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Discs used—my choice—were Daniel Lanois’ productions of Dylan’s Oh Mercy and Emmy Lou Harris’ by now legendary Wrecking Ball - plus Jordi Savall’s alt.baroque Altre follie and his supremely elegant Don Quijote. To avoid a surfeit of class, cheapest thrills were provided by the unspeakably vulgar Judas Priest Angel of Retribution which must be the most compressed recording ever made.

The 25sqm. listening room was professionally damped with Echo Buster panels visible in the pictures while all speakers not in use were shorted out. The LS35a enjoyed a possibly necessary tweak, the heavy Hifi United Music Tools high-grade dedicated stands which unquestionably make a difference.

Warm up was a sober 15 minutes since these are practical beam tetrodes, not NOS rarities. As for the verdict, I’ll spare everyone the boredom of track-by-track comparisons so as to concentrate on the partnering results

LS35a: No surprises here. Excellent frequency response, with the V40 controlling and smoothing out the Rogers’ nearfield fake bass hump to perfection and keeping the tweeters’ inherent dryness at bay with no concessions to glow bottle romanticism whatsoever. Midrange was textbook, a usual for the LS. Excess detail and hints of nasality, which on the contrary is where the LS35a trips up even high-grade solid states, were exchanged for a tranquil transparency. The only hint of mismatch was when lack of apparent distortion pushed the drivers to their limits. There simply was too much clean power on tap for these shoe boxes as was made apparent by Judas’ satanist shrieks. Succinctly put, if you’re not a LS devotee, you’d be even better off with a more expensive speaker (though the dedicated Italian stands are hardly cheap). Or to phrase it differently, this is the end of the line amp wise for the Rogers. In small to nearfield listening spaces, this setup pushes the envelope for price/value ratio except for headbangers and assorted tinnitus addicts.

Audiostatic DCI: This is where the going gets tough, so much so that the thoroughbred YBA 400 two-box affair was used as a control amp. Again no surprises regarding the inherent design liabilities of this kind of speaker. On the other hand and bearing in mind that I personally do not consider electrostatics susceptible of ideal amp matches (possible exceptions being dedicated amps like the fabled Sanders), the results were well above my expectations. This was because in direct comparison with the 100-watt + YBA,  the Octave  was if not undistinguishable then certainly equally distinguished. In fact both frequency extremes were, to my tube-tweaked ear, tonally better served by the V40 whilst the signature midranges were on a par as was the limited SPL capability (really, don’t play Judas is Rising on these speakers).

At moderate listening levels that is. Even slightly higher ones brought boring old Ohm’s law into play. The output tubes started fraying at the edges of the soundstage but bear in mind that this happened with the YBAs too, albeit at a far higher—though not totally uncivilized—volume. It is quite conceivable that the absent black box could have corrected the situation but we won’t know this time around.

On consideration then, I feel the Octave should be considered a marginally credible choice for the Audiostatics in spaces above 20sqm since these speakers clearly displayed the usual electrostatic addiction to big ticket amplification. Also consider that small-room matching with stats is a bitch.

Bottom line now: Does the V40 disprove my prejudices? Not really. I’d buy it for the Rogers but would not buy it for the Audiostatics because if I bought those, I’d also buy me at least some Chinese arc welders. Will it drive Dynaudios to perfection as advertised? Don’t know, don’t like Dynaudios anyhow. Is it electrically comparable to a sand amp in its price range? Short of a shootout, I would say yes. Will it sound best with appropriate lower current-draw speakers, signally the impeccable Harbeth medium high-impedance moderate-phase boxes? Absolutely. And it’s not cheap. But it’s good.
Octave website