For me the tonal balance of these amps is wrong and there are far better choices out there, even for less money.
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The Opera is outstanding - it ended my amplifier merry-go-round of some 20 moderately-priced amps (mostly solid-state or digital) and sounds best with its stock tubes.
Extremely natural, warm but not syrupy, harmonically rich, textured bass, extended highs, and a big holographic multi-layered soundstage. A big step up from the Arpege Reference, which is also a very nice sounding amp, albeit a bit rolled off in the highs and less-defined bass.
As jbello is fond of saying... "trust your ears", and try to audition it in your system. Haven't heard the Recital though...
F1a, Thanks for the input. I'm fortunate that the dealer near me will allow me to try the amp at home. So I will be able to do what you have recommended. I remember when I first heard the Opera, the music stayed in my head for weeks after.
I went to the Montreal Expo and there was some good sounds there, but none that can beat the sound of the Opera for the same price. Do you mind telling me what speakers you're using? I will be using my Forests, but one day I would like to own Eqations or Living Voice.
I'll side with F1a on this one.
The Opera is one superb integrated that gives you incredible insight into the music, without being the least bit grainy or harsh. All the texture and nuance is there.
For those looking for additional "color" (at a loss of definition) the Arpege is one smooth operator.
Well over three years after this thread began, my 2 cents. First, UHF Magazine has a review of the Récital and so does 6Moons. I heard it a couple of days ago in an extended listen. As it was for Psc, above, the music stayed in my head for days afterwards. Downside, I was not especially into listening to my own system during that time, much as it has improved recently. The Audiomat system I heard (with a CEC transport and the Audiomat Maestro DAC) provided musical heart and soul enough to nourish me for a while.
Now I am looking for my own copies of all the new music I heard that day, convinced that they are extraordinary recordings... but there is a real possibility that they may turn out to be no better than many I already have and know well, and that the real difference was the Audiomat gear.
So I think the Récital is a very impressive amp indeed, as good as any I've ever heard and just maybe the best. Not that it makes all recordings sound good. With some discs I was quite aware of the limits of the recording setup, with another one it was the limits of the performance. The unusual thing about this listening setup, though, was that in every case (except for the one bad one) it was precisely the performance that mattered the most, and it swept me up and occupied my attention entirely.