Technical Brain Revisited

New EX Electronics From Japan

Equipment report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX
Technical Brain Revisited

While I can’t honestly say that these new TB-Zero/EX electronics are more transparent than the v2 versions (actually I’m not sure this would be possible), they are closer to neutral in balance—not exactly darker or more bottom-up-sounding, but no longer slightly lean or markedly top- down-sounding. Lifelike weight and color have been added to the midrange, the lower midrange, and the bass octaves, and so has dynamic oomph. Though the TBP-Zero/EX isn’t the equal of the Soulution 500 in sheer mid-to-upper-bass and power-range slam, it does have considerably more midbass slam than it had previously, coupled, as noted, with inherently richer, more saturated, more realistic color and body from the power range right through the upper mids. And, of course, it still has that incredible resolution and transient speed, which keeps it just a step ahead (in these regards) of even its finest and fiercest competition.

Let me talk about that transient speed for a moment—and about what it and the TB- Zero/EX’s newfound richness of timbre can buy you on the best recordings. Once again, I’m going to point to George Crumb’s Four Nocturnes for Violin and Piano on the great Mainstream/Time LP, simply because this piece (and everything else on this record) is capable of sounding “fool-you” realistic when it is reproduced by a great speaker, great electronics, and a great analog source component.

As I noted in my DaVinciAudio Labs’ Master’s Reference Virtu tonearm review [Issue 230], the second Nocturne is played (by violinist Paul Zukofsky) almost entirely pizzicato. There are passages where the piano is also played pizzicato, with the pianist Gilbert Kalish plucking the notes by hand rather than by key in “string piano” fashion. Glissandos and pizzicato glissandos are also sounded by both instruments, which, as I noted in the DaVinci review, give this eerie night music a swooping, sharply punctuated this hard transient with an immediacy and intensity that not only thrills the ear but that also sounds uncannily and unmistakably like the real thing. sound-quality reminiscent of that supreme masterpiece of night music, Bartok’s Third String Quartet.

Though violin pizzicatos are always short and percussive, they aren’t always as “strong” as they sound in the Crumb piece. The sharpness of their report is due, in some part, to the unusually close miking of both instruments (and to the mikes themselves); in larger part, it is owed to the way the pizzicatos are being played. These are so-called “Bartók pizzicatos,” in which the string isn’t plucked lightly and/or obliquely but plucked hard vertically, so that it rebounds off the fingerboard of the instrument with a loud snap. The Technical Brain TBP/TBC/TEQ/TMC reproduces sound-quality reminiscent of that supreme masterpiece of night music, Bartok’s Third String Quartet.

As I noted in my ARC review [Issue 229], electronics always play their own little tricks with the timing of notes, slightly slowing down their durations so they lose a bit of initial transient energy but gain density of tone and decay, or slightly speeding them up so that the transient part of the harmonic/dynamic envelope gets accentuated (and impact and goosebumps are elevated) while the full utterance of tone and decay are somewhat scanted. At one point in time, I would’ve said that the Technical Brain gear was closer to the latter model than to the former. Not so, anymore.