SoA vs. XA30.8. Across its pre-conditioning lap, the SST's character had moved closer to the Pass Labs. On perceived density and warmth, it had... well, warmed up. But a core difference remained. The contrast setting and separation power of the II felt higher, its edging—sculpting images out from over against the background ambiance—crisper. Such leading-edge handling can communicate itself as cooler. A whiff of that applied. It was simply less than it had been cold out of the box. A related sensation had me feel a bit closer to stage. Shuttling between amps showed that depth of field and relative distance from the listener weren't really affected. The XA30.8's stereo panorama merely seemed set back a bit farther because its transient attack was slightly softer. This played nicer with treble-challenged recordings where extreme close-mic'ing plus full-throttle peaks cause inadvertent momentary overloads. Here the Son was more ruthless playing gotcha; Oversight Committee ticking off recorded flaws. Both amps were obvious bass masters on depth and power. Here again the SoA edged out the XA30.8 on perceived rise time, translating as sharper aka thinner-gloved punch. Returning to the core issue of separation, the Bongiorno circuit was the more keen. This directly played into the popular equating of separation with resolution; where more of one means more of the other. On sweetness from the presence region on up, the XA30.8 had more sugar.

SoA vs. Merak. A rather more profound shift on gestalt occurred against AURALiC's class D monos whose costly ultra-low-noise 500W Plitron power toroids are unusually flat to clear the low-rider casings. Those silvery flounders played it overall a lot more dry and texturally matte. Their ultra grip on the lower freqs shortened reins so much as to undo the naturally redolent plumpness of acoustic uprights whilst slammatronic club bass gained angularity in equal measure. Ebb and flow were more rigid, overall damping had ratcheted up. Most of all, i.e. across the full bandwidth, glossy juiciness had paled quite as though one replaced brilliant non-reflective glass over a framed print with frosted glass. Colours through the latter are more muted and dull. Vibrancy tones down and veers into the opaque and energetically conservative. This A/B session was about big shifts, not hairsplitting or lateral moves. On power specs, it was a near draw, with 200/400w into 8/4Ω for the Hong Kong twins. On coin meanwhile, their €5'000/pr sticker pointed at the SST as bona fide muscle-amp value where many listeners will never leave class A.

SoA vs. Job 225
. Replaying first impressions, the budget Goldmund was the more lit up 'all over' to do it leaner/faster. On glossiness and vitality relative to the class D examples, it was locked with the SoA. This really did park the SST in the middle of the lane, Pass on the left, Job Sys on the right at what I'd call equidistant placement. At twice the power of the $1'695 direct-sold Swiss, with a massively larger transformer, the $3'500 Ampzilla The Second loudly repeated its value proposition.

Given my high esteem for the XA30.8 and 225, this placed the Son in very good company indeed. It combined the tonal fullness of class A with the adroitness of DC-coupled wide-bandwidth circuits, handled bass with power and depth but no desiccation from overdamping, exhibited obviously high signal to noise ratio to sort out dense mixes with great separation and managed that tightrope act of seeming to be neutral whilst avoiding dreaded boredom. With its high magnification power, good recordings fanned out into expansive soundstages that revealed significant venue cues. Finally, its preference for glossy not matte textures meant high contrast ratio and communication skills. The latter insured that the sound didn't just sit there all properly sorted and laid out behind the speakers whilst lacking apparent gusto to bridge the distance to the listener. In that sense, the Son had the gumption of horny salmon that are headed upstream to mate.

Conclusion. Spread Spectrum Technologies the name isn't just a mouthful. It's a proper marketeer's nightmare. But founder James Bongiorno is remembered as anything but proper when it came to conventionality and playing it by the rule book. So SST Audio it is. If such unorthodoxy prevented you from considering their Son of Ampzilla II—another mouthful and not much better abbreviated as SoA which seems one letter short of soap or sofa—you'd shortchange yourself. And that would be a bad rerun of not taking Wyred4Sound serious because of that funky name and spelling. Really, the only thing dinosaurial about SoA are superficial reactions. With it, the fun begins with the tongue-in-cheek model name. It continues with branding that dares us to box it in. The real joke would be on the fossils who let such stuff stand in their way. Ampzilla The Younger is a properly engineered, dead quiet, compact and value-priced muscle amp which also happens to be fully balanced front to back and biased in class A up to 10 watts. Because it isn't positioned upscale, it's a real class A/B alternative to contemporary class D contenders which romance the wallet with the 'power is cheap' promise. If you needed more cred than an SST amp currently holds, you could spend €20'000 on a Combak Reimyo KAP-777 from Japan. You'd get equivalent class A/B power albeit from two 400VA transformers not one 2'000VA; and with a rather more overtly voiced hence restrictive personality.

In the final analysis, the SoA handle might be just that one 't' shy of SotA. That'd be shorthand for state of the art and utterly brilliant at $3'500. We're fortunate that such a mature and proven yet scaled-up circuit didn't end up in a posh designer chassis milled from solid, festooned with a one-inch fascia and marketed under some pretentious name. We'd easily pay thrice just for the privilege of perception. Better to be perceived as slightly adolescent—for bringing home anything called Son of Ampzilla—than being had for appearance's sake. Traveling in the big beyond, James Bongiorno would surely be pleased to know that the latest incarnation of his creation continues to bring pleasure to music lovers with normal wallets but even tougher loads. And should someone still ask what the meaning is of that recalcitrant SST Audio, tell them that it really stands for 'smart strong transistors'. Now that's sexy as sin.