Curragh. From Ireland's 26 horse race tracks, I picked Curragh just because. The point was, this rig is all about maximum resolution, top speed and greatest immersion. Here it's the fastest not fattest pony that wins. Why otherwise race an Arabian like a SR1a? Running through our resident amps before settling on the Kinki integrated, I'd already tried a Goldmund/Job 225, April Music Stello S100 MkII, Simon Audio AIO, Ncore-500 based Nord monos, a Purifi class D demonstrator with Nagra Classic tube pre, a Crayon CFA-1.2, a Bakoon AMP-13R and the big Pass Labs XA-30.8. The Goldmund and class D options fell into the Kinki vein but were less sophisticated. The Nagra/Purifi combo was ace but why dress up a class D amp with a €14'000 Nagra and be fit only for headphone purpose? The Crayon felt underpowered, the Bakoon definitely was. The April, Simon and Pass all were denser, chewier and warmer to play a bit against the Raal's ace cards. Of them I'd only favor the Pass over the Kinki. In good conscience and protecting my back, I simply won't dedicate a $6'500 premium class A behemoth to upstairs headphone duties, free up another preamplifier for it, then heave the amp's very considerable weight into the main system whenever speaker reviews dictate. No, the Kinki was it.

Like it, JR wouldn't beat our Pass on tone density and low-end power and weight. But it did menace the Kinki all across the usual audiophile check marks, then bested it on resolution and microdynamic scope. For an easy example, take this gorgeous Luis Salinas bolero. It's from the Antonio Rey album Dos partes de mi and features the debonair Diego El Cigala on vocals. At 1:48, a violin begins to parallel Antonio's flamenco guitar. Here the Schiit was superior at separating out the second new timbre and particularly in extricating its elevated bow scratching which, coming down to the desktop, the Final D8000 didn't resolve at all. The wide-bandwidth Kinki belongs to the fast DC-coupled 'Swiss' sonic school like a Soulution or CH Precision. It portrays these silvery guitar attacks with greater frisson and speed than the warmer thicker Pass.

But the even wider-bandwidth JR—and/or removing the voltage-strangulating impedance adaptor box—applied yet higher speed and dynamic vigor. It moved me even closer to stage. Here direct sound completely dominates. Here transients rise most unfettered. They're not blurred by time-delayed reflections in the far field. Dynamics too are maximally upfront. Not injecting their own reflections from ear-cup and diaphragm-obscuring magnets; nor time-delayed signal from energy storage… that is the special appeal of these ribbons. Intense directness is their raison d'être and middle name. Anything playing against it then becomes counterproductive.

Box loss in action

On my final straightaway then, a big 25kg €1'840 integrated amp found itself overtaken by a tiny 3kg €800 box. The Yankee underdog won my private Curragh race. In the end, greed was rewarded like Gordon Gecko promised. Our Kinki hoofed it downstairs into the TV system to replace a Wyred4Sound STP-SE/Job 225 combo in one chassis. That was another win. To gild my new SR1a lily, I might still order a Loki trickster when it's back in production. Strapping on a bit of 20Hz boost for synth-heavy ambient fare would wipe out the one minor limitation of narrow open baffles. With my Jotunheim R sitting below 12:00 for my listening habits, I clearly have beaucoup power reserves to engage in a bit of extra low-end gain. Loki's bypass switch easily defeats it when not needed. That could become a story for another day.

For today, the takeaway is plain. Whilst one could exceed the Jotunheim R going through Raal's converter box into a burly speaker amp, that will cost disproportionately more and involve at least two not one chassis. In our hardware collection, past the Kinki it'd take €4K for Simon Audio's AIO to compete in earnest, then escalate from there. But my wife runs the AIO in her art studio. That's off-limits. At 20% its cost, that makes JR a personal no-brainer and new direct SR1a driver.

From Jötunheimr, the giants menace the humans in Midgard and the gods in Asgard.

Well… what once fell to the giants now a dwarf like Jotunheim R can do. Menace-R indeed.