I identify as. How we answer—singular, multiple choice, fluid—determines our label in today's rainbow coalition. As I waited for Immanis to arrive, what stared at me most suggestively was multiple choice. Magna had shown exceptionally fluid responsiveness to various ancillaries. What sonic flavour did I identify with most? To be sure, I sampled a few more. In the end I was down to the Laiv Harmony DAC and Enleum AMP-23R with/out 300B intermediaries. Knowing myself well which living long enough whilst being attentive does, the instant quickening of bypassing the tubes' 2nd-harmonic injection had my vote. It felt like a small adrenaline dump which sped up my circulation. I felt more keened into the musical energies of rhythmic expression, of the timing tension of a performer playing deliberately in front of or behind the beat, of the subtle amplitude inflections of bass pulses and melodic markers. Some of it was the 3rd-harmonic signature of the Laiv. Some of it was an attendant small reduction in thickness from shortening the signal path. Unless the silver/copper cable variable shifted that balance again to open new doors, I had my 'ultimate' hardware stack.

It even caused the fortuitous desktop reshuffle below. With the AMP-23R next door, that now hosts Sonnet's Pasithea and Kinki's THR-1 for headfi whilst the same DAC's RCA  feed a Crayon's CFA-1.2 on a side table serving the speakers. Multiple choice. It can end in serial monogamy. It can liberate full-on slut mode. I strongly suspect that if we all just had a sufficiently stocked hardware bar, most of us would identify as more fluid listeners. Being adventurous would naturally open up tolerance and appreciation for divergence; audiophilia's very own rainbow coalition. Just so, those of us too set in our ways could find that regardless of hardware, we tend to end up with the same sound. That too opens the mind. Different means can lead to the same end. In that spirit, two easy software recos for world-music vocals with strings. We get to imbibe the latter without defaulting to Wolfgang Amadeus & Co shouldn't we be in the mood: Mariza Canta Amália for fado; and Angélique Kidjo's Sings with the Orchestra Philharmonique du Luxembourg for African. Modern music choices. They too are more varied and genre-bending than ever. For gender benders, try Falete's Amar Duele and Maksim Gazinolari Assolistleri N°1 juxtaposing tracks by Turkish legends Zeki Müren and Bülent Ersoy. The latter's pipes are so potent that often I wonder just what microphones were equal to it. On this album "Aziz Istanbul" is a personal standout.

For heavily ornamental energy-raising vocals dyed a very different colour there's the brilliant Coke Studio online music library with songs like this. Our spaciously expansive dynamically big-lung ribbons invite exploring paths less travelled and risk unexpected contact highs from the ancient art of qawwali even without chewing betel nut. Back on hardware mixing, by then Simone had signed up for reviews of Trafomatic's Primavera and SAEQ's Armageddon amps to test with Immanis; and I for SAEQ's Hyperion Ge to generate more Raal 1995 data points beyond this review. Now a brief loop on raw tech. For planar headfi I know of Abyss, Audeze, Camerton, Dan Clark, Erzetich, FiiO, Fostex, HifiMan, Kennerton, Meze, Monolith, Rosson, Sigva, Spirit Torino and T+A. Add what I forgot or never heard of. With often multiple models per brand, it's quite a list. For ribbons, Aleksandar is alone. To further his corrugated art, there's no stimulating rival, no competitive input. That makes it extra surprising just how far he's already pushed his tech which for headfi and to my mind and ears has real advantages unmatched by any other. Being modest, Alex should insist that ribbon headfi remains in relative infancy compared to older more fully developed tech. If so, it piles onto my point even more. For extreme nearfield full-bandwidth mode, ribbons pack a sonic edge even if they're still only in Gen2. Of course that skips over endless years of prototypes between what I saw in Serbia in 2008 and what became the production SR1a; and what happened since to release Magna and Immanis. End of loop.

In the hear/now, how did Immanis shift or elaborate on Magna with my residential favourites? I belong to the set-in-their-ways crew. Hence my three final test stations deliberately represented the same sound just at different degrees of refinement. Taking it from the top I had Laiv/Enleum, COS/Cen.Grand then Sonnet/Kinki. Having listened to Magna in the middle system for a few constant hours when the door bell rang, my very first brain check with Immanis and the Star-8 MkII Silver cable was…

… the SR1a's treble is back. Visualize that peculiar shimmer when summer-hot tarmac makes air visible. We suddenly see something that's usually beyond our awarenes. Without any upshift or hotter treble to not change the tonal centre, Immanis returned the open-baffle's champagne-fizz carbonation to Magna's recipe. At this point I didn't know whether driving Magna through the silver cable does the same. I simply heard that this aeration had a more wholesale effect. Immanis felt more light-filled, Magna more corporeal. A follow-on or parallel aspect thereof was even greater midrange lucidity for Immanis. This applied astonishing separation powers to massed vocals to render what for headfi was unusual holography of front-back layering plus the expected lateral expanse. Yet another upshot of what I'll poetically call 'activated air flimmer' had me more keyed into tone modulations. Here I don't only mean how timbre alters with volume. It also traverses harmonic shadings. Artistic inflections don't just paint in microdynamic quivers. They play with spontaneous overtone modulation. Here silver-wired Immanis was more astute than copper-led Magna. It also had nearly scary physicality in the mid/low bass. These LF fully coexisted with the more illuminated quality. The ethereal and the punchy, the angel and the rocker walked hand in hand. Hey, stunning first encounters warrant a bit of purple prose. Voilà, my ad-hoc Immanis comments penned during my first half-hour audition. Never getting those initial tabula rasa moments back when everything is pristinely fresh, I had to make the most of documenting what my attention attached itself to being neither guided nor censored but spontaneous and without volition.

With Immanis, 10:00 on the amp's gain control equalled usual SPL so left headroom to burn on 2V max source voltage.

Next morning my mind had a follow-on image. Both a proper therapist and priest in the confessional hold unconditional listening space. It's up to the client or penitent how deep they wish to delve past their inhibitions into the deepest secrets. Listening to silver-quickened Immanis is similar in that extreme resolution holds unconditional space for all recorded secrets. Then my imagery flips. For the therapist's or priest's visitor, the core mandate is a rare confessional mood of brutal honesty in which to lay it all bare or a session/confession won't have the intended benefit. An Immanis listener is fruitful already without being in any special state of extreme attentiveness. He simply won't dive down as deep. How deep is up to us. Immanis simply holds a space of unconditional resolution. Our mind's eye can zoom wherever it likes; or remain with the surface waves. The data density of massively paralleled sounds on well-recorded dense music can be such that our attentive powers probably give out after 30 minutes if not sooner. It's hyper-investigative listening in which our flame of awareness won't flicker. In the more casual approach we last far longer. The point is, noticing all there is to notice requires undivided intent. That's up to us not the hardware. Just so, going on this deep dive is much easier because things don't get murky as we descend to depths which typically obscure in darkness. So what if we can't hold our breath forever and have to come up for air again? If you find such descriptions too abstract or borderline philosophical, let's now use audiophile jargon to parse Magna vs. Immanis on the above rig.