Trafomatic Rhapsody Integrated Amplifier Page 2

But that wasn't the main reason this 'various artists' compilation proved to be so revealing. The percussion which dominates much of the music from Tito Puente, Ray Barretto and others of that calibre has as much character as Kodo drumming, and it impressed upon me more than the clean extreme treble how the Rhapsody avoids clichés about SET amplifiers – even if they may by now be rather outmoded. The sound here was deep, massive and of the sort which seems to roll across the floor like the mists in a Hammer flick.

Young At Heart
As this initial impression was so favourable, and I didn't want to think I was that easily charmed, I dug out one of the worst LPs I have ever heard. What's so heart-breaking about the soundtrack to Dead Man [Vapor Records 9362-46171-1] is that the horrible screech was made by Neil Young, whom I adore. What I wanted to test here was something I've done for most of my time as a reviewer: is the sound enticing enough to keep me listening, even if the music is so bad that I've lost the will to live?

Thanks to the Rhapsody's seamless, seductive presentation, I duly sat through all four sides. Here, perhaps, I was transposing onto the designer [see interview sidebar with Saša Čokić] a possible leaning toward thrash, grunge or some other dissonant genre, as this was recorded in 1996 when Young was hanging around with Pearl Jam. And yet this droning racket proved involving and hard to resist, like a train wreck.


Four line inputs (three on RCAs and one balanced pair on XLRs) are joined by pairs of 4mm speaker terminals connected to 8 and 4ohm output transformer taps

Turning to something less likely to require paracetamol, I have always adored the recently departed Loretta Lynn, and consider myself blessed – no pun intended – to own a copy of Hymns on pristine open-reel tape [Decca ST74-4695]. Given that there is a level of hell awaiting hi-fi reviewers, I approached it in a secular mood, as it is, content aside, pure country music. Its star qualities are her crystalline vocals, almost a template for distaff C&W warbling, and the metallic attack of a banjo.

Consistently Convincing
While these were anticipated, and the Rhapsody proved as adroit with female vocals as with Latin percussion, I was unprepared for the speed of the transients, the crispness of the plucking or the sound of the banjo's vellum head. It was so truly, convincingly authentic that I had to hear it through speakers as sonically far apart as the Quad '57 and PMC prodigy1, and it remained consistently 'real' from speaker to speaker. I would add here that I played the tapes through the amplifier's XLR input – easily worth the effort for added impact in the low registers and quieter background silences.

Loretta is joined by a chorus on 'How Great Thou Art' and a few other tracks. The multiple voices enjoyed some of the most convincing grouping one could hope to hear, such that I wished the tape came with a road map or floor plan. Whatever their actual location, they were arrayed across the soundstage without that Viewmaster 3D flatness which compromises stage depth.

Magical Amp
Having sampled the sacred via Nashville, I craved more spiritual but orchestral music. With Christmas approaching, I turned to two open-reel tapes rife with choruses: the Columbia Musical Treasuries Orchestra's The Magic Of Christmas [Columbia D2T 5250] and Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra's Pops Christmas Party [RCA Victor FTC-2022]. Even if you don't celebrate the pleasures of Noel, I gotta tell ya: these tapes are of hi-fi show demo quality.


The red lacquer applied to Trafomatic's simple, alloy remote control matches the unit's chassis. Up/down volume buttons govern the motorised control on the amp

Trafomatic's Rhapsody ensured that I wallowed in the room-filling, full-blown orchestral readings of 'White Christmas', 'Sleigh Ride' and 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town', some wholly (or holy) instrumental, others with multiple voices to the fore. What was not compromised, despite the Rhapsody amplifier eschewing lushness for the sake of it, was that silky sheen which endears SET designs to the faithful. The best way to describe it is an inherent antidote to listener fatigue.

If there is any limit to this amplifier's sheer command, it might prove to be the wattage, but that only affects your choice of loudspeaker. When paired with high-sensitivity models, the Trafomatic Rhapsody earns the most glowing testimony I can bestow on a product by simply stating one fact: my first listening session ran for seven uninterrupted hours. Yes, seven. The only downside? Looking at the smart meter in my listening room.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
At the risk of seeming a soft touch, I found my time with the Trafomatic Rhapsody almost too rewarding. While its performance belies its power rating, that might still preclude hungrier speakers. Its operation was faultless, the facilities and ergonomics textbook perfect. Thus I must acknowledge Saša Čokić's mission statement: this amplifier is all about – and only about – the music. It is truly a tour de force.

Trafomatic Ltd
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909