in D Major" from the Mathe, DSO and Litton reading of the Korngold: Sinfonietta &Violin Concerto [Dorian  DOR - 90216].  Non-hyped recording which doesn’t employ traditional close-mike spotlighting and achieves a very romantic natural tonal balance especially on the violin.  One can clearly hear the origins of pieces by modern composers like Courage and Williams.

Cut 3 "The Rose" from Amanda McBroom & Lincoln Mayorga's Growing up in Hollywood Town [Sheffield Lab CD13]. The piano is well captured with wide dynamics and a good sense of proportion. Good separation from McBroom’s vocal line which is natural and powerful with rich inflections. Good natural ambient information.
Cut 8 "Amanda" from the same CD. A combination of very delicate textures and powerfully rising dynamics with tremendous percussive snap. Properly reproduced, this one displays its analog origins and can sound very natural.
Cut 1 "Falla: El Sombrero de Tres Picos" from L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ansermet's  Falla: El Sombrero de Tres Picos & El Amor Brujo [Decca 466 991-2 DM]. A huge soundstage. Vocals are crisply defined and the opening female vocal creates the illusion of pressurizing the hall. The castanets are beautifully defined with edge and body. A natural recording without exaggeration.
Cut 2 "Child in Time" from Deep Purple Made in Japan  [DCC GZS1120]  Live classic rock recording. Instruments are visceral and the percussion is almost 3D. The recording captures the live quality of the original venue.
Cut 1 "Bach: Allegro from Brandenburg Concerto N°. 3 from Gittar-Kvartetten Transcriptions  [Opus 3 CD7810]. A deceptively simple guitar recording. Fine detail work and hall acoustic. The tonal character can reveal both body and string. A component should reproduce both but will often favor one or the other.
Cut 2 "Kiss Me" from Spies [Telarc CD-85503]. Jazz fusion with Telarc's traditional strong suit of deep bass and dynamic power. A mix of real and electronic instrument. Surprisingly warm and dimensional with fast transient attack and fine texture. Good differentiation of instrument lines.