Valve Amplification Company Master Preamplifier

July 20, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“To compare the sounds of the Signature Mk.IIa SE and Master, I listened to the Roy Hargrove Quintet’s Earfood again and with particular care to “I’m Not So Sure,” the track that had been so gorgeous through the Master. Overall, it sounded similar in terms of tones, soundstage depth and breadth, and air around instruments. The timbres of the trumpet and alto sax were also similar in character and sensuousness. But I could tell that the impacts of drumstrokes and bass plucks were softer, not as crisp or explosive. Hargrove’s trumpet was certainly as clear as through the Master, but not as dimensional in terms of its metallic sheen or blattiness. Finally, although Justin Robinson’s alto sax still sounded fluid and expressive, it wasn’t as piercing in the highs or dynamic peaks. There was a marked difference in extension, resolution, snap, and punch.

Listening again to Florilegium’s recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.3 confirmed all of this. Though string tone was fine and the separation of sections impressive, microdetails were not quite as refined. I couldn’t pick out single instruments as easily — something I’d very much enjoyed doing with the Master. Pace, rhythm, and timing were good with the Signature Mk.IIa SE — the attacks of instruments were precisely together in this performance’s myriad tight entrances — but I couldn’t “see” as deeply into and among the aural images of the violins and viola da gamba. Yet with the Signature Mk.IIa SE, the strings were expressive and open, tutti energetic and thrilling, and harmonies bountiful.

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