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What’s the difference between old and new parts purely on a technical level?
The culture of production has changed. You know how it used to be. People aimed to create something extraordinary first. Having done so they afterwards set out trying to reproduce it cheaper. That’s when compromises enter. In the past elevated romanticists tried to achieve something unique. Their present-day followers mainly attempt to make it all simpler and cheaper and more profitable. Take for instance filamentary thoriated cathodes. Those are no longer manufactured because they are too expensive, too complicated to make and production itself is harmful to the personnel. The old manufacturing equipment exhausted its lease on life and proper replacements didn’t appear because notions of marketing, fashion and convenience intruded.

You think that prose prevails over poetry. But what about creating complementary tube pairs? Vintage parts must pose many problems, don’t you agree?
As a rule there are no problems. I often buy stock as perfectly matched tube quads with original factory certificates.

Magic tunes. My acquaintance with Syomin's principles came about while reviewing his Lilt monos with outboard power supplies for our Russian high-end journal AudioMagazine. By his standards Alexei considers this particular amplifier model a mid-level effort. It has a push-pull schematic, works in class A, outputs 4-8wpc depending on the working mode of the 6V6 or 6L6 output bottles. I recollect that after ten seconds of listening I thought that "it doesn’t just sound, it sings". This high vocal expressivity seemingly inherent in the component’s signature didn't care one iota about the kind of music I played back. The amplifier had that rare ability to interpret the uniqueness and immediacy of intonation as the main features of music that's connected to our human speech. This quality was mostly evident whilst music was of an acoustic nature of course.

The dominant traits of the Lilt were its natural 3-dimensionality, the warmth of its acoustic timbres and the extremely exquisite expression of music's melodic (horizontal) structures. This amplifier was the most impressive with music borne on the breath and currents of air like vocals and wind instruments (trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, duduk and organ). This brought into the spotlight the main quality of the Lilt sound as an unhinged plasticity of musical nuance. Alexei Syomin managed to solve the main problem confronting any creator of high-quality audio: how to during listening supplant all our thoughts about sound and audio per se with the impression of being in the direct presence of music instead. But I wasn't really sure that the secret of it tied entirely to those pre-1950 parts.

The Nymph. I also had opportunity to write about Alexei's mighty 45/65w into 8/4Ω 3-piece Ligeia. That preamp + mono amp system was based on the outstanding British 14D13 transmitting triode. Height of the gear was 80cm for just the enclosures and more than a meter tall with the tubes installed. Each component weighed approximately 200kg for a total of more than half a ton! As one of the nereids, Ligeia was the the muse with an empathy for music. The word is of Greek origins and like Lilt connects directly to music. Ligeia literally means melody.

The sound of top-class equipment is rather difficult to value objectively. That's mostly because the common principle for inexpensive to moderately expensive product where $500 to $1'000 to $1'500 designates clear performance upgrades stops to work in the same fashion. This can be explained by the facts that if we dig deep into its nuances, sound quality is a subjective category and that to improve upon it in the uppermost part of the quality scale becomes very expensive because small increments in quality necessitate huge financial and intellectual resources. The first several digits after the decimal point of π were found already in ancient times with the help of a simple ruler and a pair of compasses. To obtain further precision required advanced science. The same happens in sports each year. Nowadays one wins the 100-meter sprint by 1/100th of a second, the high jump by a centimeter. It's true also for music. The best of a conservatory's pupils is the one with the highest exam marks. But how do we determine who’s better, Tchaikovsky or Beethoven? In art which includes the art of fine hifi creations, very important criteria like individuality and style rise to the front. Here we of course disregard the many instances where greater expenditures don't justify the results.

In the sound of Ligeia, style and individuality were inherent to the highest degree. Ligeia interpreted melodic aspects with a profoundly greater expression than Lilt. This didn't mean that Ligeia was suitable only for vocal music. The amplifier attached vocal expressiveness to any material. Listening to it you wanted to say not just ‘sung by a bass or soprano’ but ‘sung by a violin, viola or trumpet’ and even ‘sung by a piano’. How to draw the line between the individualistic style one praises and the truth?

This question is important for musicians too in the context of how close to the letter and spirit of the original score a reading is to be made by a given performer. Unlike the signature of some extremely judicious mostly transistor specimens, the Ligeia sound couldn't be called academic yet recordings of piano or grand symphonic orchestra with choir and soloists were interpreted with perfect correctness, much air and a convincing balance. Answering a question on distortion Alexei Syomin once quipped that his "spectral Bruel & Kjaer analyzer just didn’t find any harmonics in the entire measurement range".