This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

I was reminded already during the first session that the input sensitivity of these monoblocks is very low. Without a high-gain preamplifier (and/or source) you won’t hear much. But this might have been expected. There's only one output transistor per channel which acts as pure current buffer and Mr. Wojciech made no bones about his designs having no voltage gain. With my 86dB Harpia Dobermann speakers and the Ayon Polaris II preamp I had to set the volume knob to almost max. I had no issues with that but it was still clear how the amplifier was really begging for higher efficiency speakers, a different preamplifier or a higher-gain source. This was interesting. The unit is specified as outputting 10 watts into 8Ω yet the Japanese Airtight ATM-300 I listened to just a day prior played much louder with its 8 watts of 300B power (and voltage gain). Here one could also see the basic difference between tubes and transistors. Tubes clip softly. They will sound subjectively louder albeit with higher distortion.

Although the nowe monos had to wait for more appropriate speakers, I could already identify something about them. They were supremely natural, neither tube nor transistor but instead endowed with their own sound, slightly soft not due to mellowing the edges but for a wholesale lack of sting and sharpness. Everything was well balanced except perhaps for a pervasive lightness in the bass. But here I needed to be patient for other speakers before I could make any final judgment. The treble was incredibly resolved, leaning a bit toward 300B terrain. The sound with the Dobermann speakers was not as palpable as over the ATM-300, never mind the Art Audio Jota Sentry. But differentiation and microdynamics were outstanding already.

The longer I listened to these new amps from Gdansk, the more I understood their appeal. At least to my mind critical listening sessions cannot be performed ‘cold’. To evaluate a sound properly, one has to become a participant, enter the presentation, confront it with what one knows and over time allow for it to take control. Only then may one return to observer status from the other side as it were. Music is about emotions. Llistening is very emotional. When nothing moves us, it becomes just an intellectual game. That makes no sense. Then it’s better to go out for a beer as time better spent. To complete this emotional transfer relies on a sort of translation from the component’s presentation to our way of evaluating things and our individual sensitivity. This is why there are as many versions of musical pieces as there are listeners. It's this very infinity which makes the art of music beautiful.

Of course one cannot forget about analysis. Analysis creates necessary boundaries and references in both positive and negative ways. But analysis will be effective only if we have some personal feelings for the device under review first. I believe that the "non-involved observational entity" is a harmful straw man invented by the fundamentalists. Perhaps it’s a correct concept ideologically but in the real world it’s impossible to apply. In any case with the mono3.5 not everything I eventually understood was clear from the beginning. I had to work with that sound and let it confront my internal models. At the end of the fourth month I finally felt I understood the ins and outs.

This amp is a most brilliant tool. It should be present in every recording studio and audio salon and also in the systems of certain music lovers. Alas it’s clearly not for everybody. A system has to be built around this amplifier, not the other way around. Many systems are out of the question where other elements are as or even more important or because the room becomes too large. The power output here is deliberately limited. This can be heard much clearer than with tube amplifiers of comparable or even lesser power.

The nowe audio amplifiers hit clipping abruptly. They are clean and clean and then they break up. So the first limit is room size. If we use the amplifier to power all drivers in a loudspeaker, the speaker shouldn’t be too big. The second thing is speaker efficiency: "The mono3.5 is a high-current device for which I envisioned loudspeakers of 90dB (2.83V/1m) or higher efficiency, with low impedance of preferably 2-ohm minimum similar to a Lumen White Silver Flame (91.5dB, minimum 4 ohm), KEF Reference 207 (91dB, minimum 3.2 ohm) or Sonus Faber Amati Homage (92dB, minimum 2.2 ohm). Increasing the efficiency of the loudspeakers by 6dB means lowering the preceding voltage gain requirements of the amplifier by half for the same output level. Loudspeakers of 86dB efficiency need an 8V input, loudspeakers with 92dB efficiency need 4V." And "we get good bass with higher efficiency and lower impedance loudspeakers where strong neodymium magnets replace amplifier power."