Shindo Cortese - First Impressions

Yesterday, I picked up my new (to me) Shindo Cortese from Matt at Pitch Perfect Audio in San Francisco. Even though the amp was a trade-in from another customer who was moving up the Shindo line, It looked perfect and like new in every way.

I've only listened to the amp for 4 to 5 hours. Too soon for a long term review, but enough for a quick first impression.

For those who might not be familiar with it, the Cortese is 10W/ch amp based on the industrial strength Siemens F2A tube and it's an SET (Single-Ended Triode) design.

On the 1-10 Alberto's Audio Deliciousness Scale, this amp is not a 10, not even an 11, it's a 12! Seriously!

I never thought a manufacturer would have the "bollocks" to create something that is so insanely delicious and so forgiving that it has to polarize anyone who listens. The Cortese does not walk a fine line between analytical and musical (to use some common audiophile terms) -- it steps over that line, takes twenty steps toward musical side, drops its trousers and moons anyone and anything on the other side.

After an hour of listening, I realized that this amp is voiced the exact way I would voice an amp if I knew how. Warm, liquid, continuous with a round and tuneful bass that belies its measly 10W per channel, a midrange to die for (but that was expected based on the SET design) and a treble that ...

... Ah, yes, the treble. At first I though "There's some trouble with the treble." For the first time in years, I found myself (me of bat-like-ears and super-sensitivity to harsh or excessive highs) thinking "I need more treble." The treble was there, smooth and extended, but a bit too "timid" -- cymbals sounded as if the drummer was holding back a little, the upper harmonics on horns and strings were also a bit muted. It sounded delicious - but too delicious and forgiving.

But I knew that there's no way this amp would have been one of Stereophile's Art Dudley's long term favorites -- or none of the other reviewers -- if the treble was this gentle and forgiving.

I knew what was "wrong": My entire system (including cables) and room treatment, had been chosen and designed to deal with harsh or excessive treble from lesser recordings. I had accepted the fact that I needed tone controls to tame a good 30% of my favorite recordings. But not with the Cortese. The treble on this puppy is so smooth that I adjusted the tweeter cross-over on Tannoys from -1.5dbs to +1.5dbs! Now the treble was just right for my tastes. It might still be a bit too gentle and rolled off for others, but keep in mind that everything in my system (including the Tannoys) is very forgiving and I have a feeling that with more neutral speakers it's going to be right for almost everyone (OK, perhaps not for people who prefer the sound signature of manufacturers like Krell.)

There's not much to add about the mid-range. It's your run of the mill, magical SET sound. Perfection to my ears.

The bass was the most pleasant, although somewhat anticipated, suprise. The Cortese has the most tuneful and extended bass I've ever had in my system. I had some thoughts of getting a larger pair of Tannoys and I kept taking the subwoofers on and off my system. With the bass from the Cortese any desire for larger Tannoys has evaporated, subs will probably go to the garage next week - who needs them. I might even move the speakers further away from the wall since I moved them closer to get more bass with the Montille. The depth and "chest impact" of the bass is one thing, the other is the tuneful aspect of it. Every bass note is distinct - the opposite of one-note-bass.

Soundstage: wider but also about 2' taller. I love a high soundstage. Even though the speaker drivers are less than 3' off the ground, the sound stage is easily at 6-7'. This means I can sit on my chair and look "up" to the music as if I was in a concert. I love it!

That's it for a first pass. In the days and weeks to come, I will play around with different cables since now I no longer have to worry about having cables that are too resolving.

If I sound ecstatic and overjoyed, it's because I am. I knew that this amp was a step in the right direction for me. I knew it would be more delicious than any other amp that has graced my system, but I was not prepared for an amp that said:

"Here Alberto - Mr. Delicious - try ME out, I am just for you. You can now play ALL your records and forget about tone controls and loudness and subwoofer and bigger speakers. I AM your tone controls. I AM your loudness. Pack your subwoofers, forget bigger speakers for your little room. I have it all. Just for you my friend. Enjoy me ... and spread the word to other delicious sound hounds."

OK, enough writing. I am going to forget that today is a spectacular sunny day in the SF Bay Area and go do more listening. The pull of the Cortese is stronger than the pull of the mighty sun!

