High-efficiency speakers and tubes, that’s what you’re supposed to do, it’s what we’re taught. I should know, that’s my jam. Jonathan Halpern of Tone Imports, and John DeVore of DeVore Fidelity are like the peanut butter to my jam; we’re all of a school that is single-ended triode and 96dB heavy on homework in its curriculum. So what was I suppose to make of DeVore’s O/93 two-way floorstanders ($8,400 USD) being juiced by solid state amplification that Halpern had supplied? I’ll tell you what I made of it, that Halpern is – as always – a brilliant guy.
The Sugden A21, which outputs 23 watts of British power operating in pure Class A ($2,400 USD), and it’s bigger, beefier brother the A21SE at 30 watts ($3,250 USD) are the only two solid-state amplifiers I ever wanted in my personal system when my (reasonable) budget constraints were lifted a few years ago. I demoed them both side-by-side, for more than a month, and was deeply impressed with the little A21’s ability to wring a helluva lot of musical texture, and honest to God pleasure from my music collection through my Harbeth P3SERs, and M30.1s. The A21SE did exactly the same thing, but with a walloping dose of more to everything: bottom-end grunt, bass heft with even more tightness, midrange punch, and top-end extension. Ditto to the depth, and breadth of the sound stage. To my ears at the time, this was a s close as you were getting for under $5K to single-ended triode sound in a solid-state package. Listening to DeVore’s beautiful O/93s relaying their analog telegraph to my ears in Denver, I have to say I still don’t think I’ve heard an integrated in this price range that sounds so close to SET.
Halpern had the Well Tempered Labs Amadeus ‘table, and ‘arm ($2,850 USD, DPS power supply $400 USD) fitted with an EMT TSD75 – fine-line elliptical stylus – ($1,950 USD) plumbing the Marianas Trench of a number of albums during my several jaunts into the room, with the Sugden Masterclass PA-4 phono ($2,500 USD), pulling pre-amplifier duties. A Masterclass DAC-4 ($2,250 USD) was handling ones and zeroes from a laptop. Auditorium 23 interconnects ($795 USD – 1.0 meter), and speaker cables ($980 USD – 2.5 meters) rounded out the hook-ups with Box Furntiure‘s S4M Maple four-shelf stand ($2,950 USD) taking care of the supporting cast.