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The FL Three handily captured the rich sonorous tone and weight of the organ at Saint-Cyprien en Perigord as well as the glorious reverberant ambience in this gorgeous 1999 recording of Bach’s Art of Fugue as performed by André Isoir [Calliope CAL 5719]. While not meant as a criticism, the FL Three was a little on the lean side. It was light, open and lithe as opposed to thick, dark or muscular. If you hanker for the rich, warmish romantic sound of tubes, you might want to look elsewhere. Having said that, I quite enjoyed the FL Three’s open, lean and clean sound.

Yes, I could get it to clip but only at truly ridiculous levels far beyond what any sane person would probably consider approaching and even then, it appeared to clip gracefully. I could detect just a bit of an edge on peaks gently warning me to turn it down. Even then I never drove it far enough over the edges to engage the protection circuitry. I thought the Audia’s distortion was so low that realistic volume levels would easily be possible in an average sized room with decent speakers. My Callistos certainly had no issues. Neither did the Hyperion HPS-738 nor AV123 Strata Mini. Jean-Marie Reynaud’s Twin Signatures were an especially synergistic match.

Compared to my $8,990 Audiomat Opéra Référence, the Frenchman had greater bass weight and punch, which gave it the sense of greater warmth and robustness. It also has that lit-from-within magic image density that appears to be the providence of decent tube amps. This made the FL Three a little softer and leaner by comparison. Considering the price differential between the two, the Audia was not at all embarrassed and was considerably more flexible too.

The phono stage was pretty darn fine considering the almost giveaway price with a detailed, open three-dimensional soundstage, stable imaging and tonal neutrality. It was quiet with just a hint of hiss but well below the surface noise of any of my records, even crappy pressings. Sonically it was clean, open and natural. While it didn’t quite have the tonal voluptuousness and ambient detail retrieval of my Pro-Ject Tube Box, it had a lower noise floor and a more honest tonal balance. The Pro-Ject, which I quite like, does have a bit of that looking-through-rose-tinted-glasses vibe about it.

Many phono stages, particularly those fitted as add-on boards for preamps or integrated amps, struggle a tad with transient reproduction and tend to exhibit some spitting distortion or accentuate surface noise. I didn’t hear any of that with the Audia phono stage and vinyl playback was better than I would have expected from a $275 add-on board. It is not an afterthought but a serious contender. The $949 Blue Circle Fon Lo Thingee with the power supply upgrades I recently reviewed had superior spatial resolution, information retrieval and a little more harmonic richness but both stages were close in character. Here in Canada, the FL Three would face off against similarly priced and outfitted amps such as Bryston’s B-100 or simaudio’s i3.3. I have yet to hear either but I suspect they would face stiff competition from this Italian interloper. If you crave a neutral uncolored character without sounding analytical or possessing that solid-state bland chalkiness, this might be your amp.

Subtle, fluid, elegant and delicate, the FL Three presented music with finesse and relaxed ease. But more importantly, I simply enjoyed listening to it. I didn’t feel I missed anything musically important. Oh, I could nitpick with the odd sonic trait. Maybe it wasn’t as rich and tactile as I’d ultimately like and perhaps I’d pursue a more expensive outboard phono stage such as Audia Flight’s FL Phono for spinning the black stuff. But I never failed to get the musical high I crave with the FL Three. I can easily imagine music lovers falling head over heels with this amp’s muscular yet silky smooth presentation and its believable way with instrumental and vocal timbres. It imparted light and life to all recordings I threw at it regardless of genre.

The Italians did a terrific job befuddling this tube lover. If you had told me a year ago that a mere solid-state amp could seduce me, I’d have said you were nuts. Would I buy this amp? You betcha. I could certainly enjoy listening to music for the long haul over this superbly built integrated amp from Audio Flight. If I were still looking for an integrated amplifier, I would have bought this review loaner without any hesitation. Molto buono! Viva Italia!
Quality of packing: Thick double layer cardboard box with heavy cardboard inserts.
Reusability of packing: Should be reusable several times.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Reasonably easy with a dolly. Leave the slip covers in place until final touch-down in the chosen location to protect the flawless finish.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Quality of owner's manual: Well laid-out, comprehensive and concise. English translation was mostly well done.
Completeness of delivery: Perfect..
Website comments: Good.
Human interactions: Professional and friendly.
Warranty: 1 year parts & labor.
Pricing: Quite reasonable considering the build and sound quality.
Final comments & suggestions: None.

Audia Flight website