Alberto (Delicious Sound Hound)
Mmm. That review was simply, delicious !
A dynamic and glowing review. Enjoy re-exploring your catalog
and finding new music to like as well!
Hi Alberto,
Very enjoyable and interesting initial review. How does the tonality and timbre differ between the Cortese and the Montille? I can appreciate you joy, I love a good quality SET amplifier.
Great read. Enjoy the amp !
Very enjoyable and informative. One should always listen to music the way one wants to hear it. Enjoy!
I really don't understand this:

"My entire system (including cables) and room treatment, had been chosen and designed to deal with harsh or excessive treble from lesser recordings." which you say are 30% of your listening.

so you are trying to solve a problem that isn't on a majority of your music by using tone controls.
Charles: "How does the tonality and timbre differ between the Cortese and the Montille?"

Charles, the Montille was very lively and enjoyable. I love the sound of EL84 tubes (my favorite for guitar amps.) However, it lacked the smoothness of an SET and, while amazing for a 14+14W tube amp, it was no match for the Cortese in the bass.

As a guitar player, the best analogy I can come up for timbre is that the Montille sounded like a single-coil pickup on an electric guitar, while the Cortese sounded like a humbucker. I don't know if this helps you, but the latter is much "creamier" sounding.

Keithr: "so you are trying to solve a problem that isn't on a majority of your music by using tone controls."

Keith, you are right. I wrote this review rather quickly and I should have phrased things differently. A more correct statement would be: "I had treated my room and system to smooth generally smooth the treble (something my ears are particularly sensitive to), and I still had to use tone controls on about 30% of my recordings."

In other words, even with room treatments and warm cables, I felt the need to tame the treble on some recordings - even with the Montille. Not so with the Cortese.

Thanks Alberto. I borrowed a Montille from Matt and it was a fun amp, but always have wanted to hear a Cortese. Your review is helpful!
Wise that you are keeping the Montille, Alberto. Even though the Montille is entry level, i bet you will be coming back to it. Congrats on the new amp.
Given Alberto`s comparision comments above, I think the Cortese is here to stay. There won`t likely be a return to the Montille.
I really liked that "the Montille sounded like a single-coil pickup on an electric guitar, while the Cortese sounded like a humbucker" image.

A perfect way to distinguish among two different sounds.
Jesusa0, as a former guitar player and a current Shindo and Fender stat owner, I totally agree with pick up comparison. Congrats on the new (to you) audio addition Alberto!
Charles, he said was keeping the Montille so he will likely be returning to it (and then back to the Cortese...what a luxury). The point was more that all of these amps are terrific and have their own pedigree. I think Alberto is wise to keep the Montille and have two amps.

I had a listen today to the Montrachet, the Montille, and the Cortese. I fell in love with each one and hard to pick a favorite. Yes, the Montille is the lesser of the three but given it's price point, it is the most stunning. I heard the el84 Montille, not the new 6v6 Montille.
Why would someone want an audiophile amp to sound like a humbucker - muddy unclear mids and no highs? Single coils all the way for me for full range clean sound! :)

I think the tonal imbalance you describe (high bass- low treble) may be traced to a preamp mismatch more than anything.?
Plinko- how was the Montrachet?
Hi Keithr,

I found myself quite relaxed after listening to it. The Montrachet was rich and romantic sounding. There did not seem to be as much prat (pardon, if you can subscribe to such a term) as the Cortese or the Montille. There is one problem with my analysis, however. I forgot to go back and listen to the Montrachet with the Masseto preamp. The Masseto seems to inject a dose of prat, solidity, and confidence over the Monbrison (relatively speaking, of course).

I need to go back to listen to the Montrachet with the Masseto. I will be ordering a Masseto tomorrow. I find it amazing that I was just as impressed with the Masseto over the Monbrison as I was with the Monbrison over the Aurieges...given how good the Aurieges is! !!

Sorry if we are entering thread hijack territory, Alberto. Congrats again!
6550c: "Why would someone want an audiophile amp to sound like a humbucker - muddy unclear mids and no highs? Single coils all the way for me for full range clean sound! :)"

6550c, the humbucker vs. single-coil was just an analogy to help answer with words a question about sound -- something that is rather difficult. However, by the same token, I could say: "Who wants an audiophile amp to sound like a single-coil - squacky, biting, etc."

