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Those who know of my Ancient Audio Air reference deck might have taken note of design aspects common to the Passeri too. There are of course significant differences but the core platform shares the same Philips drive, 6H30 output tubes, a power supply with many transformers and even the same remote. Naturally this predicts nothing about sonics though it certainly allows for guesswork. In this instance however conceptual similarities proved surprisingly convergent on sound. I believe these machines have more in common than not and even though in the final analysis they don’t sound identical they’re closer than any other two players I know. As such this review to some extent also becomes a review about my Polish Air deck.

To start with, the Singaporean player handled all kinds of music equally well. This was not a tube machine that would excel at only one genre of music where the human voice dominates – or a guitar or big band. Everything was treated as equal. In one word the Passeri’s sound would best be described as balanced. Well-tempered also fits.

This machine sucks the listener into its own world so powerfully that one pursues subsequent discs with real curiosity. One waits on what will be shown, how the music encoded in the pits and lands of a disc will be interpreted. When we choose the eponymous track from David Gilmour’s On An Island for example, we wait for what happens next as though we just heard this piece for the first time. This isn’t synonymous with an idealized sound. That’s not the case. It's about having everything well tempered. Tonal balance, dynamics, coherence etc. congregate as equally important aspects. On their own this means they don't exhibit quite the same weight as elsewhere where one or the other quality is pursued in isolation.

At this plateau these qualities simply exist. We perceive them nearly subcutaneously, not as surface but inner foundation stuff. This means that departures from expectations which are based on how we know things to sound like from other machines register with less impact on our perception of the music than they would with lesser performers.

One of the most important discriminators of such an advanced sound was the ability to ‘see’ everything at one quick glance. I cued up the Gilmour disc and immediately fell into its introspective autumnal mood. I noticed of course that the sound was slightly washed out as a toll of those years when EMI applied digital copy protection. Even so I experienced this sound painlessly from another perspective. To a large extent this was a result of great fluency and smoothness. This was a very similar sound to my Air and to an even greater extent the Ancient Audio Lektor Grand SE and Jadis JD1 MkII  + JS1 MkIII. This is a grand achievement because I’ve heard something similar only in those machines. The smoothness I reference translated to somewhat lower resolution and a slightly inferior drawing of outlines than in the Air but except for the Air I’ve never encountered such a coherent and pleasant sound for the money elsewhere.

But it was not that the midrange became dominant. Although it was promoted by the delicately foreshortened treble, this was not classic midrange prominence but a very balanced sound. The midrange remained part of a greater whole and I had no need to analyse it in isolation. The voices were simply present as were the guitars, say Jimmy Hall on Live! or the vocals of Chris Connor on Free Spirits. These aspects were strong and saturated but not oversaturated. They did not remove themselves from the mix to move forward or become enlarged compared to the rest. The virtual sizing of instruments with the Loit was exactly as I knew it from the best digital and analog sources. Stage actors weren’t as big as a good turntable casts them but also not as thin as common digital sources do it.