Snooping around the Lars & Ivan about us page, I learnt that
• in October 2000, Lars & Ivan's first product was their famous Art Phone. The Art Phone was selected as one of the 100 best design prototypes by AXIS (2002).
• in 2003, Lars & Ivan released the first series of design loudspeakers at IFA Berlin.
• in 2005, Lars & Ivan demonstrated the first integrated tube amplifier known as the PA-40 and the Cube-S coaxial loudspeakers.
• in 2007, Lars & Ivan launched the BK21 kit set (Bobo Speakers and PA-21 Amplifier) into Europe and received 'The Best Desktop Speakers' award from the UK's What Hi-Fi magazine.
• in 2008, the Company secured its position in the international market with new products, further developed its image and commenced collaboration with Markaudio, a leading audio driver design company. By the end of 2008, Lars & Ivan will launch a series of new products and increase its distribution networks in North America, Europe and Oceania.

And there the narrative stopped. By late 2008*, had an Ice Age hit? Under news-->magazine, 2014 saw a thaw with four adverts/news posts for their domestic av magazine and Audio Technique. Whilst the brand name went back 15 years, it seemed that real market traction only really kicked in a year ago. To insure this wasn't a bad impression from a webmaster not having updated interim content, I'd have to get verification. On the STI Technoloy Ltd. site meanwhile, things looked busier, bigger and outright industrial. There were photos of clean assembly lines, uniformed workers, big industrial machines and the like. What wasn't there due to OEM non-disclosure were any hints at prior product designed and/or built by STI. To get a faint whiff of what they might have been up to as virtual electronics ghost writers, the design and engineering capabilities page listed MCU program development, Bluetooth 2.3 to 4.0, iOS and Android applications, power amplifier design up to 500 watts, pro-audio wireless design up to 2.4GHz, portable headphone amplifiers, D/A converters, 3D rendering, mock-up prep, tooling monitoring in plastic, rubber and metal and wooden-box construction design.

Finally there was a small photo on the Lars & Ivan site showing Thilo Schwer, Sybille Fleckenstein and Jens Pohlmann, with a pert credit of 'product design team'. With recognizably Teutonic names, had a small group of German engineers gone native in Kowloon in the late nineties?

* For a review from those early days on the above tube-powered iPod dock/integrated and different speakers, click here; for a more close-up 2015 Munich sighting, here. The other iPod dock shown was called the iSofa Micro Amp. It pumped out 15wpc of class D into connected speakers, added a subwoofer and composite video output and had a USB input.

On the events page, the company showed participation, with professionally branded booths, in the latest fall and spring editions of the Hong Kong Electronics Fair; and at the Munich HighEnd 2015 where I'd duly missed them in Hall 3, booth H08 below. They were very clearly open for business. Твоё здоровье! Which would be cheers in Russian, to those lime-green fellas Lars and Ivan. Except that they were proper HongKongians. Or would that be HongKongonese? Time to learn more and get with the program.

For starters, the program meant that "we will sell the THA-8XP end-user direct via our web store. For other models, we will go through a dealer/distributor network." For the rest, Florence referred me to Martin who'd answer all my other questions. She also had copied Lawrence on that. With such Westernized first names, I'd have no issue worrying about how to pronounce 'em. My own was far worse. Meanwhile reader Holger had reminded me that we already had Mark & Daniel from Shanghai, Astell & Kern from South Korea, Engstrom & Engstrom from Sweden and wasn't I glad this team hadn't settled on Hans & Franz aka Hans'gar & Franzok? Quite.

Retrieving the amp from its Apple-type but black not white box netted the flawlessly finished deck; a ribbed snap-on plastic cover for its back; four white straps; a mini-USB to USB charger cable; two mini-to-mini 3.5mm stereo ICs of dissimilar length, the shorter one with one right-angle plug; and the owner's manual. Smartly our valve amp sports two 3.5mm inputs, one on top, one on the bottom. Regardless where your source exits, you're all set without needing a long cable. The volume knob doubles as on/off at the very start of its range. A green LED confirms operational status.

Charging up on my HP work computer, AK 100 strapped to its back.

Whilst charging, a red LED on the bottom confirms status to extinguish when the battery is topped off. Here we also see the 'audio in 2' port which isn't switched but simply in parallel with the other. After all, who'd connect two sources at once?