It's hard to convey how a system's sound can have real weight and mass without being overpowering. Even with no subwoofer and through small speakers, the Trilogy builds up a sturdy foundation to support bombastic works like the soundtrack, while at the same time demonstrating a type of restraint. Not mean reticence, or a truncation of the bass; it's more a case of correct proportioning. Let's face it: neither the LS3/5A nor the old Quad would satisfy even the most rudimentary requirements of the latest dance groove creation. Even so, the VTi's sheer solidity and coherence flattered those speakers, while it could exploit the Wilsons' prodigious bass until asked to play too loudly.
So matter-of-fact is the bass that you soon factor it out of the equation when in assessing mode: you simply don't have to concern yourself with it. Rather, to identify the VTi's personality you look to the midband and treble region. Or, to be unabashedly honest about it: the very regions which led you to consider valves in the first place. You know what's coming: the VTi loves reproducing voice, especially textured ones with character - think Louis Prima, Johnny Cash, Nat King Cole. If anything, crystal clear voices of the distaff redneck variety are almost too easy, too sweet, too clear. What struck me about the Trilogy was the sheer palpability of male voices, even when sourced from mono. And without wishing to invoke the rules of PRAT, I have to acknowledge that the VTi likes to swing. Hell, this unit should come packed with a CD of Prima's classic 'Just A Gigolo' to demonstrate its prowess.
But that wouldn't show you how wide and deep is the Trilogy soundstage, more so through the LS3/5As and Wilsons than via Quad. The latter seems unchanging in its portrayal of space, probably because it radiates in a more wide-open manner. With hot seat specialties like the LS3/5A and the Wilson, the Trilogy performs a magical disappearing act, rendering the speakers invisible. Quite audibly, the sound in both cases was definable a good yard behind the line of the speakers, and a couple of feet on either side.
If the VTi has a downside - beyond the way that you will never find CD player that's an aesthetic match until Trilogy makes one - it's that you can reach its limitations too easily. Try blasting it with anything of less than 90dB sensitivity and it goes limp - not through nasty clipping, but a sensation that it's run out of juice and would you mind lowering the volume? Or buying a pair of Lowthers? In this regard, it reminds me of the long-forgotten, ultra-rare Lentek Class-A integrated of 20 years back: it could be its clone in everything bar the use of valves instead of transistors.
So, is Trilogy's second decade on to a good start? Absolutely. The VTi is something special, the sort of product which, despite its clean appearance, will keep you on a path of discovery for a long time, the unit revealing itself slowly. But, like Unison Research and Nightingale amps, its appeal will be restricted until there's a matching source component. Why? Because, like a Savile Row pin-stripe among neon shell suits, it makes everything else seem to damned fussy.
*By hungry, I don't mean just a need for sheer wattage: the Wilsons are easy to run in that they have high sensitivity. But the load is quirky, and they seem to work best with amplifiers of seemingly unlimited reserves of power, to best preserve the speed and dynamic contrasts