The remainder of the setup became my usual pure class A Pass Labs XA30.8 amp with the compact Albedo Audio Aptica ceramic two-way companions. Source was my maxed-out new 3TB FusionDrive iMac running Yosemite and iTunes 12.2 via the most current PureMusic version set for top priority. The first tunes came from Anna-Marie Jopek's tropically flavoured Sobremesa album, followed by the soundtrack to Timbuktu, then some Aylin Şengün Taşçi from her Huzur disc. The conclusion? If you stuck to hype(rbole) with its push figures—about a lot of wiggle room between properly designed DACs of various persuasions—you'd have been straightened out. The DAISy 1 and Lilt were far more alike than not. Both generated intensity. This derived from hotter colours. Their autumnal saturation created fleshy timbres. Those in turn put more meat on the scales. Extricating this particular quality from their glow bottles without penalty of mush was either's ace card. Marketeers call it unique selling proposition. As the decisive overlap or common ground, some minor divergence occurred in the exact dosage of this trait. The Lilt administered the slightly stronger meds. In trade, its focus or transient grip was a bit softer. Sticking to the theme of colour temperatures, the Russian climate turned things up a tad. Forget Siberia. This also mellowed musical tensegrity—the rhythmical structural glue—similar to how hotter summer days make us feel lazier and more chilled. Call it a minor emphasis on the melodic rather than beat-driven aspects.

This lyrical relaxedness rather than propulsive drive wouldn't be measurable. It'd leave the scope jockeys convinced of its non-existence, those touting it as sellers of imaginary goods. But all it takes to divine this action is observing how you feel: edge of seat or back? Obviously there are degrees. The lean of car seats is adjustable too. Even so, these DACs were the antithesis of feet-up Barcaloungers which make one drowsy. But to stay with the image, the Lilt was a tad plusher, its back reclined a few degrees more.

Replacing the Fore Audio deck with the Aqua Hifi dialled up saturation again. Keeping tabs on our threesome, that Italian nabbed the top spot for this autumnal discipline of burnished timbres. Simultaneously the LaScala moved the seat's lean a few clicks toward upright. In that discipline it slotted between DAISy 1 as the most tensioned; and the Lilt as the most relaxed. If you associated tubes with richer deeper colours and a mellower more honeyed mien, you'd call the Lilt the most 'tube' of this gathering. Those used to exclusively transistors may well be unfamiliar with the peculiar slightly gushing gestalt of direct-heated bottles. It's more rubato than staccato, more breath-carried woodwind than hammered choppy percussion. Whatever you want to call that behaviour, the Lilt had it the strongest. Whether some of this looser textural ebb & flow also came from the discrete converter I obviously couldn't isolate.

With these basics pegged, 'twas time for the real Liltmus test. Play to its particular strengths. That begged for SETs and speakers who love 'em. In our digs that's single-ended transistors from Nelson Pass—the 10wpc FirstWatt SIT1 monos—and the Spruce tonewood Wave 40 speakers from Martin Gateley of soundkaos. Now the Lilt ran direct through its variable outputs. Incidentally, those aren't marked. Connect the wrong output and major ouch. That's a design flaw but easily rectified with an added silkscreen for the next unit. Another nit? In direct drive, the Lilt wasn't 100% quiet. It created some hum at the speaker drivers similar to many no-feedback triode amps. This noise was completely banished when I inserted a preamp.

In this setup, I played within the first 20dB of Lilt attenuation. For all our purposes, that gave enough gas. Need more? You'd want a 4Vrms or higher DAC, then run the Lilt purely as a preamp. During bygone experiments, I'd proposed that the SIT amps are particularly amenable to the charms of DHT preamps. As my intro established, those are rare. Ditto Nelson's personal cache of proprietary vertical power Jfets aka static induction transistors. Few will thus ever hear this exact combo. That's exactly why I just had to.