"Danes don't lie." That of course was Dynaudio's slogan for the longest time. By appointing Dynaudio USA as the new importer of German tube brand Octave for the US and Canadian markets, some hoary lies have finally gotten the official ax. You know the drill. Tube amps can't properly drive speakers like Aerial, B&W, Dynaudio, Soundlab and Thiel. Not enough stability into low impedances, not enough drive and control and linearity to do 'conventional' speakers justice. When B&W created a marketing alliance years ago, it was with transistor amp company Classé.

Octave boss Andreas Hofmann has fought the good fight to counter limp valve notions for years. At events like this, he always showed his electronics with 'normal' speakers. In business for 20 years, the US simply never paid sufficient attention for his company to gain representation. This now has finally changed in a beautifully drastic fashion that's more of an endorsement for his designs than any high profile reviews could ever accomplish *.

* While still in the surprise segment of this report, the NordOst mention on a later page will pursue this particular aspect of credibility and reviews further.

To do his part in the drastic business, Hofmann deliberately refrained from running his colossal Jubilee monos or even the 130 watts into 4 ohms MRE-130 monos (their innards below, image opens to full size in a new window).

For this show, he powered Dynaudio's Sapphire speakers with his very smallest V-40SE integrated below.

As do all Octave amplifiers, the V40SE runs in push-pull pentode with feedback, in this case a pair of KT88s per side for 40 watts RMS power. Intelligent power management, eco mode, stiff supply voltage regulation for a S/N ratio of -110dB @ 40W and output noise below 300uV, optional capacitance-enhancing Black Box or Super Black Box connection for true 2-ohm stability, fixed bias with precision LED confirmation and standard input/driver tubes (1xECC83, 1x6922) all conform to Octave's no-nonsense engineering principles. There's a fixed record output and a regulated buffered variable output. A bypass function allows running the V40SE as a stereo amp and if the pre-out is used to feed a headphone amp for example, the power amp section can be switched off with the Ecomode switch to reduce heat and power consumption.

Lest you assume Octave's 70-year old ex sales manager and still crackerjack demo leader played low-impact New Age pablum to protect their smallest amp, fuhggedaboudid. The gentleman above played very dynamic music at high levels and assured the audience that live music would be louder still. The cut by Saami singer Marie Boine was a brilliant bit of audiophile showmanship and musical content.

Here is Andreas Hofmann talking shop.

I too was talking shop, making the final payment on a pair of MRE-130s with SBBs which would be delivered right after the show to serve as reference high-power, drive-anything tube amplifiers in my growing arsenal of reviewing tools.

Those with truly gargantuan rooms might need the 250 watts the Jubilee monos deliver into 4 ohms via a set of 4xECC82 and 8x6550C but I neither have that kind of space, budget nor should I ever requisition review loudspeakers so hard of hearing as to remotely require such power. The inset above shows Octave's new Phono Module.

On the transistor side of things, I'd already beaten Avantgarde's super-talented engineer Matthias Ruff to the punch. He was electrified. "Did you see the Digital Do Main amps on the Lansche plasma tweeter speakers? They use completely new transistors. Brilliant design. And the sound was absolutely fantastic." First off, Linnman had penned a RoadTour visiting Digital Do Main's Kazuhiko Nishi in his Japanese headquarters in October 2008. Secondly, I'd already heard this year's exhibit to have come away equally impressed. But as a reviewer, not engineer, it was most gratifying to hear a very gifted competitor's engineer bestow such high praise on a new design also from a technical perspective.

You can see the discharge light of Lansche's Corona tweeter in the right speaker

Nishi-San's B-1a amplifiers are built around so-called Static Induction transistors (SIT) which were invented in Japan by Mr. Nishi's teacher's teacher during the early 70s and documented in a theoretical framework in academic journals. From Linnman's article, "...Mr. Nishi benchmarks the performance of his amplifiers to real music far more than competitors of similarly priced amps. Mr. Nishi is very familiar with the tonality of Steinway pianos made at different periods. He moved on to draw a sketch showing the relationship between the key, hammer and string inside a section of a Steinway Grand where a single touch on the key will first generate the tone at 1000Hz immediately followed by a 2nd string which generates overtones at 7000Hz.

"This is what makes a modern Steinway different from those made earlier and why the tonality of vintage Steinways is unique. Nishi-San asked me to focus on the unique timbre of master pianist Martha Argerich's instrument. I am no expert on Steinways but when I closed my eyes, the microdynamics of the instrument were conveyed with speed, clarity and nobility. The varying weight of the pianist's fingers could be felt. The development from pianissimo to fortissimo was very well structured, allowing me to follow the lyrical lines easily..."

"...The SIT-based output stages are packaged in cases of very low resonance and thermal resistance. They are then secured to a large gold-plated pure copper heatsink to allow quick dissipation of the class-A circuit's heat and minimization of thermal distortion. Each B1-a can be configured to bridged mono to increase output power to 300 watts. What surprised me the most was the spirit behind the development of the B1-a. Although there has been continuous coverage of this amplifier for almost 18 months by different Japanese media (I even thought those articles were actual reviews), it is still not available for sale as of my writing this! Mr. Nishi is very serious about the B-1a and won't rush it to market. As far as I know, a senior ex-Yamaha engineer, Mochida-San, has been performing repeat beta tests for more than 1.5 years to take into account many critics' feedback. Sugano-san of Stereo Sound also compliments the achievement of this amplifier and serial number 001 will be delivered to him for the first formal review...."

If my brief listening impressions and Matthias Ruff's instincts are anything to go by, Nichi-San's Digital Do Main B1-a might have been the most relevant new transistor amplifier technology introduction at this show. I'm sure forthcoming press coverage in 2009 will explore this topic at greater length to fill in the tantalizing bits 'n' bobs.

This just leaves digital and cable samples for our surprise section of this report before the regular alphabetical coverage commences.