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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Patricia Barber
(Blue Note)
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Cirque Du Soleil
(Cirque Du Soleil)
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Jim Pearce
“Why I Haven't Got You”
Prairie Dog Ballet
(Oak Avenue Publishing)
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Andy Timmons Band
“Gone (9/11/01)”
(Favored Nations)
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Ralph Towner
Time Line
(ECM Records)
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Anoushka Shankar

Amos Lee
"Arms Of A Woman"
Amos Lee
(Blue Note)

Julius Curcio
"American Pie"
Alligator Shoes
(Electric Roots)
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"Come Alive"
Changing Into Me
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Audio [Issue #24]
: Diavolo
By Ken Micallef

People sometimes ask audio reviewers, “What do you own?” This is my chance to answer that question. As one who has reviewed high end audio gear for six years, I have had my share of amplifiers to enjoy.

I’ve reviewed complex solid state behemoths, simply designed vacuum tube wonders, and many amps in between. At some point I became enamored with an amplifier design that is enjoying a revival among hi-fi enthusiasts: the SET, or single ended triode.

Without getting into the debate between high and low wattage, or push pull wave forms versus SET, the simplest way to explain the glory of the SET tube amp is to say it somehow gets a listener closer to the music. In layman’s terms, where the push pull amp (which constitutes most high wattage tube amplifiers) must break up the wave form to create a picture of the sound or signal put to it, the SET need not break up the wave form, and can thus create a much more accurate portrayal of the recorded event. The rub? For some, at least, is the low power output of the average SET, which is typically between 5 and 17 watts. Holy moly tubular Batman! How can you run a pair of he-man speakers with that? This is where the Art Audio Diavolo comes in.

Pushing out a glorious 17 wpc, the $7,000 Art Audio Diavalo is the SET that sounds like a push pull, but better. Art Audio head honcho Joe Fratus is renown for his tube designs, and the Diavolo may be his stellar achievement. Even the best SET - think Shindo, Wavelength, Audio Note - usually sacrifice the ability to run real world speakers for a magnificent, wonderfully fleshy midrange. The midrange is where most of the music is happening, and where the SET can strut its stuff. But one must find extremely efficient speakers to run with such a low powered amp. But those rules don’t apply with the Diavolo. Running my DeVore Super 8 speakers, with a very ordinary efficiency rating of 89dB, the Diavalo filled my room with sound like no SET (or in some cases, push pull) amp before it.

Diablo Diavolo!
A SET amp that offers both a palatable, detailed midrange for nirvana seekers and a serious booty blast for real-world listening? A beauty of an amp that connects the micro and macro dots, dynamic shifts, subtleties and such that turn HiFi into music? Fugheddabaudit. Stunatz!

The Diavolo handled everything put to it with the same generous depth of soul and detailed intellectual reach. I have not heard the much vaunted Art Audio PX-25, but I have heard the Art Audio Symphony II. While the Diavolo does not offer the same level of treble purity and upper midrange glory/transparency as the Symphony, it exceeds it in terms of sheer bass performance and low end girth. Again, the Diavolo competes with most SS designs for room-filling bounty. Its level of traction -- in delivering clearly defined bass notes, be they electric bass guitar, bass drums or depth-charge worthy drum-and-bass fare -- puts this amp in a proud league of its own. Nothing less than you would expect from a classic.

The Diavolo is not quite as transparent nor in possession of the finely textured soundstage as its Symphony II sibling or certain rather more expensive SETs. The Diavolo is all about the essence of the listening experience. On first blush, its upper treble sounds a little forward as though it couldn’t quite find its groove. And the Diavolo midrange is not as svelte as more expensive SET designs I have heard. Where this amp excels is in the total experience department. Once you have tunes cranking and your ears warmed up, the Diavolo is dynomite. Its character is forgiving and full-bodied with every style of music, from the electronic requiems of Massive Attack to the shouting big band stomps of Dave Holland to the sensuous jazz-pop of Erin Bode, all portrayed in an effortless

and completely holistic manner. You won’t miss anything with the Diavolo. Instead, you’ll be reaching to hear your favorite recordings to hear anew.

The Diavolo is not the most neutral amp in the world. It certainly errs on the romantic side of absolute neutrality. It juiced up discs that were already warm to begin with and made voices and acoustic instruments particularly fruity at times. But the Diavolo is not colored in an overly lush, bass-flabby way, nor is it all saccharine and rolled off. The Diavolo is more about midrange beauty, buoyancy and, particularly with the 300BXLS, treble elucidation than about syrupy and cellulite. And we are talking serious power. Some might think its treble forward but none could deny the Diavolo’s exceptional dynamics, high resolution and room-filling gusto. For 7K, the Diavolo is the kind of tube amp that a macho man could feel comfortable and stretch out with, whether rocking out with the classics, jamming with some alien electronica or zapping his solars clean with some swinging jazz bop. The Diavolo, to give new meaning to Mark Twain, is truly a classic that not everyone may have heard yet but should hear.


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