Final Laboratory Music-4 phono preamplifier, Music-5 line preamplifier, & Music-6 power amplifier Page 4

But the flat-out emotion in the best modern rock records—like The Replacements' "Unsatisfied" (from a very different Let It Be), which can normally bend me in two when the drums and bass make their entrance, then leave me drained and almost crying by the end of the song? Nope, sorry: The Finals just didn't do that the way my usual amplification system does, even with four times the power. But just as bits ain't bits, watts ain't watts. All I had to do to know that was to hear this.

The Final Laboratory Music-4-5-6 system was consistently better than most but never quite the best: These products didn't deliver the most intense dose I've ever heard of sonic immediacy or scary, in-the-room realism, and even as I enjoyed the Final Experience (gulp!), I remembered that there have been times in my life when there was a feeling of even less hardware between me and the sounds of the instruments. Of course, the fact that such experiences were also accompanied by filament hum and excessive heat may or may not be germane.

The Finals never hummed: They always sounded their best. They never made funny noises at all, except for a loud turn-on or turn-off thump when I forgot to work the Mute switch before working the Power switch. They never got hot or even warm. They didn't take up a lot of room. And they look kind of cool.

Who wants this stuff? Someone who either wants off the audiophile roller-coaster or who never got on in the first place. Someone with limited time for enjoying music but not-so-limited funds. Someone with little kids who doesn't want them to get burned or electrocuted if they go poking around where they shouldn't. And, of course, someone with efficient speakers.

Hey—sounds like me, except for the part about the roller-coaster.

The Finals are the epitome of a great let-me-off-this-ride-now system: To buy them is to turn your back on a great many things, even more so than is usual when opting for a low-powered amplifier. For someone like me, who needs to switch a lot of different gear into and out of his system, the Finals aren't the most practical things in the world, but if not for that, I'd be tempted by their sonic ease and greater-than-average musicality, not to mention their size, looks, and sheer ingenuity. I think they're a bit pricey for what they are, but then again, if you don't have a few arrows in your back, no one will recognize you as a pioneer.

The Final Laboratory Music system is a genuine must-hear, and a strong purchase recommendation for the adventurous listener who wants to retire from all this nonsense with a musical if perpetually hungry amp.

Footnote 1: Final Lab also makes a pair of tube-regulated AC power supplies for their preamps and amps: the AC-5 and AC-6, respectively, each of which costs $2750. Forgive me for not being interested in them.—Art Dudley