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The first listening night we noticed the warm glow of the amber standby LEDs and the silent transition to active duty by means of the frontal knob which also switches in the upfiring white LEDs to back light the Plexi screen. Prior to the Kaivalyas we had played the Pnoe without preamp as well but at the time with the Hypex Ncore 1200 power amps which pleased us with their lack of coloration, distortion and thus ‘signature’. That was our reference. To get a feel for the Serbians we went through a whole range of musical styles, from simple to complex and light to heavy. Rated at 25wpc into 8Ω—in our case the 16Ω load meant ca. 12wpc into a high 100dB sensitivity—they were more than sufficient to produce a realistic image on both size and sound pressure.

In one of his reviews Srajan mentioned the piece "Promenade" by a trio formed around pianist Vassili Tsabropoulous with cello and percussion [Melos, ECM]. This Greek pianist is a leading proponent of what we call the arpeggio mafia, hence the addition of two extra musicians on this particular track raised the bar significantly. Where the same track on Vassili’s previous solo album makes any system sound ‘great’ as there is only one note played at a time (just like Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits) the trio version is far more interesting.

Next to the warm and closely miked con-arco cello, percussionist U.T. Ghandi at certain points hits a tiny bell that rings on and on after that piercing initial hit. At least when the Ncore amps were on duty. With the Kaivalyas the decay was noticeably shorter and soon overruled by the piano.

The speed of these amplifiers was abundantly evident during lightning-fast guitar licks from the Rosenberg trio or Romane. When acoustic guitar was swapped for the electric variety, the EL84s did not hide that it was them which basically created the electric guitar sound we know today. Blues Rock is certainly a strong point of the Kaivalyas. From there it was a small step to rediscover some Shakti recordings in our music drawers. Ingenious and fast tabla, mridangam and ghatam rhythms layered on and under John McLaughlin’s eccentric 13-string acoustic guitar mimicking a sitar combined with a jazzy violin made us aware that we had left these recordings unplayed for too long.

The Kaivalya in our big room and with our large single-driver horns produced a sound that was not to be confused with a tube-like typical 2A3 or 300B sound. There was character however. That is best described as fast, clean and solid. In our case the output transformers coupled directly to the voice coils of the speakers without any crossover electronics to provide full control and steer the drivers with ease. Bass was thus perky and one strong point of PPP designs—slam—was abundant. When we altered the setup and moved the Kaivalya to the Avantgarde Duo, the Serbians were discharged of full duty for the lower range. Below 270Hz now was the domain of the self-powered woofers. Still presenting a 16Ω load, the volume could now be turned down a few clicks because of the extreme sensitivity of these hornspeakers.

Compared to the Pnoe the Germans are more forward and far less forgiving of any harshness in the signal path. We used the same front end to drive the white amplifiers to get a fair comparison. With the Duo in the chain some recordings with a lot of brass exhibited some hard edges. This we also found with flamenco vocals. Female voices got just a bit of an edge - not much but once noticed it kept returning.