Another of my favorite albums is Flamenco puro live. It is yet another excellent release on Decca of a stunning performance. Those who know it may be afraid that with a tubed phono stage there won't be enough fire and passion. Fear not. There was enough passion in the singer's voice to sustain five albums let alone one. His voice was potent, its texture and timbre natural and the passion and energy most convincing. The next remarkable element were the palmas, flamenco's typical hand claps. It's one of the most difficult to present believably, at least on the level of the LampizatOr. The guitar too was clear, rich, fast, energetic, vibrant – everything we expect from it in a flamenco master's hands. Last but not least was the dancing. It's the visually most stunning element of any flamenco show; and this sound-only recording. You can't see the dancers which makes conveying their performance so difficult. Yet on this album you can "see" them with your ears and just a bit of imagination… when the album is this remarkably executed during playback. The VP4 Silver was most convincing in conveying all the fast percussive impulses of the blazing feet. I could feel the wooden floor respond, dust swirling in the air energized by the mesmerizing movements of the flamenco dancers. No matter how heated on-stage events got, the LampizatOr conveyed them in a passionate, energetic yet orderly fashion. What a performance by Paco Peña and troupe. It doesn't get much better than this!
So far it may seem that I listened exclusively to acoustic recordings. I didn't. I generally do listen to more acoustic than electric/electronic music and most good tube gear plays the former in a very special way, VP4 Silver included. Yet versatile phono stages deliver on all fronts so for the first time in quite a long while, the Roy Gaines I Got the T-Bone Walker Blues on Groove Note cued up. The key to Blues music is emotional commitment on the performers' side; and on the system's side conveying it in the most accurate way possible. The other key components are pace, rhythm and timing. Here solid state enjoys advantages but good tube types like the VP4 Silver deliver it well enough. They can't quite match the best transistorized competitors in terms of speed and bass grip yet once the music starts to flow, one forgets all about it. PRaT remains present and what matters still more is the tonally rich, textured midrange covering vocals and electric guitars. The emotional layer of this music conveyed in a more convincing manner than any solid-state device I know of. Obviously it's a personal choice which aspect of the presentation matters the most but I was completely sold. From those I clearly remember, only the Tenor Audio Phono 1 with its thunderous yet perfectly controlled bass delivered this particular album and others in its genre still more persuasively. Yet in terms of dynamics I would say that the advantage of this +$50K challenger would be minimal.
I love Blues, have been to many fantastic concerts and require really good drive with a flawless emotional connection to the performers. That's what the LampizatOr VP4 Silver nailed. It wasn't its only outstanding quality though. Saxophone sounded equally smooth, rich, deep and three-dimensional. Trumpet was impressively crisp, open and bright but never crossed the fine line that separates realistic aggression with hifi nasties. In my opinion tube-based devices simply do it better. So the VP4 Silver belonged to the handful of best phono stages to ever visit my system. It wasn't best—that's still reserved for Tenor Audio—but as the 'cheapest' among them, I could easily imagine living with it and fully enjoying every day. Speaking of versatility, inspired by the great presentation I participated in several days ago in Munich's FM Acoustics room, I played a record that had gathered quite a lot of dust: Pink Floyd's live album Pulse. First I cued up the side with "The Great Gig in the Sky" then "Money" but after that just went to the first side of the first record and listened to all eight sides. It's no super-duper audiophile recording but pretty good and the VP4 Silver found a way to prove it and deliver yet another stunning reading.
It was to be expected. After all, it had already proven its proficiency with a dense, expressive, resolving, palpable midrange with excellent frequency extremes. I knew that conveying the ambiance of the event was also within its reach as were the high energy and dynamics of a performance and the tiny details buried deep inside a mix. All of the latter presented with impressive clarity and intensity. Yet it were the vocals that turned out to be the great attention grabbers throughout; plus obviously Gilmour's guitar. Whether sung or spoken, vocals often caused goosebumps on my forearms and there is no greater proof of a convincing delivery than involuntary body responses. After that I reached for yet another dusty favorite live rock concert, the aptly titled "Live" by Aussie veterans AC/DC. As with every quality phono stage, the VP4 Silver started by making clear that recording quality is not a virtue one could attribute to this album. But it still rocked my world so to speak. After just several seconds recording quality no longer mattered and the fun began. The LampizatOr effortlessly followed the pace, kept the rhythm and teleported this incredible Aussie energy to force my arms and feet to tap, my head to rock and spin and me to sing along. Great fun! It's the whole point of this album and not all tube phono stages can unpack it in as contagious a way as the VP4 Silver did.
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