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The third peculiarity is Lavardin’s insistence on only using their IT with their own cabling. Since I wrote about it during my earlier review of the complete Lavardin system, I’ll just say that I saw no problem with that and used the company’s CLR 83 interconnects and CMA 317 loudspeaker cables. It's also worth checking the polarity of the power cord. The amplifier’s socket marks the hot pin with a red paint dot.

Sound – a selection of recordings used in the review: Audiofeels, Uncovered, Penguin Records, 5865033, CD; Clan of Xymox, Darkest Hour, Trisol, TRI 419 CD, CD; David Gilmour, On An Island, EMI, 355695, CCD; Eva Cassidy, Songbird, Hot Records, G2-10045, CD; Jim Hall Trio, Blues On The Rocks, Gambit Records, 69207, CD; Jim Hall, Concierto, CTI/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2012, SACD/CD; Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert, ECM/Universal Music Japan, UCCE-9011, gold CD; Leszek Możdżer, Komeda, ACT Music + Vision, ACT 9516-2, CD; Lisa Ekdahl, Give Me That Slow Knowing Smile, RCA/Sony Music, 46663-2, Opendisc;  Madeleine Peyroux, Standing On The Rooftop, EmArcy/Pennywell Productions [Japan], UCCU-1335, CD; Pat Martino, East!, Prestige/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2018, SACD/CD; Project by Jarré, Geometry Of Love, Aero Prod, 4606932, CD.

Most serious companies know how to control their design process according to a personal core notion about sound. This creates a type of agenda which informs and regulates engineering and manufacturing. It might be focused on timbre, dynamics, resolution or any particular aspect or grouping of aspects the designer considers paramount. Even those firms whose products are claimed to ‘disappear’ from the signal path are still limited by technology and Physics to encounter compromises. There is no absolute sound. That’s just a pretty concept. However admirable to haunt us all, it’s still nothing but an abstract. Hence there is the unavoidable human factor whose choices, doubts, beliefs and finally abilities flow into each and every hifi device. Then it’s up to us to choose those components whose underlying vision and method appeal to us the most.

The IT-15 has its own leitmotif. It could be condensed into one sentence: "Nothing human is alien to us but we are closest to vocals." I am simplifying but for good reason. I want to point at a special ability of this Lavardin - its exceptional way of depicting human voices (but not exclusively voices because guitars are equally surprising). And this was unexpected as even far more expensive high-end amplifiers often won’t handle the midrange this well. But that’s merely part of the package which the IT-15 delivers. Vocalization of the sound in a figure of speech, the amplification of human voices, their emergence from something ‘half-ready’ to the first plane… it’s merely part of a bigger process. The IT-15 does not just play music but with each new disc tells us a different story. It is partially its own story, not only about what’s on the disc. But it does not impose anything. Rather it suggests its version. It does not imprint it on us yet really has a gift for convincing us.

This introduction was necessary so that what follows won’t be too dry and give the full picture of what to expect from the Lavardin. It is about a saturated and slightly warm sound. In a blind test of a larger group of amplifiers I would identify it as a tube amplifier. There are a few reasons. The first one is obvious. The upper treble is rather withdrawn and warm but not as warm as most EL34-based amplifiers and not as sweet. It is better differentiated; the top end has more weight and cymbals are more concise.