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I'll do the hateful thing first. I'll bluntly tell you that the Minueta is ultimately handicapped by its passive pot. It
only truly lives up to the EL84's very real DHT-45 killer potential when preceded by a properly active preamp. My two-chassis ModWright was admittedly and certifiably nutz in this context. But, you'd have swallowed your protests unbidden and hard had you actually heard this combo vis-à-vis my 45 and 300B SETs.

It naturally defeats the entirely exciting prospect of any quality affordable integrated discovery. But it tends to be pretty much true for most such pot+amp efforts. It doesn't make 'em any less appealing or legit. It simply means that nine times out of ten, active beats passive. So let's invert the insult. If you like this amp as is—it's very good for the breed and price—you'd be in disbelief over its full potential. I'll make it simple. With a quality active linestage, the Minueta competes directly against my Yamamoto A-08S when that's driven from the same linestage to square up even Steven. The Yamamoto is somewhat more expensive and requires some sort of preamp to even work. The WLM does not to get you there in stages. In any case, the Yammy will only ever make 2 watts. That's utterly useless to all but the most committed of hi-effers. It's precisely why I approached Sasa Cokic for those Kaivalya monos. If the Minueta is what he can do OEM for an aggressive price with these tubes, what more could he accomplish when all price gauging was lifted? We'll leave it at that and return to our regular programming: reviewing a sub €3,000 integrated as integrated.

Actually, one more—minor and quick—debit. As its review already stated, the earlier mentioned Luxman is a virtual stand-in on sonics. On truly demanding material of the sort I mostly never play for pleasure, the Trafomatic has a small edge on bass control and dynamics, presumably from even better transformers. But this lead is slight and under normal conditions, mostly irrelevant. This means that the Luxman is the hotter deal. It's why it walked with the award and not WLM. Now we get on with the program. The Minueta aced the noise test on my very cranky in that regard Rethm Saadhanas, meaning it should be happy with up to 100dB speakers. It's unlikely of course that a prospective Minuetist would own such beasts. The amp also makes zero mechanical noise nor do its transformers vibrate (a recently returned €13,000/pr of 300B monos vibrated quite actively). It passes signal quickly after turn-on and comes on song within 15 minutes. It seems utterly non-finicky in daily use and undergoes none of the warm-up crackling from expanding glass which many of its far dearer direct-heated peers suffer. It's no space heater—nor hog for that matter—and remains couth for tropical climates which otherwise would favor cool-running solid state for obvious reasons.

The sonic charms are easily enough enumerated. Quick-witted, lean-ish, very even and open, it approaches the crystalline but not glassy. The amp is articulate including the bass which is taut but not massive, precise but not slamming. There's great overall clarity without much THD fog and the reflexes are keen. The stage is well cast and spacious but not as dense and incarnate as beefier slower amps. Image lock (my term for that near hallucinogenic hologrammatic triode thing) isn't heightened. Concomitantly, what triodists refer to as deep intimacy—Chip Stern calls it an aural lap dance—doesn't happen. Bloom is minor but compared to good transistors like FirstWatt amps, the added texturizer action of the valves is clearly apparent.

One thus encounters many a triode-type element. This small pentode simply linearizes them. It makes the effects less dramatic and distinctive. By the same token, they don't become a constant déja vu either to wear out like FX movies which are a bit weak on story substance. In this implementation, the Russian EL84s aren't as peppy and lit up as my designer 45s but clearly more so than any 300B I've ever heard - and I've heard my fair share of amps and tubes. Conceptually, these EL84s fit right in-between. Practically, it takes that active preamp to solidify the presentation and take up said position in earnest. While certainly not thin, the Minueta isn't as from the inside out developed as its direct-heated peers nor as imbued with their sheen of moisture. The potential is distinctly present. Alas, it requires added funds to tease out. That preamp again, sorry. Trafomatic's Experience Head One would be a cost-effective solution at €1.190, WLM's own Linea linestage commands €2.690.

Compared to my Eastern Electric M520 with its Mullard-based EL34s, the Minueta clobbers it. True, the M520 gets a lot better when its doughy preamp stage is bypassed with the amp-direct input but give the Minueta the same benefit of an external preamp and it's game over, again, for the Eastern. If fleetness of foot, expansive treble and overall tautness and definition are your flute of Schampers, comparable EL34 or KT88 amps will be left behind. If its weightiness, impact, crunch and density you're after, such amps will dust the Minueta. It all depends on doctor's orders.

Another observation relates to curtain call. The Minueta kicks in somewhat later than others. It will play very quietly and cleanly but then sounds somewhat thin. This quickly fills out at room levels but whisper sessions could stand a small injection of silicone. The triode/UL switches may be triggered under signal but do cause transient pops. With efficient speakers, it's preferable to quickly mute the speakers by disconnecting a lead. Triode is somewhat sweeter, moves the stage closer, gets overall smaller and a bit softer or intimate. I preferred UL but that's not the point. Having a choice is. And this can be far more impulsive than tube rolling. One could change from album to album or even track to track.

In toto, the Minueta strikes me as a very solidly engineered, very competently designed amplifier which combines yeoman operation with surprising audible refinement. Dollar for dollar, it will out-fidelity many a rather more editorializing designer triode amp. With the right speakers—and dare I mention it once more, with that eventual linestage added—it can be a most serious end-of-road solution even for the well off. It's really that good. That should raise a few eyebrows amongst the snobs but they tend not to want to get real.

As an integrated, the Minueta falls in the general MiniWatt/Decware Zen sector of speed and transparency that's more transistor than tube. On speakers of equal bias—from my roster, the Rethm Saadhana—lovers of curves might wish for extra poundage. With naturally fleshy speakers like my Zu Essence, the dovetailing of complementary qualities is close to perfect. This naturally includes the Zu-related signature sound of WLM's own speaker line. They major on buxomness and dynamics for which the Minueta is most strategically matched. No surprise there. It also explains why Hannes Frick dispatched his smallest amp for review, not one of the bigger EL34s. If you don't need extra power, the Minueta will be preferable for listeners who share my bias and own WLM/Zu-voiced loudspeakers. Doctor's orders again.

In toto, Almarro, Angstrom Research, Decware, Glow Audio, Luxman and Manley Labs all had damn good reasons to go EL84. WLM's Minueta slots into the same lineage but goes rather farther than the—far cheaper—Glow to reconfirm how quality beefy transformers make all the difference. The Minueta is a fine demonstrator of what can be done with this pentode at a realistic budget which well eclipses cheapskating but stays just as well clear of the grotesque. I'd call it the smart listener's 45 amp with seven times the power. Such math has real traction...

Quality of packing:
Double cardboard with massively thick hard foam inserts.
Reusability of packing: A few times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: No issue.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Perfect.
Website comments: Complete.
Human interactions: Hannes Frick is a very conscientious communicator.
Pricing: Fair value.
Final comments & suggestions: Remote control optional, no tube cage available, performance can be goosed by running the pot wide open and inserting an active linestage ahead of the Minueta (true for most integrateds with passive pots).

WLM Acoustics website