Oops, two lengthy paragraphs alone on the fantastic imaging of the Audio Analogue ABsolute. I must hurry off to other attractions. However, precisely when it comes to imaging in a room, there's a wealth of detailed information often not overtly perceived which the ear interprets as spatial information on a more subliminal level instead. And here the Italian was tops. But not just there. Let's move to the next discipline, overall tonality. Here the ABsolute clearly differed from its AAdac stablemate. The ABsolute didn't sound warm or even subtly groomed to veer in that direction. In contrast to the Musical Fidelity AMS35i with its bloomier bass, it felt exemplarily neutral. Nevertheless, the ABsolute had its own way of flattering the ear. In my book it did so primarily with fantastic resolution. Like only a few amplifiers it threw an immense wealth of detail combined with extremely clean, fine dynamic differentiation and remained coherent as though cast from one mould. A power amp like the SPL Performer s1200 for example resolves very well too and has remarkably fine dynamic talents but pushes these virtues into the foreground due to its transient emphasis. The SPL always seems ready to lurch. On detail capture and fine dynamics, the ABsolute was the even clearer, more precise and subtle yet came across incredibly confident and natural so no less exciting. Musical tension rendered still more impressive than with the SPL which is already ace in that regard. With the ABsolute, the saddest piece of music I know, "Tears for Esbjörn" from the Iiro Rantala and Michael Wollny album Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic, felt even more profound, its piano attacks still more complex and multi-layered than over the SPL. Everything was richer. I would almost like to say something pathetic like, it glittered less but shone more. This kind of performance absolutely captivated me. How about the bass?

Compared to my Bryston 4B³ famous for its excellent bass performance, the Audio Analogue seemed a touch more reserved at first; but not to be confused with weak. Similar to the SPL's showiness of resolution and dynamics, the Bryston seemed to somewhat strut its strengths. In similar manner to the SPL then, I actually thought that the mighty Italian topped the Bryston by acting a little more confident; or less self-conscious. Deep tones came off no louder or harder but more complete and expressive. I can't think of a better word than ‘real'. This was particularly evident on acoustic instruments. Take the big kettledrums of Le sacre du printemps which Stravinsky exploits to great effect at various junctures. Even if the Bryston seemed to play the percussion a little louder perhaps, the ABsolute made it feel more assertive, tangible, embodied and in a very special way concrete.

But electronic music benefitted as well. Take the quite experimental Pouti album by Silicon Soul which over the Italian gained in multi-layered complexity. The ABsolute simply unearthed more facets from Kenneth L. Schafer Jr.'s synthetic sub bass orgies, crazy phase gimmicks and other effects which electronica of its time experimented with.

The same could be said for the other end of the spectrum, the treble. It was incredibly resolved, clean and airy yet a completely different kind of airy than certain valve amps celebrate. A Manley Stingray II for example will actively boost the treble. In addition to its tonal accentuation, it then enriches the high frequencies with pleasant tube distortion. My current guest had no need of such tricks. Its treble connected linearly to the rest of the bandwidth and impressed with fascinating resolution. This didn't rely on any emphasis to have me distinguish similar even identical instruments more clearly than with the Manley. I like to refer to "Pico Pico" from La Danza en mi Corazon by Omar Torrez with Orpheus. Only truly ace amplifiers manage to keep its two dueling guitars this clearly apart. With the Audio Analogue ABsolute it was completely self-evident.

Finally let's touch upon energy-saving Class AB mode. It's not necessary to revisit all the disciplines again because the intense yet effortless precision and tonality remained at the same high level. Actual differences were a little harder to pin. I always found myself turning up the volume a little more than in Class A. I couldn't make out exactly why. But the sweet spot certainly narrowed. The ABsolute still celebrated its fascinating three-dimensional representation of space but I had to sit much more precisely centered. I'll try to explain another difference with a foodie example. Consider two chocolates made from the exact same ingredients. One is stirred until a homogeneous mass gets poured into a mould and allowed to cool. The other is stirred far longer. If you put both in your mouth and chew them immediately, you'll hardly notice any difference in taste. But let the chocolate melt slowly instead and you'll find that the one which was stirred longer melts more finely, spreads more elegantly across the tongue thus brings out more intense flavor layers despite the exact same ingredients. This offset wasn't drastic. One or the other bad recording in fact even won in slightly coarser AB mode. That's because recordings that offer little by way of microdynamics felt a little crisper as though this granularity subtly accentuated them.

To enjoy our favorite pieces in a concentrated manner with fervour, I would simply say that we should then treat ourselves to class A.