From the word 'go' the Levante proved to be an able and amenable member of my signal-path family by acting as though it'd always been there. Nothing special then. Really? My usual diet between the speakers is a pair of 75Wi valve monos from Canada's Tenor Audio or darTZeel's NHB-108 stereo amp. Together those would buy a higher-spec Golf GTI. That's not counting Silvercore's L2 preamp. To keep up thus requires skill and stamina. So let's apply the acoustic zoom and crack Levante's secrets. DHL had just dropped off the legendary Miles Davis album Kind of Blue though not just any pressing. I'd ordered in Mobile Fidelity's quartet of luxo 45 reissues of the memorable 1959 recording session. It sounds as fresh as though the seven musicians had just left the studio this very morning. Miles uncorks his typical timbre but here with more metallic glitter and apparently more expansive upper harmonics. The Paul Chambers bass which I'd always felt was too reluctant already seemed more insistent on "So What" so far more present and better balanced. This reissue isn't just somewhat better. It's dramatically superior. And Riviera's Levante surprised by how it revived Herr Davis & Genossen in a nearly full 3D space which before had been more of a flattened left-right parade. It's well possible that MoFi's remaster goosed this discipline on the mixing console but there was no doubt that this amp knew how to capture the musical actors with crisp outlines and bull's eye focus.

Johann Strauß's operetta Die Fledermaus may not be your thing but to judge ambient recovery, the 1976 Carlos Kleiber reading on Deutsche Grammophon is excellent. When the third act opens, the walk of the inebriated prison warden is easily tracked from far right to left front. Not only does he stumble sideways a lot, he routinely steps back to not fall on his face. In my estimation, not even the pre/power combo of €7'900 Silvercore and €24'300 darTZeel tracked this drunken journey better. The stage depth and breadth of the Italian hybrid nearly had me in disbelief. It rolled out extreme distance and even the lateral stage edges remained perfectly lit. The all-transistor darTZeel couldn't manage equivalent spatial opulence. Only Tenor's pure tube monos suggested just a bit more headroom on this score. Except perhaps for the Progressive Audio A 901, I've not yet met another integrated amplifier which could cast such vast yet solid panoramas. Respect!

Where timbral purity counts and neutrality isn't synonymous with emotional frigidity, Riviera's Levante will be called quite neutral. That said, a tendency toward minor warmth was surely present yet to me seemed perfectly dosed to breathe life into sundry stage antics. Four years ago Progressive Audio's pure solid-state machine had me describe its treble in valve-reminiscent terms. Now the Riviera went still further in that direction. The high range of my Acapella horns sounded more fluid and particularly on female vocals the Italian amp showed unexpected gracefulness. Such a charm offensive aims directly at sonic gourmands whilst 'fresh-air fanatics' would notice that the A 901's top registers express even more lucidity. On balance, I'd not call the Levante dark, just sophisticated so with a slightly mild top end.

I was greatly helped in the realization that this smooth voicing subtracted zero listening satisfaction by Lithuania's mezzo soprano Elina Garanca. If you want to experience her uncut, bypass the usual operatic chestnuts. Reward yourself instead with her second-last recording, a solo recital of Brahms and Schumann lieder with Malcolm Martineau on piano [DG].

Reduced to the bare essentials, here each nuance of phrasing and breathy tone modulation counts virtually double. The Riviera amp proved to be a worthy partner for Garanca and sailed through the complex arrangements of romantic songs relaxed and fluid. When lyrical song is served up this fetchingly, I don't mind more of it.