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A014 vs A08s. In addition to the difference in finish, the first key difference between the two Yamamotos was how they rendered the upper midrange. Both are lit from within and do the triode magic beautifull. The A08s simply shows even greater elasticity and fluidity when reproducing violins or sopranos whilst the A014 adds just a touch of rush and speed. At times this could be very positive when the A014 actually rendered transients more sharply but on older digital recordings the A014 was not as forgiving or beautifying. That said, the 2 watts from the 45-powered SET were simply insufficient to muster any kind of bass impact from the Calliopes. Here the A014 did better than expected. The modern Emission Labs 300B XLS showed its superiority in upper bass impact and midbass control.

If you disregard the bottom end for a minute, the A08s and A014 put a spotlight on the midrange both. Violins shine and dominate the stage and so do female voices. The A08s simply shines this light with a little more nuance and kindness without showcasing the wrinkles and imperfections as strongly. This is all relative though. Nobody would ever call the A014 harsh in absolute terms. It just lacks the A08s' ultimate level of midrange to offset it with higher power and more depth. Nobody would consider the A014 a champion of bass and slam but in the relative world of single-ended triodes it did quite well. That said, all it took was switching back to the First Watt F5 to get back down to earth.

A014 vs First Watt F5. Despite the many qualities of the F5 like its overall accuracy, bass weight and control, it simply cannot match the midrange 3D effect which both Yamamotos excel at. To me that's the dividing difference any buyer will need to take sides on. If you are after the uncanny ability of triodes to make a voice or instrument appear three-dimensionally in your room, then you'll have to overlook the higher noise, less than ideal ability to differentiate big orchestral masses and higher distortion when pushed. The greater accuracy and control of the F5 come at the expense of holographic magic. Pick your poison, stick to it.

In the end the F5 does many things very well but the A014 does a few superbly so. The suspension of disbelief with solo instruments, the suspended time and decays that linger forever, the magnifying power on every little shift in a soprano's voice belong to the A014. Mahler's Fifth or Bruckner's Eighth love the F5. Approaching the level of physicality and scale provided by the F5 required pushing the A014 to much higher sound pressures. Even then it could not quite match the same powerful experience.

Listening to Nelson Freire playing Chopin's Etudes was quite enlightening. With the F5, Freire's left-hand play was very well defined and in control, creating a huge soundscape and feeling of real acoustic space. With the A014 the star was the right hand fluttering magically. The lower registers were clearly more woolly, less tight. I can't recall two presentations of the same disc being this deeply impacted by a simple choice of amplifier, knowing that both amplifiers were perfectly matched to the speakers . It shows again just how critical the amplifier/speaker interface can be to the end result.
The A014's performance on large scale orchestral music could be improved upon by using tube dampers on the 300Bs and Isolpads beneath the stock Ebony feet. This yielded more separation and air with less blur on crescendos but also killed some of the midrange magic if the same tweaks applied to Bach's Violin Partitas with Hilary Hahn for example. The dampers and isolation pads shorten decay and sharpen attacks which injected better definition of space and instrumental positioning but also reduced what makes triodes unique. As those tweaks are easily put on and off I kept a set next to the amplifier and used them only when the music called for them.