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For your consideration, some recent music acquisitions that saw plenty of play during the review included the double LP set of the Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely, a fun raunchy, Stones-y romp with a kick-ass bottom end sound; and Ry Cooder's I, Flathead [Nonesuch 511762]. The latter, to my ears, is one of Cooder's best efforts with a delicious mix of blues, country, swing, Latin and the just plain indefinable. Jazz vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater delivers arguably her masterpiece on the awesome hybrid of jazz and traditional Malian music of Red Earth [DDB Records 1722829] while conductor Robert Craft offers swift, lively accounts of an intriguing program of Stravinsky's Ballets [Naxos 8.557502] on a well recorded budget disc.

Initially sounding quite hard and thin, I ran the monos 24/7 for two weeks before settling down for some serious listening. Expect at least 300 hours for the amps to shake off this lean, hard, anemic quality. Since the amps only draw a few watts at idle, I left them powered up throughout the review. When I first fired up the 1000s, I was struck by the complete lack of hiss, hum or buzz. Even with the volume turned all the up and with my ear pressed close to a speaker baffle, I couldn't hear any noise.

The SX-1000s were wonderfully clean, crisp and open amps with a darn near bottomless noise floor. In fact I doubt that I have ever heard music emerge from such a quiet background. Their ability to unravel complex musical information and extract the minutest of details was exceptional. They also sounded exceptionally smooth without the grain or grayish fuzz I sometimes hear with solid-state amps. In fact, I have heard tube amps that were nowhere near as creamy smooth as the W4S mono. One aspect I had difficulty in pinning down was their overall character or voicing. Words like neutral and balanced came to mind most often during the review period.

While the amount of detail and information conveyed was impressive, it was not due to any undue brightness or highlighting. It all came across quite natural and well balanced. Cranking up the wick only made everything bigger and clearer but certainly not overbearing or glaring. In fact, I repeatedly felt compelled to listen at significantly higher levels than with other amps. If there had been any undue highlighting or over-emphasis of treble to give the impression of greater detail, it would have been obvious and ultimately unbearable at the window-rattling levels I experimented with. Not to mention that the dynamic range seemed to expand as volume increased. I can't think of any other amps that have gone so loud without compression or hardness. Whatever level I chose, the overall sonic signature remained the same, with the same degree of transparency and detail.

Bass performance was excellent but like everything else across the range, it didn't exactly stand out or call attention. Bass was taut, well defined, fluid, dynamic and extended far lower than the diminutive size of the amps suggested. I wasn't aware of any bloat or overhang. Thankfully missing was that completely unnatural muscle-bound synthetic droid bass exhibited by far too many high-power solid-state power amps that, to me, completely ruin the pulse and flow of music. Not here. The SX-1000 monos simply boogied.

The midrange was bold and transparent rather than harmonically rich and full. The overall tonal balance tended towards the whiter, cooler side of the spectrum; not quite bleached out or lightweight but certainly leaning in that direction. You won't confuse these amps with most of their valved brethren. When assessing the treble region, again neutral came to mind with perhaps not as much delicacy and sparkle as I would ultimately like. In fact, these amps sounded subjectively ever so slightly rolled off which may be a good thing in many systems.

Soundstaging and image placement was excellent even if image depth wasn't quite as good as I have heard. The monos performed admirably in portraying the recorded acoustic and the placement of performers on decently recorded discs. Again, this presentation did not sound underlined or hyped. It all came across as quite neutral and correct. More importantly, the SX-1000 pairing did not highlight the sonic aspects of recordings at the expense of the musical ones.