We are talking, therefore, about a product with few parallels at its price especially when you factor in the excellent head amp. Inexpensive single-ended amps from China are a dime a dozen on eBay but caveat emptor. A quick search of the audio forums and ye shall find endless complaints about shoddy workmanship, blown resistors and capacitor meltdowns. When that happens, who ya gonna call? Sound-wise, the closest thing to the Dynamo I’m aware of is the Due Venti made in Italy by Mastersound. The Dynamo has the speed and bass prowess of the 22wpc paralleled single-ended EL34b Due Venti. I have not heard the Due Venti in about a year but I am pretty sure that the Dynamo is a tad sweeter, a touch more musical and slightly more listenable at least to my ears. I lean towards warmth and fatness of tone as opposed to the super slim trim neutral sound. The Due Venti retails for over $3'000. You pay over $1'700 more for twice the power and a remote control.


So how precisely does the Dynamo sound? Immediately it was clear how this is no sluggish syrupy blunt instrument. It does not wrap your music in a hazy lazy thermionic comfort blanket. It does not paint in thick broad strokes à la Cézanne. It is perky with the stock tubes but not strident by any means. The Dynamo is more of a pointillist, a Seurat painting in small pixels, never losing focus, never smearing, never shining too bright and never losing a sense of the big picture. It all seems to come together in a tonally balanced way top to bottom. Instruments are easily located in a large soundstage. Roll some tubes to get the tone you want. I tried the super military version of the 6SL7, the RCA 5691 red base, in the preamp stage. I used a new production Mullard 5AR4 rectifier with great success. I also rolled SED Winged C EL34 power tubes, Shuguang Black Treasure 6CA7 and NOS RFT Siemens-branded EL34. The RFT gave me the warmth I crave. The Shuguang delivered exceptionally tight bass. The SED were rather ordinary but did not offend.


The Dynamo scrapes up enough detail to satisfy those who take delight in hearing Miles Davis’ chair creak at the 1:14 mark in "Old Folks" on the disc Someday My Prince Will Come. The low noise floor and clarity of the Dynamo will make that creak a little bit more noticeable. You might also hear an extra hum or two per track from Glenn Gould. But the Dynamo will not grate your ears like chalk scraped down a blackboard. With the Dynamo, Miles Davis’ Harman mute does not make me reach for the volume down button the way most solid-state amps do. The Dynamo is characterized by a crystalline clarity, by an intoxicating purity of tone (especially with, say, David Russell’s guitar, Anat Cohen’s clarinet and Anton Kuerti’s piano) and by a strong measure of PRaT. The Dynamo is quick and incisive. Compared with my three Musical Paradise amplifiers—all single-ended and all capable of using the EL34—the Dynamo is decidedly clear and transparent. But where jazz guitar is concerned, it gives up nothing in the tonal saturation department.


The Dynamo excels in nearfield applications. And that’s a good thing because many people will choose to use it that way. I hooked the amp to my DIY single drivers made with the Fostex FE 103 and it was a perfect match. I used my iPad into my Resonessence Labs Herus joined by an Oyaide Y-cable to the Dynamo. Mercifully there was no shoutiness. The Dynamo produced a fuller midrange than my Musical Paradise amp which is no slouch itself in that department, being full, resolved and balanced, with adequate bass at low listening levels. I played some bluegrass guitar with Tony Rice and relaxed to Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s slow haunting rendition of "Here’s That Rainy Day" from his CD Inner Voyage. Nearfield never sounded so good in this house. The Dynamo has a good measure of the sweetness of the Primaluna Prologue One I recently sold (push-pull, 36 watts, no remote, $1'800) but more speed and a greater ability to resolve inner detail and hang on to the decay of a plucked string. In sum, it is the best of both worlds. We approach solid-state speed and PRaT (like a Decware Zen); we get ample bass; and there is enough warmth to please tone freaks.


Imagine the Almarro A205mkII on steroids, with more power, more clarity, similarly punchy bass but more warmth, bloom and tube-rolling options. Like the Almarro, the Dynamo is dead quiet through my speakers. I had a tiny bit of transformer hum noticeable within one meter when the house itself was dead quiet, otherwise it was not noticeable. I eliminated that tiny hum by connecting the Dynamo to my $99 Emotiva CMX-2, a handy little device that removes DC offset from your power line. For the first 50 or so hours, I used the stock tubes. I spun an original pressing of Christopher Parkening’s In the Spanish Style followed by Joe Pass’ Virtuoso LP. The sound was crystal clear, vivid, with tone leaning towards fat rather than thin. There was a touch of warmth. The soundstage my Harbeths threw forth was massive, almost unrealistically so.


