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This review first appeared in the May 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Octave V40SE in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or NAD. - Ed.

Reviewer: Martin Mertens
Sources: Analog -
Thorens TD 160 HD with TP250 arm & Benz Micro MC Gold cart; digital -
Creek CD 43 Mk II, Logitech Transporter
Amplification: Phono - Lehmann Black Cube SE II; integrated - Jadis Orchestra blacksilver, Exposure 2010 S
Loudspeakers: Expolinear T 120, Gaithain ME150
Cables: Low-level - Vampire CC; high-level - inakustik LS 1002
Review component retail: Starting at  €3.700

Hifi model names can be confusing. Not so Octave’s V40 SE. It’s a Vollverstärker—integrated amplifier—which outputs 40 watts. Anyone familiar with this firm and its philosoph or who has read our factory tour knows that SE couldn’t possibly stand for single-ended. This very old circuit topology has some makers credit it with sonic advantages. No doubt single-ended does lend itself to producing good-sounding amplifiers. Yet Octave doesn’t subscribe to ‘traditional’ valve art. With the V40 having been in their catalogue for many years already, company chief Andreas Hoffmann simply found MkII too overused to distinguish his next installment. So he went for SE instead to indicate Second Edition. V40SE.

Technically, the V40SE embodies Octave’s no-nonsense approach of class A/B push/pull operation with two EL34s per side. The input and driver stage run an ECC83 and 6922 double triode respectively. Transistors show up in the high-tension supply as well as various control circuits. This makes the V40SE a modern machine which runs valves where advantageous and transistors when those are superior. Over the original V40, the SE iteration makes the following changes:
  • Ecomode, explained later
  • A variable pre-output properly buffered from connected amplifiers
  • A home-theater bypass
  • A widened bias window to run a greater number of alternate power tubes
  • Socketry for the optional Black Box, explained later
  • A superior lower-loss power transformer
  • Better stabilization of the small signal-tube heater supplies
  • Faster Tantal capacitors
  • New layout for signal and ground paths plus general optimization of the power supply to guarantee constant operation from 205 – 250V
  • Lower feedback due to the above improvements which increased the circuit’s inherent self stability

Trim & tech: I’d previously crossed paths with Octave integrateds at various dealers as well as colleague Ralph who weighed in on the bigger V80. Knowing their general dimensions, I was surprised by the size of the shipping carton which instantly conjured up visions of a styro-chip avalanche in my living room. Alas, not a single Styrofoam flake. The box was filled to the brim with other cartons instead. My first arguably simplistic thought was "wow, excellent start if a company is this particular about its packing…"

The big box contained three cartons – two with valves (EL34 and KT88 respectively), one with the amp proper plus an envelope with the owner’s manual. The external optional capacitor bank called Black Box shipped in its own master carton. Packing excellence continued with soft foam cushions for the tubes, precisely cut foam inserts for the amp, with cut-outs for cables and the remote control. Unpacking, setup and operation were quite the treat. General quality and substance were instantly apparent, appearance and finish confidence inspiring. Layout and labeling of all connections and controls plus a very comprehensive manual eliminate any doubts or questions. Even the bias adjustments for the output tubes are explained so well and so easy to accomplish that even the earthiest of techno peasants won’t have any issues working this machine.

You should still read the manual and not because you’d fail otherwise. It’s simply inspiring to learn what the V40SE is capable of that eludes many competitors. You can for example run it without a loudspeaker load which would damage many output transformers elsewhere. To throw a single nit, I would have liked to see a pair of plain cotton gloves to prevent finger prints when inserting the valves. To take the sonic measure here would involve rolling tubes and experimenting with the Black Box upgrade.