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Unfortunately two other aspects of the Bravo 3.1 became quickly obvious in the first audition weeks. The first was a metallic ringing in the lower treble, the second transformer hum. The metallic ringing—almost like a ghost following main transients—had both pleasant and unpleasant aspects to it. While it gave an increased sense of resolution that would have been great with speakers notoriously shy on top, it did sound artificial and on violins or sopranos gave the music an edge that was not necessarily enjoyable.

Deciding to better understand what I was hearing—and not having come across it during my prior encounters with the Bravos 3.1—I determined to pack up the amplifiers and drive to Quest for Sound for an audition on Steve Monte's high-efficiency horns. I did not have to leave my music room. Upon removing the cooled down 805s, their tops fell apart. The upper contact became loose, leaving a bare wire sticking up. The inner contacts were obviously corrodes from heat and time. So that's what a failing 805 looks and sounds like? Now you are warned and know what to look and listen for. The giveaway in the treble is unmistakable.

New 805s promptly dispatched by the distributor took about a week to relax their initial edginess and lack of dynamics. What never returned was that treble ringing, confirming the artifact from failing tubes. The new 805s displayed the extended and sweet treble of 2A3s with enough shimmer on cymbals to have the ribbon tweeters of the Zu Essence bristling with life but none of the earlier extended ringing or ghosting which had turned the Zus hard at times.

What remained—occasionally and intermittent—was transformer buzz. It happened randomly and almost exclusively on one amplifier, incidentally the one damaged in a previous shipment as attested by the slightly askew binding posts. I suspect that the transformers in this amplifier was slightly loose and vibrated when the wall voltage drifted to 129V now and then. As demonstrated by the other amplifier, this was not normal behavior and the buzzing was rare enough to assess the musical performance without problems. When the buzzing did occur, it was loud enough to be heard from the listening seat and during quiet passages in classical music. I don't believe this will be the normal behavior but I have to recommend caution and home trials before purchase because of what I observed in my place. The JAS amplifiers are good enough to justify the effort.

If you make the effort, what you'll hear beyond a huge soundstage and lifelike placement of musicians is primarily the impression of a strong 2A3 triode flavor, an open and well textured midrange complemented by what I can only call the 805 effect - a slightly forward, very extended and detailed treble with no harshness or dryness. What wasn't 2A3 was bass extension which I found deeper and tighter than expected, actually surprisingly close to what the McIntosh MA2275 delivers as power amplifier (surprising because the MA2275 is a 75-watt push-pull design with KT88s which should have given it a significant advantage in the lower octaves).

Let's be real for a moment though. The Bravos did not come close to the abysmal depth of the Genesis GR360 and its level of detail down low. This class D champion is in an altogether different league. The surprise simply was that on a friendly load, the Bravos never felt shy, light or out of breath, be it the Saint-Saens symphony with organ or the Gorillaz' slamming electro beats. The monos did not plumb as deep either but what was there had tunefulness and control. Rather than the dry, discarnate cyborg bass from certain solid-state muscle amps, it had the warm expansive feeling of acoustic bass.

The Zus with their 97dB sensitivity and impedance fluctuating mostly between 8 and 12 ohms. They were no challenging load and 32 watts driving them had more headroom than needed. This provided for magnificent macro dynamics surprising for a SET since in many respects, the impacts and surges of the music were better rendered by the Bravos than McIntosh amplifier. Courtesy of presumably the single-ended design, microdynamics were superb. That's the claimed forté of triodes, bringing to light those minute nuances, changes and variations in levels. The 2A3-driven 805s gave a huge helping of this quality, far more than any 845 I have heard and like the best 211s if arguably not quite to the same level of a masterfully implemented 45. But this seemed like the next best thing and more broadly useable. The Yamamoto A08s still outshines the Bravos by a fair margin when it comes to midrange fluidity and articulation but two watts won't get you very far when 32 might.

The next question became, just how useable were those 32 watts? Eight watts will do fine over my Essence although the power meter of the MA2275 does tickle the 3-watt mark on heavy orchestral works during spirited listening sessions. This suggests that 8 watts are probably a minimum for happy hour and 12 to 30 more advisable. In any case, the Chinese 32 watts and higher current of the Bravos were not challenged by my blue monoliths. What about my 86dB 6-ohm FJ OMs which are notoriously harder to control in the bass than specs would suggest? And would there be enough gain for the famously insensitive Rogers LS 3/5as at 82dB?

Starting with the Rogers, more than enough. I never had to crank up the W4S preamplifier into gain. Even with 82dB speakers, the preamp operated below unity gain and the Bravos had no issue driving the Rogers to their limit. The association was reasonably good. The lower midrange was superb but the treble actually would take n amplifier slightly more reserved on top. For the Rogers, I have yet to find a better affordable amplifier than the Onix/Melody SP3. Its push-pull quartet of 5881s provides exactly the right balance of control, tone and treble politeness (no surprise there, the Rogers E20 amp was a push-pull 5881 circuit designed exclusively for the LS3/5a).

In absolute terms the openness of the Bravos should never be a liability - with the exception of harsher tweeters. There's nothing but finesse on top. The Rogers simply have proven over and over again to be finicky before giving their best. The $12,000 class A Esoteric A03 really had them at hello and the highest level of performance I have ever heard from them whereas my Genesis power house and the Rogers simply won't tango. That combination results in extreme stiffness. The Bravos 3.1s with the Rogers sat somewhere between, wonderful from bass—or what passes for bass with the Rogers—to the midrange but a bit hard in the treble. Being true recording and broadcasting monitors, the Rogers are voiced to emphasize any treble distortion which explains their unusually finicky behavior in the upper range.

Switching to the FJ Oms showed just how good the Bravo monoblocks really are. That was a match made in heaven at least to my ears. Before I proceed, I must point out that the 38wpc p/p Onix does not successfully drive the FJs. While midrange and treble are well defined and tuneful, the Onix fails to control the 7-inch upfiring woofer to result in what I can only qualify as mush down below and a lack of ambiance retrieval. It takes the McIntosh MA2275 on its 4-ohm tap to get the FJ's woofer under reasonable control - or formerly my Musical Fidelity A5 and its 250 watts of transistors muscle. This explains why I sincerely feared that this experiment would not last the hour. I was wrong, plain wrong...