But it is still a lean and articulate performer, totally solid-state in its sense of drive and cool tonality. I believe that it also has more natural resolution too, particularly through the treble that is now noticeably more textural and perhaps also less two-dimensional though it certainly no holographic imager. There is a dryness to the sound and certainly no artificial warmth in the way it portrays instrumental harmonics and that means that cabling will need to be carefully considered alongside speakers.
When you do pair it with the Moon Equinox RS CD player you are presented with an interesting conundrum. In many ways the CD player is very like the amplifier in its slightly stark, no-nonsense view of the music. It too is a little dry and has no sense of added tonal warmth, although it produces very good resolution within its bandwidth and delivers it in a cool flow of dynamic information. So, mating them really serves to enhance both of their individual characteristics into a distinctive style. This meant that I had to search for the right system environment in which to realise their potential.
First of all, they are very fussy where they stand. I didn’t like the effect that glass shelves had and there was little improvement when they were sat on the acrylic shelves of a Quadraspire two-tiered table either, because even though their speed and exuberance remained a constant I was still having real problems understanding just what the musicians were actually playing. I had begun my listening by using Nordost speaker cables and while the sense of fine resolution, articulation and speed was impressive, it did leave the amplifier very exposed tonally and the music often seemed bleached and somewhat colourless. It could well become a bit of a juggling act to achieve the right balance of flavours as the i-3 RS does lean towards the analytical, especially when coupled with the Equinox RS. A move to Vitus Andromeda speaker cable left the music sounding more rounded and comfortable and when I sited the electronics on a medite support they found their feet (excuse the pun) and I could better appreciate both the technique of the individual musicians and the structure of the songs. It was as though the sound, rather than the music, had lost a bit of tension and was less hurried. Sometimes you just open the box, site the equipment, plug it in and it’s pretty good from the word go. With this particular Moon combination I had to work at it, but I was glad I did because once you get it all under control there is an interesting experience to be enjoyed. This is not feet-up, pipe and slippers hi-fi. The Moon combo drives the music from the speakers in a continuous stream of sharply resolved dynamic episodes. It is unwavering in its personal portrayal of the musical picture and has transparency but limited depth. The soundstage is filled with succinctly etched morsels and details of musicianship which hang together just fine as the tempo and sense of progressive momentum is extremely good. There is no superfluous flab at all and this helps no end in portraying the rhythmic shape of whatever you are listening to. Instruments are handled crisply and dynamically with control right through the envelope of each and every note. The amplifier shares these traits with its predecessor but the shift in tonal emphasis has made it a less edge-of-the seat experience, which, across a whole music collection, is very likely a good thing.
Installing them individually into other systems was interesting. The amplifier is the more notable and interchangeable of the two. I think as it responds to higher information levels from far better quality CD players with ease. Fed by Naim’s CD555, which is a much more organic and resolute performer, it was, chameleon-like in its ability to respond to its surroundings. It still maintains its impressive speed but is more relaxed through the mid-band and has more time and space to resolve the vastly increased levels of information, both instrumental and ambient, that the Naim provides. The Equinox though, being a source component, imposes its view of the music more profoundly through the system. It is finely detailed but tonally a little monochromatic and can come across as a mite soulless and lacking subtlety and shading. When I installed it in my home system it was too black and white, with very little sense of front to back depth. The music was spread into a flat plane between the speakers and the there was little real harmonic colour around the instruments. But I certainly would not criticise the bandwidth or the extremely tight focus that the Equinox RS has in abundance. In the bass it is dynamically imposing, as well as being fast. There is a certain amount of personal taste involved here and the Equinox RS and the i-3 RS amplifier need serious consideration if an acceptable balance is going to be achieved. But, together, they do have a pronounced flavour and their strong points must be weighed against the criticisms.