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What music lover could talk of bass, mids or treble whilst admiring the wonderful Leontyne Price as a fiery gypsy in Carmen; or witnessing how she builds up intense drama which points us at inevitable tragedy around the bend all with that incredible voice? Would you really want to consider as unforgettable a voice as Luciano Pavarotti's using qualifiers like timbre or texture while he sings O sole mio with a smile on his face? Or while you 'see' seriousness, fear and hope on his countenance with Nessun dorma from Turandot? When listening to the AMP-12R, there's no way you could. You just sit there trying not to lose a second of this wonderful performance because on a subconscious level you fear it's nothing but a one-time fluke. Obviously all you need to do is hit 'repeat'. But that's cold hard reason. It won't really work during your first encounter. And you know what they say about first times. You never really forget 'em.

Listening to the same piece for a second or third time, you already know what to expect. Though it's still an amazing experience, it's not as intense as the first. Now you can probably spot some other elements of the performance you didn't separate out then. So I did the only thing I could think of. I played more and more albums like an adrenalin junky needing a new fix over and over again. It took me a while to satisfy that urge. When I finally did, I could start to try analysing what I'd just heard. Vocals, obviously meaning midrange, were impressively rich, detailed, smooth and palpable. But there was one more feature, not just the vocal band, which really stood out. That was overall clarity and transparency which might have been the key to the uniqueness of this performance. The Bakoon presented both texture and timbre of voices in a very natural yet detailed fashion. There was this 'human element' to each and every voice as something that made them sound unusually authentic. This creates a bond with the listener and had me believe I listened to a blood and flesh person.

I point once more at my experience with the HPA-21. Perception of such immediate contact was similar even though I'd used headphones then and now had speakers. Both surprised me. To be honest, I didn't really expect such an intense emotional experience from transistor decks as that is something usually only very good SET amplifiers give me. So I must express my respect for Bakoon's designers for achieving it with their SATRI current circuit and Mosfet output transistors. That's one of the things I love about hifi. There are always surprises.

In the above recordings of Leontyne Price and Luciano Pavarotti there of course were accompanying orchestras. These might have been in the background but still played a very important role. With both pairs of quite efficient speakers, the 12R was fully capable of delivering, at reduced scale of course, orchestral dynamics and even the very sudden voltage swings which move suddenly from full-scale fff to whisper ppp. Very important was how detailed the sound remained even at low levels. An operatic orchestra in the typical pit isn't really spread out in space very well but when I switched to Beethoven's 9th under Boehm, this all changed. Now there were rows and groups of instruments nicely placed at both width and depth across the soundstage. Clarity with very good resolution and selectivity allowed me to zoom in on any instrumental group and investigate the timbres of strings or brasses at will.

Despite such selectivity, the very fluid gestalt combined the action of all instrumental sections to have me perceive the orchestra as one huge instrument playing wonderful music in perfect sync. It sounded truly mighty when needed and very gentle at pianissimo. This particular recording of the 9th Symphony is conducted at a brisk pace and very dynamic. It's why I like it so much but it's also what makes for such a good testing ground of amps and speakers. The AMP-12R passed this test smoothly which was a surprise considering its limited output power.

After my initial experience with vocals I already knew that it'd deal with acoustic music with similar grace and class. It's mostly about the midrange. If you hear an amplifier play vocals brilliantly, it will almost always play acoustic guitar, violin or saxophone just as well. One of the recordings I'd used during my Sugden IA-4 review was the famous Jazz at the Pawnshop. With that experience still freshly on my mind, I decided to play it again. It was already clear that whilst I liked both amps very much, the AMP-12R and IA-4 still offered different sonic flavors. The former delivered very even response without ups and downs, the latter powerful deep bass and a very dense midrange which combined created an impression of a slightly darker sound. So I wondered how the Bakoon would render this recording. I'd truly enjoyed the very rich dense but still vibrant sound of the British integrated. As expected the Bakoon was different, not as dense but with slightly faster more powerful attacks and for lack of a better word more glitter or sheen.