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Conjuring up a mental chorus line of valve amps I've hosted over the past few years—Audiomat Aria and Arpège, Opera Audio Consonance M100+—I thought of a certain tube-based sonic signature: a gently receding sweep on high, a detailed saturated midband, mellower rather than explosive bass and a tendency for generous soundstaging. Even before I powered up the V30 a sudden gut instinct predicted something a bit different this time. Why? Mere intuition.

Wearing my observant reviewer's hat, I noted a 10-second thermal stabilization relay muting the outputs during ramp-up after which I promptly paid attention to opening the volume without any signal all the way to full. Zero hum, surf, hiss or crackles. This was a good start. Ready for non-stop action! Donald Fagen's latest Sunken Condos cued up in the CD player. The opener "Slinky Things" caused a spontaneous grin. After decades Fagen was up to his old tricks without any boredom at least on his side. The well-known hi-hat showed stoically continuous eights. Acoustic bass pumped dynamically. At left a grooving Hohner Clavinet was contrasted by vibraphone figures and guitar sprinkles which would have been funky had Fagen's production technicians not smoothed them out. The snare meanwhile sounded as though a ruler's edge hit a wooden table, then was piped through a noise gate Phil Collins forgot in the studio. Finally Fagen's pipes clearly grow croakier by the year. What guilty pleasures!

The first kicker was how the V30 did bass – really good, quick, extended, dry and precise. This didn't sound like the typical tube cliché at all. Such rhythmic drive led me next to lazier meanderings on Band of Horses' "Detlef Schrempf" with its slow pearly guitars, brushed percussion, Hammond organ sheets and Ben Bridwell's vocal longing. This first-rate production always unlocks true space and veritably floods my room with music. Here the V30 acted far more thermionic.

This simply meant a routine citation for rich midband colors coupled to silky highs. Guitars and voice were finely feathered out and highly nuanced, well separated from the organ whilst pooling around the listener with tacit warmth. Bridwell alternates between chest and head voice for contrasts which the V30 tracked to perfection. More positive bass news? The nearly standing low accents caused from high recorded compression suffered no valve-typical being merely hinted at but remained fundamental and substantial accompaniment throughout the cut. On high the snare and cymbals were nicely peeled out but retained seal-skin smoothness rather than getting peaky or brilliant.

The time had come to crank it up. Enter Nada Surf's Do it again, a classic rock trio despite the occasional production cheat of a second guitar line. This number too lives on the interplay between guitars and bass but here bass phrasing serves timing accents rather than any primary foundation work. It's the guitars which are responsible for broad salvos and blow-away power. During the lyrics the left/right panned guitars sound tonally slightly different. The Audreal communicated this very well. The bass which isn't mixed for mass but wiriness and growl counterpoints the guitar work with articulated rhythmic figurations. Once the refrain hit with high overdrive on the guitars and their de rigueur full-power volleys, the V30 remained entirely unfazed and sorted. This came off without any hesitation at even high volumes. Yet my ears didn't manage to go past 13:00 o'clock on the dial to suggest impressive headroom for a tube machine in this price class.

Three quite diverse musical selections later, the sonic profile of the Audreal was already quite crystal. Starting with tonality, this is a valve amp which particularly for its coin doles out bona-fide extended and potent bass with impressive timing. On reach and shove the V30 really kept up fearlessly with like-priced or costlier transistor amps. As mentioned, the vocal range was nuanced and robed in a wealth of colors whilst the treble was well if not ultimately resolved to express valve-typical smoothness.