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Chord Shawline power cord 10% silver-soldered; 3 x LessLoss filters (two flat, one upright) and C-Marc wiring; custom soft-start board; Bybee small Gold Slipstream Quantum Purifier filters; 16cm parallel and series spiral resonator, 2cm series resonator; ETI Research RCA sockets; Refine Audio fuse; solid walnut back panel.
"As usual, allow for about 5 days to sound spot on." Fanciers of 45kg class A behemoths like the recently reviewed €16'800 50wpc Gryphon Essence will be aghast that this makes 6 times their power for 5½ times less cash. Of course they know that class A is a very different sonic proposition than class D could ever hope to be.
Lilliputian, bijou or plain fou? In insert, against a standard paperback, CD cover and 48mm men's watch, you be the judge. Goliath never felt so self-conscious.
But is it, really? With the Gryphon having packed up only a week prior, I still had its sound firmly in mind. It took no total recall to know that the P1 shared its general sonic aesthetic. It squarely wasn't the Merrill/AGD GaN flavor; nor that of our Purifi demonstrator. Where a smaller S.P.E.C. amp I reviewed last year was closer to our 30wpc class A Pass Labs in overall temperament—the late Marja & Henk characterized S.P.E.C.'s big monos as their 8wpc Audio Note Meishu 300B SET with endless power—now the tiny Boenicke stood in for the Essence just departed. That meant it was less earthy and dark than our XA-30.8 but retained clear class A attributes like the Gryphon had. Today's younger people experience gender fluidity to demand new freedoms of identity and self expression. The traditional dividing lines of hifi's old caste system have similarly begun to erode. Gifted designers learnt to bend circuit types, classes and devices to their sonic will such that identifying an amp's operational type or output device no longer predicts much with any certainty. Valve kit from Linear Tube Audio can sound like transistors, class D like SET. To guide us true, it's more important than ever to use our ears rather than trust long-standing assumptions which worked in the past.
In our home, ultra-bandwidth class AB direct-coupled amps like Kinki's EX-B7, Bakoon's AMP-13R and LinnenberG's Liszt followed by Crayon's CFA-1.2 represent the Autobahn's stretches of unlimited speed. They lead with transient exactitude and enormous transparency. In class D, their stand-ins are the Merrill Element and AGD GaNTube™ amps. In Simon Lee's words, our Simon Audio class AB i5 and matching big CD receiver are deliberately voiced for 'classic soft power'. They represent a ballsy bottom-up perspective of high mass and warmth where transparency/resolution step back to feel softer and contrast ratio is lower. Our Auralic modified Hypex monos, Nord nCore monos with rev. D buffer and Purifi stereo with stock buffer and Hypex PSU are far leaner. Then they go texturally dry. They overdamp the upper registers to feel stingy. With its current feedback and SMPS, our Crayon slightly shifts the very mature Kinki/Bakoon/LinnenberG balance of lateral Exicon Mosfets. It's not quite as fast but in trade a bit weightier tonally. Like our other Autobahn amps, it's definitely not dry. For my tastes, going nowhere fast without real meat on the bones doesn't cut it. That's different from Joël Chevassus who recently wrote that "some prefer comfort and sweetness over ultimate transparency. I always look for the most transparent result regardless of potential listening fatigue." I too chase ultimate transparency. I just draw the line at already faint fatigue. Why pay good money to get punished?
How did swapping our Austrian amp for the Swiss redress our upstairs balance? Very much like the Gryphon Essence. It was earthier, darker and heavier. With it, top-down illumination diminished. That closed down ultimate depth perception and separation. To exaggerate, it washes a loosely knit wool shirt at 90°C then tumbles it in a dryer at max heat. It'll come out shrunk—that part doesn't translate—and with its weave tightened up like felt. The tighter weave has less holes for the light to penetrate. As a wool shirt and sonically, a tighter weave traps air to get warmer. Reduce my simile's severity for the correct dose. Why did this turning not incur the usual slower musical pace? Dynamic swings hadn't become lazier. Whilst mass increased and transparency reduced, vitality from dynamic contrast and expressivity compensated upward. That retained dynamic momentum like eagerly trading lightweight pugilists, not out-of-breath lumbering heavyweights.