The takeaway is spicy like hot green Thai curry. Just because small-signal triodes don't suffer the very obvious microphonics of big boutique power triodes like 45, 50, 2A3 and 300B doesn't imply that they're not present in more subtle form. If you're spending an extra €2'190 on Métronome's optional valve buffer and are keen to maximize it, a triplet of purpose-engineered isolation footers à la Carbide's best or the recently reviewed sound|kaos Vibra 68 becomes a logical parallel upgrade. As an actual buyer of the latter recently put it to its maker, "thought I'd pop the Vibra in yesterday just to see for myself. Flippin' heck Martin…. stop it! It's like adding a new DAC two levels above the old one. More detail and definition across the range but most importantly, no loss of soul." In short, underestimate the importance of resonance control to your own detriment.

Physical SACD.

Minutes ago I stated that I'd not buy the AQWO 2 due to extreme overkill for my far simpler functional needs. Now I must confess to an unseemly lust attack upstairs purely on sonics. My reviewer salary isn't in today's market. That simply didn't prevent audiophile reflexes from twitching hard. As they say, if you can't stand the heat of temptation, stay out of the reviewer's kitchen. Steady on old chap. This is the perfect place to step back on my puny pulpit. Just because I'll always pick speed in an either/or scenario doesn't mean I'm immune to the charms of curves and body. Au contraire. I simply won't pick the latter if they eat into the former. On that score the AQWO 2 was a personally perfect player. It laid on image density and tone mass without sacrificing startle factor or lucidity. I find that a generally very difficult stunt to land. All of it leads to…

the inevitable conclusion. Now on ESS silicon previously AKM—as elsewhere, this switch was due to the 20.10.2020 fire at the Asahi Kesai factory in Japan—the AQWO 2's le son vrai equals mon son idéal. The approach is classic old school. Linear power supplies rule; and the more the merrier. It means a full-size deck which weighs as much as many a 200wpc integrated. It also means 36 years of perfecting digital boutique audio. Here nothing fell out of the sky fully formed. Think constant evolution of incremental refinements which held steady to a clear vision on what type of sound to pursue. The original Jadis connection implied tubes. Today they're optional. The team in Montans learnt how to inject their aroma with just transistors. It's one more reason for my earlier 'Digital Nagra' connection; and this deck as full-size virtual member of their Classic range. Equally old school is the undying support of physical media, here the rare wrinkle of SACD which continue to enjoy enthusiastic embrace in Japan. Ultra modern is the embedded streaming module with lovely touch-screen display. LegacyFi meets FutureFi. FuLeg audio? Fully legit.

As the chosen setting of the companion YouTube video suggests, this is a luxury product for insider cognoscenti. (True, given available space, a real audiophile not actor would have set up his speakers far better.) Whilst the envious hoi polloi routinely insist that luxury clients have more money than sense or taste, the AQWO 2 expresses unassailable taste and undeniably keen audiophile sense. This commoner for one wishes he could afford this silver version as that come-what-may forever source. What now comes instead is…

… the sad end.

PS: A reader wanted to know what the remote can control. Apart from the expected transport commands plus time remain, one can access and control all menu items; turn resampling on/off; set the resampling rate; adjust display brightness; engage/disengage tube mode; and turn the machine itself on/off. Another reader asked whether the USB host port can read an SD card. Without being on the network, that input isn't even seen. Unlike a portable audio player or FiiO R7, this deck can't be used as an offline SD transport/player despite a display that would be suitably large for purpose.