In the end, it all boils down to personal preferences. I love the way the Cortese sounds, there is no preamp mismatch as far as I'm concerned - quite the contrary. As I mentioned in the review, I have the sound I've been dreaming of for years with this combo.
I heard the Shindo Cortese with a Monbrison and Tannoy Kensington SE's at In Living Stereo in NYC. The sound was absolutely sublime. I never purchased the Cortese because of the $, but purchased the Kensingtons (used, not the SE's which just happened to be listed soon thereafter on Audiogon at a good price) as a result. While I love the sound of the Tannoys with my Quicksilver 6C33C Triode monoblocks, I must say that I believe the Cortese was a better match (the difference being A- versus A+) and would be my choice with cost not being an object. Congratulations on a fine purchase. Also, I only hear the best things about Matt at Pitch Perfect. You are lucky to have him as your local dealer.
Aronss: You know that if we lived closer those Kensingtons you are selling would be mine by now :-). I know I said I no longer feel the *need* for bigger Tannoys - but it does not mean that I would not *like* to have them ... they look stunning!

And you are absolutely right about Matt at Pitch Perfect! I am VERY lucky to have him within an hour's drive from my home.


I also heard the Kensingtons at ILS being driven by Massetto/GM-70 combo and wow! when listening to jazz it was the most musical HiFI expirence I have had. But when we put on very dynamic classical orchestral material, the sound became stopped up like it has lost the air and detail. It was something I immedeately noticed. After talking to other Tannoy guys they felt like the 20 shindo watts was not enough for Fully expiriencing orchestral music. Have you ever noticed this?

I second and third the sentiments regarding Matt at Pitch Perfect. Great person to deal with and a first class audio dealer. Congratulations on your new amp. I've heard the Cortese at Pitch Perfect and it is indeed wonderful.
Hey guys, thanks for the kind words! Alberto, enjoy the amp, it's one of my perennial 'best sellers' and a classic in the Shindo amp line up.
Alberto, no need to play around with cables. Get the Auditorium 23's, both interconnect and speaker cables. They are the best with Shindo.
Absolutely agree that Aud 23 ICs are great with Shindo. As for speaker cable, I have found Crystal Cable to be superior to Aud 23 with Shindo amps. Looks a lot better, too. Costly cable, though.
I've owned a number of Shindo amps and these posts/comments I certainly agree with. Also, there is no doubt guitarists know their amps and tubes!
Sbayne: "I've owned a number of Shindo amps and these posts/comments I certainly agree with. Also, there is no doubt guitarists know their amps and tubes!"

Interesting comment. Yes, we guitarists care a lot about tone.

Over the years, I've invested a lot of time and effort to get a tone I like from my guitar and amp. My quest ended (i.e. no new amp in well over a year) with a low-power, class-A, point-to-point hand-wired amp - very much like the Shindo amp and Shindo sound.

I am not trying to submit that you are not happy with the sound of the Cortese, because clearly you are happy and that is ALL that really matters.

To quote you:

"On the 1-10 Alberto's Audio Deliciousness Scale, this amp is not a 10, not even an 11, it's a 12! Seriously!"

Your over the top endorsement, however does make me curious as to what other SET amps you are comparing the Cortese performance with? Where is your base line? One man's 12 is another man's 5. For the record I once owned a Cortese, so I know it performance abilities first hand.

Again, I am not trying to change your affection for this amp.

Dealer Disclaimer
David, who cares? Being a dealer for other products, your response if full of holes.
David: "Your over the top endorsement, however does make me curious as to what other SET amps you are comparing the Cortese performance with? Where is your base line? One man's 12 is another man's 5."

Hi David!

My "rating" is purely subjective and not meant to be taken literally or over-analyzed in terms of calibration. As the name "Alberto's Audio Deliciousness Scale" (and the implicit reference to Spinal Tap) should suggest, it was meant to be somewhat humorous and over the top. Just to be clear: I don't actually have a well-defined 1-10 scale, nor have I used the idea of a Deliciousness Scale before with other products.

As a matter of fact, as far as I know, I am the only person I know who has been using deliciousness as an audio adjective with any regularity.

