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The rhythmically and emotionally moving "Long Train Running" showed into which league the Magnat belonged well outside mastery of the bass. As mentioned, Joy & Pain is a live affair. Now full recovery of ambient data becomes vital to properly convey a live concert feel in the domestic hot seat. No problem for the beast from Pulheim/Cologne. McClain's eight-headed tour combo has to take up proper space with its opulent wind/keyboard section of tenor sax, horns, trumpets, stage piano and hammond organ. It must register in sufficient breadth and can't feel jammed up. No worries. The RV-3 cast an airily atmospheric sense of recorded space whose depth and width felt generous but not artificially ballooned. Some competitors will stake out overall stage coordinates even farther apart to give individual performers even more room to breathe. The recently reviewed Perreaux Audiant 80i from New Zealand was one such space meister. Whilst one would be correct to point out that it's not always appropriate to stage that vast, it was certainly a charming faible which other listeners could praise effusively. No matter, with the RV-3 the localization of individual sounds on stage was as specific as one could wish.

This extended into a wonderfully uncoloured midband which managed just the right balance of neutral without getting boringly 'flat' but rather do it silkily natural with believable body. Thus the acoustic guitars and piano of Jupiter Jones' "Rennen + Stolpern" from Das Gegenteil von allem sounded exactly like unplugged instruments should, with the piano tangibly large and flooding the space where individual hammer falls decayed gently without hyper illumination. Depending on recording quality, voices appeared more or less sharply outlined ahead of the instruments and remained tacit in all their inflections and emotive hues. And that had me involved in the action rather than as an observer on the sidelines to wonder once more whether a costlier amp would trigger the same feelings just because it was pricier.

My Symphonic Line RG9 Mk4 picked up that challenge and lost out again. Sobering but true. In the direct A/B and not as a class chasm but still of note, it lacked the same soul on which the Magnat with its mixture of fat tone colors, musical flow and dynamic verve touched upon in all situations. I frankly didn't expect an offset of such poignancy. Transitions between the registers of various instruments were seamless to imbue the overall presentation with a seductively catchy, swinging and groovy vibe. To put it plain, if you listen to this amp with rhythmically happy music of any kind and don't catch yourself snapping fingers or tapping toes... well, sorry pardner but your game's gone. Truly!

Here it's relevant to add that our hybrid didn't give up its infectious joy of play at lower levels. Obviously punch and attack impress more at blow-dryer intensity. But sometimes—not everyone has neighbors as tolerant as I do—it's simply not in the cards. Now it's gratifying to know that a hifi component delivers the message even at modest outputs. It's a demand not all machines are equally equal to. Neither my Yamaha A-S 1000 nor Symphonic Line could match the Magnat. At low levels both turned strangely flat and pale, the Japanese more so but even my German reference felt less up to the task during whisper sessions.

By now you'll have figured that I wouldn't find fault with Mr. Cool Ribs in the high end either. Quite the opposite. The treble was crisp, brilliant, detailed and inclusive without veering into the crystalline or glassy. On this quality I like to take the full measure with 1980's Pop, say Michael Jackson's 1987 Platinum bestseller Bad. At the end of that decade the trend to dynamically compress for louder air play had come home to roost. As a result its productions slam aggressively for full-on disco readiness but also hiss and fizz terribly in the treble. Over a modern audiophile-approved hifi, such mixes get nearly intolerable. Not so with the Magnat. It was clear on recorded faults as it should have been but didn't belabour them. Hence this disc cracked, swirled, grooved and hissed in proper zeitgeist mode and I still loved every minute of it.