Triode Corporation TRV-88SE £1895
28th Apr 2011 | 09:30
Striking to behold, very agile – but doesn't quite knit everything together as one would like
Triode Corporation makes a range of amps, which presumably all use triode connection of the output devices – the TRV-88SE certainly does.
In many ways it's a fairly conventional push-pull design, though the external finish is certainly among the best, with and wooden side cheeks. The removable valve cover is exceptionally resonant, but the cover over the transformers appears to be filled with resin and is completely dead, acoustically.
Internal construction uses a mix of circuit boards. The parts themselves been generally of good quality, with key capacitors being paper-in-oil types.
A couple of features stand out as adding modern appeal to the traditional valve amp idea – the headphone output and a front-mounted pair of phono sockets. One of the amp's inputs is a fixed-gain one, that allows the TRV-88SE to be used as a power amp. It's selected just like the other inputs and could give an unwary user a nasty surprise if employed by accident, but it's a useful feature.
Bias is adjustable but you need to get inside the amp to do it and it's a job for a qualified service bod.
This was considered the most 'solid-state' of the group of valve amplifiers we have tested recently. That has various connotations, not all of them necessarily complimentary, but it seems here to have been intended mostly in a good way.
At least, this amp has less of an obvious character to it than many of the others, which can lead to its sound seeming, as one listener put it, a little 'colder' than some.
At the same time, the sound has plenty of snap and verve to it and without noticeably accentuating the treble, the TRV-88SE keeps things light and agile. Bass is reasonably extended, if perhaps a little dry on occasions and there's actually quite a decent kick in reserve for when things get really exciting.
There's also some very good detail on offer, giving real insight into recordings. The trouble is, though, that's all a little superficial and our 'blind' listening panel certainly didn't find themselves involved with the music emotionally – neither were we when listening later, sighted.
Something about the sound just doesn't quite click and we can't think of a better way of explaining this, than by saying that there seems to be a lack of integration between the various objective qualities that go to make up good sound. Yes, there's detail and tonality is pretty good, but it just doesn't quite come together to make up a convincing musical whole.
This is exemplified by the way the amp deals with multi-layered music. It seems everything is there, but the various melodic and harmonic strands don't seem to relate to each other.
One listener commented that the accompaniment seemed unusually loud in relation to the vocals, another that the vocals lacked conviction. Overall, we respected this amp more than we loved it.
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