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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo boost, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz Hifi, Tidal Hifi, COS Engineering D1, Denafrips Terminator, Soundaware D300Ref as USB bridge/SD transport, Jay's Audio CDT2 MkII [on loan
Preamplifier: Nagra Classic, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage II, COS Engineering D1, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVT module)
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1 monos, F5, F6, F7; Goldmund/Job 225; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics NC500 monos; LinnenberG Audio Liszt monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; Cube Audio Nenuphar [on loan]; Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V, VI & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL 3000; Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps/sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: €11'400
Tube sound. Is it due to the valves themselves? A particular harmonic distortion profile? High output impedance? Simple circuitry? No negative feedback? Output transformers? All of it?
Designers of solid-state amplifiers who want to approximate tube sound or at least recreate some of it in solid state have attempted any of the above. In Stereophile's famous amplifier challenge, Bob Carver cloned the sound of an unidentified valve amplifier with his affordable transistor amp by duplicating the former's transfer function. Whilst known exclusively for sand amps during his Carver Corp. and Sunfire days, in his later years Mr. Carver designed and sold tube amps under the Carver LLC name.
At HighEnd Munich 2016 with Entreq grounding stations and 6moons regular sound|kaos and their Libération speakers. By 2019, Grandinote showed with their own Mach 9 speakers in carbon-fibre enclosures.
Meanwhile one Massimiliano 'Max' Magri, from Bressana Bottarono in Italy's Pavia province just south of Milan, started with valve amps for his personal pleasure. Then he went all solid-state for his formal Grandinote brand. But because he had already worked at length with vacuum tubes to also wind up his own output transformers, he determined that the superior sound of valves had little to do with the output devices themselves. To him it had everything to do with their particular circuitry. Whilst in pursuit of typical transistor strengths like low output impedance for high damping, far wider bandwidth and lower noise, he executes tube-type circuitry including output transformers which he builds up around costly exotic cores. This hybridized approach he calls magnetosolid [McIntosh use autoformers for many of their transistor amps].
For his 'small' Shinai stereo integrated with two each RCA/XLR inputs under consideration today, it means 37wpc into 8Ω. It means true dual-mono circuitry including two power cords. It means class A operation and just one complementary pair of push/pull output transistors per side. It means zero feedback, DC coupling between all stages, output transformers, bandwidth of 2Hz – 240kHz and power draw of 270 watts. All of that packs into a 318 x 196 x 473mm WxHxD black chassis which weighs 40kg. "Big iron aboard" is the subtext.
It also means a remote wand which besides the expected can program the max volume for each input, defeat the display, offset channel balance, turn input 1 into a line output or convert one/both XLR input/s to RCA (also requires XLR/RCA adapter/s). Shinai's pure amplifier version is called Silva and duplicates the performance specs but reduces input socketry to a single XLR pair whilst doing away with the volume control.
To reiterate, Massimiliano Magri asks whether his sound is tubes or semiconductors—a reasonable response now expects a bit of either—and promises that his Magnetosolid® technology shall amplify our emotions.
That being the holy grail of hifi, I just had to hear this for myself.
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