As S.E.T. worshippers - even those seduced by the 300B - continue (incessantly) to remind those immune to their charms, the 'special element' is a mid-band richness which adds to the sense of involvement. More to the point, it realism, which might seem like a contradiction in terms. Realism is realism, and enhancements can only alter. But there's no other way to say that the music seems more real; only to accuse other technologies of sounding more like hi-fi. And maybe it's the core of the Tubes Vs Transistor battle which has been raging for a couple of decades. Which means that S.E.T.s must be the most undiluteded form of tube playback available, rivalled only by the far more rare OTLs.
So, rather than a hazy, cloudy form of updated anachrophilia, the Simply 845 provides a level of transparency and clarity with which modernists can feel comfortable, at the same time ensuring that vocals and acoustic instruments are not stripped of any of the presence or richness which separates hi-fi from music. No feeling of filtration intrudes, no clouding nor removal of desired edging due to the selection of 'vague' tubes (read: 300B). And any sense of reticence vanishes as soon as you try a recording with a single voice in front of an orchestra or chorus. Big Daddy's 'With A Little Help From My Friends' showed that the Simply 845 is not shy, that it hides nothing. The vocalist appeared stage-centre, the backing singers arranged behind. Neatest touch of all? The vocalist stood just in front of the line of speakers, the backing group just behind.
With even the often-too-polite Quad ESL63s, the sound had snap, power and forcefulness. Impact was provided as needed, while bass extension - heard through the Quads - proved yet again that Peter Walker was right about the ESL63's lower registers and everyone else was wrong. And the main question: the wattage? Better than adequate, if you don't mind the following unscientific observation: the Quad electrostatics and the Ruark Epilogues filled my 14x26ft room with the volume control at 11 o'clock, the hungry little Quad 77-10Ls at the half-way mark, Opera Plateas at 10.30, the old ESLs at 10 on the dot.
And the amp never overstepped its role, never inflicted too much warmth nor too much tubey-ness. And, referring back to my own particular belief - that designers' personalities can be found in the sound - the Simply 845 doesn't fail me: it has the gentility and sheer class of Prof. Sachetti, and the utter precision and command of his partner, Dottore Ambrosino. Those of you who met the pair at the Hi-Fi Show know that's a fairly accurate description of the two.
All of which makes the Simply 845 something of an ideal single-ended triode amplifier for those who want to avoid inconvenience, criminal pricing, crude construction and - most importantly - a lack of power or an excess of euphonic coloration. No S.E.T. will ever be populist - indeed, no valve amp ever will be again; the transistor saw to that. But for those who want their music alive and well and living in their listening rooms, one choice is - simply - 845. And when you hear it through the ESL63s, you'll know what an unbeatable combination 'Anglo-Italian' can be.