This is not a review. Think of it more as audio porn. This hunk of audio love is brought to you by the kind folks at Gini Systems. I have it in for a try and buy — and was so taken with it’s ravishing good looks, I thought it criminal not to share. Lookee-lookee!
The Reference 3.1 (300b) is the top Audio Space integrated amp. It’s big. It’s sleek. It’s irrationally sexy. The knobs are big and feel really nice under my fingers. I want to touch this amp. Totally audiophile.
The big dial in the front is an output meter — and a bias meter. Pretty easy to bias this amp, too — just need a long screw driver. When the line on the dial is straight up and down, you’re good to go.
Another neat feature (because the biasing is also pretty neat — yes, really) is labelled only as “direct”. Using a special pair of inputs on the back (and the toggle on the front), you can run the integrated as a power-amp, using an external pre.
Big Aluminum. On the face plate, that is. Over sized knobs to match.
Honkin’ big transformers! I think this amp is 60+ lbs. It’s almost too big for the platform it’s sitting on.
The loaner here is a demo unit, so apparently it’s seen some hours — but they really must spit-polish this guy between demos. It looks brand new. Hell, it may be brand new. I don’t know. It sure looks like it.
The sound of this 300b amp? Assuming that this is a demo amp and not a NIB amp that the Gini folks just yanked and shipped, I want to say that it’s pretty much in line with what I’d expected. The amp renders the mid range as deliciously 3-D and paints vocals with depth and texture. Images are precisely cut out of space and detail is good, if not great. When the music goes big, the amp does too — intimate spaces are presented intimately and cavernous spaces push the sound stage right to the wall. Handily takes on classical and the Smashing Pumpkins and renders each quite listenable.
Bass on this amp is surprising. Here, the 300b is used in parallel and as a push-pull, a far cry from the SET world I usually find this tube in. This accounts for it’s entirely un-300b bass, and while still “tube bass” it’s tuneful and impactful.
That said, the there-down-there is just not as robust as my Luxman, or even the loaner KT88 amp I had in for several weeks. However, it’s very solid — and it may well be the best bass response I’ve heard with a 300b amp — but that’s really not its strength. This amp, perhaps less lush than many of it’s SET siblings, is still lush. The mid range is holographic. If this amp still needs break-in, that’s gonna be scary.
I think the only downside to this amp is its treble response, which I’m quite sure will be easily addressed with more expensive 300b tubes.
Audio Space makes a beautiful amplifier. Sleek, powerful, and such control with only 21wpc on tap … I’m impressed. $4500US.