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Attractive neutrality: First sessions began ‘stock’, i.e. with EL34s and no Black Box. At once I noticed how the amp takes longer to come on song. Most hifi gear undergoes a warm-up wake up call. It’s common for both valve and transistors amps. Many valve amps are actually quicker than their solid-state brethren. Not the Octave. At first, it sounds quite thin. Half an hour later things become acceptable but the real fun kicks in only an hour later. Perhaps that’s the rationale for the Ecomode which a switch on the rear can activate. Not sensing signal for 10 minutes, it parks the amp in energy-saving mode to reduce power consumption from 130 to 20 watts.

Under resumed signal, the amp restarts itself in 30 seconds. This allows running the Octave V40SE all evening long even through lengthy listening breaks. Switching from Ecomode to full operation gets into gear a lot faster than from a cold start. While this doesn’t conform to EG regulation 1275/2008 on the ecological power consumption of electrical household and office appliances in standby, that’s a different topic. If you're deeply green, simply turn the amp off.

After due warm-up, the Octave V40SE really takes off. While my Geithain Me150 are no efficiency wonders, their quite linear 4-ohm load tends to get on well with valve amps and the Octave took to this diet without complaints. Caroline Wegener’s acoustic trio with Jazz Sketches quickly elucidated that neutrality is one of this amp’s top concerns and virtues. This incidentally works out to quite the opposite of boredom. This album lives on well-recorded piano and the V40SE conveyed the many nuances of hammer falls, power and scale of the instruments with brilliant dynamics and clarity. Compared to my Jadis, I missed a smidgen of treble brilliance which more technical listeners would probably lay at the feet of reduced distortion. The V40SE does not emulate the kind of valve sound which predicts cozy softness and exceptionally saturated tone colors. I basically resist clear-cut ‘valve sound’ labels. Transistor amps too can play warm and softly.

Regardless, Octave’s smallest integrated does seem to own certain virtues more typical for tubes. One of these are very direct dynamics whereby sounds arise in space. Good sand amps will do it too but rarely with the same effortless ease. The Octave seems exceptionally ‘fast’ yet not unduly insistent. Ditto for the bass where the last degree of pressure and control is lost but drum and synth attacks explode properly, acoustic bass has proper amplitude and long plucked strings pop with vigor. A few Madonna CDs investigated electronic transients at length. Synth trickery spanned quite the gamut and had me quickly loose track of elevated levels until neighbors three flats down brought it to my attention. The Octave clearly loses no breath getting and playing loud.

For the remainder of the evening, I stuck with more high-brow smaller Jazz numbers lest I abuse my neighbors’ tolerance again. Lisa Bassenge’s A Sigh A Song showed off the Octave’s vocal chops. Paul Anka and Roger Cicero caused no complaints either. The tonal balance was perfect, dynamics left nothing to the imagination while the general tendency was somewhat factual and a little soft down low. Classical was next. Claudio Abbado’s reading of Mahler’s Third with the Berlin Philharmonic is an impressively forceful affair. The V40SE didn’t lose perspective even during very lively complex passages. Dynamics and timbres were highly convincing. Soundstage depth was very good but lost a bit against the truly excellent rendering of smaller ensembles. Placement precision of individual instruments or groups was immaculate however.