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Par for the same course was bass which didn't track into the abyss hard as nails. Sub bass attenuated poco a poco whilst loosening its grip as well. But what lacked in the first octave was made up for in the upper bass/lower midrange transition. Hence the impression of warmth and good overall balance. It's a quite common trick but properly pulled off still effective. The two extra fingers of girth here didn't obscure musically vital detail but created the overall tonal impression. Here that's in fact the core task of the bass range. Anyone after maximal shove and attack will logically look elsewhere.

Mated to a speaker with a properly developed foundation, the small Mastersound renders acoustic instruments like double bass, big drums, concert piano and such natural and well timed, neither truly dry nor shoddily loose. And a bit of fine-tuning is available with the transformer output tabs. The 4-ohm option was a bit tauter but also more subdued whilst the 8-ohm terminal was juicer and also softer and looser. Depending on the music one or the other terminal was the more convincing.

The opposite end of the scale acted slightly defensive. Here the Mastersound played it more subdued than the Denon, albeit more resolved at that. Glockenspiel and cymbals felt true and physical and decays lingered long and nicely teased out where the Japanese transistors were more silvery, flatter, less feathered out and in the final analysis less true.

On the flip side of the same equation, brasses over the Denon acquired a tad more cutting power, be it Miles Davis' trumpet or Anders Paulsson's soprano sax. Here the Mastersound focused on substance and warmth. The small Italian handled the upper registers with sensibility but care. In the same vein the most sharply honed transients weren't its thing either. This didn't mean sleepiness but a bit more bite on a hard piano attack, a snare or plucked guitar string wouldn't go amiss. In this price class that's simply routinely accompanied by less overall resolution and disconcerting hardness. The Dueundici handled the treble with subtlety and long-term comfort rather than crispness.

The best part were the mids. Here one may rightfully invoke 'positively valves' and not merely because of the aforementioned minor tendency for warmth. Two further virtues factored into this equation which, poetry alert, might be called fluidity and plasticity. The former is a bit difficult to nail. Have you ever experimented with a super tweeter? Mostly it won't translate into sounding brighter or more extended on high. Rather it's in the spatial dimension where it weighs in as a kind of elasticity which envelopes the midband and refashions former dryness and excess outline sharpness into something milder but more natural.

Many feel similarly about a good analog front-end versus a lesser digital equivalent. Aside from response differences and mechanical noises, vinyl tends to be more nubile and fluid from the midband on up which isn't solely the outcome of greater tonal warmth. And here the small Italian was similar. Exactly why it sounded so darn fluid—whether it had anything to do with my super tweeter parallel or the analog/vinyl detour—I'm not sure. All I know is that it acted as an antidote to the dry porosity of other amps in this price range. Be it the vague 'valve magic' reason or class A single-ended circuitry, there was no doubt that it played more fluidly to make even more critical albums more palatable.