Palletized Schenker delivery by 40' truck with our usual fearless driver revealed well overbuilt packaging beneath the black shrink wrap. Once opened, I saw tidy signed packing slips, thick owner's manuals and clear instructions on which tested/matched KT150 belonged into what socket. The RE340's tube cage proved equally robust, with black felt strips along all edges that ride the transformer cover to prevent mars and nicks.

This heavy-duty assembly docks atop the amp, thus comes off without undoing a single screw. After taking the obligatory photos, I put the cover back into the cardboard box before stowing all packing in the garage. We'd look at exposed tubes like proper adults.

For quick proof of life, I fired up the loaner pair connected to the Aqua Hifi Formula DAC and Vivid Audio speakers. VoilĂ . All was in perfect order. Time to worship the break-in gods. Like many ageing audiophiles, they can be hard of hearing. It might take a while before they notice your prayers.

This gives us time for a quick tour. Like the amp, the preamp's hard mute function enables convenient cable swaps without powering things down. Bypass and tone control both have their own confirmation LED to show their selection at a glance. The additional tube of the TC circuit...

... can be 'injected' into the signal path without dislodging the actual treble/bass controls from their zero positions. Here we see that valve mounting military-style or horizontally below the cover insert that accommodates this module's added controls.

Here we see the first three of those, with a cover-all-bases input selector and dual-mono balance controls...

... followed by the actual tone controls and the push button that adds them to the signal path to light up the corresponding front-panel light.

Finally the right side of the faceplate shows the selected input, with SL1/SL2 denoting the two modular bays and whatever option a consumer may have had installed there.