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Just like with the EL84TT, the designers for their push-pull circuit here have chosen to use one JJ and EH per side each. That's even more surprising as by all online accounts I could find the operating points for both brands are significantly different. By now I simply learnt to trust that it meant it sounded better that way to the Tube de Force team. [On this subject it's clearly more work for an amp to push a speaker cone forward/out than letting it return. I've come across notions which posit that to properly reflect this asymmetry in a push/pull circuit requires that the negative phase half's 'lesser work' be electrically reflected in slightly reduced output. Perhaps the designers here attempted a similar response by using dissimilar tubes for their anti-phase circuits? – Ed.]

The good news in all of this is that two pairs of 7591s will set you back a whopping $80 whilst replacing the four 300Bs in the SM-300B could range from $400 to a breathtaking $4.000 depending on your chosen bottle. That's a lot of downloads, CDs or LPs you could finance with the difference in retubing, never mind the huge difference in initial investment.

Since I was unaware that the amplifier delivered was in fact brand new, I just plugged it in, warmed it up for 20 minutes and started listening. Five minutes later ear pain had me reach for the volume control on the matching Triode Labs preamp to turn it way down. Enquiries made, the amplifier takes a few days of intense exercise to come on song. Out it went into a secondary system where it flexed muscles for a week on a more demanding load than my Ocellias and flew through a dozen or more hot/cold cycles which I've found to be as critical to tube amplifier break-in as actual playback hours.

My first setup had the Finale replace the FirstWatt F5 in my current evaluation system. Digital source was the Burson Conductor used as a DAC through its fixed outputs into the Triode Labs Au Pre du Triode preamp in for an upcoming review. The Finale powered my reference Calliope .21 Twin Signature speakers. All cables were from Ocellia's pure silver Reference line. The first thing I noticed was how the much higher gain of the Finale amplifier required that I turn down the volume and operate it merely over the first 15% of its range at most. High gain preamp + high gain amp + high sensitivity speakers = redundant signal strength. It's usually not a good recipe for superior S/N ratio or startling micro dynamics. To the Triode Labs preamp's credit, things did not collapse at this very high attenuation level but the system was not what I would call a fluttering butterfly either.

Although burn-in had somewhat mellowed the Finale's upper midrange, the combination of very open lively preamplifier, all silver cables and Finale's in-yer-face midrange yielded far more spice than my diet tolerates. I had some lean and very mean sopranos materialize in my room. The wrath of the Queen of the Night drilled far inside my brain and although bass power and macrodynamics of the amplifier were outstanding, I could not listen very long without feeling an urgent need to bring back the Trafomatic 300Bs.