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This causes predictable guffaws – a €698 preamp priced at two thirds of its power supply upgrade? Granted, it can drive a second Beta or SAC’s Gamma phono stage. Those keen on merely one Beta can get the über supply with a lower output voltage for ‘merely’ €798.

Naim too practices the over-dimensioned PSU concept and during my review of their XS integrated, I had occasion to experiment with the Flatcap 2x to agree that it made a difference. Still, one is somewhat shocked to see SAC propose a 350VA transformer, top Schottky diodes and 80.000uF of filter capacitance—the equivalent of four Igel monos—to hang off the arse of their tinacious preamp.

“That’s based on experience” quipped Herr Fuchs undeterred. Experience plainly tells him that beefing up the power supply pushes performance upwards. Exactly why he can’t fully explain with a slide ruler but that doesn’t invalidate the simple fact.

Scanning across the RCA socketry, one spots two small surprises. Besides the six inputs, there are three rec-outs and two pre-outs. Huh? Well, that’s good for three tape decks. Or a separate headphone amp, an equalizer/bass EQ looped through In5/Rec-Out2 and perhaps a tape through In6/Rec-Out3. Pre-out 2 might feed a sub or serve the glorious idea of leashing up four bristly beasts for vertical or horizontal biamping. Hmm, now that would be a worthwhile idea to pursue…

But that was not the original intention for the second output. N°.1 sports an output impedance of zero which could shock certain amplifiers into protection as per Fuchs. Hence output N°.2 which sports a more generic (though still very low) impedance of 22 ohms. Okay, but why not even higher in that case? Because cable interactions turn immaterial at zero ohms to undermine performance variations. The Beta’s current delivery of 4 amperes had certain customers wonder whether the preamp couldn’t drive speakers directly and though that would mandate the bigger power supply, SAC does not really recommend it so you’d best not bother. The Beta’s fascia is devoid of secrets save perhaps for the central monitor selector which in these days of tape-deck scarcity is nearly a rarity. It’s a triple surprise then that the Beta can accommodate three tape decks simultaneously. It leaves this latecomer to matters hifi cold but older recording fiends with a suitable arsenal of machines could be in heaven.

Since the bigger SAC monos have served yeoman duty in my reviews for a while to where their sonic signature has imprinted itself deeply, the first A/B match was obvious: Igel vs. Piccolo. David and Goliath? Not quite. Though one shouldn’t underestimate the 100w/8-ohm Piccolos who dish out stout current, they’re not exactly giants to fit the Old Testament mode. Nor does David’s part really fit the Igels. While their small size stands in properly, it’s not as though some utterly unexpected sonic sophistication rendered them giant slayers.  Yes, it would be luvely to lay out a quarter of the cash for equal results but no go. In all aspects, I prefer the SAC monos. They illuminate the stage wider and particularly deeper, are more open in the highs and significantly more potent down low, retrieve more detail, localize the stage actors with greater focus etc.

In nutshell—and to invoke a tired old cliché—the difference was very good hifi vs. high-end, precisely why the latter demands €4.800 and not 1.500. Whether the performance gains increase by a factor of four or, if not, the sonic advances are worth the difference is personal. Beyond argument is that Goliath does not fall.

But family relations do exist not merely with the amplifiers but also the small SAC combo. Common ancestry refers to the "speed of an amp". The small threesome definitely plays rhythmically taut and instead of delaying transients, renders them immediate yet not overly hard. Driving rock drives even though other amps rock harder. Other fare profits too. Lovers of piano but not saucily floating sonic clouds gain clear insight into hammer falls without veering into the glassy or overly percussive. A good mix, that. I still was surprised by the Beta/Igel combo’s tonal perspective, having perhaps shoe-horned myself into a perceived SAC house sound. My Piccolos are control freaks in the lower ranges such that with speakers who could stand a bit of excess padding, the end result is somewhat dry and lean. While no issue with a speaker like the Ascendo C8, it does impact my Thiel SCS4. Should one expect any changes with the Igel whose extremely low output impedance makes for similarly high damping? Cueing up an acoustic Wilco outing, ‘dry’ was nowhere to be found with the Thiels. Rather, juicy, righteously sonorous and potent was the ticket, not fat but definitely fleshly. So much for my house sound theories. Focusing on the combo sound, it was time to forget the Il Piccolos and reach for memories of recently tested integrateds of similar price (Electrocompaneit, Naim, Rega) or literally, Myryad’s MXI2080. No sooner said than done.

Timbre and soundstage: Even in comparison to the Brit integrated, I took note of the SAC trio’s tendency to the fuller, more saturated and bass-potent, be it the opening drum and following bass line of Lucinda Williams’ "2 Cool 2 Be 4-Gotten" which was highly accurate (which both do) but also weightier and denser; or the end of "You and Your Sister" from Mortal Coil where the strings gained in volume and bass augmentation. If the Myryad tends to a sportily lean foundation, the SAC veers into the minorly fulsome. I preferred the latter. To this was added lower distortion and greater plasticity. The rattle of Ms. Williams’ country track was clearly less grainy and cleaner, without rounding over into friendly sch-sch-sch to cover up insufficient resolution or obscure hardness.
This was honest and a term which categorically describes these machines’ treble in general. I know of greater golden charm, gleam, resolution, highlights, hardness, softness elsewhere… the upper octaves here compelled the least reflections by simply being there, seamlessly integrated  and neither attracting attention for exceptional airiness nor specific eccentricities or demerits. 

Staying with tonal balance and the lower-mid/upper bass transition, the team from Essen was more fully developed in the lower octaves than the Myryad, including way down low. I’d be surprised if the Rega Elicit didn’t handle the lowest reaches with more energy but it requires suitably challenging fare to realize that in matter of ultimate power and definition in the sub bass, the Igels (and I’m more inclined to blame them than the Beta) have limitations. When I connected Myryad’s MXA 2150 power amp to SAC’s Beta preamp and cued up fare like Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin, Tuxedomoon, Massive Attack and other bass criminals, it was clear that the British stereo amp had the harder kick and rendered such music with more rebound and articulation. Naturally, the MXA 2150 costs €750 more and a 50% increase in this range approaches being a deal breaker, even more so when one compares piano, guitar and song and determines that the Myryad somewhat overdoes transient speed which isn’t backed up by sufficient bloom substance to render the Igel better balanced, albeit not as angular as the Brit. In short, I was hard pressed to render definitive judgment and had to invoke taste – in sound as in music.