Since I am disclosing stuff, I best admit that I also did not actually measure the twenty steps that I said the Cortese took on the musical side of the analytic vs. musical line before dropping its trouser and mooning everyone and everything on the other side. :-).

My post was motivated by the pure joy and excitement I experienced when I put the Shindo Cortese in my system and room and it not only lived up, but surpassed, many of my expectations in terms of sounding musical and delicious.

I hope, and fully expect, that anyone considering the Cortese will refer to the reviews written by professional reviewers.

I have two pieces of somewhat more objective data to share however:

1) The day after I got the Cortese, I had the longest listening session of my life. Roughly from 10AM to 10PM - with short breaks for lunch and dinner.

2) Before, about 30% of my records did not sound good to me without some form of tone controls to tame harsh highs or thin sound. With the Cortese that number has dropped to - I am guesstimating - less than 1 or 2%. I am rediscovering and playing so many CDs (and a few LPs) I had given up on.

I appreciate you disclosing that you are a dealer and, while I don't know what products you represent, I am fully prepared to believe that they might also rate highly on my subjective delicious scale.


I think people who take to Shindo gear understand its about the music. My wife is a professional musician and a number of my friends are as well. Listening and playing music is an emotional event for them. We have literally spent hours listening to record after record on my system. Office friends I have had over usually listen for about 5 minutes, say its cool looking and then ask why I still use records. Its all about the sound to them - not the music. One coworker told me his sub plays a lot lower and louder than what he heard in my system. The whole conversation was about how loud his system could play, not about the spectacular music he had just heard. Oh well, to each their own. Take care and enjoy!

Your response was nicely written and had a very friendly tone, I appreciate that. You are a very likable guy.
; 0

The next part of my response is mainly rhetorical to Kharl. Alberto, please do not feel the need to answer any of the questions I pose.


A "review" that does not compare the product in "review" to other competing products is not as helpful as one that does, IMO. Knowing ones baseline is helpful information, if one is using these forums to make buying decisions, or to make a short list.

Karl, I personally have enough experience to know that Alberto was not comparing the Cortese to SET amps that I would personally rate a twelve, on a scale of one to ten. But their are readers of all experience levels on these forums who may not be aware where the Cortese really fits in the SET hierarchy based on absolute performance.

Who knows though everyone likes/values different things in their system, and their is no "best" in audio. But I will admit I would be SHOCKED if Albertro stated the other SET amps he compared the Cortese to are the Wavac 833 MKII, Zanden Model 95OO MKIII, and the Audio Note Ongaku. Top SET performers in absolute terms IMO. If he did state this I would expect the informed SET connoisseur to be VERY intrigued. However, if he stated his baseline amp was a Sony receiver, I expect many would not be as intrigued/interested.

Just my two cents.

Dealer Disclaimer/Almost Live Audio

(Sine I mentioned an Audio Note Ongaku in my response, I want to be transparent, I am an Audio Note dealer.)
David, I don't feel the *need* to answer your questions but I don't mind doing so - especially since you noted the friendly tone in my reply. We are all here to learn and discuss.

My previous amp+speaker set up for 3+ years was McIntosh MC501s and Sonus Faber Guarneri Homage - thus not SET - but not a Sony receiver either. Over the years, I also built for myself (or bought) a few Bottlehead tube amps and still have a Bottlehead S.E.X. as my headphone amp which I used - before the Cortese - when I needed some deliciousness to make bad recordings sound good - or at least tolerable. I've also auditioned at least a dozen serious SET systems over the years - but I was probably too "young" to really appreciate them and their delicious sound. Although I am sure a few of them would have been rated highly delicious.

As an electric guitar player, I've gone through dozens of amps over the years and slowly (and expensively) converged on low-power, point-to-point wired SET amps and I am currently enjoying the heck out of a Emery Sound where I regularly swap tubes in search of tone. My favorite guitar tube, BTW, is the lowly EL84 driven by a 12AX7 with a 6X5GT rectifier to give it just the right amount of voltage "sag."

Bottom line: I haven't done extensive auditions on multiple SET amps like some professional reviewers, but I know what I like and since I know other people have the same taste as I, I thought it would be valuable to share it. I haven't read much about Audio Note amps, but I know that Art Dudley spoke highly of Audio Note speakers and, if I remember correctly, he used them with Shindo amps with great results.

