Staging and imaging. This also applied without qualification to the representation of space. If a recording showed no natural gradation of depth, Shinai projected the events quite precisely onto the loudspeaker plane. If something happened in the depth domain, Shinai's impetuous attacks generally didn't move toward the listening position despite all its impulsiveness and unfettered speed. This was as true for the more forward ATC SCM11 speakers as it was for the more laid-back Qln Prestige Three. Instead it created a space that seemed unlimited in depth, starting roughly at the speaker plane then extending well behind it and high up vertically. My Norma/LinnenberG pairing and the other integrated amplifiers seemed more limited especially in their depth differentiation.
Again Shinai combined seemingly contradictory elements: immediate impulse response without braking and free projection that worked into the far reaches of my room. One generally associates the former with a forward projection. But the Grandinote Shinai didn't care about preconceptions. It threw a three-dimensional sound field that wasn't inferior to the high-level BAT VK-3000 SE with its sharp-edged separation, then created even more space between instruments and voices. Tip: on a first Shinai audition, play a live classical or jazz recording like Jazz at the Pawnshop. I guarantee that you will feel spatially and atmospherically transported to the recording venue if the rest of your chain plays along. But you should give Shinai at least 30 minutes, better an hour to warm up each time you fire it up. Cold and especially when completely disconnected from the wall for a while, its abilities are limited. In this regard too it is an authentic Italian thoroughbred sports car.
Conclusion. Few audio components exceed my expectations such that I feel almost prompted to summarize my findings at the review's very beginning just to prep readers to expect plenty of praise and precious little to no criticism. Grandinote's Shinai was just such a one. It's a no-frills high-flyer tweaked for sound quality that defines the acoustically feasible in its exclusive price range with crystal clarity. On one hand, this made my conclusion easy. On the other, it's impossible to break things down neatly when everything's equally brilliant. Here Shinai was one of the most balanced integrated amps I know. It didn't exhibit clinical neutrality but added just a pinch of warmth. This embedded so perfectly and so cleverly balanced the very open treble that tonality passed for inconspicuous in the best sense of the word. Probably Shinai's greatest strength lies in the combination of seemingly incompatible virtues from which to build an exemplary coherent whole.
From our prior Shinai review.
Shinai hardly knew genre preferences. Limitations will result more from typical listening habits which are just into certain music styles. With its 2 x 37 watts, Shinai sounded quick and stable but won't achieve orgiastic SPL with speakers of average efficiency. Whoever wants jackhammer music at maximum loudness or to feel impulses nailed to the forehead best look for appropriately-scaled wattage generators. Other than that, I only foresee 'danger' for audiophile bliss if a chain, especially its speaker, tends to extraordinarily poisonous treble. One or two PA hornspeakers or boxes equipped with certain French tweeters mainly from the 1990s come to mind. Because Shinai messages nothing but the truth, that includes the truth about your speakers which at times could be unpleasant. Personally, I'm simply preoccupied by something else: what would a more expensive Grandinote model do still better?