It's educational to approach Wyetech's implementation of single-ended zero feedback 300Bs with Cary-esque expectations because you'll get your head washed under ice-cold alpine well water. I've been guilty of holding certain preconceptions about 300Bs myself. This was doubtlessly reinforced by encountering amplifiers that subscribed to those notions as opposed to, say Joe Fratus' Art Audio amplifiers. Those use Riccardo Kron's 300B equivalents such as the VV32B, the 52BXL, the newer VHD842 or 300 BXLS and in general are far more dynamic, incisive and linear than dreamy, ethereal or soft and romantic. The Sapphires use regular 300Bs but manage to make them work like KR tubes in many regards. That is, except for a certain lack of finesse which certain implementations of those Czech valves may be guilty of. The Sapphire 300B mien is very refined indeed. It presents speed, openness and transparency without any artificial stridency or rough edges.

But suavity is not what you'll notice first. It's what occurs to you long after you've digested the cold-water shock of stunning articulation and top-to-bottom linearity. This means the Sapphires don't pursue smoothness as a solitary value that stands on its own and thus sublimates other attributes. This is partially accomplished by expanding HF performance beyond what is considered normal for 300Bs. I heard this readily in the overtone envelope of Renaud Garcia-Fons' bowed flageolet work on Vicente Pradal's La Nuit Obscure. These high harmonics provided both air and bite in equal measure and, on numerous beloved Flamenco guitar recordings by Vicente Amigo, Gerardo Nuñez and Pascual Gallo, really conveyed their exceptionally unfettered attacks and the underlying sense of unimpeded speed and precision. It also prevented the thickening of male tenors common with rolled-off tube amps which translated as 'light', meaning both illuminated or lit up and lithe and flexible.

The same goes for the bass performance which is defined, agile and taut rather than unduly massive or 'bloomy', suggesting far more control and definition than what's typically believed possible from 300Bs. Comparing the Sapphires to my Audiopax series-connected, super-ultralinear-driven KT88s showed a surprising family resemblance when the latter were set to the leaner "left-handed" TimbreLock values. But even then, the Brazilian amps' harmonic envelope was slightly more fleshed out which became a more dominant observation once their settings returned to my customary 9:00/1:00 offset for a particular balance of warmth versus incision that's more endowed than the Sapphires' intrinsically slimmer makeup.

Just like the shockingly low noise floor of the Avantgarde-optimized Audiopax amps, the Sapphires are preternaturally quiet which clearly serves low-level ambiance. And just like the Brazilian amps, the Canadians are thoroughly modern or contemporary interpretations of 60-year old technologies rather than just repackaged yesteryear's jobs tricked out with designer parts and an equivalent price tag. Where the Sapphires differ from the the Audiopax monos is in their very high gain structure. Despite roughly half the latter's output power, that becomes considerably louder for equivalent input levels and is thus ideal for 88dB speakers which "eat up" more signal voltage for regular playback volumes. In fact, retailer Brian Ackerman of Artistic Audio tells me that the Sapphires will drive completely counter-intuitive loads without any flinching, something I couldn't personally duplicate beyond driving my resident Gallos, a test the Canadians passed with flying colors and plenty of headroom to spare.

What all of this amounts to is a pair of $6,800 monoblocks of very high build quality and clearly superior circuitry that, while using the quintessential direct-heated triode, behave far more like the company mascot's bulldog than a petite Chihuahua. Paralleling output tubes especially in single-ended configuration carries a certain stigma. One tube is said to be capable of pulling down the other during climaxes. However, the Wyetech formula of separating them with discrete bias circuits counteracts that innate criticism while simultaneously producing go juice that's far in excess of what a single 300B could ever hope to produce.

As I began to suspect in my recent review of his entry-level preamp, Wyetech Labs' Roger Hebert is not your typical tube designer. Noise issues and bandwidth problems aren't part of his bag. As a result, his creations from what I've seen and heard thus far don't telegraph tubes in bright neon letters at all. Rather than kowtowing to stereotypes and limitations, Hebert is interested in linear music-making devices. He harvests the spatial and dynamic strengths of vacuum tubes while downplaying their THD behavior and apparently eliminating or at least hiding their weaknesses so well that they become complete non-issues.

This makes Wyetech Labs into a kind of unsung hero on the vacuum tube scene. Without a huge ad budget, big-time trade show presence or other publicity stunts, this firm strikes me as one that's quietly doing their thing in the background of overt visibility. They seem to trust and expect that those who appreciate their work will seek them out rather than needing to be convinced by a steady flux of full-page ads that their products are the world's best. Buying market share means that each product's asking price includes a high percentage of print monies. In Wyetech Labs' case, precious little if anything of the asking price goes to something other than the actual product you hold in your hands. In other words, we're talking true value. Beyond that, we're also talking mature products that are released only when truly ready and thus beyond the common and endless MkII revisions of so-called upgrades which often disguise prior flaws in dire need of rectification or improvement.

Riding into the sunset of this review, let's now recap the most salient sonic attributes you should remember as a sort of signature list about the Wyetech Labs Sapphire amplifiers: Quiet; wide bandwidth; high gain; linear; slightly lean; exceptionally articulate and transparent; highly resolved; great rhythmic fidelity; fast rather than massive; lit-up rather than hooded, dark or warm; distinctly non-euphonic; 3D champs with excellent drive; feature-rich with adjustable gain and on-the-fly impedance matching. In other words, what we have here is a true 21st-century amplification device that just so happens to use the most famous triode in history, albeit in a modern cost-effective variant rather than the original WE version though the latter could most certainly be used if you didn't mind the expense and the performance increase seemed to warrant it.

There's only one aspect about these amplifiers that's slightly curious. Precisely because they avoid the common -- or at least perceived -- pitfalls of their chosen output devices with a blood-feud vengeance, their true accomplishment might escape those most apt to seem interested in the first place: Aficionados of the 300B valve. That's neither here nor there but mandates mention. Simply put, while they are magical, don't approach the Sapphires expecting the wrong kind of magic. With that out of the way, these amps are about as perfect, well-balanced, complete and convincing as I could envision. If we were thinking painting styles, they're not Impressionist or Pointillist but closest to Photo-Realistic, albeit without the latter's possible excesses into more-real-than-real TechnoColor terrain. What else to do but to shout a loud "Bravo!" which must include the very fair asking price? Definite award material in other words.
Wyetech Labs responds:
Hello Srajan,

Thanks for the great articulated review and the award which is greatly appreciated. I wanted to show that a 300B tube can be made into a full bandwidth amplifier and that its reputation for sloppy bass and missing highs were simply the result of poor circuit design.

I'm sorry if I inadvertently [not] screwed you around with the Pearl. The Jade, Pearl and Opal do have that ability to affect people, which is how they end up buying them. Although I have never heard the preamps in your stable that the Pearl trumped, I had a feeling that you needed it to make sure that you were able to hear the full potential of the Sapphires. It appears to have done the job exceedingly well.

For what it's worth, I could live quite happily with this combination for the rest of my life.

Best Regards,
Roger Hebert
Wyetech Labs
Manufacturer's website