Hi Srajan,

I was hoping to see you and talk at the CES but in Las Vegas, I was told you weren't coming. The M55 is finally ready. The first production units will be ready in March. I can send you the first pair for review. After finishing the production version of the M55, I can only say that I do not think it sounds like a tube amplifier but that it is the closest amplifier to an M88 (which itself does not sound like a typical tube amp). I was thinking that when you review the M55, I should also send a pair of M88 mkIIs. That way you can compare them directly. The mkII version is even quieter and a little more dynamic than the Model 88s you owned.

Thank you very much.
Best regards,
Eduardo de  Lima

Having shamelessly opted for a long-overdue vacation rather than Las Vegas for a change, this e-mail's arrival today, 1/16, was timely. Checking the show reports to date, I only chanced upon one solitary mention of the Audiopax room by SonicFlare to learn about the expected launch of de Lima's solid-state amps. At $11,995/pr, the 30-watt Model 55s weigh in as dearly as the original valved Model 88s. This is apparently due to equivalent build costs (the basic circuit, the Timbre Locks and output transformers are very similar to the tube amps). The new Ref150s at $12,490/pr above are the successor to the Ref100s previously shown in red lacquer and then cutting a Watt/Puppy-reminiscent profile.

I find it telling that Eduardo would -- without any solicitation or probing on my part -- volunteer the above statement about "I don't think it sounds like a tube amp but then my tube amps don't really sound like tube amps either". This points at the very convergence Michael Lavorgna and I happened upon in our respective reviews of the First Watt Aleph J and F3 Power JFET a few days ago. With both of us owning and referencing 45-based SETs, we did not think that Nelson Pass' amps sounded exactly like tubes. But they didn't sound like typical transistors either. Put differently, neither sand amp made us twitch like strung-out junkies for a vital thermionic fix. This served as a reminder. The two camps of sound generally ascribed to solid and hollow state have long since intermarried. Their gene pools have mixed to spawn hybrids which no longer are recognizably this or that. They operate instead somewhere in the middle, with joint attributes that make them accessible and appealing to believers of both faiths.

I'm not saying that the Audiopax M55 (of which I've only heard a prototype more than a year ago) or the First Watt amps are the first or only non-tube amps to belong into this sector. Think Lavardin or perhaps even Ayre for other examples. Further samples would likely spring to mind with those who've extensively investigated this matter. It's not about name calling here but just to put attention on the fact that even die-hard tube lovers now have options which, while not identical, do bridge the gap in ways that could be unexpected if one still subscribed to the old either/or paradigm.

Being offered to review tube and transistor monos of identical power ratings from the same designer -- to thus be based not only on the same design philosophy but presumably a very similar voicing to conform with his notions on what constitutes realistic music reproduction -- is a very unique opportunity. It approaches the closest possible apples to apples comparison to learn what exactly still separates valves from transistors (if anything). I look forward to whatever lessons these amps shall teach when the first production run is underway and this proposed assignment takes flight.