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When Alan contacted me in early February ahead of formal M1 roll-out about an available but cosmetically slightly blemished loaner, I accepted without hesitation. The immaculate L1 had already covered fit'n'finish quality. I saw no need to delay WAL by insisting on a 'perfect' amp loaner. This would purely be about sound now.

Slipping in ahead of my 93dB soundkaos Wave 40—Alpine Spruce tonewood widebanders with Raal ribbon and 2-way outboard xover—WAL's signature voicing wasn't the most copasetic. This played like a rerun of Simon Lee's just reviewed Aura Note V2. The Korean's expertly massaged 125/250wpc into 8/4Ω ICEpower module had also been tuned for color saturation, weight and density. Combined with a Mårten Design tower of ceramic Accuton drivers or an ultra-dynamic very quick Vivid Audio Giya G3 like Lee had demo'd with in the past, this does go like strawberries and cream. With my Swiss eggs meanwhile it became a bit too much of a good thing. There ultra-wide bandwidth jobs from Bakoon, Crayon and Goldmund or the single-stage single-ended no feedback SIT1 from FirstWatt dovetail far better. And with the M1 from Hong Kong the Wave 40 signaled the same. The speakers became too plump, stately and energetically mellow. I wanted more forward projection, lucidity and attack mode. Time for a very different load.

Enter my white Lithuanians, the Rhapsody 200 from AudioSolutions. This big 5-driver twin-port 3-way looks and sounds beefy. I often describe it as vintage Sonus faber with American bass and drag-strip dynamics. The underdamped bass tuning makes for stout macro swings. Even so it requires rigorous amplifier damping or tightly screwed-in port plugs lest it devolve into overripe bloom. Here the M1 slotted in just so. Woofer control was solid and just right but stayed nicely clear of that ultra-dry unnaturally striated behavior I think of as robotic and fit only for synthetic techno. These bass textures were decidedly acoustic. That points at the natural difference between a redolent rich and singing upright bass versus a super-punchy electric bass that's been tweaked for gun-shot slam. The Wow Audio Lab amp played it upright.

As covered already at length in the preceding pages for the preamp, key features were rich colors, a very solid grounding in musical substance and a full-bodied gestalt on the mellow but dense side of the fence. This enfolds transients into their surroundings to sheath their surgical edges if you will. More wood, less metal. More of a mid- to farfield mix of transients blended into the reverberant field rather than extreme close-mic'ing that hovers above the strings. If we translate this into audiophile shorthand, we talk of softer more fluidic textures, not dry spiky ultra-separated ones. Or we might invoke flow over PRaT. All of these are interrelated aspects of the same duality which listeners tune into depending on what they focus on.

A Gryphon would show more explosive dynamics, a vintage Krell more brutal bass, a Goldmund or Soulution more speed, a Berning more transparency. The Wow Audio Lab M1 mirrored its own preamp mate by being foremost about strong colors and gravitas like a sunny autumn day when the leaves have just turned but not yet fallen. My Job 225 is leaner and paler of tone. My SIT1 are not as beefy down low. My Pascal-based class D Gato Audio DIA-250 is fuzzier, warmer and less articulate particularly at low levels. My Crayon is lighter and flightier. This should paint the general picture. How would the L1 + M1 add up?