A few more coils…
… and resistors conclude our tour. Then it was lid and heat on into the big system for my first test run. When the left channel played dead, I swapped RCA interconnect channels on my source to no avail. Next I tried XLR, again two ways. This was followed by channel swapping all three tube sets. No matter what, right made sound, left didn't. Clearly the tubes were fine. I went back to our own amp just to be sure. Voilà, stereo. My LTA loaner likely had a bad connection or broken solder joint. But where? Without a test bench, my diagnostic skills were meager. Still, I emailed Nicholas for any suggestions I might try.
"All units get tested multiple times including right before they are put in the box. I even took this one home for a weekend for real-world testing. Must be something that happened in shipping. It'll be a quick fix I'm sure. You'll get a return label ASAP." One business day later, I had it. Excellent service.
Later on the day when UPS copied me on US delivery, Nicholas wrote in that "we it fixed up and it's ready to go. It was something blindingly simple: a cable on the preamp board had come loose. We re-attached it and secured all nuts with Loctite to ensure they stay put. We call these the learning opportunities. You never know what'll happen on a 6+ hour flight plus a few trucks and tumbles down conveyor belts."
Being the first review unit shipped, going halfway around the world had been that needed test by fire. Checked. Off. Ten days later, I had my fix back. On.
All Linear Tube Audio reviews I've seen identified their sonics as unexpectedly solid-state like on resolution, clarity and bandwidth. Mine did too. No premature treble dimming, no sloppy bass, no faux warmth from octave-doubled 2nd-order THD. Thus that peculiar reverb-enhanced billowiness of legacy valve amps—a kind of exploded DSD texture—is absent. With UL, one particular expression of related softness is back. It's about how leading edges show up.
The very mean trick? It doesn't undermine the transistorized virtues of speed and lucid-mode clarity. So this circuit behaves exactly as advertised. For certain listeners to whom Berning wasn't sufficiently tubey before ("if I want solid state, I buy transistors") the UL could hit their jeez spot.