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The first review sample submitted had a manufacturing defect. It essential bypassed the volume pot to run at nearly full output right away. The next one operated fine but it's fair to point out that the high input sensitivity and steep initial taper conspire to very quickly escalate output levels. On many speakers, 9:00 o'clock will equate to full-on happy hour. I strongly recommend Sutra alter their pot's taper to come on far more gradually. Yes, the erroneous perception of "whoa, that's one powerful amp" will evaporate but user practicality will be served greatly.

For an initial sound check, I inserted the Sutra into the big rig. That preceded it with my APL/Esoteric NWO 3.0GO/UX-1 and ModWright DM 36.5. Its own pot was bypassed then, volume controlled by the ModWright and speakers Zu Audio's Essence. With the all-clear passed and some familiar context established, I then got as realistic as possible and ran the Raysonic Audio CD-168 as source. Comparator amps became the RedWine Audio Signature 30.2 integrated and the FirstWatt F5. With the former, the CD player's variable outputs sat at max 100. For the Sutra's 9:00 playback levels, the RWA responded with about 12:30. For the F5 power amplifier which of course lacks a volume control, I ran the CDP at 80 on its display to equal previous levels. Then the Sutra received the same attenuated signal and its pot advanced to the 3:00 o'clock position. Now it and the F5 were equally handicapped by any theoretical resolution decimation that might arise from a digital volume control.

The 1.3/30.2 Sutra/RWA comparison netted immediate confirmation of a 'Tripath house sound'. On this load -- one expects graver differences as the going gets tougher -- the intrinsic gestalt was the same. Within it however, the tonal balance shifted. The Red Wine Audio amp proved more endowed in the bottom, less open on the top and as a result, was weightier and denser. This is its signature voicing and accomplished with its mondo coupling caps. The Sutra is lean-er by comparison and subjectively more transparent with more illuminated upper mid/treble bands.

Those listeners who find the Red Wine Audio sound too voiced will gravitate to the Sutra's very similar qualities. Those simply strip away a bit of the former's added warmth without defaulting into the Twiggy domain one bit. Particularly with already warmish speakers, the 1.3's superior top-end extension and lesser midbass heft will combine better. Moving to Nelson Pass' transistor stunner (25/50w into 8/4-ohm) became more accelerated truth serum. It and the Sutra sounded significantly different in gestalt.

For one, the F5 has broader dynamics. A singer's cadence traverses greater heights and is more obviously supported by driving power from below like a wave. In poetic terms, phrases carry more intention. Secondly, the F5 has significantly superior micro resolution to translate into a more developed hall sound. This places the performers in an ambient context that's different from your own room's. It parlays additional reflective depth whereby the singer or instrumentalist doesn't merely project forward to the listening seat but also backwards against recorded walls. Ultimately -- this requires good recordings -- the F5 also stages deeper.

The $2,500 F5 handcrafted by the old master simply demonstrated what the €600 1.3 left under the table. Finesse. It's that subjective realism which adds to the sounds those quasi visual cues that trigger us deeper into the illusion of presence. There's more inner vitality. It's also a kind of lightness or fine-ness that's not an absence of substance but more in-sight and contour. It's what you pay the big bucks for. But that alone never guarantees superior results.

Very much to its credit -- and which squarely makes it such an exciting discovery -- the Sutra integrated gets all the sounds right. In terms of top-end extension, it's far closer to the Nelson Pass than Vinnie Rossi devices in fact. It doesn't wrap itself into the warmth-derived density of the Signature 30.2 to appear more open in trade. Yet it sounds heavier than the F5 by not penetrating as deeply into the musical fabric. But (and this is most vital), it doesn't do anything wrong. There's no tizz, chalkiness, tonal paleness, flatness. There's no treble or sibilant emphasis, no woolly bass, no dimensional slide show. It simply doesn't add all the advanced things possible when funds are less limited.

Make no mistake though. It sounds very good. There are no telltale giveaways of sonic cheapness nor are there any demerits for overdone magnification power that so often has attempts to 'go high-end' accompanied by unpleasant side effects. The Sutra 1.3 then walks the perfection-by-omission path... well, to perfection.

It definitely sounds better about half an hour after turn-on, powers up without any annoying 'Nuforce farts' and makes no ear-at-tweeter noises. Its overall demeanor is pretty much right in the middle between grippiness and limpidness, i.e. it's neither a high-strung driven nor overly relaxed sound. Unlike much cheap transistor amps, it's not sharp but somewhat soft in how it works out contours of performers and deals with transients. Those slightly soft leading edges are more honed with the F5. It performs the rare trick of not becoming edgy in turn.

This edge softening might be why T-amps so often prompt like tubes comments. That aspect is very familiar from the usual valve amps in fact. It's not a soft-focus push/pull blurring however. It's simply less than fully liberated jump factor and incision power to offer a greater slice of comfort feel instead.

Comparisons to the RWA unit did not suggest that its battery power was innately superior in terms of noise floor performance. I rather suspect the latter's true trump card is bass current delivery since that's where this American amp continues to surprise. It also offers remote control and more power. The Sutra 1.3 counters with significantly down-scaled cost of admission, very similar sonics and similarly solid if not extravagant build quality. Like the 30.2, it's put together not in the Far East but a Western country. And like the 30.2, it demonstrates why so-called T-amps continue to proliferate. Unlike many of the breed's entry-level boxes however, it sports a quite chunky-for-the-task linear rather than SMPS power supply. It's that and its impact on performance which stand out from the crowd as it were. In short, Sutra's maiden product delivers on its promise. And in a rather timely fashion considering the general state of affairs with its dwindling funds for hobbyist pursuits like fine audio. The 1.3 very much is fine audio; just 10 watts of it and no more...

Quality of packing: Sufficient but could be improved.
Reusability of packing: Multiple times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy.
Condition of component received: Second unit perfect.
Website comments: Perfectly informative and easy to navigate.
Human interactions: Forthcoming on all info requested but communications not very prompt.
Pricing: Massive value.
Application conditions: The usual boilerplate stuff for low-power amplification devices.
Final comments & suggestions: Taper on the Alps pot should be shallower over the first 30%. Comes on fast and furious now with very high input sensitivity to minimize fine-tipped adjustment options.

Sutra website