Actually, with Hylixa behaving differently downstairs, they made a second appearance. As I wrote in their feature review, "again the diminutive flat-membrane midrange was superbly quick, lucid and deep-throat open through the presence and lower treble bands. The 'super 45' direct-heated triodes in their grounded-grid circuit of Vinnie Rossi's preamp added faint luster to the brilliance zone. The powerful Mosfets through CanEver's big output transformers expanded bass power, exerted grippier control and punched up dynamic welly.

iMac ⇒ Audirvana 3 ⇒ Soundaware D300 Pro ⇒ I²S over HDMI ⇒ Denafrips Terminator R2R DAC with 32 x upsampler ⇒ Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature ⇒ CanEver Olimpico ⇒ Hylixa

"The upshot was strategic optimization based on my prior upstairs diagnosis. There bass had been a bit bloomy, macrodynamics a bit reserved. The key counter ingredients now were a very refined muscle amp to make small hidden 5.5" Wavecor woofers behave as butch as possible; a far more ambitious preamplifier for superior signal conditioning; and bigger space. The latter moved SPL up for equivalent room fill. Space and more serious hardware together overcame the speakers' innate 82.5dB inefficiency drag. That had delayed fully-awake showing up on the volume control. Some speakers are expert hifi whisperers. Not Hylixa. Playing these louder because a room's cubic volume grows to increase distance losses; and because higher SPL always feel more comfortable in bigger rooms… it's what kicked these shiny eggs into their round little arses, thus a band of higher torque. Now they had full traction to really shine."

I continued my Hylixa review saying that "regular readers know how I studied clarinet at the conservatory to play in numerous student orchestras. Two of my siblings still do, professionally. It's why I don't really listen to large-scale symphonica over a hifi. The gap, from a live concert's roaring oceanic power to playback's relative teapot tempest, is far too great. However, spinning up truly big stuff does take the pulse on a hifi's ability to remain stoic under full assault. If not for pure pleasure, it's a vital exercise to tick off. Given Hylixa's virtual morph from size L to XXL, I cued up Antonin Bruckner with maestro Sergiu Celebidache helming the Münchner Philharmoniker. If anyone harbored doubts about advantages of true point-source radiators to remain steadfast and sorted when things feather out and layer up to enormity, Hylixa would teach them a counter-intuitive lesson. Win by KO."

This photo reminds us how Olimpico's power supply shows either the main power cord, the power umbilical or, if turned sideways, both. Better cosmetic design would run both cables out the back to keep the front clean.

To show that high-brow classical wasn't necessary to test testicular fortitude, electronica like Kalya Scintilla's remix of Desert Dwellers' "Lotus Heart" work. So I said that "just because Hylixa is mega stylish doesn't imply that you couldn't turn your London penthouse with the dear views over the Thames into a private club. Whilst with these going loud and low will hit eventual limits, Node's gleaming ovals won't disappoint in a domestic system that hosts some neighbor-cleared fun with trance dub on didgeridoo. Hylixa proved fully equal to the task. Particularly its astonishing prowess at sorting out artificial multi-tracked soundscapes added greatly to my enjoyment. Bass slam and growl were unexpectedly heavy hitters too."

Let's peel out Olimpico's contributions. I'll mention soft power again—big emphasis on power—then tone, rhythmic tension and dynamic stability. If we go back in the kitchen and fruity for a spell, the quality of tone links to a core sonic texture. A ripe peach or plum is very juicy but soft. That wasn't the CanEver. It was a ripe smooth perfectly round Granny Smith apple. It's juicy in its own way but first and foremost firm and crunchy. Taking a bite leaves clear crisp toothy demarcations. This tone quality of innate firmness, with an apple's not peach's moisture content, was key. The best word for it was chewy, again. The sound with Olimpico in the driver's seat was overtly powerful but soft-edged, very chewy and just subtly moist. Inherent to its potency was imperturbable dynamic steadfastness. That also punched up beat fidelity as timing tension. Playing lotus eater for a stretch, I cranked up the remix to party levels. I was thrilled by how specific, focused and loyally fixed to their locations the various sounds remained; how a gargantuan virtual stage kept scaling up without faltering or fraying at the seams. A final distinction was the quality of silence. It's difficult to find words for. As cause I suspect the output iron acting as galvanic isolators and 100kHz low-pass filters against ultrasonic noise.

Here I'll only say that silence can feel vibrant like the presence of an active something; or like an absence in whose vacuum that something suffocated and died. Olimpico's silence, as strange as it may read, had a very distinctive vibrant feel. That tied directly to the tone/texture observation. Aside from typical muscle amp virtues—authoritative ease, dynamic willingness, maximized bass—the standout sonic feature was the sunny dry firmness of tone which contrasted against a particular type of surrounding stillness. Without planning to, this review has used two food analogies already. Perhaps the background presence of food was because this sound felt particularly nutritious? Something about that feels very apt. But to return to terra firma away from the kitchen, we conclude with a comparison to our Pass Labs XA-30.8. That's a very burly 30wpc class A machine with 20 output transistors per channel. Speaker referees would be our usual 4-way Audio Physic Codex.