It's entirely possible that I would have had a similar reaction the Ongaku, but fate led me in the warm and embracing sonic arms of Shindo, and I can only write of what I know - limited as it may be.

I'd like to conclude with three cheers for *all* audio manufacturers who have committed to addressing the tastes and preferences of people like me who value delicious sound.

Excellent point Dlanselm.

Having previously owned the Audio Note and Wavac amps you're referring to, I must agree with Alberto. Don't get me wrong, the AN and Wavac amps are stellar in their own right; however when it comes to a lifetime of listening enjoyment and the ability to invoke an emotional response within the listener, it's hard to compete with Shindo products. I feel quite fortunate to have had many wonderful audio products pass through my system over the last 20 years. The Shindo gear remains without the desire to look any further. After years and years of costly trial and error, I'll stick with the peace and harmony I currently hear every night in my living room flowing from my Shindo system...
Mr Anselm is a dealer, whom obviously spends his time trolling around forums looking for new customers and espouse his products in not so subtle ways. Not to mention hijack perfectly pleasant threads.

And I thought I was the only one that saw the full "transparency" of Mr. Anselm.

Alberto- glad you're enjoying the Cortese, I wish you many more 12 hour listening sessions.

I had a Cortese matched up with my Vosne Romanee and it is a very musical amp and seems to be a good value for the money. There are better amps out there including some others in the Shindo line. I ended up with Serious Stereo 2a3 monoblocks which outperform the Cortese in every way but of course they are more expensive. I enjoyed my time with the Cortese and am sure you will too.
You come across as someone who is mature,happy and self assured. Your reponse to David displays patience and wisdom.

The whole point of this pastime/hobby is to enjoy the gift of music and indulge as much as one reasonably can. The Shindo Cortese has brought you much joy and an emotional connection with your music collection. Folks, what`s better than that? Who cares how it compares to other amps? The point is Alberto is obviously satisfied, everything esle is secondary to say the least. An amplifier hierarchy/scale to justify one`s feelings and reactions? Oh come on now.
"There are better amps out there .... I ended up with Serious Stereo 2a3 monoblocks which outperform ..."

Doubtful, but, SERIOUSLY? Who cares? That is not what this thread is about.

We are not talking about cars here, are we?

Charles1dad said it well.
In one aspect, I TOTALLY agree with Charles1dad.

But for consumers of the thread in making purchasing decisions, the review/enthusiasm has to be consumed in the proper context. Reviewers experience, base line ... at the end it's relative.

Hello Alberto,

Thanks for answering my question. I apologize for my participation in the hijacking of your tread with my question. I thought it was harmless and relevant, it seems you did as well judging by your polite response, thank you.


I would never try and convince someone who is happy with their sound, that they should not be. I am glad you are happy.


Thanks for your thoughts. I must admit I find it funny in your attempt to admonish my transparency, you failed to make it clear you are the Shindo importer.


Yes, I am a dealer, I believe I have been very transparent about this. You on the other hand are not as transparent being so new to the forums. Interestingly, you have responded to ONLY 7 threads on Audiogon, with 4 related to Shindo you seem to have a strong interest related to a narrow group of products in these vast Audiogon forums.

Khral, I have shared my opinions on these forums for almost 10 years, over that span of time I have owned, experienced, and auditioned a lot of equipment, more than most people I suspect. This has provided a solid base of knowledge which I enjoy sharing for the social and learning aspects of these forums. I plan to continue to offer my opinions and ask what I feel are relevant questions when I believe that the answer(s) has value to forum readers.
As for your assertion that I am a troll, I don’t believe my question to Albertro, made me a troll. IMO my question was on topic. Did you find my question offensive or off topic? It is not like I chimed in and stated, he should have bought amp X than he will really be happier.

In closing Khral, it is your posts directed at me that slightly hijacked this tread, not my initial question. Alberto and I were able to communicate in a friendly manner that stayed on point.

Again, Alberto sorry for my participation in the hijack.

