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That first impression stuck. Va-va-voom, glamour and excess aren’t the V70SE’s things. It was restrained only in the sense of not intruding into the musical playback to a very very high degree. Neutrality operated at a very high plateau from the bass all the way to the ultrasonics and both tonally and dynamically. The initially lacking enthusiasm showed up a few days later, vocals gained in glow and expressivity and the rendition on a whole won in liberty and elasticity.

As a reviewer I’m of course curious whether a machine can master fare that’s atypical for its breed. Following a review by Miss Victoriah Szirmai, I acquired a copy of Bahama Soul Club’s Bossa Nova just Smells Funky. In it producer Oliver Belz pays a type of tribute to the Blues Brothers with a conférencier intro before the heavily percussion-based music kicks off with a spectacular number. With the JBL this translated as fast as it needed to be and injected such fire into my legs that I could barely sit still. (Here I have to disagree with Szirmai’s otherwise impeccable recommendation and state that "Serious Soul" is a quasi soundtrack for Foxy Brown rather than Shaft). Reserve and neutrality thus shouldn’t be interpreted to mean the Octave can’t swing, rock out or that it fails music which appeals to the hips and legs. As I gave this more thought I had to actually confess to knowing precious few valve amps which deliver such speed across the entire spectrum. Impressive.

Whilst on body parts, DJ Cheb I Sabbah’s Shri Durga album contains the track "The Baba Bulley Shah & Baba Farid Mix: Gazelle Memories". It opens with an electrically distorted string instrument called sarangi. Though I’m unfamiliar with how it should sound unamplified, the V70SE’s take of it was so intense that I wasn’t sure whether to open my heart or tear ducts. The Octave tracked the smallest inflections of amplitude shifts to convey the musical intent to an unusually high degree. If valve cliché states that glowing bottles overdraw to imbue music with soul, the Octave makes clear just how admirably many albums don’t require any such artificial ensoulment. When playback becomes so translucent that the performers’ intended effects encounter less barriers than they do with other machines, we’re faced by serious High End. That the remainder of this track would continue to enthrall me with its to my Western ears difficult rhythms goes without saying.

Aussie singer, musician and producer Louis Tillett in 1987 dared to delve into an Allen Toussaint number with "On your way down" for his CD Egotripping at the gates of hell. Tillett refers to his life philosophy as ‘hope from despair’ and on this cut one hears both. The Octave V70SE conveyed this number reduced to voice, guitar and piano with such intensity that it caught my breath. Rather than literary turn of phrase, this happened to me literally. I really did catch myself holding my breath to not miss anything of this emotive performance. Spectacular.


Intelligibility of lyrics was first rate and even tougher sounds like the British ‘th’ or sibilants came off without peppery heat. Piano was endowed with as much physicality as the recording allowed and additionally remained solidly anchored on stage even during jagged impulses. The tendency Ralph Werner noted with the V80 to project vocals closer to the listener than he was used to I couldn’t confirm. Vocals didn’t peel out of the mix any farther than with my usual pre/power combo of Tom Evans Audio Design The Vibe Plus and Jeff Rowland’s 102. They were rather a tad better integrated. The Octave goes about its business without any grandstanding or glad handling. Images were thus neither smaller nor larger than I’m accustomed to.