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This review first appeared in the March 2007 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of or Magnat - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Source: Analog - Acoustic Solid MPX, Phonotools Vivid-Two, Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 501 II, Zu Audio DL-103 mod; digital - audiolab 8000CD
Amplification: integrated - Magnat RV-1, Myryad MXI 2080; preamp - bel canto PRe 3, Funk LAP-2; power amp - bel canto M300 monos
Loudspeakers: Volent Paragon VL-2, Zu Audio Druid mk4
Cables: low-level - Ecosse Baton + Symphony, fis Audio Studioline, fis Audio Livetime, Funk BS-2, van den Hul Integration Hybrid, Zaolla Reinsilber NF – high-level - Ecosse SMS2.3, fis Audio Livetime, Ixos 6006 Gamma, Zu Audio Libtec
Power distribution: fis Audio Livetime
Rack: Creactiv & Taoc AS-3
Review component retail: €1.999

Fess up. Mention Magnat and what you really see is a Golf GTI zipping by mid village at well beyond legal speeds. We're in the 80s and boomboomboom it goes - amps in the trunk feeding a woofer array not really embarrassed by the turbo-charged engine upfront. The window panes keep the beat by bulging in centimeters. And the bumper sticker en't a Jesus freak fish or the outline of vacation destination Sylt nor even 'nuclear power - no thank you' but this: Sound with bite.

You shake your head and grimace in mock amusement. 20 years later, it'll cause you pause then to hear of a new retro-concept EL34
integrated carrying the name Magnat RV1. Bye-bye cliché #1. Nothing can be counted on no mo'.

"Oh well, so they do valves now - grab a handful of bottles, stick 'em upfront lotsa chrome and call it 'sensual'...". Er, not so quick. True, such exists. But take a gander at the Magnat RV1. It's more a visual denial of fashionable tube altars, ne c'est pas? Bye-bye cliché #2 for embracing sympathetic nonconformity.

Technicalia, features and construction
Magnat confesses retro values. "Vintage valve amp from the 60s and 70s" was the godfather motto for its offspring so they claim. Hence perhaps the cosmetics which speak of Germanic machine shop, not gleaming hifi jewel. Though you're tough challenged to find anything shaky about this 20-kilo lump: thick aluminum panels fixed by endless screws; controls machined from solid stock; high-quality connectors - this beast is a metal builder's dream kit for us overgrown kids.

One tape loop, three high-level inputs and one MM phonostage complete possible source choices. The rear carries the 4/8-ohm tabs, the clean fascia, starting from the left, the power mains, input selector, balance control (pure 70s) and attenuator - the latter two linked to popular and quality ALPS pots. Now add remote control for volume and mute.

More interesting than fore and aft are above and below, in either case without their covers. The bird's eye view shows the deliberately central power transformer whose nine discrete supply windings see the shortest possible paths to the various circuits. Flanking el fatso are the output transformers embracing vintage values of EI construction with silicon-steel cores. A separate little cage hides and shields the 4 x 12AX7/ECC83 phono stage. Two more of these valves show up in the preamp stage while the pentode drivers are 12AU7/ECC82s.

Both phono and preamp stage are SRPP push/pull for high linearity, low distortion and low output impedance. The power triodes are the already mentioned EL34s in classic push/pull opposition for a claimed 35-watt 4/8-ohm output power. Viewed from below, the amp looks like a well-stuffed tool kit: power supply, phono leg, preamp and power amp stages each inhabit their own boxes. I was again reminded of long-gone DIY metal builder's kits, perhaps because it took 18 screws to loosen the bottom plate.

Front central shows the preamp board, to its left and on its own board live the input switching, balance and volume control. A box farther back, dead center, contains the power supply and storage capacitors. In the back, once again segregated, lives the phono stage (right behind its inputs for a short signal path), to the right the output stage. Everything bespeaks quality handiwork, i.e. discrete parts and hand soldering. The parts lists will bring smiles to electro gourmands: ceramic tube sockets, quality foil caps, metalized resistors, ALPs pots - the woiks. So far, so very vintage and solid. And sonically - a bulldog rerun?

