Review: Audio Analogue Puccini Settanta Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

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.

Associated gear
Creek Destiny CD Player
Monitor Audio RS6 speakers
Tara Labs I/Cs (modified from 'The 2')
Tara Labs speaker cables (Helix 8s)

Similar products
Unison Research Unico
Pathos Classic
Primare I30
Nice review on the not so popular AA line of gear.

I for one agree with your statement about other integrated amps "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. "

I also own the AA Primo Settanta integrated amp like you. Your description of the Puccini Settanta seams like my sonic observations of the Primo. I love it!

And am considering the step up to the Puccini. Please describe the differences between the Primo and the Puccini. The weakness I find in the Primo is when I crank it on the times I want volume to fill our 18' x 22' x 9'H room it runs out of steam and gets hard, compressed, with distortion in the highs( ie: clipping). It is a very revealing amp but not the absolute in refinement like my YBA, but there is just something about it that makes me want to listen to music.
I posted above by would like to also note that it is my favorite integrated amp as well. It has an inviting sound that is more listenable than the other seperates I've owned as well.

I think the manufacturers power rating is accurate, because my 100 wpc Classe did have more drive and smoothness, but not as much detail and that tube-like magic that the AA amp has.

My other equipment at this time are a Consonance Linear cdp and home made speakers with similar design and drivers as Tyler with Kimber Kabling. This can also contribute to the musicality and enjoyment I'm experiencing.

Furthermore the Primo amp and Linear cdp both have above average PRaT. This gets my foot tapping big time.

Htecny, I'm looking forward to hear you comparison of the Primo to the Puccini integrated amps. They also have the same power rating so is the Puccini just more refined? Does it loose any of the Primos punchiness?
Well, the Primo 70 is a great integrated in its price range and punch above its weight for sure. But compared with the Puccini Rev2.0 it sounds like good quality stereo albeit giving you the sense of hi-end. But Puccini is a different sort of animal. While keeping intact the musicality of the Primo the Puccini is more detailed, more delicate, -yes- more refined with more expansive soundstage. Its sound is full of nuances. When extended it does not lose its grip on the music. I listened to an 85 Wpc (declared) integrated last weekend and compared with the Puccini it sounded like limp home mode. Quality of watts is what counts here I suppose.

Ah yes the bass deparment.. Incredible thing with the Primo is its low frequency extension. However, its bass is a little bit indiscriminate. With Primo, at times, you might not easily differentiate between drums and acoustic bass both hitting the nether regions of Hz. This does not apply to the Puccini. Every instrument meant for you to hear is right in its place. So I might dare to say that the bass provided by the Primo is a tad ponderous and hanging there more than it should. The Puccini's sophistication in this regard is miles ahead. It has a more articulate, high-end bass. But this might not cater for all tastes. All in all it has a more defined and fast low end.

At first, right of the box the Puccini did not strike me as one great integrated. But in time I have come to appreciate its greatness. In Europe AA electronics are quite popular and have many followers. Of course they are not Krells, owning them will not reinforce someone's hi-fi mojo in front of his friends. But keeping things subtle works for me.
Thanks for your insites. I love the Primo so much the Puccini seems like the next logical upgrade for me.

The main thing I noticed stepping down from my YBA integrated to the AA Primo was a loss of refinement and the ease of presentation. It is not a big difference but it was there. But the AA had more of that tube-like sound I remember from by Jolida from 4 years ago, w/o the tube hassle and heat. That is what captivates me with this little amp. If the Puccini retains that tube sound yet adding detail and refinement I'm for it.

With my detailed cdp, detailed speakers and detailed cabling I find the Primo's bass tuneful with excellent distinction between all bass instruments.

There is plenty of air and space between instruments with good (not world class) micro details. If anything, I think the Primo could use more inner detail. But at its price, all is easily forgiven. I can only imagine what the Puccini brings to the table.

If the Puccini has the refinement of the YBA and the enjoyable presentation of the Primo I'm ready to upgrade.
Digression: A good friend of mine has an older Puccini that needs repair on one channel. Got any recommendations? He's in San Francisco Bay Area, but of course can ship if there is especially good reason to.
I was thinking about your comments on the Primo's bass, and the clipping when pushed hard. Granted the Puccini at 2x its price probably has a more upscale presentation, but I didn't find the ponderous bass you refer to.

My Primo may has a tight, defined and tuneful bass, in part because of the associated cabling and my associated Consonance 120 Linear cdp. I tried different cabling this weekend and the magic I heard from the Primo and my system as a whole was lost and my system did sound more upper mid-fi rather than hi-end. The Primo is good enough to warrant good cabling.

My very good Dynamic Design silver interconnect from the cdp, Dynamic Design silver power cord feeding the audio power strip, and the Kimber cabling made a stagering difference. I'm usually not big on to expensive cabling but they transformed the Primo/Consonance combo in a system without competition for its measly price tag. I must have hit the magic combo that makes the amp sound better than it should and what made Stereophile's Sam Telig rave about it.

As far as stressing the amp at high volumes, my 4 ohm speakers can be a bit demanding so I can easily drive the amp into clipping to fill our large room very loudly. At moderately loud music and movie soundtracks it is fine. I think the 70 wpc/ 140 wpc rating is accurate because my Classe CA100 100 wpc/ 200 wpc would actually drive the speakers woofers until they bottomed out if I wasn't careful.

The only real weakness is a slight loss of refinement when I stepped down from my YBA Design integrated amp which is to be expected for the price difference, but the Primo is a more enjoyable listening experience overall. And movie soundtracks have more punch.

Again, thanks again for your review of the Puccini rev 2.0 and your comparison with the Primo Settanta 70.