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No need to fuss again over the fact that for the same 'integrated amp' coin the Wyred4Sound triplets offer a lot more power, features and stuff. One picture tells all. We'd already established that beauty has a price. Mirror not Miller time.

To take the measure and measure the take, the front end was my usual quad-core fully maxed out 2TB/256GB 27" iMac with PureMusic 1.89g in NOS-style 176.4kHz upsampling. This fed a Metrum Hex via SOtM's best two-box battery-powered super-clocked USB bridge tapped via AES/EBU courtesy of a 110-ohm Pro Van den Hul cable.

Between my ultra-narrow Boenicke Audio B-10 speakers who responded most favorably to higher than usual sidewall distances and the far higher damping factors over my usual FirstWatt SIT-1 monos sat the W4S stack and Roksan Oxygene amp. Either received signal via a 6-meter RCA leash of Zu Event whilst the Californian monos did the XLR thing from their matching preamp to maximize their circuitries' balanced topologies. Power delivery was via GigaWatt's best passive power bar preceded by a Vibex Two 1R for very effective DC filtering of the wall AC (a trick which nicely prevents transformer hum if caused by DC).

At ~50 on the Roksan's display this setup produced standard room volumes. Unless I cued up a classical number recorded at a lower median level, I didn't manage to get much past 60 for serious headroom reserves. On power needs the far burlier mini monos thus didn't disenfranchise or capsize the Roksan at all.

In a number of aspects this comparison became a rerun of the Metrum Hex/AURALiC Vega conversion meet many moons ago. The Vega's color intensity and retina display glossiness belonged to E.J. Sarmento's ICEpower implementation. The Hex's cooler milieu was home to Roksan's Hypex version. On contrast—which often seems to be a direct function of noise floor performance—the Wyred stack played it keener. This rendered the Oxygene slightly softer and mellower on specificity. Perhaps likewise related to an even lower noise floor, the triple stack also staged deeper. And depth layering out into the street behind the windows is a quality this Swiss all-wood speaker excels at to emphasize that specific difference.

Back to the Hex/Vega duel, Roksan again went Dutch by playing it leaner and more quicksilvery. The Wyred rig was a bit denser and thicker. True for either—and here we also tip our hat at the speaker's sidefiring mid/woofers which go full-space dispersion far sooner than low frequencies do on their own accord—was a complete absence of hyper-articulated sharpness. This etch has long since been banished from the class D domain. If treble finesse and ribbon-tweeter elucidation arguably still trail the best class A machines like Nelson Pass' SITs, it's not any self-advertising shortfall. It only registers by direct comparison as greater air and harmonic complexity and wants massed strings or very finely tickled cymbals to assert itself.

Another common class Dissent has been elephantine bass. Too much of an otherwise good thing, it had amplitude and extension come at the overt expense of textural nuance. Another possible flavor I had disparagingly called cyborg bass for its unnaturally chiseled pistolero transients. Here again the Brit and US amps had clearly moved on. No more machine-gun rat-tat-tat posing, no more cheap adolescent boom-truck thrills. In fact on control as an absence of bloat, indistinctness or fuzziness, these D-class contenders clearly bested my higher Z-out single-ended transistors. Particularly on these speakers with their horizontally opposing woofers, I'd never been happy with how they played this room. As a result they'd practically lived upstairs. There a long-wall setup of a small 2-channel video system had strategically ameliorated all bass issues. With these analog switching amps however the main room had opened up again for my B sides. It merely demanded a narrower inter-speaker distance to move the side walls outwards and build in proper reflective delay. With Sven Boenicke's own amp an Italian PowerSoft design of the class D persuasion, I was finally exploiting the same synergy.

Back to our ICEpower/Hypex match, the Danish modules tipped the scale on mass and warmth, the Dutch on subjective transparency and articulation. Wyred was heavier on tonal bloom, Roksan more incisive on attacks. Once more this recalled the Vega/Hex clash. And just as those like-priced converters had lived on the same performance tier simply divided on flavor, so the Wyred and Roksan sound was directly competitive but not alike. The former was heavier, thicker and more color intense; the latter lither, lighter and quicker. A bottom-line three-word assessment might call it saturation versus transparency. Keeping up this well with E.J. Sarmento who for class D truly has an enviable track record and by now also very extensive experience spoke highly to Roksan's first attempt at switching transistors.

As his review detailed, Sarmento had very craftily teamed the voicing of his monos with a complementary rather than reinforcing preamp. How would Roksan's matching Oxygene CDP play this game: match like with like or shift the amp's sound in a slightly different direction?