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Whilst the integrated’s balanced circuit remains unchanged, naturally the firm lists numerous enhancements. Those include two power transformers scaled up from 130 to 170VA per side. Their higher-voltage secondaries increased output by about 15 watts to now make 80 into 8. New capacitors in the 2 x 37.200µF filter array sport lower resistive losses. New circuit boards replace their single-layer predecessors with through-hole construction and two-sided 70µm copper traces which are reinforced in critical power supply junctions. Revised PCB layout significantly shortened the signal path and improved shielding, the ground plane and overall mechanical stability. Those facts led to markedly lower distortion according to Bohlmeier who also invoked broader bandwidth and lower phase shift. The upper response specification now reads 250kHz. All of these changes are chassis compatible. The new boards thus fit all previous versions of the model. Such a board upgrade inclusive of new valves will cost €2'360. Depending on age, it's not always possible to also replace the transformers but where possible and if desired, this service is available for another €800.

I listened to the Einstein predominantly over the Ascendo System F, a three-way bandpass speaker with optional ambient tweeter to go four-way. I also had on hand Blumenhofer’s Genuin FS2, a high-efficiency two-way with tweeter horn, i.e. two quite different speaker types. Most of my electronic A/Bs came by way of my customary pre/power combo of Octave HP300 preamp and Electrocompaniet AW180 monos. Those ca. €11.000 separates exceed the Einstein by quite an amount, never mind the extra power cord and interconnect required. Even optically and on weight and rack fill this made for quite an imbalance but as a reference point to a luxury integrated it remained most suitable. I figured the Absolute Tune simply might have to stretch a bit. One first evening's audition later and just who would have to stretch was no longer as clear cut. Occasionally one still gets surprised.

Granted, my ‘fat’ combo had its advantages. But so did the Einstein. At the end of the day it was about musical preferences and aural tastes. An unequivocal better-than just didn’t factor. Which in my book rather favored the city slicker from Bochum because it burns a smaller hole in your wallet and takes up less space in the rack. How the Einstein seduced the ear wasn’t as easily identified. Though meaningful its subtleties at first approached the subliminal to take me time to understand. This Absolute Tune is a very balanced decidedly elegant sounding machine and an all’rounder rather than any eccentric. In general its tonality felt centered and even. Any deviations from mythical neutral were nuances rather than traits. That said a few things were clear. In the upper bass/lower mid transition there was an added finger's girth or two. And whilst the treble was clear, I’ve encountered more gleam elsewhere. Here the Einstein played it a bit more cautious.

Where the cellar was concerned, I couldn’t decide whether I preferred my separates or the integrated. Here one had to distinguish between different registers, productions and instruments. On the Ed Jones Quartet’s "Homegrown" from their Totally Wired II album,  I liked the e-bass runs better over the integrated since it sounded juicier and in the positive sense of the word more energetic where my usual combo approached a more academic reading.

That lightly drier slimmer demeanor had advantages elsewhere, say on “Thin Line Man” from Giant Sand’s Berry Blue Mountain. Here drums and e-bass were recorded a tad too fluffy, loose and spongy whence a grippier hand came in – well, handy. One can’t have everything. What feels a bit cerebral with one album is just right on another. But these were nuances again. In general I’d call the quality of bass with the Einstein semi dry, i.e. a clever compromise between fulsome and articulated. In the abyss it was astonishingly substantial but here more brutality, might and pressure are possible elsewhere which became apparent on electronica. Here I fancied the German/Norwegian combo more but double bass on Jazz ensembles always put the Einstein first.