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A potential stroke of bad luck was the timing of the VM60s' touch-down after I'd discovered and embraced Nelson Pass' phenomenal single-stage zero feedback zero degeneration SETransistor amp. It's called the FirstWatt S2 in stereo guise and S1 in mono (the latter sports adjustable bias for load-line adaptation to specific speakers). Fitted with Nelson's proprietary silicon-carbide power JFETs from SemiSouth, these amps have already overshadowed various valved contenders of far costlier pedigree than today's Asians.

On speed, resolution, ultra-low noise and purity/lucidity, Nelson's latest sets a new benchmark. It's had me park various classy amps of Yamamoto A-09S, Woo Audio Model 5 and Octave MRE-130 caliber in the closet beneath the stairs. There they contemplate the passage of time until the occasional speaker review warrants a brief reemergence. Naturally that's nothing but personal taste and about a specific stage in one individual's audiophile evolution. Even so I thought that the cards were rather heavily stacked against the VM60s. The baggage if you will was their greater circuit complexity, a higher noise floor (faintly audible directly at the speaker but not otherwise) and what over time will be very slowly degrading performance from tube aging. But keeping an open mind and clean ears is what this gig is all about. One does not accept valve amps for review, then holds being valve amps against them.

A test of the more ludicrous but nonetheless telling kind is to mate amplifiers like the VM60s—whose power rating is intended for regular speakers—to 100dB jobs which take off with half a watt. Since I still had the Voxativ Ampeggios set up from a go-'round with Vinnie Rossi's 15wpc battery-powered FET-output Signature 15, I moved in the JE Audio heavies just because.

Whilst not deathly quiet—that honor goes to the Signature 15 or FirstWatt S2—the old van Gogh of ear on driver netted merely faint steady-state hiss lower in output than my 8wpc Yamamoto A-09S 300B SET. Translation? Utterly inaudible in the seat and terrific performance for a valve amp of this power output.

Naturally a high input sensitivity, stout voltage gain and a 3V-max variable source of Eximus DP1 caliber conspired to very low 6:30 settings on the dial before things got too loud. That's why such combinations are counter-productive. Most the gain in the chain is literally burnt off in a resistive pot unless one goes the superior route of trans/autoformer-based attenuation.

With the noise hurdle so impressively and unexpectedly cleared, I decided to give this unnatural combination some time to otherwise make a case for itself. Coming off the FirstWatt S2, I'd anticipated particularly on these speakers telltale traits of something thicker, foggier, fuzzier and more congealed. What I got instead were the color temperatures and textural enhancements I reach to the ModWright LS-100 preamp for when the static induction transistors are at work. Those driven direct from the variable Eximus converter into these very accelerated single drivers border on the lean for my tastes. Yet those SITs' immediacy, jump factor on the micro scale and natural hyper resolution—an oxymoron in principle but not practice—are so addictive that any reach for the ketchup is stomachable only at very minor dosages.

Whilst the Ampeggio's astonishing 40Hz reach was most impressive over the low-impedance lithium/iron/phosphate batteries in the Signature 15 and their very butch current delivery, the VM-60s weren't a far second. Though both amps could set off the occasional rear-horn bass resonance—i.e. a specific hot spot in their response I've now heard in both my place and my friend Dan's who bought me these speakers—it's fair to say that high-power amps into high-efficiency speakers needn't be the conceptual mismatch it reads on paper.

I won't further expand on this application as it appears far too unlikely in practice - but the JE Audio amps certainly made a case for themselves on circuit reflexes, noise floor and tubular virtues in the texture/tone domain even on as back-assward a load as the Ampeggios.