YBA Passion 1000 monoblock power amplifier Page 2

A relatively new CD that's freaking me out, it's so good, is Patricia Barber's Modern Cool (Premonition PREM-741-2). "She's a Lady" has an odd, gender-bending atmosphere and a plucky bass line; the harmonic richness and fecundity down below, mated with truly amazing speed and transparency, knocked me for a loop. The bongos in "Postmodern Blues" were vivid and alive with impact, sounding tremendously real. The very tautness of the skins stretched across the bongos' mouths was totally evident. (Like, where's Maynard G. Krebs when you need him?)

Notes: "The bass is so interesting, so full of detail and nuance as it drives the music along. The guitar sounds just right in the mix, restrained and voluptuous up into that sexy midrange. Did I mention the midrange? Hooboy...homina homina—the best I've heard yet with solid-state. Up on top, the cymbal work in 'Postmodern' is all dark and shimmery as it just caresses the cilia in my ear." And Barber's voice...oy vey. "The solidity, roundness, and palpability of her image is incredible—the very essence of her humanity seems to spring forth from between the Utopias. Great lyrics, too: 'Klee and Kandinsky are gone, Wright, Sullivan, and van der Rohe are gone, Dal;ai and Dada are gone...' " I could almost see the smoke curling up from the stage of the Beatnik Bongo Coffee House this must have been recorded in. It felt that way, anyway.

As "Postmodern" ended and I got up and reached for the Theta's remote, the next track began: "Let it Rain—Vamp." I sat down again, closed my eyes, and was instantly transported. "Lord, let it rain..." I could feel the swing of the chorus's arms as they swayed to the beat and poured out the lyrics. The soundstage was impossibly natural, everyone distinctly located and corporeal in the extreme. I was moved by an undeniable and irresistible movement in the music, an engaging fullness of harmonics, a wonder of imaging, and a vastness of air and space around the performers. The smoothness and texture of the vocals in the midrange and highs drew me closely into the moment. At side's end, I just sat there for a while thinking about what I'd just heard—or, shall I say, experienced?

Spinning "Faces and Names" from Songs for Drella, the Lou Reed/John Cale album about Andy Warhol (Sire 26140-2), I was struck by the utter clarity and approachability of the sound. The vocals were very detached from the sonic background, very corporeal and present. Notes: "Here's where all the best elements of solid-state meet the very essence of what keeps tubeheads up all night biasing their bellybuttons. Maybe you can have it all."

Then I had a funny experience. First, I played a Japanese import of one of my favorite albums by the MJQ, simply called The Modern Jazz Quartet (Eastwest Japan AMCY-1165). The enclosed info sheet, from what I can read of it, indicates that the CD was made with 20-bit K2 processing from JVC. I'd paid 25 big ones for it at the new Virgin Megawhopper at 14th and Broadway, so I hoped it wasn't a dud.

I needn't have worried. Despite the warming hiss of the analog master tape, it sounded entirely fabulous. Milt Jackson's magic mallets were so present and real, it was spooky. The gentle phrasing and languid pace soothed my impatience. I closed my eyes and struck off into the music, no longer aware of time or the need to take notes. The acoustic "travel" of each tap on the vibraphone's tonebars told the tale, the sound radiating out in a perfectly natural and vivid manner.

I looked down at recording's end and noticed I hadn't written a word. I decided to think about that for a while as I spun another favorite, Léo Ferré singing "La vie d'artiste" on Avec le temps (Barclay 841 919-2). It was incredible—his passionate voice speared right through me. I was completely shattered near the end of the piece when Ferré chokes out "Je m'en fiche" (I don't care), and suddenly pounds the piano with all the force of true emotion. It made a bloody mess in the Ribbon Chair, I can tell you—all those shards of J-10. But the Passion 1000s showed their ability to pump out the current when needed, in that moment of surprise and shock when Ferré whangs the keyboard. The sound and emotion washed over me; I was sure I could feel his spittle missiling past the mikes.

End of unique experience. Point is, that's the first time I've ever been so transfixed I couldn't take a single note. Nice.

Just for fun, I spun one of my favorite power CDs, Dead Can Dance's Spiritchaser (4AD 46230-2). Huge, room-filling bass, a pristine view into what's ordinarily a rather murky soundstage, and an incredibly attractive midrange dragged my middle-aged butt out of the listening chair and swung it around in a way rarely seen in these precincts. Scull is out of his seat again, pumping to the beat, furiously flailing some kind of air instrument... Scary. On systems that don't have the power to plateau a big signal, the soundstage can weaken, congest, poop out. The Passions poop not.

But how do I really feel?
The passions are the only orators which always persuade.—François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

I wouldn't let the Passion 1000s out of my sight for a second if the Forsell Statement didn't still sound so terrific. The Swedish amp is more huge and impressive in the bass and goes down deeper—as did the enormous Boulder 2050s. But the Forsell is certainly less transparent and lithe in the nether regions than the Passions, although the Boulders are fairly amazing down there as well.

The midrange? It's a pretty even draw between the Passions and the Forsell, but I'd give the nod to the Passions. Really, the midband was killer attractive while retaining an extraordinary level of clarity, detail, and transparency to match that found below. For sheer midrange development, I'd say the Passion 1000s bettered the Boulder, but only when the 2050 was used outside an all-Boulder system.

In the highs, the Forsell and the Boulder were more sparkly and alive, the Passions a bit more laid-back and elegant about the sound of music. But at no time did I get the impression the Passions were closed-in or lacking in air. Hardly—they were just a touch more sweet, musical, and less brightly lit than the other two on top.

While the Passion 1000s laid out a foundation of deep bass and control that was extraordinary given their relatively modest 250Wpc rating, both the Forsell and the Boulder are more macrodynamic—but the Passions gave nothing away in microdynamics. For the money, especially when paired with other YBA front-end components, you'd be hard pressed to find more musically satisfying monoblocks than these. Vive la différence.

Footnote 1: Let me now salute strong and forbearing women such as my wife for their mighty efforts, and for only sometimes cursing a blue streak when faced with uncrating and repacking such monsters as these.

US distributor: Audio Plus Services
P.O. Box 3047
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
(800) 663-9352