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In class A mode I also couldn't shake the impression that an imaginary zoom lens had moved the listener a tad closer to the protagonists. That's because the atmosphere gained in proximity and intimacy. The goose-bump factor became more intense too. Crediting the Anglo-Saxon belief that 'there's no such thing as a free lunch', I also registered a somewhat less controlled bass register. The firm grip so admired in class A/B mode had loosened up. Because staging compacted as well, the combined effect was that large-scale orchestral extravaganzas like Denon's Onepoint recordings of Mahler's Symphonies with The Frankfurt Radio Sinfonie Orchester under Eliahu Inbal exhibited diminished raw spectacle and the concert hall's flooring showed shorter decays beneath the large kettle drums. I'd thus favor class A/B operation for grandiose symphonic works and bass-heavy Rock. Wherever material demands maximal micro resolution and nuanced exposition however, class A becomes the first choice.

By way of an example, let me whisk you away into a world of the rarest most exclusively-priced stringed instruments on the planet – my 1960's MCA issue of The Glory of Cremona where violinist Ruggiero Ricci (sadly deceased in August of last year at at the ripe old age of 94) performs on a collection of twelve violins from the workshops of famed Cremonese master builders like Antonio Stradivarius, Andrea Amati and Joseph Guarneri del Gesu. Despite some gathered patina on this otherwise sonically flawless recording, the Plinius siblings differentiated the respective traits of the various instruments wonderfully. This made for an excellent intro into the 'house sound' of these legendary violin makers. Without ultimate resolving power and precision in the treble, this would be a quite limited undertaking with instruments of such critical upper octaves. Simply throw this recording at a lesser system and appreciate how similar all these legendary violins begin to sound.

With the NZ combo meanwhile each of their characters stepped forward like an individual, be it the slightly resinous always unstressed tone of the Amati, the veritably glistening highly projectile treble of the Strad or the darker endlessly complex harmonics of the Guarneri. Even so these details lacked exhibitionist traits. They remained firmly settled into the whole. Whilst by tendency slightly darker—isolated A/Bs confirmed this to be true for both the preamp and power amp—I never felt shortchanged on analytical prowess. The latter was simply there should a listener want to pursue teasing out arterial filigree. Getting oceanically immersed in the music was the other option which simply required a shift of attention.

Under full class A bias the SA-103's aluminum casing got noticeably hotter. Counteracting falling outdoor temps, I never had to fire up our indoor heater during the review period to still enjoy nicely toasty 22 – 24°C ambient coziness. This I'm sure much pleased our local power utility company. In this context automatic reversal to less power-sucking class AB mode after any period of no-signal inactivity becomes more than a convenience. Obviously anyone warming up to a class A amp knows going in that a lowered electric bill won't accompany it.

Pure class A mode gets routinely associated with particularly convincing and true-sounding vocals. Considering the season, I thus fed my universal Gondul M player with a few Xmas songs though rest assured that Descemberbarn has little in common with the usual suspects. It's suitable year 'round. Kari Bremnes and Rikard Wolff are both blessed with interesting rich voices. Here they recorded a dozen of Nordic Christmas songs and traditionals. Without exception they are bejeweled miniatures each and no lesser a maestro on the mixing board than Jan Eric Kongshaug guarantees perfect sonics to boot.

Cueing up Wollf's reading of the eternal "Ave Maria" was accompanied by a gradual release from mundane daily stresses and the infusion of a hard-to-describe sense of inner calm. Wolff's minimally scratchy mature pipes are nicely contrasted by high boy choir and soprano voices whose immaculate purity can otherwise often feel staged. Once again the Plinius kit was fully in its element and worked out the gripping sacral undercurrent of this Bach/Gounod version of the Ave Maria. "In den kalde vinter" is another secret tip. Where else does Kari Bremnes get this festive and celebratory without gilding the lily with sweltering embellishments? Where aiming straight for the inner heart of any composition was concerned, the M8 and SA-103 felt like top-shelf marksmen.