Variation #2. If the Bakoon is a micro-power LinnenberG, then Nenuphar in many ways is a scaled-up SR1a: one driver, no crossover, highly dynamic, most quick, with an innate suggestion of the leaner and thinner. Perhaps not surprising—certainly not in hindsight!—this system was probably the closest our household's hardware for free-field use could come at that moment to the extreme near-field of the Serbian ribbons. Just like the L2/Liszt duo had done for them, the L2/AMP-12R combo now did for the widebanders. Without curtailing their reflexes to hamstring the startling immediacy, poise increased and gait mellowed. Compared to the previous SIT-1 run, gravity and fullness stepped up. So did bass control and robustness. With sensational bandwidth shared by the L2 and Bakoon, it only made sense to augment these widebanders with Franck Tchang's omnipolar magnesium-alloy Avantages Audio super tweeters set to a 15kHz @ 6dB/oct. high-pass. This magnified retrieval of ultra-faint upper harmonics for richer tone.

Robust yet elegiac, full and languorous yet supremely sorted and specific, obviously elegant without softening musical energy transmission, this hardware combination struck me as again ideally balanced just like the headphone rig had before it. The recipe of ultra-bandwidth DHT preamp and transistor amplifier of matching bandwidth and no coupling caps really teamed up for a show of major strengths. And no, replacing the Bakoon with the Polish EL84 amps did not reach the same heights. Perhaps that was because their output transformers and capacitors represented a slower thicker sound which bottle-necked what made the other combinations so spectacular. That option found itself skipped. No variation #3 then.

We'll skip variation #4 as well because it too would have meant kicking a man whilst down. The 12AU7 in Nagra's Classic just couldn't compete against the Takatsuki 300B. Immediacy, dynamic scaling, spatial grandeur and that tangible motional elegance stepped back to become far more similar to our Wyred4Sound STP-SE 2, i.e. very resolved though slightly softer and a bit more harmonically suave but not anywhere in the ballpark of the direct-heated jobs. Yet the Nagra had been my pick over three competing valve preamps at the time. This underscored at least in my private appointment calender how today's L2 truly was a class apart to justify its tariff in full. There was no sense comparing it to other preamps on hand just to doctor up distasteful drive-by accident amusements. Hifi reviews aren't blood sports. I'd proceed straight to sundry amplifier match-ups. But first, a bypass of sorts. A reviewer's endlessFIFO—fly in, fly out—had landed Rike's Romy20SE, a triode-strapped class A2 pentode single-ended integrated with SRS551 octal outputs. Enter…

Variation #5. For an impromptu experiment inspired by chance and with the German being a full-fledged integrated Herman with active line stage, I decided to compare it solo versus +1 with L2. In the padded scenario, Romy's pot sat at 12:00 to not overdo its own gain. This played quasi bypass in that L2 was redundant. Proselytizers for 'less is more' would predict it booking obvious setbacks from far longer signal paths, unnecessary gain devices and more cabling. Common sense would like to sign there. Actuality made for more tantalizing results the long route. This frankly stumped my own belief that one can have too many tubes. Not here. With L2 fronting the unusual transmitter pentodes, the presentation had demonstrably more dynamic jump and spaciousness. Though I can't explain how this came off, I even had more micro detail as though the Vinnie Rossi conditioned the signal entering the amp for higher dynamic range and resolving power. To my thinking, this was further if unexpected proof that DHT triodes known for microphonics can be tapped to increase not diminish small-signal magnification. Meanwhile none of my own "cloying syrup" fears for two single-ended valve machines in series proved out. With L2 in the signal path, even Mayte Martín's Tempo Rubato where the famous Flamenco singer is accompanied by string quartet and guitar presenting South-American cancíons reminiscent of Mercedes Sosa caused me minor shocks by how vigorous her vocal emphasis peaked and crested.

The Takatsuki 300B weren't padding tone and density to slow things down. They were accelerating and invigorating the proceedings whilst doubling as spatial expanders. That just wasn't "normal". But it certainly was a major case of cause célèbre. Still, there was more to come yet: the combination of L2 and LinnenberG Listz monos into these 4-way Audio Physic Codex to exploit the higher bandwidth, current and even lower noise of Exicon's lateral Mosfets over the Siemens power tubes.