Transcendent T8 OTL monoblock power amplifier System
The Transcendent T8 OTLs were dropped into essentially the same system as that used in the Graaf GM 200 OTL review. The Joseph Audio RM-50s sounded best set up on a combo of Shun Mook Diamond Resonators left'n'right rear, with a single AudioPoint up front. We placed Harmonix RF-56 Tuning Bases on their sides—at woofer level—to excellent effect, and tweaked the soundstage with a trio of Mpingos Discs on top. I made extensive use of both Shun Mook and Harmonix footers throughout the system.
Digital front-ends included the suave Ensemble Dichronos, the ever-bloomin' Forsell Air Reference, and YBA's seductive CD1 Blue Laser. Analog revolved on our Flywheeled Forsell Air Force One in company with a van den Hul Grasshopper IV and derivative Symphonic Line RG-8, as well as the Clearaudio's Insider. (A fresh run of green, minty-fresh dental floss transferred the "moving energy" of the flywheel to the Forsell's optional, heavier platter.)
In my experience, XLO Signature phono cable still reigns supreme, as do the Illuminati D-60 and Ensemble Gigaflux datalinks on the digital side. Harmonix and MIT Digital Reference links also made for subtle changes in soundstaging and tonal balance.
For most of the review period I made use of Synergistic Research's Designer's Reference line-level interconnect, its vivid green jacketing setting off the fresh floss! I also enjoyed the occasional foray into MIT-350 and Harmonix HS-101 Harmonic Strings interconnect.
I began with the bi-wire Cardas Golden Cross speaker-cable arrangement that had proved so effective with the Graaf, but shortly thereafter found a wonderfully synergistic match between the T8s and bi-wire Goertz Alpha-Core MI Ag speaker cables.
The only major change was in the preamp department. I began auditioning the T8s with the stunning YBA 6 Chassis—review to appear next month. It was just fantastic. Listening to the all-YBA front-end produced a sound of breathtaking beauty. The refinement pouring out of the system flabbergasted me. Of course, the CD1 was less detailed (but still charmingly romantic) in comparison to the neutral and extended Ensemble gear or the Forsell front-end. (The Forsell fits between: more bloom than the Ensemble, more detail than the YBA. But each offers, in its own way, true Class A sound.)
But the YBA 6 Chassis weighs in at a breathtaking $19k, making it a rather unlikely match with the $6995 Transcendent monos ($3595 for a single stereo unit, which puts out 25Wpc into 8 ohms, 15Wpc into 4 ohms). Getting real, I set up the BAT VK-5i line-level preamp. The VK-5i and VK-P10 phono stage made a truly delightful match with the Transcendents. (Sure, that's $4k for the 5i and $4k again for the P-10, but both BAT and YBA make less expensive components with similar "house sound.") The BAT combo sounded more juicy, liquid, breathing, and "emotional" than the French preamp. Images were a touch rounder and more immediately vivid (and so more palpable) than with the ultra-aesthete YBA preamp. And while the BAT didn't develop the YBA's utterly transparent, limitless view deep into the soundstage, it threw out a delightfully large and airy acoustic that billowed around me in the Ribbon Chair to perfectly enjoyable effect.
The only caution here was the T8's rather low overall gain—the BAT preamp had to be run up near the top of its volume range. And we had to switch the VK-P10 into its high-gain mode. If you've got a relatively quiet, high-gain preamp like the BAT, you'll have no real problem with overall volume levels.—Jonathan Scull