Dare I describe the character as classic valve sound? Let me justify that by suggesting it sounds the way that the uninitiated think tube amps should sound. The midrange had that warm, tangible quality that was immediately inviting, while further down the audio spectrum upper bass had a mildly rich, slightly ‘plummy’ quality that seemed to suit small speakers well. It was with the Tannoy’s that shortcomings at the frequency extremes were evident; yes the treble was a little bit untidy and now that the bottom end was really evident, it lacked precision and a certain grip, more evident as the volume went up - but hey, this is not an Audio Research. I’m sure it would have been possible to refine the presentation of the 252 in these respects, but I have a feeling that it would have killed the performance in an area in which the Fatman is really quite good; the ability to endow music with a sense of life and purpose, with a realistic portrayal of the dynamics that matter.
To put the Fatman in perspective, there are an awful lot of sub £1000 amplifiers appearing from the Far East at the moment, and one only has to spend a little more to reach the territory of models such as the Prima Luna and the Pure Sound A30, which offer more power and up the ante considerably in terms of performance. But that slightly misses the point; the 252 is a very neat, elegant product that delivers a musical and enjoyable performance way beyond most of the solidstate lifestyle or i-pod associated equipment, and that is where it will really score, as with the included dock it is undeniably good value for money.
The more specialist appeal of the Minimax lies in its ability to match a beautiful liquid midrange to a degree of authority in the bass and an open and extended top end that very few valve amplifiers of this breed can match. With a number of interesting loudspeakers offering suitable efficiency there is the opportunity to maximise the potential of this little amplifier, enjoying what it does well, without too much compromise in other areas. If single ended triodes are your sort of thing, you should listen to the Minimax as it offers a very interesting and in many ways a better balanced alternative.