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|Compared to my own Art Audio Carissa -- an 845 stereo SET -- there are certainly comparisons to be made and similarities to be observed. Through the midrange, both amplifiers are a lot alike. Everything said about the crystalline clarity of the Cyber 211 can be said equally about the Carissa. But that's pretty much where the comparisons stop. Since my first listen to the Carissa, I've never labored under any misapprehension that it was a completely neutral amplifier. It's got some serious bass whomp slightly greater than neutral and it does exhibit a gentle rise through the upper midrange. Into the right kind of speaker, that can make some real magic as it imbues the presentation with energy and excitement. It's in comparison to the Carissa that the 211 seems ruler flat - neutral and natural as can be. Somewhat of a rebel in need of being herself, the Carissa exhibits a far more extrovert personality than the Cyber 211s. The latter, to a greater extent at least, seem to value conformity to linearity. That's not a bad thing. It's just a consideration to be taken into account when it comes time to tune any system toward targeted synergies. In the case of the Lamhorns and the Hørnings, the Cyber 211 is the more appropriate and musically more consonant mate than my Art Audio or Canarys.
I hear "more comparisons!" I'm admittedly having a hard time describing the Cyber 211 in meaningful terms. Saying that it is one of the neatest and most tucked-in amplifiers I've used won't mean much to you even though it's true. Relating its musicality -- which ranks among the best I've heard -- naturally raises the question "compared to what?". And if you're one of those who only cares to know if I liked the amps or not... well, shame on you. There's so much more you should want to know than how much I liked these amps. Which is a lot as it happens.
Is the Cyber 211 communicative? You bet. I've been enjoying music I haven't felt compelled to listen to in years. It's all new and exciting again. Can you think of a stronger recommendation? Can the Wallflowers' Bringing Down the Horse [Interscope INTD 90055] really be eleven years old already? It's sounding awfully fresh around here of late. I'm not sure what comprised my system the last time I listened to this disc but I know I've never heard into Jacob Dylan's voice this way before. And it's worth hearing into, believe me. That wide soundstage and extreme focus with so much space between the instruments wasn't ringing any bells with earlier, either. Images and soundstaging are extremely strong, with solidity that borders on the visual just the way I like it. Guitarists will instantly be impressed by the musicians' tube amplifier distortion that overlays even the cleaner guitar passages. It compliments and is superimposed on the tone of the guitar but doesn't obscure or overpower it. It sounds authentic and real. But hearing into and being able to pick apart pieces of the music or the band has never meant musical satisfaction to me. Super detail hasn't been part of my enjoyment criteria in a long time. What matters is that the system draws me into the musical whole. That the 211s do extremely well. As I've striven to describe my attraction to both the 211 amplifiers and the Lamhorns, I've come to accept that there's something almost subliminally elusive involved here. It's something difficult to put one's finger on except to say that I want to listen to this system all day and, as I cue up one more song, I don't worry that anybody will notice if I'm a little late for work.
Confession time - I was never a country music fan. Johnny Cash was never really on my listening radar. But when he started releasing his American series, I took notice. I went as far as picking up his 1979 recording of Silver on SACD [Columbia/Legacy CS 86791]. Man! If your only exposure to this giant has been via car radio or chintzy TV speakers, you owe it to yourself to pick up this recording. What a voice! What a presence! What a talent! Too bad he picked the wrong genre of music. Just kidding. But seriously, Cash's voice is to be experienced on a high fidelity system. Sadly, that makes it only more painful to hear the American series of recordings and realize how far into his demise he was by then. Still, I enjoy the recordings and feel them to be important monuments chronicling this great man's music. With the Cyber 211s at the helm, there was nothing in the system that didn't communicate the truth and the whole truth about what had become of his voice. There was plenty of resolution and the recording's distortion on "Hurt" was plainly obvious. There is nothing wrong with your system. Do not attempt to adjust the sound. At the same time, there's just something strangely captivating about this collection of hardware which transcends my ability to put into words.
