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Leben CS-300

(translated from the original Greek)

By a stroke of luck (and alphabetical order), our test was to end with the amp that by merit earned the top distinction. And the fact that it comes from a Japanese manufacturer is far from coincidental. Few are those who do not know what "Japanese" means to electronics. To cut right to the chase, CS-300 is a lighter - in terms of component quality - version of the significantly pricier CS-300X. However, there is little that separates them regarding their design and musical attitude. The hard wired (boardless) harnessing and the identical topology are a fact. A pair of EL84 pentodes by Sovtek per channel deliver 2x12W to the load, driven by an ECC83 (5751) dual triode. It takes little talk to describe the superb quality, custom made power supply and output transformers, not to mention CS-300's most alluring properties, its looks, as well as a wealth of functions and connection options. On the back panel one finds five input pairs and a tape out, the load selection is effected via a 3 position switch (4Ω, 6Ω and 8Ω), while on the front panel there is a phones out, besides the excellent quality potentiometer.

To cut a long story short, CS 300 is...simply magic. I expect that very few listeners will not be overwhelmed by its absolutely expressive and minutely consistent mid range. What could one possibly comment on its energy rich, harmonically flawless treble, which catalytically contributes to the realistic reproduction of natural instruments, or its truly deep bass, with the typically 'valve like' flow and timing? Classical music lovers will fall for its sound, as it manages to convey intactly the atmosphere and grandeur of even the most demanding works, while when called upon to reproduce particularly dense motivos, it does so with virtuoso cool and self confidence .On the other hand, if classic rock productions are your thing, you will witness a transformation with clear references to the sound of good old tape recordings. Believe it or not , it adequately drove the ATCs, set to 6Ω and 4Ω, without losing any of its extreme analytical attitude, much less its expressional capability. The only instance when it demonstrated a weakness were dynamics, with crescendos hitting peaks. It is therefore more than obvious that a speaker of Solo's specs would be its perfect match, and, believe me, finding the load that really matches it is worth the bother. CS-300 will really have you dreaming ...Dot and dash...

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Tone Imports is the North American Importer and Distributor for AcousticPlan, Auditorium 23, EMT, Leben Hi-Fi, LigoLab, Line Magnetic Audio, Sentec, and Shindo Labs