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The VPAs are in fact semi-traditional designs with conventional signal tubes while the 300p is a determined hybrid, the output bottles being the only glass in town. The VPAs are also fully balanced throughout and though I can’t be sure of the 300p, all evaluations were carried out in balanced mode. This configuration audibly bested the single-ended alternative with some fifty hours burn in for the stock JJ tubes. I have no interest in tube rolling by the way. [Having done extensive 300B comparisons, the best valves from the modern Czech camp are the EML and EAT, the best of the WE clan the TJ SE and the best modern Chinese the Synergy Hifi. While each circuit reacts differently, it’s a fair assumption that the JJs could be handily beaten – Ed.]

Source was the Nagra CDC in spinner/preamp mode (3v output option), with Van den Hul the Second balanced interconnects and Van den Hul 2m Inspiration cables (watch for the 300p’s floating ground) biwired to the Tannoys (quasi-obligatory for dual concentrics in my experience) and single wired to the Harbeths (all speakers shorted when not in use). The P3s were Blu-tacked on their dedicated 60cm Music Tools stands, floor spiked but undamped in keeping with Harbeth’s vibrating enclosure design philosophy.

CDs played were very well-known classics, not to say chestnuts, to obtain a familiar reference point and spare readers stultifying descriptions of my personal reactions to obscure tracks of Taiwanese klezmer, Kazakh bluegrass, whatever. Wrecking Ball was chosen because of Daniel Lanois’ well-known genius for unrealistic production, La Folia for the opposite reason, Savall being a purist recording artist. Gould’s prodigy Goldberg performance made the cut because of my familiarity with the piano both in domestic and concert surrounds.

The last is admittedly an unpretentious technical effort but to my ears that makes it all the more valuable as an evaluation tool. No big orchestral pieces, which I think are mostly compromised by domestic reproduction. And no 19th century opera which I don’t like. Also no compressed juvie schlock which is a ridiculous complement to top tier gear, Cretin Hop indeed. And then just to show it’s not all snark, I put on Enjoy Every Sandwich in loving memory.