This is the

After getting my turntable repaired at 2007 Sound and Light on the Moseley Road in Balsall Heath (thoroughly recommended – Lonnie and his team are superb and my Technics 1210 has never sounded so good), I thought I’d follow the advice of a comment on this blog made recently by a man named Huw, and check out an amplifier that sounded just a bit too good to be true.

It was less than £40 brand new on eBay, and according to this review, it competes with equipment over 100 times its price. That’s not a typo. For audio fidelity, clarity, sound stage, presence… it’s utterly revolutionary. At least that’s what the experts said:

Warning: this has been the most thrilling and incredible experience I’ve had with a component in, say, 25 years of HiFi listening. This website has existed since 1995, I’ve reviewed hundreds of HiFi components, inexpensive and ridiculously overpriced ones. I never – repeat – NEVER came across such a stunning piece of gear in all of these years.

Mail order HiFi
Of course, I was inordinately excited to get it. This is the first upgrade to my stereo system since Jake was 2 years old. And there have been plenty of downgrades. I threw out the cassette deck and CD player when they simply stopped working, and there’s been no light in the digital display for a good few years now.

This is the package

Naturally, it went missing in the post. A couple of days of investigation revealed that Paypal had decided to remember and give out my old address, rather than the current, default one. A visit to that address revealed little, but it did get me thinking… and this morning I tracked it down to the Royal Mail sorting office in Hall Green.

The age of downsizing
One of the reasons I bought my old stereo at the time was in order to downsize my earlier, larger system. I had a massive amp and giant speakers in the late 80s and early 90s, and so dropped down to what was then described as a bookshelf ‘midi’ system when we moved into a small flat in Ponsonby.

Look how tiny!
Look how tiny!

Now that old amp just looks jumbo comedy-sized compared to my new one… and in terms of the sound – jumbo comedy-inelegant.

Because the new amp is astonishingly good. Unbelievably so.

An astonishing listening experience
I immediately loved the sound, but did think perhaps it was a little harsher and brighter than I was used to at first… but according to the hifi experts, it’ll take a few days to break in, and will become even better:

Harshness disappears and what you get is an extreme transparency and detail in the mid and high range. Voices, in particular, appear crystal clear and very natural. Even tiny details, such as the sound of opening lips, are revealed effortlessly.

I was a little skeptical about how good this was going to be, though I was of course prepared to believe that over time, technology could achieve significant gains in performance while making large reductions in price. I could tell it was going to be impressive, but I was prepared to be a little disappointed that this wasn’t the greatest thing ever to happen to audio after reading all the hyped reviews I had.

All systems operational

But I wasn’t disappointed. It actually exceeded my expectations. The sound on this thing is beyond phenomenal. And for something so tiny and so cheap, that just came in a box through the post – that’s utterly miraculous.

I’m listening to all sorts of stuff on it, and it just doesn’t fail to amaze me. Everything sounds incredible – from acoustic jazz to hard rock, electronic music to symphonic stuff. This is the happiest I’ve been with a purchase since… actually I can’t really remember since when. Perhaps I’ve never been this happy with something I spent £40 on.

So… massive thanks to Huw. I’m playing my 180g pressing of Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue as I write this – and as soon as it gets dark tonight, my plan is to listen to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds. Loud.