I've been listening to two live CDs of late, AC/DC Live [Epic E2K 80215] and Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live [Geffen GEFD2-24732]. One of the reasons why is because of the way the Lamhorns project the music into the room. Particularly on the AC/DC disc, I really get the sense of being in the audience while the reflected sounds and phantom echoes captured on disc are thrust into and about my listening room. The other reason is because of this system's way with dynamics. First, these speakers can play loud without strain even with the 211s' seemingly meager 16 watts. But at least as important to how loud they play is the fact that when pushed hard, the system's microdynamic ability isn't hampered in the least. A lot of systems will play loud but slur their speech once pushed hard. They flatline, dynamically speaking. Once levels get loud, microdynamic gradations flatten out and effective articulation suffers. That isn't the case here. I suppose there's a point where it will happen but I didn't approach it in my room. I found this system completely articulate and expressive at all volume levels.
After the very first moments of cuing up Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales [A&M CD 0070], the first word that came to mind was alive. "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You" is throbbing with bouncy rhythms, rhythmic bass and high percussion, all of which was ably handled by the Cyber 211s. Here this system's microdynamic finesse could not be underestimated. The word vivid came to mind next. "Love Is Stronger Than Justice" features more of the same ingredients and even the high percussion at the rear of the stage came through vividly and vibrantly. Front to back, there was no loss of focus in either the visual or sonic sense. Sting's own vocals on his refrain are interestingly less vivid than the rest of the music's aspects. It's as though it's been recorded out of phase and takes on a big ethereal character that has always been less than pronounced before. Now it was big yet almost not there at all, so high was the hear-through quality. It made for an interesting contrast to the instrumentation that's so visually concrete.
It also set up a pleasing contrast for Sting's supremely solid vocals on the next track of "Fields Of Gold". On this cut the instruments are all located between the speakers even though the soundstage clearly fills in the corners of the room. That's in stark contrast again with the later tracks which spread instrumentation across the entire stage. Again I was struck by how utterly alive the music came across. This in turn generated a level of excitement and interest in these particular tunes that, frankly, I've never enjoyed before on this recording. And once again I took notice that the system sounded very neat and tucked in. Not tucked in as in sterile or stoic. There was plenty of energy and excitement but no loose ends, no excess bloom in the bass, no sibilants in the treble, no excess sweetness or rounding over or off. The midrange was neither romanticized nor clinical. When I asked myself how I'd improve upon it, I had no answer. Was this as good as it gets? In a smallish room like mine that doesn't easily support subterranean bass or the larger speakers it takes to generate it, I have to conclude that, indeed, this may be just about as good as it gets. Well, as good as I've ever heard. There are always new horizons to be discovered. One would hope so, anyway. In the here and now, I find myself exceedingly smitten with what I'm hearing. With the conclusion of the review drawing near, I almost regret having to tear this system down and move on to what comes next. And speaking as a rabid audiophile who is always looking forward to what's next, that's quite the statement.
This morning the news came over the radio that while living in Paris, Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich died at the age of 80 of intestinal cancer. It seemed appropriate to spin one of my favorite reviewing and listening war horses, Sony's Rostropovich - Return to Russia [Sony Classical SK 45836]. No longer in print, this CD gives witness to a concert performed in the Soviet Union by our own National Symphony Orchestra to welcome Rostropovich back to his homeland following his exile to the US in 1974 (he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship in 1978). Recorded in February 1990, the recording celebrated his return home following the demise of the Soviet Union. To read the details of his exile as well as his return home in the liner notes while listening to the National Symphony play Sousa's "The Stars And Stripes Forever" adds up to one of the most moving musical moments I get to experience in my own home. That said, Paganini's "Moto Perpetuo" (or death by violin as I call it) has always been my favorite cut on the disc. It features some of the most frenzied massed violins I've ever heard and it must have induced untold cases of carpal tunnel syndrome. But it's a great piece for listening and for evaluation alike. The Cyber 211/Hørning combo did a splendid job of sorting out the violins as I knew it would. While pointing out the individual contributors will never be possible, you can hear into the mass and pick out the individual voices to an extent not possible on a great many systems. And as I hoped, these components together performed this task in grand microdynamic and macrodynamic style. Not only can't most systems maintain the integrity of the individual aspects of this recordings, a great many of them smooth out the dynamics into a slurry of notes almost without character and personality.
