Here we see Aarka set to play off our 25wpc Bakoon AMP-13R. Its tubes glow orange but their high voltage isn't live. They're just visual 'on' signs so you don't forget to turn off the rear master rockers when a session is over.

In this upstairs ~4x6m room, I set bass level to 2:00 and low-pass frequency to ~90Hz. The filter's 9 o'clock and lowest option is 60Hz. The 12:00 middle marks 120Hz. Max 3:00 is 240Hz so a range of two octaves. At 90Hz I had ideal upper bass weight to kick off without any undue ballast in the lower midrange. Each room and setup will differ. Having such easy adjustments is key and very different from fussing over passive speakers with different cables and electronics.

As the photos show, this is a very artisanal product. It lives on the far side of slick machined-from-solid types and mass productions.

Being mirror imaged, you decide whether to have the speaker leads on the inside and the power cords on the outside or vice versa. I opted for the power cords out to look cleaner. Speaker connections are banana only.

With their built-in electronics, Aarka must obviously connect to AC. That could mean a set of lengthier power cords if you lack outlets in close proximity. Likewise for a pair of interconnects if you exploit the internal tube-buffered amp and have Aarka in free space. With the stands' openings quite wide, one can fit some decorator items in there to personalize the optics. I had two bronze Ganesha statuettes under glass domes which fit just so.

Given Aarka's Sanskrit name and Indian origins, having two Hindu elephant deities squat meditation beneath seemed fitting. At this juncture, it was time for some tunes. Anoushka Shankar became the perfect first choice.

Soundaware D100Pro SD card transport ⇒ Questyle CAS192 Dac ⇒ Bakoon AMP-13R integrated ⇒ Black Cat Cable Lupo speaker cables ⇒ Aarka ⇐ power via Puritan Audio Lab PSM156 via Furutech repeater and Crystal Cable cords.

Jacob: "I noticed that you chose to pair Aarka with Bakoon for your first performance. I'm sure that the Bakoon is far superior to our built-in amp. But I'm equally sure that you will listen to ours and report on that too. We don't aim to provide the very best in amplification. Given space and cost limitations, we can't. We simply want to give the music lover who favors simplicity a solution that's musically satisfying and makes no major concessions." I assured Jacob that I wasn't expecting Aarka's small amp to compete with Bakoon's. Not even a €36'000 amp in just then could except to write ten times the power on paper.

"Another thing I want to reiterate is that I guess there are two types of hifi shoppers – those who go just for sound, looks be damned; and those where aesthetics are a strong consideration as well. As I see it, if sound quality isn't compromised, attention to aesthetics is a welcome bonus. In all our products, good physical design is a co-equal criterion to sonics. I appreciate that aesthetics are rather subjective but so is sound. I certainly believe that any object one chooses to have in one's living environment ought to give us visual pleasure while we are fortunate enough to have the gift of sight. Unfortunately the audio press often gives short shift to this aspect. Most of them seem to have a blind spot when it comes to suggesting that any good design should enhance our lives at multiple sensory levels." Here I reminded Jacob. In my view, 'only sound matters' is an antiquated attitude. It was true for hifi's earlier days. It might continue on with reviewers who came up then. But with today's younger audience, that has fundamentally changed. Whether it's a Devialet or Naim MuSo amplifier, a Sonus faber speaker or a triangular Gryphon CD player, fine industrial design now is part of the performance equation. If it looks bad, it performs bad. It's like hanging up an ugly painting just because granny painted it. Not in our house!