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Paul Candy
Financial Interests: click here
Source: CEC TL51X transport, PS Audio DL III DAC w/ Cullen Circuits Stage Three Mod; Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage, Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Audiomat Opéra Référence integrated.
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), Hyperion Sound HPS-738, 2 x REL Q108 Mk II subwoofers.
Cables: Auditorium 23 speaker cable & SilverFi interconnects, MIT Shotgun S1 speaker cables, digital cable & interconnects [in for review], Wireworld Equinox 6 speaker cables, interconnects & Starlight digital cable; AC cords - Audience powerChord e, Harmonic Technology AC-10 Fantasy, Wireworld Aurora 5².
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack
Powerline conditioning: Audience aR1p, BPT Pure Power Center with Wattgate, Bybee Quantum Purifier and ERS cloth options, GutWire MaxCon, MIT Z-Duplex Super [in for review]
Sundry accessories:Acoustic Revive RR-77, Auric Illuminator, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, Caig Pro Gold, Crystal Cable Bridge, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments, Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet
Room size:11x18x8, long wall setup, suspended hardwood floors with large area rug, walls are standard drywall over Fiberglas insulation.

Review component retail: $3,900 ($275 for optional MM/MC phono board)
I agreed to review the Audia Flight FL Three for a trio of simple reasons. I love integrated amps, the brand name was unknown to me and it’s Italian. Some further explanation is in order, particularly on that last point. Last summer our family spent a wonderful three weeks traveling through Italy and one thing that became abundantly clear is how Italians sure know how to enjoy life. Their culture is saturated in music, art, history, architecture, food and drink. And Italians love to talk. As a foreigner just making the effort to converse in Italian brought warm smiles and lengthy animated conversations. So it stood to reason—in my line of thinking anyway—that with such a rich culture Italy should be an exceptional source of stylish and musically engaging audio equipment. If today’s review subject is any indication, I could be right.

As I just said, I do enjoy integrated amplifiers and have found that quite often they can sound more coherent and musical than many separates. They generally cost less and simplify one’s set up. No need to fret over another set of interconnects or power cable. Frankly, you don’t need to spend the kids’ college fund or litter your living room with lots of boxes to get good sound. Big and expensive does not necessarily mean better. It quite often just means more sound, more prestige, more ego and less music. A 30wpc integrated with a CD player and modest pair of speakers can sound absolutely gorgeous. Just don’t expect 120dB sound levels or bowel-movement inducing bass. The notion of big and complex being better than small and simple appears to be a uniquely North American trait. It permeates all consumer goods from big cars, big SUVs and big TVs to big fridges, big houses and big debt. The problem with this obsession over big-ticket audio systems is that the average audiophile can’t afford them or is turned off. The budding audiophile reads the latest rave reviews of $10,000 preamps and $60,000 speakers and concludes, why bother? I know I certainly feel that way at times. This is made worse as I know what the markups are for some of this stuff. The dissatisfaction many feel with high-end audio plus the recent economic downturn has resulted in folks seeking alternatives.
I think much of the growing interest in computers as music sources, NOS USB converters, class D solutions, small tube amps and integrated amps in general is a result of this. Europe for the most part typifies this less-is-more approach and is the breeding ground for many wonderful sounding, affordable and compact components. Europeans have been doing this for decades and it’s not hard to figure why either. Generally speaking, European homes are smaller and average disposable consumer income is lower than in free-wheeling North America. Cost of gasoline is several times that of what we pay in the US. Taxes are higher too. Europeans have to be frugal. Furthermore, sometimes the less you have, the more you appreciate what you do have. If I lived in Italy for example, you can bet that I wouldn’t cut back on food, wine or live music in favor of a maxed-out audio system. A modest pair of speakers, a decent CD player and perhaps an Audia Flight FL Three integrated might be all I’d need when not exploring Roman ruins, touring vineyards, gazing at priceless works of art, enjoying a meal or sitting in my box at La Scala, essentially living la dolce vita.