Le son; niveau suivant. At a claimed 95dB/2.83V sensitivity, Lieutenant wanted an obviously lighter touch on the throttle. Be it gains from higher power-conversion efficiency; 3-way advantages over the outgoing M1 2-way at right; or Alain's custom 9-incher being flatly superior to the sterling 8-inch Accuton – Lieutenant's resolution particularly across the midband was undeniably next level. It made sense of tracks where crowdedness tended to invite confusion like Hiba Tawaji's glossy Arab Pop or Wael Jassar's meditative miniatures whose excess reverb behaves like an ebru painting on water. It looked deeper into tone modulations, be that for Renaud Garcia-Fon's 5-string upright on "Canto de barco", Matthieu Saglio's cello on his El Camino de los vientos album, Redi Hasa's on The Stolen Cello or the heart-in-throat vocals of Volkan Konak. When you suddenly hear more nuance and realism, it's obvious like pinched skin. And it's humbling when after twenty years on the beat, it still manages to reset markers by significant degrees. Shiver me timbers! From the Wiki, this nautical slang illustrates the pounding which the wooden frames of sailing ships encounter during heavy seas. It means to convey a sense of fear and awe similar to 'blow me down'. Message received. Shock abating. Steady on, matey.

iMac ⇒ Audirvana 3.5 ⇒ Denafrips Gaia ⇒ I²S/HDMI ⇔ clock-sync'd Denafrips Terminator Plus ⇒ Passive Preamp icOn 4Pro SE ⇒ Kinki Studio EX-B7

That Lieutenant could also dish hard and furious dawned with "Loom" from the Robert Miles & Trilok Gurtu collab Miles_Gurtu at high SPL. Over the M1's rear slot port, its bass range now was more linear to show less room interaction. Textures were drier, less bloomy and more continuous with the midrange. Lieutenant's hidden woofer with its port holes in the stern registered exactly like a downfiring sub differs from a front firer. The latter's woofer looks straight at us. That conveys its initial shock-wave impact directionally. It causes that heightened kick sensation fancied by some listeners but at least subliminally reveals its location and pumping. Lieutenant's bass located very precisely. It simply didn't seem to come from anywhere or be caused by any mechanical action. That disassociation from both box and cause sounded distinctly different – accurate yet natural, powerful but not in any overdone or hyped fashion.

Let's call it sneaky bass just to stress the point of this 4th-order bandpass distinction. It was literally and virtually invisible but very much audible.

Perhaps it came from the bipolar treble radiation's greater in-room distribution; or perhaps from Alain's custom widebander being capable to 15kHz even though he rolls it out at 3.3kHz? In any event, the depth of high harmonics in the upper midrange went well beyond what one normally gets from doped paper cones. A sterling demonstrator was "Promenade" from the Tsabropoulos & Lechner album Melos on ECM. Not available on YouTube, I embedded a 30-second sample. The full track—highly recommended!—takes you to Spotify. This piano exhibits a very peculiar pellucidity particularly in its upper registers. Here tones fall like dew drops irradiated by sun rays. That overtone-rich character Lieutenant made even more persuasive than the M1. That seemed rather out of character for an apparently vintage drive unit with pleated surround. Yet hearing was believing. Aye, Cap'n.

It brings us full circle to my earlier comment about next-level resolution. Compared to our usual transducers which include Audio Physic Codex and German Physiks HRS-120, Lieutenant dug down deeper into a tone's harmonic layers. This wasn't about so-called 'big tone' à la 6SN7 triodes. That's fatter thus slower and darker. Lieutenant was trim and muscular but with that inside-out harmonic radiance a bit like charisma. This was a quick sound which still managed to do a heavy tractor's tilling job. It turns soil to gets parts not usually exposed up to the surface. Dark nutrient-rich earth sees the sun and light and darkness coexist. It's a lyrical way of describing a sound that was both fully developed and fast. True, I had 2.5MHz direct-coupled high-power amps fronting it and an equally quick autoformer passive before that. But the M1 had seen the same and not gone this far. So really, next level stuff for yours truly.

The key ingredient would seem to be a dipole midrange driver that "covers all voices from the lowest bass of a Gregorian chant to the highest coloratura soprano so 65Hz to at least 3.3kHz with minimal directivity". At the outer ends of the bandwidth, completion comes from bipole-radiating horn-loaded and time-aligned treble; and a seamlessly integrated invisible woofer. 95dB sensitivity adds easeful resolution. It all packs into a deceptively ordinary-looking box that really doesn't predict what to expect…

… just like how this tune opens versus where it goes.