As to the power supply for his flagship devices, Alexey always specifies dedicated supplies with plenty of headroom for all the important parts of a circuit. The Bravo is no exception. It sports discrete power supplies not only for the primary but all secondary circuits, with separate rectifiers and low-interference toroids. These secondary supplies handle the cathode heaters, the 350V anode supply, bias, the power indicator and the VU meter. The XLR inputs use input transformers. Interstage transformers couple the drivers to the output bottles. I tried to calculate the overall number of transformers but each time lost count. Anyway, this is not a case of numbers, even impressive numbers.


"I used capacitors from Epcos and custom jobs from South Korea with 22'000μF/400V parameters. In the bias circuit there are legendary BlackGate FK originals. Unfortunately very few of those remain in my inventory. Bravo is built using point-to-point construction except for the VU meter circuits. Those are PCB-based." The Bravo preamp has not two but four completely independent channels: two balanced, two unbalanced. Power-on activates all four. Nothing needs switching. Channel-specific 24-step volume controls use multi-tapped transformers and double as balance controls. I notified Alexey about how inconvenient it was to change volume with two knobs. And there was no remote. "Any other solution would have been compromised in my opinion. I installed two knobs to also control balance if necessary. A separate balance control would have made matters worse. Nothing beats independent volume controls for the left and right channels. Choosing between convenience and sound quality, I decided on the latter without hesitation. The signal path is absolutely straightforward - attenuation transformer --> output tube (four total, one per channel) --> balanced or imbalanced output transformer." On the front panel are triggers to control on/off for three system components like the monos which can also be switched on/off by means of toggle switches on their back panels. Preamp inputs are only of the unbalanced variety ("there was no need to add XLR") whilst the outputs are of either type.


The RCA outputs come in ‘dir' and ‘indir' flavours. In the first instance, the device works as a passive controller; in the second as an active preamp. When the monos fire up, the cathode heaters ramp up first for ~30 seconds. Then the anode voltage kicks in and the displays shows 50%. About 90 seconds later, the full anode voltage has built up. The display verifies 100% and the show is ready to go on the road. Whilst Alexey didn't design these chassis to survive a direct anti-tank missile, the solid and vibration-resistant enclosures sport "incredibly rigid" 12mm aluminium and 2mm steel plates with anti-resonant coating. "We insert the circuit assemblies into this almost armoured shell one by one the way a car is assembled on a conveyor. The guts rest upon two thick aluminium bars run parallel to the front and back panels which are mechanically decoupled from the cabinet and its feet by means of steel spikes. There are two cones in each corner. The one above the bar points up, the other beneath the bar points down. The front panels are synthetic stone under the Corian trademark. We previously introduced this for the Blackbird and this material received high marks from our customers. It could be any colour of course but our favourites are black, coffee and ivory like Srajan's personal Blackbird SE."


The impressions Bravo sublimated in my mind during the first minutes of listening to short fragments of different music may be summed up in two notions. The first one is universal dynamics, the second one would wonder how "it's a miracle that all this is present in tracks which I seemed to know by heart after years of reviewing various gear." Granted, the power output figures are not very impressive. In this respect the Bravo is no equal to the Erato, much less the White Knight. The strongest impression comes from what this machine presents to the listener's ears, not raw specs. The dynamic freedom in fact reminded me of the White Knight despite the fact that a direct comparison should surely show differences. Just so, I couldn't identify dynamic limitations. And I don't mean dynamics limited at the bottom by "very quiet but something is still audible" and at the top by "very loud but if you increase the volume by just a little, something will break." Instead we're talking about dynamics with a palpable margin, with no strained neck tendons, with no proximity of one's head to the sound ceiling. These dynamics retained the fundamental plasticity of the music and its structural clarity.


Sometimes Bravo's sound signature ceased to be felt in full measure but only when the average sound pressure wasn't adequate for the music being listened to in specific premises and at a specific distance from the speakers. General sonic features were exquisite melodic delineation, intense timbres (the sound seemed to glow from within) and a remarkable diversity of strokes fully equal to the music being reproduced, from the lightest touches as if with a Kolinsky brush up to powerful acoustic splashes during moments of orchestral tutti when massive sounds rushed instantly forward in a well-coordinated attack without any hint of strain. Let me note that I listened to Bravo in a room of more than 30m² over efficient Westminster Royal speakers which according to the sum of my experiences were perhaps not the very best partners. During the Nota+ presentation, the Bravo system reproduced records with 'difficult' music and at the 12:00 o'clock setting, the walls almost crumbled yet the bass remained dense and perfectly textured. Equally important is the opposite lower edge of the dynamic scale. On the basis of its ability to reveal subtle microdynamic plasticity and to reproduce vague intonation links, the Bravo seems to have very few worthy contenders. That's what I meant first and foremost when expressing surprise that my recordings contained much more music than I'd thought.