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Let me start by telling you what the Machine won't do. It won't whiten or brighten, it won't remove unwanted hair or help restore lost follicles and it most certainly will not remove fat or add muscle. And it won't drive Miss Daisy or your Sound Labs. There, that about covers it. The Musical Machine is all about clarity. There's not a hint of grain, bloat or boast. Or anything but pure unadulterated signal. Like water from the bottom of an iceberg. Not chilly or frigid, just pure. It's a clean machine.

What do we ultimately want from an amplifier? If we were having a conversation, we could refine a list so it suits us equally. And that's what an amp and a speaker do. They converse. I was able to introduce the Machine to four different pairs of speakers over the course of a few months; my Abbys, DeVore Gibbon Super 8s, a newly acquired pair of original (binding posts on top) Horn Shoppe Horns and a review pair of Lamhorns. Besides this being just downright fun, giving an amp some variety lets us zero in on consistent behavior. It also may let us hear some complaints from a mismatched pairing, some not-so-musical emphasis we'd rather avoid.

If you want to think about the music your HiFi makes as the child of your HiFi gear, then I find the mating of too similar an amp and speaker produces in-bred musical offspring. Pale and lifeless or too full and fat. You want a marriage of opposites, a complimentary paring, producing well-balanced kids. And when I lock in on a truly complimentary speaker/amp combo, I smile. Can't help it, it's an involuntary audio-dweeb reflex.

When I put the DeVore Super 8s on the Machine, I smiled. I've heard the DeVore Gibbon Super 8s sound super before, mind you. Just not my pair in my house. Until now. A while back, I had the pleasure of reviewing the First Watt Aleph J and it was a near smile-making mate for the DeVores. But I just wasn't fully taken in with the music they made. While the J controlled the 8s and served up a super detailed and delicate musical picture, I was removed as a listener. My eyes roamed and my thoughts followed. The Musical Machine is as detailed and controlled as best as I can recall the J being but with the Machine, I've moved into the performance. Like the Del Sarto painting in the Met, I can join in the action. I am emotionally engaged. I smile. I reach for my favorite music, not my favorite recording. I relax. I enjoy.

And isn't that it in a nutshell? It is for me. When things are working, I actually can listen in to a recording. Nina Simone singing Billy Holiday's "Strange Fruit" is dizzying. When she hangs onto the line "And the leaves to drop" you can hear into the emotion and pain in her voice as far
south as you want to go. It's touching. You can learn from a recording like this. But you need to hear nuance and inflection, the slight crack of her voice as it drops that leaf on the ground like a dead soul. If you don't have Nina Simone's version of this song, get it. It's an education in humanity. The Machine has the clarity and more importantly the delicacy to float delicate music perfectly.

And what about our single-driver stable? The budget combo of Machine and Horn is an all-around winner; big bass and an even bigger presentation with plenty of drive, tone and immediacy. I am able to take advantage of corner-placement in my room and the Horns appreciate and return the favor by pumping out some size-defying powerful fare. Are You Experienced, Prayers on Fire, Exile on Mainstreet and Swordfishtrombones come with all the sway, swagger and swingin' members you could ask for. When I reviewed the AudioTropic Mœbius, I was impressed with its ability to handle raucous music, hard-driving rock and complex, harmonically rich symphonic fare. I am happy to report this is a house trait from the house of Poindexter. The Machine can handle whatever you throw its way with aplomb. From Ayler to Zorn and everything in between. It's incisive and crisp with no loose ends anywhere within earshot.

At the same time, it imparts that rounder, fuller sound so the more you lean in, the more you're caressed. It's not as lush as a SET nor as billowy or dimensional, hence the Machine can sound a bit flat when paired with a speaker that could be heard as analytical. The Lamhorns in for review are cut from a very similar sonic cloth; clean, crisp and ruthlessly revealing. And the Machine/Lamhorn union turned out to be stark. Like a Vermeer. Studied and still, the musical picture is presented in all its clarity for your inspection. Crisp. The way I hear crisp is a bit removed, a bit more cerebral. With something like the Fi 45, the same music will take on a glow, a softer, fuller sound. Out of the speakers in-house (and perhaps out of most I've heard), the Lamhorns are pure. So what we have here is a like-with-like pairing. And if pure, clean, detailed and fast is your bag, this is a speaker/amp combo for you.