Valve amps are soft in the bottom, overly charming in the mids and with powder sugar on top. Bye-bye cliché #3. Nothing really fits the Magnat RV1. Which isn't to say it sounds transistory, simply that it cares little for home-baked preconceptions. This became clearer and clearer during my audition in which I compared it intently to the Lua 4040C: tonally neutral, superbly dimensional, a friend of details and impulsively involving - most of the times. Apropos music, I used the following albums:

Howe Gelb/The Listener: A solo effort by Giant Sand's master mind. I'm fond of trax 5 & 6 to take a general measure since everything better work. Think male and female vocals, piano, woodwinds, double bass, congas - and all pretty well recorded.

Tori Amos/Boys For Pele: I run the whole album but "Blood Roses" always first. The cembalom is critical and gives instant insight into tonality of mids and highs.

Under Byen/Det Er Mig Der Holder Traeerne Sammen: Official justification? Quality check for synthesized infrasonics. Piqued rumors by certain colleagues insist it's really my lust bug for a certain female's vocals which obviously is utter nonsense.

Tord Gustavsen Trio/Being There: Elevator muzak. That was my first reaction. Not so fast though. This trio has since won a permanent place in my repertoire. Recording quality too is convincing: piano, upright bass and such stunningly captured hi-hat work that in the right rig, your surprises never end.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy/The Letting Go: A beautiful, peaceful, melancholy disc. Quintessential American songwriting, admittedly not very innovative but that's not necessary. It's compelling for its authenticity and musical chops. Sonically rather excellent but that's beside the point, being simply a gorgeous album.

James Chance & The Contortions/Paris 1980: Jazz Funk Punk. Gotta be rebellious, nervous and insolent. Sax on speed.

Miles Davis/Kind Of Blue: Not really among my standards except for "Freddie Freeloader". Tone check for midrange and treble resolution.

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin/Holon: Ultimate low bass, dynamic and transient checks. One of my faves.

Pixies/Come On Pilgrim: Still brilliant and far too rare for intelligent indie rock to sound this good. This requires strong energy transmission. Deluxe bass runs.

Most valve typical about the Magnat RV1 is perhaps how voices and instrument acquire plasticity and body. The stage is quite broad and -- more valued even by your writer -- rather deep. Localization focus is strong but those comments merely capture parts of how the Magnat builds space. This goes beyond left/right and front/back into the illusion that music appears in recorded space.

Even during silent interludes, this effect lingers - of a room not my own. Well, nearly. That I ascribe this quality to valves is linked also to the fact that many studio productions don't lack in this regard, say on the above Tord Gustavsen Trio and Nik Bärtsch's latest. Needless to say, I don't really have any scientific explanation for this effect. But when an amp manages to not merely map out a stage in all four directions and precisely allocate placement of various sounds within it but additionally builds body around them beyond 'dots on stage', then said effect results in a believable, tangibly compelling impression of recorded space. The Lua 4040C doesn't equally impress. It lacks a bit in the third dimension to somewhat flatten out while compensating with broader width.

Intermediate conclusion: Simply put, the Magnat RV1 aces dimensionality and ambient cues. The soundstage is vast and deep, image focus is high but not lasered and the amp manages to endow individual sounds with associated body and surrounding air - bloom as our international colleagues would put it. And while it blooms, it doesn't practice usury. No 5-meter guitars - which might be enjoyable occasionally but would have you look elsewhere. The Magnat is far too realistic and neutral to scale disproportionately.