With the weak analog signal coming from my turntable, 11 o’clock on the volume gets me as high as I care to go in my medium-sized listening room. Joe Pass’ metal strings are so vivid. Next I played a vinyl version of Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus. His tenor is well defined, firmly located in the center of the soundstage. Cymbals show no signs of smear. There is air and body galore. I followed this with Leonard Cohen's LP New Skin for the Old Ceremony. This amp is producing a clear window into the recording studio. Hands slapping on guitars, jaw harp twanging like an elastic band. On "Take this Longing", Cohen’s baritone is filling the room. It is almost as if I am listening to Maggies and not Harbeths. Most tube amps will be characterized by a certain amount of holography but the Dynamo scores high in this department.


What does the Dynamo lose to my Line Magnetic 518ia SET amp? A sense of air being moved, a sense of thrust. Dynamic swings are not as powerful. The Dynamo seems just as fast with solo guitar but also projects thinner images with more complex music. Comparing the amp with a 40kg 845-based amp is not a fair fight. Compared with my 8.5kg Musical Paradise MP 301mk3 Deluxe edition using the same EL34 power tubes, the Dynamo is much faster, clearer and quieter as one would hope given the price difference ($1'299 vs. $399 including shipping). Any amp wishing to live under my roof must pass the Creed speed test. It must keep pace and nail that artificially induced dry taut lightning-fast bass that the great producer Creed Taylor conjured from his bassist, using pick-ups or close miking in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio. The Dynamo passes with flying colors. If Taylor’s CTI Records had a house sound, this was it: the fast bass of Ron Carter or Michael Moore; the shimmering psychedelic vibes as well as the deft guitar work of Jim Hall and George Benson. Mercifully in the span of just half a decade, this great record label cut so many albums featuring the cheesy flute, it ensured that the world would be spared the horror of this instrument in a jazz setting for decades to come. As I was saying, rare is the 8-watt single-ended amp that can play along with Ron Carter. The Dynamo doesn’t sweat a bead. I searched my mind’s files for other LPs and discs known for exceptionally well-recorded acoustic bass. And I found one gem in the track "Please Do Not Go" from the Violent Femmes’ self-titled debut LP. This staple of mid-80s North American college radio features overdramatic angst-ridden irreverent and profane lyrics but the musicianship is top notch. The Dynamo paired with Harbeth Compact 7 produces as much dry bass as I get with the $4'500 Line Magnetic 518ia! And the imaging is spectacular. It seems about five feet high just like a double bass. It is astounding what a small amplifier can do if designed well and packing serious iron. And by the way, the Dynamo’s irons are overrated by 40%, meaning they won’t suddenly saturate as you turn up the dial. And this leads me to the elephant in the room: just how much power does this amp produce? Just how versatile is it? Are eight watts enough to rock your world? Who should invite this amp over to their house?

Back chez Coincident's.

In my room, with my Harbeths, yes, eight watts are enough. Harbeth rates its speakers at 86dB/6-ohm with no big impedance dips. But many Harbeth Forum users claim to have measured it at 90dB. With my 95dB/8-ohm Tekton Design M-Lore, eight watts shake the foundation. In my mid-sized living room, my Mordaunt Short Carnival 2 (90dB/8-ohms) play very loud. Anyone with speakers rated over 89dB (for a small room) or 91dB (medium room) can probably use the Dynamo. As I write this, I have my Decibel Counter app on my iPad running. In the service of science and for the betterment of audiophiles, I am putting the Dynamo and myself through a painful torture test: the incomparable music of Loverboy. With the volume at 10 o’clock, I am getting 90dB sitting ten feet from my Compact 7. Listening to that staple of Canadian FM ‘Classic Rock’, "Turn Me Loose" has my ears begging to turn down the volume. Decibel Counter may not be the last word in accuracy but the point stands: in a medium-sized room, this amp will have ample muscle with speakers rated 90dB or higher that also present a benign load. At 10 o’clock on the volume pot, Lenny Breau’s "Five O’Clock Bells" is too loud with my Compact 7. Breau’s guitar seems to emerge from a black void. This amp excels with guitar. Accordingly I found myself reaching for music featuring guitar time and again.