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Redbook used was Hèléne Schmitt’s Piéces pour violon et basse continue by Bach, serious music and serious sound engineering for serious hifi equipment; Neville Brothers’ Yellow Moon signally embodying the Daniel Lanois production credo (the nearest approach to a nonexisting original event); and, from an undead analog master, the decadent banshee romance Pampered Menial by Pavlov’s Dog.

Starting with Bach, strings were tonally perfect—raspy, angelic or somber as required—but possibly enhanced by the instruments ballooning like something out of Alice in Wonderland. The harpsichord was both precise and rhythmically supple if slightly untethered. Not to worry, these were standard planar quirks which could be tamed by turning down the volume. Thumbing the ergonomically laudable remote had the effect of cutting things down to size while revealing totally unexpected low-level delicacy and transparency (various output readouts were neatly and conveniently logged on the sky-blue display). This in my book is a hallmark of true quality and suggestive of very high-grade electronics particularly since planars are not generally known for late-night capabilities.

The Neville Brother’s harmonies on the eternal "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" were duly moving while Lanois’ impeccable production values were revealed by the fantastic instrumental placement which underpins the vocals and was aided by the fact that, to these ears at least, planars ultimately sound more alluring than real.

Pavlov’s "Dance Song" is a hellish concoction of sophisticated songwriting, Seventies compression extravaganzas and a frightening lust for power. At barely sub-concert levels, the end result was simply exhilarating: bungee grin, flapping hands, jivin’ knees - the works. It was a full tribute to the Brinkmann grunt and the speakers’ power-handling capabilities. It’s not easy to combine jackhammer drive, electric bass articulation and perfectly pitched shrieks. On the debit side the dated recording technique did away with any pretense of dimensionality.

So far so good. Having proven the Brinkmanns’ technical prowess, it was time to test their musicality by hitching them to The Best All Round Speaker in The World, the Harbeth Compact 7. Full disclosure: though a Tannoy man, I am  a ranting raving Harbeth fanatic. The only reason I don’t own the Compact 7 is that being spatially challenged by my outsize  Yorkminsters, I bought the Harbeth HLP3-SR shoe boxes as my alternates instead.

So, plunking the latest model ES-3 on massive if nameless 40cm speaker stands with no particular care—you could plunk the Compacts on kitchen chairs—I gave the test discs another spin. I will not bore readers needlessly by listing the ways in which I loved the Harbeths more (they even gave Pavlov a soundstage). Suffice to say that I used these €2.320 speakers to evaluate €23.145 of electronics and that I did not consider this in any way a mismatch except by commercial standards, which, since I don’t buy hifi for a living, concerned me not at all.

As validated by the Compact 7, my final impression is that the Brinkmanns are truly distinctive amplification devices characterized by world-class build, a total absence of grain, exemplary composure, excellent low and high volume capabilities and the kind of overall tonal integration and luminosity which can only be obtained by a competent and dedicated designer. Personally I consider them a wholly acceptable alternative to my favorite Nagra tubed line stage and giant DHTs. For high power transistor amps, that‘s saying a lot.

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