In essence, the Beard slaughters vintage amplifiers in the lower registers. Its bass is drier, more extended and more controlled than any of the Great British Vintage Valve Triumvirate, with only the Radfords approaching the BB30-60 for damping and speed. Mercifully, the sound avoids solid-state surrogacy (even in the more aggressive monoblock delivery), so the BB30-60 isn't a tonic for inherently floppy-sounding speakers. But it will tighten up small ported designs which need a bit of discipline. Where this amp sings, where it's at its most Leak-like, is in the mid-band.
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Given that the bass tends toward the dry and the treble is smooth and quick, the sound is easy to perceive as richer and fatter in the middle than at the extremes. How much of this has to do with the choice of output valves isn't a mystery, and Bill insists that the Sovteks are his favourite tubes for reproducing opera. Other amps I've tried with EL84s - almost exclusively vintage, I hasten to add -- are nearly as warm and lush on vocals, if nowhere near as clear and detailed. Given that I don't listen to opera even though I understand it, I turned to Jakie Wilson's and Etta James's voice, the latter able to range from crystal clarity to a throaty roar even in the same phrase. (Check out the new Chess/MCA mid-price compilations and for evidence.)
Talk about emotional: this amplifier shots, cries, wails and whispers as required. A touch of reticence (in stereo mode) exaggerates the stage depth, especially on Quad ESL 63s, so there's a slight physical distancing, but it doesn't lessen the impact. No doubt about it: this is an amplifier for music lovers who want intimacy, without the sound being 'in your face'. It's almost a contradiction, and it can be altered by the choice of speakers, but it's something else to play with while system building.
Soundstage fanatics will recognise immediately the BB30-60's sheer competence in recreating an ample, well-defined three-dimensional presentation, which stops just short of the widescreen effect. The latter may be desirable when trying to dazzle a punter in a showroom, but it's artificial; the soundstage created by the BB30-60 stops just past the outer edges of the speakers, just far enough to make them 'disappear'.
If there's any downside to the BB30-60, it's precisely the trait which makes it so appealing to one sort of audiophile. The vintage sound, despite modernisation in key areas, is an anathema to those weaned on pure digitalia. This is sound which sweats along with the music. It's uncensored, unpasteurised, unfiltered...almost . It will not amuse those who cherish the synthetic or the sanitised
The BB30-60 is why we like valves.
Read a review of the Beard Audio BB100 Tube Power Amp here...