By any measure, this track was produced as well as I expect to ever hear it. The same levels of grandeur, drama and turmoil saw themselves maintained throughout Prokofiev's "Tybalt's Death" from the ballet Romeo and Juliet. If you've never tapped your feet during classical music, give this one a try! Once again the level of integrity was maintained that makes this piece such a terrific listen - and all the audiophile goodies such as a wide and deep soundstage and a tremendous amount of focus on the orchestra were present. This was some serious bumping of geese in the dark, lemme tell ya. Gershwin's promenade "Walking the Dog" from the film Shall We Dance was never a favorite. But as my system's ability to communicate the finer points of music has escalated, so has my appreciation of this cut. It takes not only a high level of resolution to appreciate this fairly simplistic composition but a great deal of rhythmic finesse as well. It may have reached its pinnacle here with the Cyber 211s. "Stars and Stripes Forever" needs to come across as big as possible if it's going to communicate the continuing grandeur of Rostro's homecoming. It does. It's big, it's brash. When the Russian audience claps along with the music, it's simply moving as hell. One can only be jealous of those who were there to experience it live, particularly when one considers the context of the evening. But if this is second best, I'll take it without complaint - just a bit of jealousy.
Obviously, the Cyber 211 monos from Opera won't be for everybody. By definition, they will appeal to only those who consider 16 watts a generous amount of power. Depending on the size of your room and your tastes in music and how loud you like it, the Cyber 211 should be considered by those with or contemplating efficient speakers starting in the low 90s. Once you play with transducer sensitivities in the mid 90s, you're home free with almost any size room or musical taste. If you're fortunate enough to own horn-loaded speakers like the Lamhorns, having ample power with the 211s will never be in any doubt.
If you've got such a pair of speakers and are in the market for a neutral amplifier with extremely low noise and an extremely musical personality, I can't suggest more strongly that you audition a pair of Cyber 211s no matter your budget. The 211s are one of the rare components that have come through my home to engender more and more enthusiasm with each listening session. The more I listen, the more they impress me by not doing anything overtly impressive if you get my meaning. Across the board they offer a degree of insight, coherence and musical integrity that creeps up on you at first with a subtlety and self-effacing nature that is rare in this price range - until you find yourself enamored with their chameleon-like persona that almost defies description. No, they don't quite have the same degree of detail and insight as a superior pair of 300B amplifiers though they counter with a smooth and rich body and harmonic saturation that is distinctly un-300B-like and exactly what the doctor ordered for a great many single-driver hornspeakers out there.
If that sounds like a limited prescription for single-driver speakers only, it's not. I've used the Cybers with my own Tidal Pianos speakers and also the Hyperion HPS-968s in for review. The Cyber 211s always made a great accounting of themselves. While I'd like some additional headroom into the 87dB Tidals, the sound was always excellent. Into the 90dB Hyperions, the 211s got to stretch their legs just a little more and I could easily live with the results, being additionally impressed by how resolutely the Cyber amps took control of the Hyperions' dual woofers. In fact, as I think back to my RoadTour where I visited with some of the Norvinz field reps, I'm reminded of the almost unbelievable job these amps did driving the massive Escalante Design Fremonts below, a combination I never would have anticipated to work. But it did. Very well in fact.
Up until now, I have not broached the issue of value. At their asking price of $5500/pr, I judge these amps as completely off the charts. Considering their excellent fit and finish and their beautiful musicality, I look around at other amps I'm familiar with. I cannot think of anything that betters them for anywhere near the asking price. In fact, the only amplifier I know of that is even in the same league as the Cyber 211s is my own Art Audio Carissa. That was a Blue Moon Award recipient back in 2003. If that doesn't make the Cyber 211s worthy of the same award, I cannot conceive of what would. For a great price, great looks and great sound, the Cyber 211s are almost more than a reasonable audiophile could ask for and thus an extremely easy recommendation and rock-solid award winner.
On behalf of Opera Audio, Norvinz and UltraViolet Audio, we want to thank John Potis and 6moons for such a wonderful review! We are both humbled and honored to receive the Blue Moon Award for the Cyber 211 tube monoblock amplifiers.
We have plans to work with Opera Audio and other Norvinz manufacturers to develop and market future Norvinz-exclusive products to meet the needs of our customers. This accolade will serve as a great encouragement for our effort.
In addition, good products deserve the best customer support and the Norvinz unique marketing approach will ensure the highest level of personal service to our customers through well-trained Norvinz Field Reps. To this end,UltraViole Audio possesses the unique ability to stand behind our customers over the long-term via upgrades, modifications and repairs to Opera Audio/Consonance components.
We look forward to serving the needs of the high-end audio market.
Vinh Vu - Norvinz
Joe Trelli - UltraViolet Audio