(In Salerno where music is king
It is no secret i cherish many things Italian in my humble abode. Great food, carefully chosen wines, Ferrari cars, Pininfarina-designed home furnishings, my newly completed Armani wardrobe... So what better way to continue this highly enjoyable lifestyle than to include great music reproduction gear made by SAP (Strumenti Acustici di Precisione). Specifically, their New Anniversary integrated amplifier that is also said (by SAP) to be the only production tube product employing the longstanding KT66 output tube. In typical Italian fashion, when asking for specification for this article i was provided the following:
What i find most endearing is how the Italians find so many joys in life. They simply state "Hey, here is our amplifier and we do not really care about stating output wattage as it should be enough for you. We use top quality parts chosen through careful listening so simply enjoy the music." No techno-babble, no snake oil, no Super-Hyper Ultra-Pure Unobtanium only made at nights during a full moon by Vestal virgins. Longtime audiophools have had enough Marketing Hyperbole thrust upon us to last three lifetimes! Some of it may be true, some of it is laden with half-truths, and some of it is (frankly) male cow anal excrement.
When the looks make you drool just like a pasta fagiole
Amazing how many lovely ladies have entered into my home and they nearly always seem to take a shine to the audio gear that comes from Italy while all the other exotica goes virtually unnoticed. The above photo details the external parts layout while the knobs, from left to right on my unit, are labeled in Italian and are as follows: Ingressi (inputs - RIAA, Line 1 and Line 2), Monitor (tape monitor), Sinistra (left channel, for balance control), Destro (right channel, for balance), Modo (mode - mono, stereo, or reverse left/right), and Volume. The WBT loudspeaker jacks are extremely sturdy while the RCA jacks are of the very high-end, gold-plated variety. The volume knob has a very luxurious feel. One does not need to be ham-fisted with the SAP New Anniversary as all knobs operate smoothly.
will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
While my initial impression of the SAP New Anniversary was very positive, after a bit more than 70 hours break in she really was coming into her own. Like a Ferrari after 20 minutes of warm up driving as all fluids, mechanical parts, and tire temperate reached optimum. This is the very first time a KT66-based tube amplifier has been in my home so i was very curious to see what made this tube so legendary in some circles.
Old-timers will recall how legendary audio company Leak made their first KT-66 based amplifier, the "Type 15", back in 1945. It was heralded as one of the world's first ultra-low distortion amplifiers (0.2%) that produced 15 watts in "Class A" triode and had a frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz (+-0.25dB). It is interesting to note Leak's Type 15 was a four-stage circuit, unlike the three-stage circuits found in their later designs. If you are a history buff, the Type 15 directly preceded the legendary TL/12 that was introduced in 1948. History lesson is now over as we explore the sound of the New Anniversary as reviewed here in 2003, nearly 6 decades later that the Leak!
Will keep this review brief and to the point. What i find most endearing about the SAP New Anniversary integrated amplifier is the sheer ease and flow of the music it reproduces. While not the most hyper-accurate ultra-transparent unit ever to make an appearance within my home, this unit unraveled some of the most complex passages within the music. This is exactly as i would describe the New Anniversary: It reproduces the music that true music lovers find so endearing. Personally, i find that hyper-accurate systems tend to strip away the soul of the music. Think of it as the different in musicians who play the notes versus the truly talented that play the music. It could be argued this is also akin to newly produced high-end violins (accurate and nice) versus the legendary Stradivarius (pure musical ecstasy).
For those seeking a more detailed and itemized list, the bass was deep and powerful with impressive definition. The magical midrange sang gloriously while the highs were very clean, if a slight tad bit diminished in extension. Tried a few cables and found my fave Kimber Select 1030 silver interconnect with Nirvana Audio loudspeaker cabling. Tried others, yet found this combination to be harmonically the most correct with great midrange, which is where most of acoustic music resides. Both male and female jazz/blues vocals were rendered with fantastic delicacy/authority as necessary while operatic vocals had a powerful and majestic character. If there was ever any doubt, Puccini's "O MioBabbino Coro", "Quandome'n vo'" or "Donna non vidi mai" should suffice, though they are simply the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
As for overall soundscaping, there were plenty of layers with an appropriately rendered width and depth that were evenly portrayed. Some units have good depth though lack width, or vice versa. There is a reason for separate right and left balance controls on the SAP New Anniversary as this keeps each channel's signal as separate as possible. Imaging was very good with good indication of the natural acoustic presence that surround acoustic instruments within a performance hall.
When you're listening to a dream
As virtually every avid reader of my articles knows, my closing tag line truly says it all... and this is what the SAP New Anniversary unit produced time and time again. That is, musical enjoyment as one finds in the world's better halls with truly accomplished musicians pouring forth their heart and soul. While this unit may not be the last word in resolution and those seeking hyper-accuracy (usually at the expense of musicality) will be less than satisfied, those who enjoy the music should be extremely pleased. Perhaps due to the Italians' zest for all the great joys and expressing the deep emotions found within life, their products are simply a natural extension to these circumstances. Could it be their food, glorious automobiles, the virtually never-ending achievements of visual styling? No matter what the cause, it is the outcome that matters. And in that regard the SAP New Anniversary integrated amplifier is a most welcome guest into my humble home joined by the products of Giorgio Armani, Battista "Pinin" Farina, and Enzo Ferrari. As always, in the end what really matters is that you...
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Said like my Italian friends "If you need specifications
try some other magazine. If you want to enjoy the music... Ah my friend,
then you have found the right place". This is usually followed by a great
meal -- three hours and five courses later -- and great wine with a finely aged
cigar. Me amoré! Italy, ché posto bello!