Stepping into such a scene with today's integrated amp means that the lisping aspects mellow out. Without putting on weight, it shaves off a degree of relentless percussiveness. Which segues back to performing just as advertised. Those who love the speed and crystalline clarity of widebanders don't want to hit their brakes or start towing trailers. They simply need a proper windshield not to get bugs into their teeth. Rafael Cortés' latest solea "El Capitan" is a good example for a potential bug fest.
Ditto air-motion transformers. Their unusually large surface areas plus five-fold increase of speed can result in a subjectively forward top. Even though their speakers might measure flat, under music signal their AMT can behave dynamically more aspirated than a typical cone midrange driver.
That skews the amplitude domain whenever dynamic crests have these tweeter lead. Here too a gentler handling of the initial tonal rises can tone down the onset of fatigue.
Logically following these examples are listeners who like to sit close to stage but not in the very first row. Where for their tastes balcony seats get far too reverb enhanced and fuzzy, just a bit of softening over distance versus extreme proximity to the musicians is their golden ticket. Where the Bakoon would represent front-row center thus be too direct for them, the Ultralinear is… say, 5th row.
Good-bye absolute sound. Hello favorite seat in the auditorium of your room. It's not just about the actual seat. It's about the core flavor of your system and the type music you most fancy. Now you know which direction Linear Tube Audio's UL steers; and where it will never go because it's too fast and resolved to end up anywhere near the cheap seats.
If your local Asian restaurant shows the spiciness of a dish with stars or chili peppers, the UL has lost one star or chili over the Z10 on transient pepper like a modern chef giving back his Michelin star for being too trying. But otherwise the flavor of the dish is no different; just less heat. Indian food for tourists. Widebander tourists wanting to feel at home like the natives might do the UL/Nenuphar combo. What they won't want is a source with more than standard 2V outputs. Otherwise peak volumes will mean just 10 on the UL's dial. And that would really compress lower steps.
Into such 94dB loads, 20 watts plus high voltage gain ramp up quickly. They simply do so without any noise but that ideal attack behavior. Importantly, such exotic boxes are far from the full target audience. As we saw upstairs, UL is just as comfortable and confident on 85dB monitor types. So LTA's all-tube integrated is rather more universal than 8wpc 300B amps; and more modern sounding than most their kind.
Linear Tube Audio. The brand's emphasis is telling. For a company slogan, they could have picked any other quality. But that would have missed or worse, deceived. Linear indeed is at their very core. Where that still differs from most solid state is in the soundstaging dimensions. Those are more tangibly developed and contrasted. Then there is non-textbook but obvious fluidity where many transistors have a harder time. If your sonic ideals most closely align with solid state but still want those two more tube-typical extras as part of the deal, LTA deserve your closest attention. Where their latest UL gets very specific is in that deliberately mellower handling of leading edges not as a function of fuzz, smear or soft focus. It's what distinguishes this model from the previously reviewed Z10. Very cleverly, this catalogue is spinning out a fetching theme with very particular variations. Johann Gottlieb Goldberg would have approved.