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I frequently use the Yim Hok-Man Master of Chinese Percussion album to determine a component’s ability to convey realistic dynamic expression and low-end control. Here I discovered how the N° 4 is stunningly dynamic, exerts uncompromising control of the bass registers, is extended and refined in its top end (there’s quite a bit of cymbal and bell content here, not just crazy powerful drums) whilst providing a tonal truth that rivals the best valve designs. The preamp was equally adept at presenting beautiful textural timbre and all other fundamental sonic qualities required of a preamp at this price. However I felt that it could not match the excellence of the amplifier nor my other preamp references in one area: that of dynamic intensity. The Strumento N° 1 marginally tapered the fortissimo slams, it subtly abridged the dynamic chasms between pianissimo and fortissimo. That is the only area where it scores four rather than the five stars it merits in all other aspects.

Female and male vocals were outstandingly real and present via this talented pairing. Lifelike—there is that word again—was often used in my audition notes. And layered too. The combo cast a massive soundstage with extremely accurate placement of full-bodied images that reached well behind the speaker plane especially with the Wilson Audio Alexia having been dialed in to the max via their comprehensive aspherical propagation delay system. Not only did the speakers vanish but via the Strumenti they threw an all-engulfing soundfield I simply wallowed in or was swallowed up by.

As much as the amplifier in particular was able to slam hard which made it more than suitable for heavier musical genres such as hard rock, I’d have to say that it was also among the most refined, tonally sophisticated, nuanced and texture-rich solid state amplifiers I’ve ever had the pleasure of auditioning. And the same would go for the preamp lest you’re after ceiling-lifting dynamic contrasts.

Conclusion. Yes there’s an increasing number of companies releasing electronics and speaker systems which reach towards stratospheric price points even above the aforementioned $50K mark. Heck, just off the top of my head as I write I can think of around ten! The Strumento N° 1 and No 4 are around a quarter and third of that. Could the Strumenti be poster boys/gals for the 'diminishing returns' maxime? Perhaps. That after all is an individual’s call.

Rest assured that these components are truly superb sonic performers built to spectacular standards on par with the very best. In fact I’ve reviewed some very heavy hitters well above $50K for our domestic print magazines and the Strumento N° 4 in particular would not be embarrassed by any in terms of either musical merit or construction quality. Here at the Kramer’s ‘Mountain Retreat’ they will be missed. Forza Italia!

Quality of packing: Solid wooden crates with foam-lined internals. 
Reusability of packing: Indefinite.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy task with fasteners not requiring tools. 
Condition of component received: As new.
Completeness of delivery: All as should be.
Quality of owner's manual: Nicely presented leather-bound manuals with useful information within.
Website comments: Well designed website with adequate product information. 
Warranty: 12 months.
Human or web interactions: Very prompt email interchanges facilitated via the very competent local distributor Absolute Hi-End. The local Sydney dealer Jeff Knox Audio was equally competent.
Final comments & suggestions: The overall manufacturer/distributor/dealer arrangement here in Oz is run efficiently and professionally.

Audia Flight website