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The surround slot does not handle digital decoding. The optional SB-1 or SB-2 analogue boards accept the 5.1/7.1 analog outputs of a Blu-Ray machine to turn the B130+ into a multi-channel preamp with full independent control over center, sub and rear-channel levels via hidden functions in the Gizmo. Additionally there is an input marked EPS to connect the DNRG power supply for additional preamp stage reserves and another to accommodate the DenLink system for expansion into multi-room installations and communication with other Densen products. With so much connectivity on a modestly sized box there are ergonomic limitations. The Densen accommodated the two Eichmann Silver Bullet RCAs of my Signal Cable Silver Reference interconnects side by side but the thicker-barrelled X-Shadows on the Audio Art SE Reference cables wouldn’t fit. There also was insufficient room to fit the Audio Art Power 1SE power cable due to the Furutech plug’s girth. Your selection of interconnect and power cable jewellery will have to be matched properly.

The Densen was initially paired with the Bogdan Audio Creations Catalina which proved an excellent match. The Dane then saw the Apogee Duetta Signatures for a more difficult load and also saw a stint on the AudioSpace AS-3/5As to migrate into a smaller setup with a further impedance challenge. Since the 130+ can serve as  heart of an expanded system I also gave it a brief run as a preamplifier with the newly arrived H2O Audio 250S power amp. Interconnects were the Signal Cable Silver Reference with Silver Eichmann plugs due to the spacing limitations. Both Audio Art SE speaker cables and the JPS Labs Ultraconductors saw duty single run into the Catalina and bi-wired into both Apogees and AS-3/5As. The power cord was the Signal Cable Magic Power Digital Reference.

A Sampling of CDs
"Baba Yaga: Liadov" from Mephisto & Co. [Eiji Oue, Minesota Orchestra, Reference Recordings RR-82CD]. This is team Tamblyn Henderson Jr. & Keith O. Johnson’s answer to the legendary 1955 RCA Witches Brew of supernaturally inspired material. This cut has wide dynamic range with stirring crescendos married to delicate detail and rapid shifts in level. It’s only one of a solid group of cuts that tests the system and makes for thoroughly enjoyable listening as a devilishly good recording.

"Dirty Hands" from Battlestar Galactica Season 3 [Bear McCreary, La-La Land Records 1062]. McCreary demonstrates why he has so quickly become an award-winning composer with his ability to create something fresh from a rich melée of styles. Listening to this CD makes evident how much depth the television series derived from its abundance of musical context. Here a solitary mournful steel-string guitar and heavy bass build a rich Western tapestry, then blossom into something utterly different. Surprisingly varied musical styles and instruments are married to well above average recording values.

"Come my Children Dere" from On the Banks of the Helicon [The Baltimore Consort, Dorian Recordings 90139] was recorded with minimal microphones and no compression. Here we have a clean pure vocal and highly detailed instrumental accompaniment in a lively hall with wonderful acoustics and a small ensemble of early Scottish music that captures some of the life of the times on the musical side and authenticity of timbre and texture on the technical.

"Songs from the Three Penny Opera" [Weill/Blitztein/Brecht from The Four Faces of Jazz; Bernard Herrmann Mobile Fidelity UDCD672] is an interesting look at different Jazz styles from conductor/composer Bernard Herrmann. This remastering of the original London recording is a departure from many audiophile recordings. This cut along with the others is very much in your face and reflects Herrmann’s priority with capturing instrumental texture rather than venue.

"Medley of TV adventure themes" [Bond & Beyond; Erich Kunzel Telarc CD80251] packs quite a wallop and is clean, quick and dynamically alive with a huge rich sense of space. This cut honors some of the finest television composers of previous eras like Mancini, Schifrin, Hammer, Post, Goldsmith and a bevy of others in a forceful and expertly intertwined medley. A generous compilation of cuts that demonstrates the best of Telarc’s technical skill and Kunzel’s enthusiastic technique.

"Impossible" from Dark is the Way, Light is a Place [Anberlin, Universal Republic B001471002] is an ambitious release from Florida-based group Anberlin under the category Alt Rock. It embodies some of the best from 80s and 90s rock—dense, layered and delicious—and makes it relevant in a 21st century context. The performances are polished and the lead vocal shows an unusual level of command. This piece is indicative of the quality of the CD, an interesting darker pop style technically well done with a bit of over compression (which has sadly become the norm) i.e. good material from a Grammy award-winning producer. It’s a solid example of an audience not being able to get exposure to talented musicians. If it’s up your alley this deserves a listen.

If one can attribute an immediately discernable set of characteristics that stand out in the Densen B-130, resolution and dynamics would be at the top. The Densen is exceptionally agile and responsive to dynamic shifts across the entire band, resulting in broadband articulation that was refined without being in any way dynamically polite. In comparison to better tube designs or the hyper resolution of some solid state, the Densen lost a small amount of detail on leading and trailing edges, trading that for small gains in the differentiation of dynamic nuance. It established enough detail to be convincing and enough dynamic scope to be overwhelming. When paired with the Catalina the B-130 showed remarkable dynamic range with prodigious output and ease, matching the Bel Canto/AudioSpace Reference 2S pairing and behaving more like an upscale muscle amp than the 80wpc rating would suggest. The amplifier had effortless agility that enhanced the presentation and eroded differences between mechanical reproduction and natural presentation. It provided the type of musically relaxed and dynamically muscular presentation one would normally associate with highly refined unlimited horsepower.

With the Apogee the Densen lost some of that ease and dynamic agility, showing a bit of strain on higher peak levels although much articulation remained intact. The somewhat more polite presentation with the Apogee was a consequence of the speaker’s insatiable appetite for power though the performance remained impressive given the power rating and served to emphasize the magnitude of capability when allowed to work in its comfort zone.