Alto and Tempo's first signs of life netted no surprise. Their priority list was obvious from the start. It rekindled all fond memories of their costlier kin. The petite duo instantly impressed with dynamic keenness, illumination, accuracy, lucidity, insight, openness, clarity, spatial scale and nicely extended superbly controlled bass. That blend translated as a sonic aesthetic focused on useful power, high-pop contrast, freshness and the highlighting of the tiniest dust motes between images. Most product this ripped, airy, energized and shimmery can soon betray itself as being texturally pale, coarse, chiseled or nervous. Not here. Alberto's entry-level stack was as smooth and vivacious as it was sporty, immediate and direct. It just didn't get remotely dry, harsh, piercing or hyper twitchy. If anything, its admirably liquid well-sorted action on my Boenicke towers should puzzle many who aren't particularly fond of class D. Audio products this aspirated are admired for their quick reflexes, massive power and highly damped control of dastardly loads but not so much smoothness across a wide textural palette or the overall maturity which the Alto/Tempo set clearly had. As such it defied the status quo to be that much more special. Isn't it fun to—snooze!—put pervasive myths to bed?
In my book, top performers must cover all bases on a uniformly high level without obvious downsides. Peak performance still allows for bias but financing one group of traits with contrary assets is forbidden. So devices tailored for richness, roundness and meat which simultaneously feel slow, chunky and veiled don't qualify. Neither does quick spatially grand and sunny kit which lacks substance to feel ethereal, hollow and bass shy. The W11 SE+ fronted by Alto and Tempo was exceptionally springy, easy-going, articulate and clear. It also was fierce and restless. Those aspects simply built upon a backbone thick and juicy enough to not default into the thin, dry, sterile or undercooked. Alberto's new troopers were geared for propulsion, zip and spatial liberation and quick fully grounded bass. Their well-developed color and loads of air increased overall spatial vividness and intensity. I call that a full-care package.
Alto and Tempo went about their biz with class that's hard to come by. That was their greatest asset. Still, they were inherently very revealing lively products. That's why any predominance of roundness, mass, density and laid-back mysteriousness was off today's main menu. As it turned out, these traits were easy to add. By swapping the Pacific DAC's Living Voice-branded 300B to KR T100, the general gestalt steered nicely in that direction. Swapping in an AMR DP-777SE pushed this envelope a notch further. iFi Audio's Pro iDSD with Tube+ mode did so even more. None were as sporty, direct or quick as the LampizatOr. It didn't matter. AGD's set proved enjoyably adaptive by gracefully supporting their individual profiles and welcomed all extra sensuality, heft and color they injected. AGD's quicksilvery personality shone through regardless and I thought that perfect. Shoppers into high RPM acceleration, immediacy, slam, control and transparency don't want the opposite after all. Personally, the AGD combo with the Pacific DAC's LV 300B was my favorite. This DAC and Boenicke's W11 SE+ are hi-res snappy types just as today's set so theory predicted issues from mutually reinforcing profiles.
But I saw no mystery why it instead performed brilliantly. Twin LessLoss Firewall modules, multiple C-Marc power cords and Boenicke Audio's highly potent distributor box always inject extra mass and smoothness. Within a truly revealing signal path like today's, these accessories do an awful lot and are mandatory in my book. Subtract them and performance instantly dives into something icier, shinier, lighter, shallower, coarser to be in dire need of swapping at least one main component to rebalance again. Put the accessories back and enjoy all the shove, pinpoint outlines, snap, color, closeness and vigor which the AGD platform natively packs; minus any listed downsides. After getting accustomed to Tempo and Alto, it was time to put them against Trilogy's equivalents. I largely knew the outcome already. These are oppositely polarized contestants, period. Trilogy's set emerged as the rounder, bloomier, more massive and atmospheric against quick snappy team AGD which prioritized dynamics, outlines, clarity and a more aerated soundstage. Trilogy was texturally fruitier, more viscous, earthy and meticulous, AGD more electric, fit, wiry, liberated, radiant and propulsive. That's the general if oversimplified upshot. At a level this high, weaknesses don't apply. Swaps between sets changed perspective as described but I didn't lust for anything specific after each and enjoyed both thoroughly. Here enter personal preferences. Two radically different flavors at my disposal allowed me to exploit each according to mood and repertoire. That's the benefit of audio hardware this well sorted across the board.