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Like the recent Devialet story, Stormaudio seems to be the result of a bona fide industrial research project, not simply the concretisation of a sole engineer’s idea working alone in his workshop. The company was founded 4 years ago in Laval by electrical engineer Gérard Jambon who describes himself as passionate about amplifier circuitry design. He shared certain discoveries with a colleague at the French Estaca Research Center. This colleague Vincent Tamisier held a PhD in electrical science and specialized in research for magnetic levitation applied to gyroscopic motors and associated electrical control. He sadly and prematurely passed away in 2009. While this wrote Stormaudio’s first painful page of its short history, the growth of the company was solidly on its tracks and the main technical patents had already been granted.

Today Stormaudio seems to be a quite mature company which presently employs five people and has taken time to reflect on launching its products. Time is obviously of the essence when one decides to promote new technology in a skeptical climate where everyone knows that true technical hifi achievements in the analogue domain are very sparse.

It is also not simple to convince the audiophile community that new technology is more than marketing artifact. Finally a novel adjustment where purists call for a 'no settings' or 'straight wire' strategy adds audacity. What’s more, this isn’t the kind of setting you can adjust like a tone control with a fixed bypass/neutral position and where effects are perfectly predictable (i.e. obvious increases or reductions in bass or treble output). With StormFocus one must personally explore the 'what' and the ultimate position for one’s system. This means trusting one’s own ears. Ha! In short the Stormaudio amplifiers are supposed to deliver their best only once the owner has determined the best position for the rotary StormFocus control. Taking these particularities into account, the company from Laval has embarked on a different path and one which wouldn’t seem easy. Yet occasionally success beckons at the end of a dark and lonely road.

One year and half after releasing its first range of Vertigo integrated amplifiers, Stormaudio now introduces its third integrated, the Revelation RI-70. The purpose of this newcomer is to enlarge the potential market with a more ambitious design. The RI-70 also strengthens the StormFocus strategy with a new front-panel placement and remote control over it. Where the two main knobs of integrated amps are commonly volume control and source selection, the RI-70 reserves its second big knob for the StormFocus control. In the first Vertigo V-35 and V-55 models this is smaller, located on the rear and only manually adjustable. This new contender is part of a complete Revelation series which includes separate pre- and power amplifiers but also an integrated bi-amp unit all equipped with the proprietary StormFocus dial. Readers familiar with the French Lavardin brand and their research into memory distortion might spot a small Gallic trend of curiosity about very specific circuit behavior which leads to unusual solutions.

My review loaner mainly kept the cosmetics established for previous Vertigo models but looked a bit more massive than the V55 and perhaps a bit less fancy but as such closer to conservative audiophile standards. The sole aesthetic fancy is the central ‘ambient light’ blue logo on the front. It doubles as sensitive standby switch just by touching it with your finger. I generally don’t care about this type of detail but in the present case would call it a bit friendlier that a simple remote function. The gray aluminum casework is serious with particular attention paid to the faceplate finish but without any conspicuous exaggeration on costs. The price tag would hopefully reflect other matters.

The RI-70 is a full-featured remote-controlled integrated amplifier with one balanced input (associated with true balanced circuitry), three unbalanced inputs, one bypass direct RCA input (without volume attenuation as amplifier only) and an additional external board connector. Outputs are 3 x RCA labeled 'record-out', 'preamp out' and 'StormFocus out', the latter to be used only with another Stormaudio device. There’s also a 12V trigger. To this comfortable number of i/o socketry comes the necessary power mains switch with electrical phase inversion (line/neutral) plus one audio polarity control on the front panel and remote. This adds up to a versatile integrated amplifier which only lacks phono and iPod inputs (though an optional phono board for MM or MC cartridges can be fitted internally to replace one of the stock line inputs).