Kind Regards,
Dealer Disclaimer/Almost Live Audio
Interesting how this thread has (d)evolved. Based on some of the replies you might have guessed that my original post said something to the effect of: "I am currently using a Shindo Cortese and I am soliciting suggestions for another amp." Instead of "I've got a Cortese and I'mmma loving' it beyond words!" :-).

Anyhoo ...

It has been about a week since I wrote the original post and, if anything, my initial impressions of the Cortese have been solidified.

Its most endearing trait for me is its ability to make lesser recordings shine and sound delicious. I've gone back to CDs and LPs with music I really liked but that I had all but eliminated from rotation because I did not like the way they sounded (E.g. thin or harsh.)

I also continue to be amazed by the quantity - and QUALITY - of the bass.

Finally, I am blown away by the size (width, height and depth) of the soundstage. It's spectacular. Combined with the Tannoy Sandringhams (gotta give them and the coaxial speaker some credit) and the right recording, the walls and ceiling of the room disappear and I am bathed in delicious music.

My listening sessions are longer. Ending a session to sleep, eat, work, be social, etc., is difficult. What more could I ask from an audio system. If anything, it's possibly TOO addictive and TOO delicious and it's having an impact on other aspects of my life :-).

I don't mind people throwing in their $0.02 on what *they* think would be even better for *me*, *my* system and *my* ears. It's a forum after all; it's kind of entertaining to read, and it's nice to know so many people are so concerned about me having only the best in my system :-).

Fact is, after many years and many $s invested in this hobby of ours, I have developed a VERY solid understanding of what *I* like and what matters most to me in an audio system. I could spend a lifetime and all my money constantly searching for something better - which may or may not exist - or find something I really, REALLY, like, that gives me every ounce of sonic pleasure I could want and spend my time listening to music. Crazy guy that I am, I chose the latter. To quote Genesis (the progressive rock band, not the biblical one): "I know what I like, and I like what I know."

Speaking of Genesis, time to go listen to "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" - I need a refresher on those "errogenous zones" :-).


Mr. Anselm:
I happily admit I am a recent Shindo owner but very new to this internet thing and audiogone. Yes I am very into a narrow group of products. I have been in the audio hobby since 1955 when you had to build your own audio. I owned many of the classics including full marantz. I actually picked up my original equipment from Long Island City New York. I believe in buying the best and enjoying it for many decades.
Not sure I understand your tone kharl1955. As I said the Cortese is a very musical amp and I enjoyed my time with it and I am sure that Alberto will as well. Yes I have moved on from the Cortese but as Knghifi said most on this forum are trying to get information in the proper context.
Are these 10 watts somehow more capable of driving speakers than the
power rating would suggest? or do you really need 93-94db+ sensitive
speakers to consider it?
Pubul57: "Are these 10 watts somehow more capable of driving speakers than the power rating would suggest? or do you really need 93-94db+ sensitive speakers to consider it?"

Pubul, in addition to speaker sensitivity, you need to factor in: room size, typical listening distance and typical listening volume.

If you want to play Mahler at symphony levels in a 30' x 40' x 12' room, even 93-94dbs are not going to cut it.

My listening room is relatively small (14x11x8) and one of the many reasons I chose the Tannoys Sandringhams is that, in addition to slightly better sensitivity (90db) I can listen to them in "near field" ~6' from the drivers. The coaxial speaker make this possible since the sound from both drivers does not need much distance to integrate properly.

With near-field listening, not only do the speakers disappear, but the walls and ceiling seem to disappear as well. The soundstage is huge.

Alberto, you are fortunate to have a musical background. I suspect that is why you had a "musical target" for your mind/ear when building your system. Thus, when you found the pieces that hit your target you had no need to experiment further with other components. Therefore, just as you titiled it, I read your comments as impressions, not a review.

Last weekend I had the chance to hear a pair of Yorkminster SEs that a friend had home for an audition. His room is larger than yours and he was driving them with 18 watt Lamn monoblocs. It was easily one of the top five systems for overall musicality that I've experienced after several decades in this hobby. I suspect your Sandringhams offer a similar sonic signature.

Also, I agree on the benefits of a system that allows most recordings to be listenable. Uber-detailed systems that play the "warts and all" would likely make too many of my recordings less-than-enjoyable, and that is music I don't want to give up.