These two latter qualities can be equally assessed from the tonal balance perspective. In the treble, hi-hats are precisely and clearly resolved, giving no cause for complaints. Granted, the beyond hifi outright sex appeal of the twice-plus as dear Mastersound 300Bs remains beyond the Magnat's less extrovert and sober nature. Ditto for the midband particularly on voices. No
sugary garnish or melting cream. But likewise, no harshness, throatiness or tendency for emphasized presence - neutrality in the best sense of the term. Let me put it this way: If your ideas of a valve amp involved glamorous mids or else you'd not respond - then the sobriety of the Magnat RV1 may not appeal. If, on the other hand, the merits of clarity and space redline your requirements; and if especially vocals demand the somatic ingredient to telegraph a physical image of the singer - then the RV1 dishes it out. As always, the first question in hifi isn't "whuzzit sound like" but, "what matters to me?"
Since the Magnat tubes don't overemphasize the midrange, a positive side effect is better separation of the bass. This makes for greater transparency in which the individual frequency bands don't collide. The Lua makes more scrambled eggs. But no action without reaction: the Magnat's clarity in the bass also results in relative fundamental leanness. 35 watts are sufficient weaponry but not for everything. Loudspeaker selectivity remains important then, an aspect I often deliberately abuse to test for limits and exceptions.

Enter the ribbon-tweeter'd Volent Paragon VL which shifts into brightness with elevated levels. Strapped to the Magnat via rather lean Ecosse SMS 2.3, cueing up the Pixies shoulda cracked. Shoulda. Instead, everything was too lean. Bereft of requisite fundamental heft, the exceptional staging was no suitable offset. The Lua meanwhile packed it on this combo. Ergo, the Pixies disc was more fun over it.

Hardware shift: high-eff speaker plus fuller cable (Zu + Zu) and the page turned. No, the Magnat didn't produce more power than the Lua but proved plenty sufficient and now playing to its own strengths meant clarity, detail and dimensionality, having the Lua come in second now. Moral of the story? To my mind, the Magnat should drive speakers of good sensitivity and impedance linearity (>90dB//W/m) and a thumb-width of extra fat in the bass waist would come in handy - leashed up, to be sure, not with a cable by firm ExtraLean.

Two more relevant points on the subject Magnat RV1. One, you might call it the fussy presenter of secondaries. There's a wealth of detail yet it's not analytical in the bad sense. Musical minutiae are well served -- a li'l creak here, a faint hall echo there -- but not emphasized in amplitude or importance to break down the consciousness barrier in a violent fashion. While I heard these things earlier already, 'twasn't the same: more disconnected, less relevant, not as integral to the big picture, not as naturally rendered. Really beautiful, this wholesome integration.

Two, transient are damn fast and downright slamming and hard when called for – say on Nik Bärtsch's Ronin. Contingent on appropriate level, it'll have your heart skip a beat when a drum suddenly appears in thin air and crashes down hard as nails. Yeah, there's plenty of formidable jumps and shocks and skipped heart beats with the Magnat. Respect.

  • The Magnat RV1 is a heavy, solidly put together amplifier. There's no material excess for its own sake but timeless machine shop seriousness to set a high standard at its price.
  • The Magnat RV1 is essentially neutral, with a minor depression in the low bass which is on the leaner side. Yet leashed up to the appropriate speaker (no current hog and more fulsome than lithe), this liability turns asset.
  • Depiction of space is a great forte of the Magnat RV1. Staging broadly and deep, there's silence between individual, clearly localized voices and all sounds are associated with realistic body and contour. Put together, these three aspects paint a very realistic and compelling illusion of recording venue.
  • Transient attack is first rate, impulses are steep and well-damped.
  • Finally, the Magnat RV1 exhibits great resolution or, more to the point, presents detail well, i.e. apparently secondary stuff is well elucidated yet organically integrated with the whole, a rare balance act pulled off with bravura.


  • Category: Valve integrated Magnat RV 1 (EL34 Push/Pull)
  • MSRP: 1.999 Euro
  • Dimensions: 420mm x 166mm x 330mm (W x H x D)
  • Finish: Silver, brushed Aluminium
  • Mass: 20.3kg
  • Power: 2 x 35 Watt into 8 and 4 Ohm
  • Distribution: B&M
  • Extras: MM phono stage
  • Website
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