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Dynamics and detail. Since the importer called my loaner brand new, I clocked two weeks of run-in time. This tends to mean friendly easy-listening fare which merits little real attention. Here however I found myself captivated relatively often. What got transmitted early on was simply terrifically involving already.

I was really in a reading mood but left Pink Floyd’s The Wall running in the background. Not on classy LP mind—or some pimped-out remastered gold-plated upsampled trophy disc—but a real grab-bin twofer which one day ended up on my NAS server but never made any audiophile ripples. This time I put down the book just a few bars in and even 90 minutes later didn’t return to it. The first vehement assault of percussion, synths and e-guitar on "In the Flesh" commanded my undivided attention. This exploded with fascinating directness and dynamics from a completely black background. Even the low-level recorded noise didn’t interfere. It was patently apparent as recording artefact to have my brain automatically subtract it from the musical action like those occasional pops and clicks of vinyl playback.

The helicopter at the close of "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1", an old benchmark for hifi bass, nearly had me jump out of my skin because the copter flew so realistically through my room that I nearly got frightened; but more because I was thrilled to once again experience it as such. It was impressive how the low-frequency rotor rumbles which underpin the motor noise flooded and pressurized the room. My Geithain speakers are capable to occasionally place me inside the recording. This doesn’t necessarily mean on stage but depending on the album can mean as participant of the recording session. I’m left for words to describe what was involved with the helicopter…

Once the recommended conditioning period was past me, I wasn’t quite in a mood yet to get serious. On the Dick Tracy soundtrack Madonna contributes intelligent musical quotes from 1930/40’s Jazz and Blues. But it took the V-88 to open my eyes to at what level Madonna has really managed to realize a musical match for the visuals this big-screen comic adaptation offers. The subtle giggles, brachial instrumental assaults, studio trickery with phase distortions and artificial space I’ve all heard before, albeit not at such depth and complexity. I never realized how Madonna succeeded to craft a true musical comic. Thanks to the exceptionally resolved performance of the V-88 I finally saw it completely.

The T.A.C. very generously lays out nuance and detail but always has it properly allocated to avoid hyper-realist mode where thousands of tiny details confuse our basic orientation. Each event here has spatial and timing constants. Arbitrary noise constituents of a recording remain just that and never contaminate the music.

Space and tone. The T.A.C. stages brilliantly, be it small Jazz like the Lisa Bassenge Trio’s A Sigh, A Song or massive classical like Mahler’s 3rd Symphony with Anna Larsson and the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado. The virtual stage is grand without ballooning individual instruments, singers or sections out of proportion. Quite the opposite in fact. While individual stage actors are clearly outlined, the bigger picture isn’t dissected and the listener remains involved rather than feels left alone in 5th row. The V-88 moves one front row in direct line of sight with the musicians. Better don’t pick your nose. But there’s no risk of yawning from boredom. Emotional responses aren’t merely allowed but encouraged.

The stage perspective of course is directly relative to each recording. The T.A.C. doesn’t make space. For Oscar Peterson Trio’s 1961 Im Kölner Gürzenich [Jazzline N77004] the Westdeutsche Rundfunk rolled out its then top recording gear. Dynamics and resolution put this beyond doubt. Even so this was a live capture without today’s common auxiliary microphones. The foreground piano consequently sounds clearly more present than the more removed drum kit with its larger injection of reflected ambiance. But it still remains a very atmospheric unbelievably dense recording that captured more live vibe than many more modern efforts manage. This is enhanced by audience din and the unselfconscious babbling whereby Oscar Peterson accompanies his piano play. This the VT-88 transmitted so powerfully that the live illusion quite simply locked in.