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After turn-on the left LED remains lit until all circuits have come on line and stabilized. Only then signal passes to the loudspeakers. This process takes about 30 seconds. The other four LEDs confirm the chosen input. The back end has the corresponding RCA input pairs and one fixed rec-out. The 4/8-ohm speaker tabs fall under the usual proviso to experiment rather than consider specified nominal speaker impedances to present the guaranteed best match.

That said my mostly 4-ohm Geithains did cotton most to the 4-ohm terminals. There’s of course also a power IEC with phase indicator and a small selector that can deactivate the lit logo in the frontal glass panel. The remote wand is a slim narrow aluminium affair with control over source switching and volume

A valve amp without valves would be a contradiction in terms. The complement here are two 12AX7 input tubes, two 6CG7 drivers and four KT88 output tetrodes all of Russian origin. Noteworthy too is that the circuit relies on advanced auto bias. That comes compliments of potted modules by cracker-jack Thorens amplification designer Frank Blöhbaum. In concept this scheme is similar to Marcel Croese's AdaptiveBias™ for PrimaLuna. Those modules eliminate concern over bias drift from tube aging or user adjustments with tube replacements. There are no in-rush current pops through the speakers upon turn-on either. That’s not guaranteed even with transistor amps.

My current exploration of the amplifier component category has me curious. What all contributes to their differences in sound? Sure, the designers would have us believe that those are due to advanced hi-tech laboratories or genius-level inventiveness slaving away in a garage. Either approach paints a picture of lengthy assessments of various circuit options, laborious parts substitutations in the chase for percection and endless measurement/listening verifications to track progress. Despite sundry frequency response charts, distortion curves and phase plots for proof, the results still can differ wildly. What gives?

Granted, these differences rarely are as basic as easily described tonal deviations. I’m more perplexed why one statement amp becomes enjoyable only with top-notch recordings because lesser specimens are ruthlessly outed while others handle even inferior productions like the cat’s meow. I’ve often suspected the existence of a secret audiophile cabal of specialists who have identified specific parameters and learned how to easily tweak certain performance aspects which our reviewer kind still struggles to put into words.

Why would I make that detour? Because the T.A.C. V-88 clearly belongs to those amps which play it honest and neutral to a high degree yet extract so much musicality and pleasure from ordinary material that my ears pricked up. The last time this happened was with Krell’s S-300i.  B.M.C.’s Amp C1 meanwhile was the polar opposite. With it ordinary productions sounded - well, positively ordinary.

True, valve amps come with the foregone conclusion of being beauticians by trade. Higher harmonic distortion injects overtone bloom and deeper colors, weak damping factors turn the bass more rotund and the highs never get nerve-wrecking because the output transformers impose extension limits. But that’s really yesterday’s snow and as passé as claims that solid-state sounds hard and shrill due to zero crossing problems, TIM and God knows what other shenanigans.

Today either technology has achieved a sufficiently high measure of fidelity to where remaining differences might be direct neigbors. At the same time many still exhibit sufficient personality traces to betray which side of neutrality they belong to. That whole abstract around neutrality itself still requires further commentary too.