From those two extremes I tried a variety of options that fell somewhere in between on balance of resolution, tonal richness, fluidity and bass flashiness. One of the surprises came from the tiny Pioneer Elite two-channel receiver that typically powers the speakers in our living room's video system. Costing ca. $300, it showed once again that it isn't too embarrassed in far more demanding environments. Of course staging was nowhere near as holographic or grand as with the previous two amplifiers and the treble was not particularly refined but the ability to boost sub 80Hz bass with the tone control actually delivered the deepest most robust bass I heard from Taksim. It led me to believe that the path to happiness with them either requires a superior amplifier or preamplifier with tone controls like a McIntosh and Luxman; or to just use them as an extended monitor with a pair of fast subwoofers gently blending in below 60Hz.
Feeling adventurous, I tried the Triode Labs EL84 integrated whose pentodes run in parallel for single-ended power of about 6 watts. Unfortunately my version was customized for less potent treble and upper midrange to better mate with Fostex and Feastrex drivers with all their usual misbehaviour. Now mated to a very transparent linear speaker, this amplifier came across as fairly dull on top. One speaker's medicine is another's poison. The upper bass however did benefit a bit from the higher power and extension though not enough to make up for the rather bland upper ranges. Triode Lab's standard version of the EL84 integrated is far more open and energetic on top and would likely shine far better with Taksim. Since they will customize any one of their amplifiers, I wouldn't be afraid to ask them to upgrade those components which most directly impact treble quality because Taksim would repay those upgrades in spades. Interestingly the FirstWatt F5 wasn't a great match. It didn't bring any additional bass extension or body to the table but lost a lot of the midrange magic while feeling dynamically restrained. I couldn't test it myself but would expect that any of the SIT amplifiers will fare much better based on the fact that Taksim really thrives on a combination of treble purity and midrange SET magic which is not often found together in a single amplifier.
One of the most fun combinations with Taksim and the one I stayed with for weeks ended up being old faithful, the Onix SP3 that started my relationship with 6moons over a decade ago. The small but massively heavy 5881 push-pull amplifier didn't have the treble refinement of some of the others but made it up in spunk and midrange dynamics with solid bass. Of all the amplifiers I tested, it was the most dynamically engaging and although it certainly didn't approach the level of nuanced tone colors the speaker can deliver, it was able to wake up the Canadians from their tight rigor and allow them to let loose a bit – within reason. That last point is probably why I didn't enjoy a complete love affair with Taksim despite all its qualities where it has a lot going. I couldn't in all my arsenal come up with the right combination that would allow the Reference 3A to relinquish a certain reserve. They never hit hard in the upper bass like a Zu or breathed freely like an Ocellia but Taksim had both of them beat on pure midrange transparency and imaging. This let me indulge my love for small baroque ensembles, chamber music, suave mezzo sopranos and jazz trios. Yet each time I cued up large orchestral works or some good ol' disheveled rock, something went amiss from the emotion I was looking for. Call it lack of grunt, call it too much head not enough heart… that's how I felt.
But I certainly won't fault the Taksim. I have heard other Reference 3A speakers kick and roar without restrictions when driven by Copland electronics to suspect that bigger-hearted SET amps too would get the Canadians to give their all. I just didn't have the perfect mate that delivered the goods for my varied musical tastes. On the styles where I did find the right combinations, Taksim provided a level of performance on par and on some aspects superior to my far more expensive Ocellia. There is no doubt in my mind that those Reference 3A speakers are one of the very best options available for those who want to listen to single-ended triodes without having to put up with any of the drawbacks of typical widebander. Time and care should simply be invested in finding the right amplifier that will deliver the sound you want. The great news is that Taksim is so transparent that when you find it, it will be readily apparent that you have arrived at your destination.
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