Magnetosolid tech. Born in 1973, electrical engineer Massimiliano Magri is the owner and chief designer of Grandinote. He built his first amplifier in 1996. That was a tube amp with transformers designed and wound himself because "it's pretty easy to achieve relatively good sound with tubes." Like his Lombard colleague Enrico Rossi of Norma Audio, Magri nonetheless concluded that true excellence with valves is hardly possible. Still, "I asked myself why almost always, tubes sound fuller and more musically satisfying. I knew the physics of tubes and transistors well to soon realize that the answer had to lie in the respective circuits used, not the output devices themselves. My studies and previous experience with output transformers then formed the basis for my Magnetosolid approach."

From our prior Shinai review.

Magnetosolid combines magnet (for ferromagnetic output transformers) and solid (state). Magri designs with typical tube amp circuits just not with tubes. Instead he prefers transistors. As a result, he feels that his amplifiers have the "rich" signature of tubes but significantly more extended bandwidth and far lower output impedance so higher damping factor. He has developed this scheme consistently and today only runs signal-path capacitors before the two output transistors, no longer between gain stages. Negative feedback is shunned. One result of these efforts is an above-average bandwidth of 2Hz-240kHz.

VIP amps via Magnetosolid-VHP? Shinai isn't exactly entry level, just our entry into this portfolio. With Essenza, the Italians have their first escalation. Otherwise identical, Essenza has a different output stage with Magnetosolid-VHP tech. That means a superior output transformer. According to Magri, it features a "special core material" whose cost is very high. Still, the result is worth it: "With identical wiring geometry, the primary inductance of this core is more than 10 x higher. The damping factor is even higher, the frequency response more extended". His solution? Every non-VHP amp has a VHP counterpart to which the non-VHP can be upgraded. On this Magri is bullish: "90% of my customers who bought Shinai will want to replace it with a larger Grandinote at some point and nothing else". But that's not all. Otherwise identical units top even the Magnetosolid VHP models with a still more advanced input stage. Thus Essenza becomes Supremo. However, a later upgrade of Essenza is not possible. Supremo has an entirely different input stage.

Focused on essentials? Given Grandinote's willingness to separate, Shinai contains no phonostage, D/A converter or streamer. Those are only available as separate devices. No headphone jack either. Shinai focuses on its primary task and uses what's required, nothing more. For the nice, small but solid metal remote, that means volume, mute and input selection. For the latter, you have a choice between two RCA and XLR each. Internally the signal processes fully balanced either way. "Everything in our electronics is balanced. To me an indispensable dogma is the symmetry of my circuitry. The only unbalanced Grandinote is the Celio phonostage; but if you use two of them in mono, each works balanced again for my own peace of mind".