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The Aries is a single-ended that's a solid-state wannabe. There's just sufficient 'come hither' for lap-dance seduction and just enough juicebox to command air-guitar dynamics. Home with the Hoyts, two EL34s and a 12AT7 mostly dodge the bass shortfall. As a standalone audition, the Aries burrows deep enough and with sufficient tune. Lower frequencies aren't as downright train-through-tunnel propulsive as with the Exposure 2010s2, a £700 solid statesman. That metal box is altogether more dynamically expressive and it's also more cards-on-the-table matter of fact. The Exposure is keynote speech, the Aries a bed time story. Sweetness and light? Nope. The Brit integrated is contrasted in tubular company as being overly acc-u-rate, kinda ironic given the Exposure's austere refinement when heard in the company of its own kind.

Another day, another Serb enters the fray.  Dayens' 25wpc Ampino (€220 originally). Trafomatic supplies the toroidal transformer fixed within this shoebox integrated. Bedford bound, the Ampino's solid stateliness drops the listener into cooler air and its bee-sting incisive treble will likely divide opinion. Is it greater leading-edge detail or just annoying? The Ampino walks a fine line. The other Serb is softer, kinder. It spins sugary cymbal shimmer into fairy floss. The Aries points to tip-of-the-tongue treble sweetness, just a hint of honey-fication that doesn't dominate the entire palette and one that just isn't evident with the Dayens. Backing things up a few months, the Type 1 Bedfords were the first loudspeaker to reveal a rumour of artifice in the solid-state shoebox's very top end. With the thin-sounding challenge of R.E.M.'s Green, they both proffer similar musical body and openness. Analogous to food, both Serb integrateds are fruit cakes of equivalent richness but the Aries is the one laced with Grandma's brandy.

Moving to the more energised diet of Simian Mobile Disco's tech-y Fabric Live 41 mix, the Aries pulls several rabbits from the hat: more holography, more front-to-back soundstage depth and most noticeable of all, more soundstage width. The Aries knits the electronic interweave into a chunky analogue sweater. Phat. In this context Dejan Dobrin's efforts are somewhat dwarfed by those of his neighbour. Cokic puts the doubled-over sticker price of his tubular sing-song towards more than commensurate sonic advantages. The Aries might take a larger chunk from your wallet but it gives way more in return. The performance shortfall between tube Serb and solid-state Serb is less pronounced with the more demanding 47Labs Lens. This confirms previously unearthed conclusions that the Ampino is better at feeding hungrier transducers. At 97dB, the Hoyt Bedfords simply are anything but hungry.

Easing off the comparative pedal and speaking from a singular anecdotal experience—no epiphany—the Aries/HB Type 2 provided the single most j-awe-dropping listening experience of recent months. A Genalex Gold Lion 12AT7 dropped into the Aries and Bob Dylan's career-resurrecting Time Out Of Mind loaded into Fidelia. The result? An intimacy that caused listener paralysis. You don't drop the kettle switch in the face of such hypnosis. You just can't. And if you could, it'd be rude. 1997 Dylan has a voice that's a majestic oak tree, the gravel in his vocal chords rough bark. Such descriptors and analogies aren't conjoured from just any amplifier/speaker pairing. The Aries is two parts seduction, one part speed, one part air and two parts rectitude.

Smug pleasure is knowing that some SET purists will lift their noses at this EL34 design. As is just, such snobbery has a payoff. Some common SET complaints aren't as pronounced with the Trafomatic Aries. Overt lushness/romance, one-note bass, they just don't present themselves. With this pairing, Chochos takes you into the belly of the song, Cokic lights the match to illuminate what lies within. The Serb's southpaw stance of keen pricing and legato personality with the Hoyt Bedfords packs a serious one-two. Get up after that.