I first found out about Poindexter and AudioTropic from Terry Cain. Eric built the first-ever Mœbius for Terry (a 6SN7 version) and I followed Terry's bread crumb trail all the way to Hawaii and the Mœbius. (That's figuratively speaking of course. Another snafu in the 6moons travel division, another factory tour request denied). So the Abby/Machine combo holds a special place in my scheme of things and the musical outcome is another child born of synergy. Part of the Abby's magic is their way with space. Musical images float and flicker so Debussy and Delibes can sift their way through your ears and take up residence in your thoughts. The Machine delivers the smoky flavor and is more incisive than my Fi 45, cutting more distinct edges.

Perhaps there's a bit less romance, less bloom and decay but the musical picture is no less real or revealing. And over Machine time, these distinctions fade. A/B'ing is a useful exercise but no one spends their entire listening life in A/B mode. Do they? What matters more than difference is a component's ability to hold your attention over time. I have certainly experienced some pieces of gear I knew I could not live with. Even after the A/B'ing, I remained distracted by thoughts of a preferred presentation. And a large part of this preference resides in and around tone. Or perhaps I should say timbre or tonal quality. Actually I like Herb Reichert's "things tend to sound like whatever it is they're made out of." So while the Machine does not sound like a Fi 45, it makes music sounds like whatever it is its made out of. And it does this on its own terms and I find them convincing and complete. Even captivating. On a micro level, you'll hear every nuance and inflection in Nina Simone's voice while Noel, Mitch and Jimi come with all the drive, stomp and screech your speakers can muster. Delicate big-ass boogie.

Caveats? At 6-8 watts, you'll need some easy-to-drive speakers. The Abbys and Horns made excellent partners for the Machine and I'd have to think something like the Omega Super 3 XRS and possibly the Hemps would be a stunner as well. Another consideration is your source's gain. The Machine needs a line-level signal with adequate/typical gain at 2Vrms to play loud. With my Red Wine Monica 2 DAC and its 0.7Vrms, I can max out the volume when wired to the Super 8s. On an easier speaker to drive, like the Abbys or the Horns, things get louder than I'd like around 4 o'clock on the volume pot. My room is 13' x 16' with 9' ceilings so anyone with more volume to fill or a tendency towards head-banger levels will need some very efficient speakers, think >100dB, to really rock the house. I also found the Machine can lean towards lean. On a speaker like the Lamhorns, the combination was tight and controlled but not very breathy. While this made fair game of more complex fare, big tone lovers may be left shy of pure emotional involvement. The wetter and softer DeVore Gibbon Super 8s ate the full serving of Machine pie and came back for more.

Delicate and delightful yet can play rough when called for. And she's beautifully built. Beyond sounding like the perfect date, the Musical Machine is a piece of HiFi gear I can get excited about. I can get can get excited because I connect to the music being played through it emotionally and physically. There's nothing to stop me from climbing as far inside the sound as I care to; it's a disappearing act coupled with one of the most musical rabbits I've yet to hear pulled out of the HiFi hat. It tickles and tricks your brain into imagining. And I'm not talking about imaging; no soundstage holography please. I am talking about a sensual experience. A crystal clear pool of music to delve into.

There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit. And meanwhile back...
Eric has been refining the Musical Machine for 11 years. And he's not done. While writing up this review, I learned that the Machine will be getting a complete face lift.

"All the transformers have been upgraded in performance and are housed in matching hammer tone cans. The speaker connectors will be the Edison Price Music Post. The negative supply toroid will be upgraded in power rating. All the amps and preamps from now will use the DACT discrete attenuator as the volume control. The improvement in appearance and performance/sound due to the new transformers is something in which I'm very confident but haven't experienced yet; I have the first of the new amps building up right now.

The sonic improvement of using the DACT is another thing. I just put a DACT in a Mœbius as an option for a gentleman and I would not have expected that the old (very nice quality) potentiometer was such a weak link. To go back, in my view, to the old pot would be a false economy."

The good news (for me at least) is there are still a few of the original Machines available to make this review meaningful for a few lucky buyers and perhaps as a long prelude to the new Machine. I'll be doing the review honors when Eric has a sample ready to roll my way. In the meantime, he's sent along some pics to tickle our appetites. What's that, 8? A tad more drive and a touch more input sensitivity? Isn't that just typical behavior from a piece of HiFi gear? Never happy. Always looking for more. They actually stopped talking once they found out I was sending the Machine back to Hawaii. But if I'm not mistaken, I noticed some remorse, a hint of wooden sadness, a silent complaint from the Gibbon 8s as I packed the Machine up for its return trip.
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