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Each amp burns in for 50 hours and goes through a battery of tests before leaving the factory. Audia Flight recommends 100 hours of play before the amp is fully run in. Once the amp fires up, the blue Audia logo will light up and the display reads Audia Flight Three followed three seconds later with the selected input all in nice soft blue lighting. The FL Three is equipped with several protection circuits that will shut down the amp so no need to worry about melting down your amp or stray DC frying your speakers. Build quality inside and out was beyond reproach. Like Kate Beckinsale, the FL Three just begs to be stroked. There are neat little touches such as lining the interior edges of the chassis with felt to prevent metal surfaces scraping against each other when removing the cover. Audia Flight clearly recognizes that quality audio is not just about playing back music with great fidelity. It is also about creating pride of ownership for their customers. The chassis became warm after several hours of operation but never hot. The FL Three was the quietest solid-state integrated amp I have reviewed. Even with the volume cranked and my ear pressed near the speaker drivers, I heard zip. The only other amp this quiet is my Audiomat Opéra Référence, which is unprecedented for a tube amp in my experience.

During my time with this lovely amp a good number of black and silver discs saw heavy use. Sonic Youth [Matador 108291] and the wonderful Decemberists [Capitol 147102] both recently released terrific new albums on excellent sounding vinyl. Keeping with the Italian theme, I had repeat sessions with Claudio Abbado’s excellent performance of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony [DG 471 4672 8], Sir Colin Davis with Berlioz’s Harold in Italy [LSO 0040] and a lovely, lush sounding disc of Vivaldi concerti by Quebec ensemble Les Violins du Roy [Dorian 90255].

Common sense would suggest that all competently designed and assembled amplifiers should sound the same. Obviously, I am not a believer as most amps have an immediately apparent sonic character to my ears. Occasionally I’ll hear an amp that has such a subtle sonic character that it can take me some time to identify it. The Audio Flight FL Three was definitely from that camp. It displayed such a even-keeled, agreeable, pleasant way with the music and seemed so free of colorations and other sonic annoyances that it took a lot of late night listening to nail it.

The FL Three was one smooth amp that initially suggested blandness. Nothing leapt out, leading edges were neither exaggerated nor softened, no part of the frequency spectrum was underlined nor did the presentation have that typically audiophile hyper detail that many confuse for transparency or resolution. The last thing I want in an audio component is to have music sliced apart on the vivisectionist table and each piece examined in excruciating detail. I favor a more holistic approach. However, I never felt that any meaningful musical detail was missing. It just wasn’t jammed in my face.

The FL Three did not exhibit a typical solid-state sound. By that I mean it did not have the upper band chalky grain and flat two-dimensional soundstage that seems to be the providence of most solid-state amps. It came awfully close to matching the liquidity and tactile presence of my Audiomat Opéra Référence. The FL Three emphasized the coherence of the musical message without any overt coloration, i.e. it did not make the music more beautiful than it really is. I didn’t notice any trace of euphony or deliberate voicing to give a warm rosy sound although listening to the aforementioned Vivaldi disc I couldn’t help but feel as if I was sitting on a sun-drenched Tuscan hillside imbibing a nice Chianti.

The svelte Italian also offered such a powerful bottom end that even my Callistos seemed to go well below 40Hz with authority. The transparency or lack of overt character combined with a transient speed that made music alive, vital and visceral like live music. The treble range was sweet and natural without any undue brightness or edge. Instrumental and vocal timbre was natural and believable minus any sense of the artificial or electronic. The Italian also nailed the sense of forward momentum and drive.