Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE Integrated Amp/DAC Page 2

Because I purchased The Kinks' Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) in both LP [BMGCAT407LP] and CD [BMGCAT407BOX] form, I was able to set up both and cue them 'just so', thus allowing A/B switching between LP and CD, with levels matched. With either digital or analogue sources, the nature of the amp was obvious and consistent enough to deem both the phono stage and the DAC of astonishing capability. From the opening notes of 'Victoria', with acoustic and electric guitars and deliciously splashy drumming, I was totally hooked.

820vinnie.remMassive Attack
Inescapably evident, after a mere ten minutes with this amp via CD, were three exceptional qualities. The first, and most vivid, was speed, the attack of both the guitars and percussion reminding me of much bigger beasts, such as the D'Agostino Momentum Stereo amp [HFN Aug '12], which remains my solid-state reference. The L2i-SE doesn't match its sense of forcefulness, but neither does it lack power in any sense. Whether driving Wilson Sasha DAWs [HFN Mar '19] or ornery loads like LS3/5as, the crispness and clean transients were realistic, never sounding exaggerated nor too abrupt.

One word kept entering my head: 'sparkling'. If a system can sound as effervescent as a glass of Prosecco, this is it. And I don't say that just because Vinnie Rossi is of the Italian persuasion, but stop me if I compare the depths of the rhythmic bass retrieval to a glass of Aldo Conterno Barolo.

Second was the openness, and here was one of the areas where LP proved audibly superior to the CD. Not a cause for fretting, for the impression of scale was almost identical, but the added hygiene of digital somehow altered the perception of space. I did play with the filters, preferring the default 'filterless' state, despite appreciating the value of switching in the Minimal Phase digital filter. I certainly preferred coaxial S/PDIF, connected via BNC.

The third quality was an extremely wide soundstage, obviously part of the openness, but I am talking 'Denon DL103' width. Both of these were revealed in the second track, when the opening drum segment for 'Yes Sir, No Sir' revealed itself to be of such a high standard via this remastering that it should be an audiophile demo staple, its 'air' stretching across the room. I am almost at a loss to define the majesty and authenticity of what is at first merely a martial drum progression. So simple, so minimalist, it was disconcerting that a few bars of drumming could stop me dead in my tracks.

Turning to a well-recorded-and-remastered live experience, Jimi Hendrix's Songs For Groovy Children [Sony Legacy 19075982772] provided a real, as opposed to studio-created, space and the L2i-SE again proved adept at transporting the listener to the musical event. But another area of excellence emerged – conveying the textures of Hendrix's guitar playing, ranging from fluidity to screech to staccato in a single break. 'Foxey Lady' on CD3 left me stunned. But it was time for tubes.

Ear Candy
Again referring to PM's elucidation, the triodes here are not performing as they might in a standard hybrid amp, but perhaps more like a valve preamp-plus-solid-state-power amp. Yet however optional their role, added gain aside, their presence is undeniable. As the triodes operate in single-ended, Class-A mode with no feedback, so one might anticipate a whiff of classic SET romance, especially with Rossi stating that the harmonics 'will certainly be 2nd order, 4th order, etc'.

Repeating The Kinks tracks with the triodes switched into the circuitry, I was hit with additional revelations. I am no bass fetishist, but the bass guitar on 'Drivin'' enjoyed added body and texture… and that was via CD. Switching to LP, it was even more palpable, with added atmosphere.

I was starting to suffer that feeling of being overwhelmed by a surfeit of delights, a kid in a candy store. Exposed was a newfound liquidity to Dave Davies' lead guitar on 'Mr Churchill Says', even more body to the bass playing throughout the album – I had to keep telling myself that, as with the Musical Fidelity X10D, 'this is added artifice. It is a layer of coloration, of increased distortion'. I didn't care.


Then came the barrage of sound effects: Kazoo. Harpsichord. Trashy drumming. Tooting horns. These are what made 'She's Bought A Hat Like Princess Marina's' even more of a 'music hall' facsimile than The Beatles' 'Honey Pie'. It leapt from the speakers. Suddenly, I realised something so telling that I was embarrassed for not grasping it earlier – of course I would fall for the L2i-SE. Vinnie Rossi and I both use Falcon Acoustics' LS3/5as [HFN Jan '19]. As Stevie Wonder sang, 'I was made to love her'. In this case, 'her' is the Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
An upside to being a downsizing pensioner: I'm not buying any more gear. But if I needed a new amp, I'd be splashing out on a Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE because I simply adore it. The build, ergonomics and features leave nothing to be desired, and it was a joy to use the entire time it was in my system. I even loved just staring at it! But forget all that. Ultimately, this is about sound. And it was 'Bellissima'.

Vinnie Rossi
Holden, MA, USA
Supplied by: Elite Audio Ltd, Fife
01334 570 666