With just 20wpc on board and those not of the louder tube sort as Peter van Willenswaard described here, we started our auditions with the Arcadian Audio Pnoe horns. Rated at 100dB efficiency and 16Ω, the PTP would get in no troubles. Source was the Phasure streamer/DAC combo. As the PTP Blok20 is an integrated, the digital volume of the matching Phasure XXHighEnd software was set to max. Interconnects were by Nanotec.


The first album cued was Titi Robin’s Anita which puts oud and accordion into the lime light. Both are rich in harmonics. Where the accordion can execute chords, the oud’s narrow fretless neck and 10 closely spaced strings make it more of a melodic instrument. Neither is easy to reproduce for a hifi. Where treble is too explicit, the sound will be too sharp and annoying in fact.


Our first impression of the Blok20 into this easy load was a kind of amazement in the most positive possible meaning of the word. The sound was full and nicely topped, dynamics were under full control. In "Ton Doux Visage", the most emotionally charged cut on the album, the subtle oud melody is supported by accordion and bass whilst dynamic lightning strikes hit with very low pounding drum beats. Though still a tidy and compact ensemble, the way the little chip amp handled the signal load warmed our hearts.


On "Taqsim y Martinetes", singer José Montealegre performs in that typically raspy flamenco style as another potential cause for havoc in too many systems. Here the harshness was where it belonged without any trace of prettifying mush. On The Road to Ithaca, keyboardist Shai Maestro takes us on a journey through improvisational jazz, poppy tunes and patches of Israeli and Indian flavours. Shai performs with classically trained chops accompanied by a matching duo of bass and drums. Our tiny white cube projected a full-blown drum kit, man-sized double bass and large concert grand into our room. Even at elevated levels of some 87dB at the ear, the images and their dimensions remained stable and simply got bigger and more realistic.


With the efficient horns in play, we had to agree with Peter. This amplifier did indeed belong into the same league as a well-seasoned tube amplifier. To corroborate that further, in went 30-something kilos of very black and beastly Audio Note Meishu for the 8kg white Dutch dwarf. That Meishu runs original WE 300B power tubes and a recently nabbed Australian AWV 6SN7 in the driver stage. It was striking just how close the sound of the Meishu was to the Blok20. Remember, our Meishu is the result of many modifications and tube rolling sessions. All those modifications were and are done to shape the musical outcome to our personal liking. Those same preferences guide us to certain seats and rows in a concert hall. Like at concerts, these preferences come at a price. Concert tickets for the seats we want get more expensive. Keeping the Meishu in shape is expensive too. Tubes don’t live forever. NOS tubes are getting scarcer by the day and are often marketed like fine jewelry.