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The Octave Jubilee was located somewhere in-between. It had saturation, presenting grand vocals in large space, i.e. virtual sources had much body without exaggerating that saturation to not particularly impact the overall sound. This was especially well appreciated by comparing it to direct-coupling a variable CD player to a power amplifier. The quality of the German preamp was revealed also by its high definition. That characteristic is very difficult to achieve whilst maintaining such saturation, something I observed in the other mentioned preamps. Usually some compromises are made.

The Octave was exemplary in that respect. I never heard better. The measure of its greatness is the fact that I had much pleasure listening to live recordings from different years representing various music styles. For me this is usually problematic at the very least. Now I could appreciate the distinct tone colors and spaciousness between performers and audience. To me actual audience applause always sounds like paper - empty. Sometimes it is better, sometimes worse but it clearly indicates a weakness in such recordings. The Jubilee did something which finally united applause with audience to make it true.

An advantage of my particular reference system, especially its amplifier and speakers, is that it shows events without compression like 'live'. Next to bass saturation that’s always the first thing to catch attention as became clear from my experiences whenever someone listens to music at my place. And it is in such company that the characteristic I described above, the naturalness of performance, the sense of a live musical event conveyed by the Octave preamp, was the most striking.

I think these are all advantages from a combination of superb resolution and completely unprecedented saturation. It allows the creation of distinct virtual sources which are tangible and of good texture to display the minor differences in dynamics and tone color during those moments when a performer slightly tilts the head and steps back from the microphone such as on Smokin’ At The Half Note by Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly Trio when before the track number 6 (bonus material) Alan Grant introducing the musicians jokes at Montgomery who forgot what they were about to play. Or on the One Down, One Up. Live At The Half Note album where the musicians are introduced by the same Alan Grant (material from both albums was recorded in 1965). In either case I had the same feeling of being there. Despite the recordings’ technical imperfections, despite the passage of time—47 years!—the Jubilee was able to capture the spirit of those times with the energy of the musicians and audience.

But as I said earlier, that capability of the German preamp was not limited to one particular music genre. Jazz and classical segued without any concerns into Kraftwerk’s Minimum-Maximum for the same thing to happen once again with now completely different music, time and venue (from a small club to concert halls including Warsaw’s Congress Hall plus stadiums) yet the feeling remained the same: the naturalness of the audience applause, the organic presence of the musicians simply sending shivers down my spine.

And that’s but an example of what the Jubilee was capable of, albeit to me the most convincing example. The sound was very juicy yet coherent and natural at the same time. Vocals from Me Myself And I had their clearly recorded signature of being slightly guttural. The same could be heard over my Polaris III where it was even more pronounced. The Octave however still went beyond without stopping there. The Ayon’s presentation was slightly closer, its soundstage somewhat homogenized. Despite that it still casts and differentiates a soundstage better than any other device of its kind except for the Jubilee. The German preamp threw a very deep and even better differentiated soundstage.

The other impressive characteristic of Mr. Hofmann‘s preamplifier was the saturation of both the bass and midrange and to a large extent the treble too The latter was not as open as the Soulution 720 or Avantgarde Acoustic PRE—those are world champions in uniform treble extension—but remained perfectly proportionate with the rest of the sonic range. Especially the low end was strong, rich and full of energy. And it was this sonic energy especially of the bass which I found particularly impressive. It did not allow the events to ever veer into something abstract but anchored them in the here and now. Building on its soundstage presentation and high energy of sound, the Jubilee created a large bubble around the listener which was dense and almost palpable. Background noise, tape hiss and such added a feeling of entering another reality, of being somewhere else despite the fact that such artifacts are really a form of distortion, of something that should instead indicate the artifice of the whole music recording and reproduction process. Perhaps it’s really an aspect of ourselves where we got used to such an interpretation of recordings, where we trained our brain to this fashion but the result is one and the same – we’re somewhere else.