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Its special asset and leit motif for any listening session with it thus becomes uncompromising neutrality. But don’t equate that with a bloody massacre of your beloved recordings. As I’ve said many times before, similar no-compromise attempts in the lower price strata—say well below 10.000zł—do tend to despise inferior recordings. There zero compromise fails. The fight for an even tonal balance and ultimate transparency lacks the proper resolution to flesh it out materially. One ends up with something squeaky clean and transparent but not much music.

With the AMP-150 it can clearly be heard that the idea was to similarly strip the sound of distortion and colorations (which are merely another form of distortion). But because this is a true high-end effort, other vital aspects which fill out this clean sheet or empty frame are present. Here the midrange profits most of all.

At first we’ll notice the treble. That I’ll get to in a moment. The midrange shows how high power, low distortion and low noise—all the usual attributes of a solid-state amplifier—can translate into a sound that’s usually reserved for tube amplifiers. Yet I am most assuredly not talking about warmth. Rather its the ability to exhibit a fleshy properly developed vocal band. This is where the Danish amp surprised me the most.

I listened to the trumpet of Donald Byrd from The Cat Walk and froze. The intensity of the warm midrange (which is how this instrument sounds in the reissue) combined with the ability to sustain sounds when no longer transient-impact loud but still requiring significant staying power was remarkable. The same occurred with otherwise calm keyboards and electronics instruments whose attacks can routinely clip amplifiers. All the virtual stage actors were very free surrounded by depths and breadth and though detail was well above average it never congealed into a wall of sound but remained a multitude of simultaneous events.

Such dynamics are usually easier achieved with tube amps which compress and clip softly to fool our ears into not noticing it. Once we compare such behavior with something as unrestrained as today's Gato amp we realize that while with tubes a given frequency band of an instrument will be very pleasing indeed, another area suffers veiling such as reduced treble clarity or outlines obscuring into the background and similar side effects. The AMP-150 was beyond any such power limits yet it didn't turn brutal as can often happen with muscle amps.

In tandem with high detail came the ability to differentiate. This amplifier will reveal more in a recording than we could imagine. Differences between various editions, pressings or performers will be clear as day. After Byrd I spun the Miles Davis Seven Steps To Heaven release in a splendid Analogue Production reissue and it was immediately clear that here we had a different musician with a different instrument playing a different venue. The AP crew converted the master tape without any compression and the resultant sound is far more violent and energetic in the top end than expected. Here the trumpet could really pierce which was also as a result of how differently David played the instrument but the Danish amp parlayed all of it without hesitation.

Yet it didn’t default into blatantly showing off any fixation on details. The effect was often amazing but after a few weeks of listening I began to think that this degree of resolution/magnification was merely a side effect of neutrality and concomitant refusal to manipulate the signal. Extra-musical elements like recorded piano pedal action, the squeak of a chair, the rustle of score sheets turned which are often lost in noise or covered up by louder signal were very clear. Yet they never intruded in the main event of the music itself. They simply attributed to the illusion that mechanical playback was in fact real.

After commenting on the midrange and resolution one arrives at having to make a decision. Is this amplifier for us? Here of course I refer to a potential client. My personal feelings should never influence others. Whether a reviewer likes something more or less, what his notions on the ideal/absolute sound are remain of course important bits of information but secondary rather than primary. They can assist decision making but never replace it.

Making a decision becomes necessary here as it won’t be a sound that satisfies one and all. This is a fundamentally ultra transparent clean presentation which resembled the Krell EVO222+EVO442 combo with slightly higher midrange saturation and superior differentiation power. This made it utterly different from the Atoll INT400 I just reviewed for Audio and different also from the Mark Levinson N° 531 (Audio 12/2010). The Gato amp arrives at its vocal band saturation with linearity, phase coherence and a removal of distortion rather than contouring the bracketing bands by softening the treble or boosting the upper bass. This degree of lucidity and fully developed treble won’t suit many speakers. I’d certainly stay clear of the German Physiks HRS120 Carbon and pursue something along the lines of an Avalon Ascendant or Isophon Berlina RC7 – speakers with creamy textures that won’t harden transients.

The AMP-150’s top end is ferociously clean and resolved. This can nearly suggest that there’s too much of it. Yet there is no glare or glint. The amount of detail in the upper part of the audible spectrum is simply so high that at a 2-4m distance from the speakers it can seem higher than realistic. The issue of sound reproduction in the home rather than the amp itself intrudes but the result is nonetheless as described. The bass meanwhile is very different from the treble, i.e. different from a Krell and on timbre perhaps closest to a valve amp or solid-state BAT. The attack is slightly softened and the upper bass flat. My understanding became that with more powerful goosed harder bass (of which Krell amps were often accused) the tonal balance would shift to result in a contoured voicing which would grow tiresome over time.