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With this disc I also encountered something that is always surprising with 300B amplifiers - highly saturated strong deep bass. Some cuts on this disc are built upon very low bass passages. They make no sense without them. The Trafomatic amplifier caught this bass brilliantly to insure that no meaning was lost. Yet I must qualify this immediately. It wasn’t the type of bass we know from high-power amplifiers. This is where the magic is most visible. In absolute terms, the Experience Two reached very low but parts of those infrasonic heart beats with their splendid timbre and coherent connection to the rest of the frequency range—the amplifier was connected to my Dobermanns, classic big floorstanders of lower sensitivity—were distorted.

Aha. Gotcha? Not. It’s not about sleuthing for fraud but to be taken as is. I am thinking about tube lovers and the 300B in particular. It’s physically impossible for just eight watts to produce really low undistorted linear bass. It can be done individually for each of those aspects (extension, no distortion, linearity) but not in combination - at least in my opinion. This could be heard clearly because I know this disc—and others which I listened to while observing this aspect—very well. Take for example the new Kraftwerk remasters. Yet with the best 300B implementations, we deal with seduction rather than deception. Think how women seduce potential partners (I apologize for this sexist comment but it does rather get at the heart of things).

With Lisa Garrard, Diorama's A Different Life and the Kraftwerk LPs, the sound was full, outstandingly saturated and lacking in nothing. The vividness and amount of low frequencies was most striking. But its larger part was distorted. Obviously, when we use full-range speakers and want the broadest possible frequency coverage, low-power amplifier are forced into compromise. The bass sacrifices resolution and precision. I remember well how the Krell EVO402 handled things and how my current Luxman M-800A does it. Some things simply can’t be surpassed. We can of course choose loudspeakers with higher efficiency but there too will be compromises. While different, we won’t know if they'd do any better*. That’s a question of personal choice and taste. The Trafomatic amplifier played the bass extremely vividly and with splendid timbre but only hinted at some things and completely omitted others. Yet the best part was, it did it in such a way that 99% of listeners, myself included, would take it at face value.

* The Harpia Dobermann is a 6-ohm 88dB floorstanding 3-way speaker with a 26cm woofer.

What’s that about then? Seduction! When a woman creates an elaborate makeup to fit her mood, beauty and purpose of the day, it’s not deception. We don’t accuse her of trying to mask or change reality. Seduction is about how the makeup, clothes, hair and accessories come together. We judge the woman, not the separate pieces. And we like what we see. Or not. If not, no stylist will help. That’s that. Exactly the same is the case with 300B amplifiers and the Experience Two is a prime example for how it's done properly. The bass was ideally connected to the midrange, the most important part of the frequency spectrum whose lower band was very slightly elevated. There wasn’t even a trace of nasality or heaviness but the sound became bigger and more finessed.

That’s exactly how this amplifier sounds – beautiful. It did not cover up the recording or its mastering errors but tried to interpret them (audio is an art of interpretation and compromises) so they wouldn't intrude. It did that partially by withdrawing the upper treble to step down ultimate resolution over other top-grade amplifiers I know. But the change was small and timbres were brilliantly developed, coherent and saturated. The soundstage was cast wide and far in front of the listener like on the Lisa Garrard disc. Instruments had clearly developed body, were well localized and shown against great depth when recorded accordingly. Dynamics too were high and not only on audiophile recordings but also on discs like Tingwall Trio’s Vattensaga or older ones like Wynton Kelly’s Piano.

I started this review by calling upon the definition of magic. Semantically, it best fit this machine. After more listening, I needed additional clarification and this was best captured as follows: "Magic differs from religion by trying to possess the supernatural forces and forcing them to act whilst religion worships them, trying to appease and placate them". This also was the case with the Experience Two. It did not try to subdue the musical matter. Rather, it reached deeper into the music itself, even if at the price of seduction and compromise.

This is an integrated 300B tube amplifier in class A single-ended mode whose output triodes are driven by 6SN7GT double triodes with a Russian 5U4G rectifier. The amplifier has a small high-quality chassis. The frame is made from nicely crafted  varnished wood. In the front we have a small inset metal plate with two knobs for input selection (three inputs only) and volume. The latter can be optionally controlled by remote, a wood/metal wand with two buttons for louder and softer. Between the fascia knobs a red LED indicates power-on state. The power switch is sadly on the back where it’s not always easy to reach. The top cover is made from thick aluminum where the tubes are placed neatly in a row in front of the potted transformers, with the 300-watt toroidal power transformer in the middle flanked by double C-core output transformers.  

On the back are three inputs on quality gold-plated RCAs and 4/8-ohm speaker terminals on gold-plated posts as well as the IEC power inlet with the mains switch. There’s also a gold-plated ground post and it’s worthwhile connecting other components to it. This scheme is widely used in Japan and usually diminishes overall system noise. The amp sits on small plastic footers but I used Finite Elemente Cerapucs for the review. The wood/metal remote control is nice and easy to use. Almost the entire circuit is mounted to the motherboard. After undoing the bottom, we see two big chokes which are probably for the preamplifier and power sections. Small lateral PCBs hold what looks like rectifier circuitry for the power tube heaters while the rectifier for the input tubes is separate. The power supply uses electrolytic Rubycon capacitors shunted with Mundorf MCap polypropylene capacitors.

The incoming signal proceeds from the RCA inputs to the mechanical input selector on the front, then to the black Alps potentiometer. From the inside, the enclosure is covered by copper shielding. The pins in the ceramic tube sockets are gold-plated. The amplifier runs auto bias to not require adjustments when changing tubes. There is no global feedback. For aesthetics, the 300B sockets are mounted such that the two thicker pins face forward. The writing on the base of the Electro-Harmonix tubes was visible from the front while Sophia Electric Princess 300B/n had their markings on the right side, the 300B/c on the left.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Output power: 2 x 8W
Class: Class A single-ended
Tube complement: 2 x 300B Electro-Harmonix, 2x 6SN7GT Sovtek ,1x 5U4G NOS
Inputs: CD, Tuner, Aux
Outputs: 4 & 8Ω
Input sensitivity: 0.5Vrms
THD: 0.55% / 1W; 5% / 8W
Frequency response: 10Hz-45kHz (-3dB)
S/N: 75dB
Input impedance: 100kΩ
Power consumption: 190W
Dimensions: 430 x 290 x 165mm
Weight: 18kg

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