Review: Audio Analogue Puccini Settanta Amplifier
I have not run into an up-to-date review of Audio Analogue’s Puccini Settanta integrated recently. As the owner of brand new Puccini I felt indebted to share my views with other two-channel audio enthusiasts. I bought it a month ago from Audio Analogue’s authorized distributor Eventus Audio. Mr. Gregory Onesti, General Manager of Eventus Audio is a great guy who has shown real professionalism and not spared any effort to answer my puzzling and tiring questions throughout the process. It was a pleasure doing business with him. He is also extremely knowledgeable about cables.
I’ll do my best to report my experiences so far with the Puccini as unambiguously as I could.
My Puccini is the latest version called Rev2.0 (This makes the current Puccini 4th generation I suppose?). Though I know the range of modifications over older version I am not in a position to compare the two since I did not have the chance to listen to older version before. As these upgrades do not seem to constitute a major overhaul, I suppose the musical traits of the previous version are kept intact. Only visual difference in the front plate is the change from green LEDs to blue ones.
The pictures do not do justice to the beauty of Puccini and the remote. You should see them in flesh. With their minimalist designs both exude quality, elegance yet hewn-from-solid feel (as they’re) which cannot be easily found at this price level. They should nonchalantly take on abuse and stand the test of time. Speaker connection posts are of great quality.
I listen to mostly jazz and vocals. So I do my best to avoid bright, harsh sounding equipment. My integrated should be musical, warm and fluid. I have not heard a solid-state integrated sounded this smooth, hybrid-like, except Audio Analogue’s own Primo Settanta, which is decidedly tubey mellifluous. Let me try to describe the Puccini Rev2.0’s traits.. Syrupy delivery, convincing imaging, on-spot tonality and superb texturing (you should hear violins, cellos, trumpet, double bass and female voices.. they sound real..), grain-free treble (and no sibilance), enhanced detail rendition, instrument separation and coherence across the bandwidth.
Though these can be the attributes of quality tube-gear, the Puccini carefully and successfully avoids not-so-good areas that the tube-amps are also known for. It does not round off the extremities of the sound to make it sweet. It just presents it in an articulate and life-like manner. It creates a beautiful 3D soundstage with good headroom. Lateral resolution is also good. It never lacks vitality and sounds dull. It is also obediently true to source. If your program is not that well recorded what you hear will not be glossed over to hide its defects. Sorry, it will still sound crap..
Some people considering the musicality of the Puccini might argue that it may not be able to stack up well against great solid-states around (I can hear them mention transient attack, speed and so on and so forth...) Well, I dare to differ.. Midrange, though warm (not disproportionately so), has the transparency, immediacy and stopping power in equal measure as well. Nothing gets blurred. No worries in the low frequency department too, the Puccini has enough oomph to deliver. If there needs to be slam, there is slam. Its low frequency extension may not be room-shaking thunderous, yet it’s reproduced in plenty. And most importantly it does not get in the way of natural flow of the music. As we all know, this is a dangerous area even high powered solid-states sometimes get confused.. The Puccini just shows how to do it right. By the way, its declared 70 WpC@8ohm might well be an understatement. It sounds more like 80 or so Watts! Rhythm and attack are also convincingly presented, not in a way which might seem unnaturally fast. It has capacity to go loud but even in the higher volume levels it does not lose its composure. When you listen to the Puccini you get the sense that everything is well-judged and well-executed. Therefore it does not only do classical, jazz, folk and vocals but also do rock and pop, if those are your cup of tea. It’s a good all-rounder. “Could do better” areas are really few (volume adjustment is not that intuitive for example). And most of them, as far as I’m concerned, are rather trivial considering what is on the offer as a whole. At about $2200 the Puccini does not come cheap but it is not that expensive either. It has refinement in abundance that would shame some solid-state integrateds 2 times its price. My lengthy listening sessions, sometimes in high volume levels, left no trace of fatigue. And the Puccini, though sometimes ran pretty hot when subjected to some difficult programs at high volume, never sounded strained or edgy. Another bonus is that you don’t have to turn up the volume to enjoy it. Its beautiful presentation, with full of details and subtleties is already there starting with the first watts. Good for late night listening.. As its run-in period is progressing beautifully I suppose my enjoyment will increase in time.
As a precision instrument it definitely deserves good quality interconnects and speaker cables to get most out of it. Be careful in speaker selection, as it might not be a good partner for too warm, slow, laid back or inefficient speakers in need of mega-wattage to give their best. Perhaps it is best paired with the neutral British or Italian speakers (also Triangles coe to mind for that matter) with decent sensitivity and resourceful midrange. It also needs a proper break-in period. But when you get them right, I believe you will be amazed with the result. If you are in for a taste of high end, but on a budget, you’d better take the Puccini into consideration.
I previously owned Unison Research Unico (w/IR remote).. Listened to my friend’s Pathos Classic for some time.. Also had a chance to listen to Primare I30 integrated. They’re great products from reputable industry manufacturers. But somehow they left me craving for what I’ve found (I also own Primo 70) in Audio Analogue’s sound and all-round abilities. At my own peril, I’ll try to summarize my views about them as well. These thoughts are of course as subjective as they come.
Unico has a bold sound for sure. It’s quite strong and I know it has the ability to drive even most complacent speakers with ease and gusto. While doing that it beautifully imparts the best attributes of tubes in its pre/amp section. However it is sometimes quite sluggish on its feet and lacks the delicate rendition of detail, instrument separation and 3D soundstage of the Puccini. And it definitely needs premium quality AC..
Classic is a beguiling thing. And also feast for your eyes. I felt it has enormous abilities if the set up is right. If not, it can sound a little bit bright and flat. Regardless of set up however I felt it could have done better in bass department. With certain type of music it is hard to better it in its price range though I believe. If you’re a bass fiend and like your music big and loud, look elsewhere. It’s an acquired taste for discerning audiophiles (Sorry mate:-).
I30 is a quality all-rounder with great power reserve. However, its sound was a little bit too analytical and cold for me. Interestingly, you have to crank its volume (more than you’d like) for take off.
Creek Destiny CD Player
Monitor Audio RS6 speakers
Tara Labs I/Cs (modified from 'The 2')
Tara Labs speaker cables (Helix 8s)
Unison Research Unico