You won't be surprised that the midrange could be characterized alike. Should despite its many attractions the similarly priced Soulution 330 INT from Switzerland seem just a bit too neutral so leave desire for more emotional fire, the Italian beckons. That shouldn't imply dripping colors. The Riviera is no gaudy colorist. It remains closer to reality if here and there guilty of mild prettification. When Tina Guo makes love to her cello on the "Sarabande" of Bach's Cello Suite N°1—for effect she doesn't mind transitioning to an e-cello—one imagines smelling the dark tone wood. Formidable. Could the bass keep up? The hybrid went low and mightily so but if one pursue ultimate dryness, Soulution's integrated and the far dearer CH Precision which my colleague Ralph Werner reviewed offer more. The Levante presents a musically convincing alternative not uncompromisingly groomed for ultimate grip. Here it was more similar to my darTZeel than suspected. On La Vie Devant Soi and Farangi-Du Baroque À L'Orient by upright bass maestro Renaud Garcia-Fons, both amps showed very convincing authority across wide bandwidth. Their slightly looser reigns simply suited the Catalan/Mediterranean music of this French artist better with the concomitant extra temporal motion and finesse. Truly relentless grip would have interfered.

Shifting gait to livelier fare made an unexpected turn of our 'sensitive emo' type. Now available in Qobuz's HiRes tier, Flim & The BB's classic Tricycle showed off extremely focused lightning-quick reactions which I honestly didn't foresee. Like FX-accelerated arrow shooting, impulses flew at my ears at unbelievable speed. In the 1980s such fare served as system shocker but 40 years later the effect was no less potent. Perhaps some exceptionally quick amps might render these attacks with even more bite? Thanks to speed, massive shove and astonishing power conversion, the Riviera maintained proper tension from first to last tone with top pedigree. Mahler's 7th asked for more muscle given the large forces at work, here the Bavarian Symphony under previously tenured conductor Kirill Petrenko. Tip: select class A/B mode. The extra 90 watts came in handy to conduct this massive orchestral apparatus. One will sacrifice some micro resolution and plasticity but when the last movement moves big kettle drums and brass chorus into the foreground, none of it matters. What does it that any amp can't run out of gas before the final climax. Riviera's Levante cruised right through with the macro-dynamically relevant extra power. What's more, despite the convoluted melée, the finely rendered elegantly elastic timbres didn't coarsen and even subdued percussive accents of triangle and chimes remained properly tended to.

So class A/B operation showed off extra muscle and grip. Back in class A, power remained obviously apparent but finesse and intimacy increased in ways I've rarely heard. Levante's tonality is slightly warm and fluidically organic. That'll make friends even where transistors are usually shunned. Rock-hard control and excessive reflexes don't factor top of the bill. What does is naturalism across the bandwidth coupled to excellent magnification powers. Then add body and spatial illumination typically reserved for pure tube circuits. The only fly in this ointment is price. But those into fine dining and exotic drink, designer furniture and vacationing in 5-star hotels accept that beautiful things come at a price. And why shouldn't our ears deserve equivalent luxuries?

Psych profile for Riviera's Levante…
♠ liquid, saturated, slightly warmer than Neutral Central.
♠ vocals, instruments and even extraneous noises feel brilliantly real and authentic.
♠ slightly subdued treble stays off the nerve even on challenging fare.
♠ excellent detail magnification remains a given not least due to a first-rate midband for deep colors, silken textures and emotional envelopment.
♠ bass impresses with elastic responsiveness and excellent timing. It extends low, plays it more juicy than lean and lays a solid foundation. Textures are 'semi sec' not bone dry.
♠ a microdynamic aesthete that won't miss the smallest of details. Macrodynamics are assured. Well-sorted overview and countenance dominate over spot-lit transients.
♠ first-rate space manager. A broad stage with illumination into the farthest reaches is typical. Individual images arise in proper 3D.
♠ finely detailed without overdone vivisection.
♠ extra bonus of on-the-fly class A⇒A/B switching and high-quality headfi port.

Concept: hybrid integrated
Trim: anthracite or champagne
Dimensions & weight: 44 x 49 x 19.5cm WxDxH, 30kg
i/o: 4 x RCA + 1 x XLR in, optional phono board, 6.3mm headfi out, single-wire speaker terminals
Power output: 30/120wpc into 8Ω in class A or A/B respectively
Other: remote control, on-the-fly mode switching
Warranty: 2 years