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The sound of the Leben is exciting, electrifying and moving. This is not an ideal sound in the sense of ‘absolute’ because with the CS-660P I found a certain sound characteristic that is not present here but nevertheless a clear step forward in comparison to the ‘sixhundredsixty’ which I so greatly enjoyed. The 1000 is more detailed, clearer and more dynamic. The lower bass and upper treble have been slightly emphasized. This makes the sound seem slightly contoured. And it is somewhat voiced. This however adds some momentum (bass) and breath (treble) to the recordings. It conveys a very resolved selective well-differentiated message. And one that is beautifully arranged at that.

What is most important is that the reviewed amplifier delivered a complete message. Although my initial impressions were clear from the outset, it is not these 'guts' that defined the unit. We simply get a finished sound which of course can be improved here and there but these will not really be improvements as much as a redefining. I can see for example that swapping the KT120 for some NOS variant of another type will bring a significant change of sonic character. The amplifier seems to provide a very solid base for this type of tube rolling, clearly showing individual parts characteristics instead of just how well they might 'resonate' with the amplifier.

With the stock tubes—and let me remind you that the Leben was designed specifically around the new KT120—the sound is extremely dynamic. I could not detect any power restrictions. There was no compression no matter how loud I cranked it up. This I think was one of Mr. Taku's design objectives. The dynamics and tonal balance can be regulated to some extent. We have two switches for that – triode/pentode and speaker impedance. The former shows the musical material either in a more intimate or dynamic way; the latter changes timbre and its focus. When set to 4Ω the sound gets warmer and much more withdrawn into the scenery. The vocals are more integrated into the background. In the 8Ω position the sound is clearer and the vocals are closer. Various combinations of these two switches provide different effects. For me the Leben sounded best in the triode and 8Ω positions. With other speakers than my Harbeths M40.1 the effect may be different.

The CS-1000P delivers sound with great panache. Recordings with a deep soundstage sounded absolutely beautiful. The music to Blade Runner or the 301 album by e.s.t. (amazing music!) was vivid with accurate transients including long decays. Space, excellent layering and great interaction of all components were just a prelude to what was most important - excellent energy transfer.

This is a characteristic described by various terms and referred to on different occasions yet immediately and almost palpably noticeable during auditions. It is a sense of the instrument’s or vocalist’s presence in the room, here and now in front of us. It is often referred to as ‘tangible sound’ but it is something more. It is not just the ability to extract a well-defined sound source and to present it close enough to the listener. It is also the palpable strength of the projection, the power that moves everything.

As a result with the Leben we do not pay special attention to rhythm and focusing on the sound per se since those elements are simply outstanding. Instead we are free to pay attention to differentiation between various recordings such as going from an album by Ivo Pogorelich playing Chopin to Glenn Gould playing Bach. Different playing techniques, a completely different way of recording… the Leben differentiates all this in a unique way. Interestingly it does not discredit any of these performances; neither the would-be winner of the 1980 Chopin Competition—he was eliminated by the verdict of the jury chaired by Martha Argerich—with his very dynamic clear articulation and fast attacks of a large instrument in a large hall nor the eccentric Canadian, a fanatic of new recording techniques, a perfectionist with a very intimate way of playing and with his instrument exhibiting a small amount of air around it.