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Audio Analogue Puccini

[Audio Analogue Puccini SE]
[Italian version]

The Puccini is a 40 watts integrated amplifier designed with an ultraminimalist approach in mind (just volume and input selector), entirely developed and built in Italy.
Audio Analogue is a new Italian firm which is earning popularity among audiophiles because of its products (some amplifiers + a D/A converter, coming soon a CD player), designed to have a very high value/price ratio.
The amplifier I'm going to listen to has been successfully reviewed by several Italian *paper* mags and this has raised my interest even more.

The Puccini is a very interesting amplifier: minimalist but with some clever features: the AC power cord is detachable and the power switch is on the rear panel.
The detachable power cord allows us to use different hi-quality power cables with no need to open the component and install a IEC socket into it (operation which makes the warranty void, of course...).
The power switch in the rear forces you to keep the amplifier in stand-by, improving the life of the electronic components and overall performances (the warm-in period is *almost* non necessary).
To switch on the amplifier you just need to turn the volume clockwise, like those old valve radios of the '50s.
This amplifier has also a MM/MC input, just to give proper credit to the name of the brand (Audio Analogue :-)). To choose between MM and MC you need to open the amplifier and move an internal switch.
A solid cabinet with a thick aluminium fascia and four spherical rubber feet complete the Puccini, for a list price here in Italy around 900.000 liras (600$ more or less). Please consider that when importing the Puccini in your Country your national Distributor has to pay taxes, shipping costs and has to add a little margin for the local dealers etc.
So, I've given you the price here in Italy just to give you a pale idea of the cost of this amplifier. It may be VERY different once it reachs your local dealer. As usual, your mileage may vary.

Its sound

[Inside the Puccini]

The Puccini has a very well defined personality which puts this amplifier into a league of its own. It sounds refined, very tube-like, if you know what I mean: sweet and refined treble, not the usual high range of a transistor amplifier: the instruments shine of a very brilliant yet very natural light.
The mid range is somewhat similar -never aggressive- it treats female voices with a grace and an amazingly classy touch.
This amplifier doesn't know how to sound *nasty*, the musical program just flows through it without any apparent *solid-state* contamination. It succeeds in making accessible even poor recorded CDs, thanks to its sweet high range response.
The bass range is good but we would have preferred more punch and depth...but please remember its personality.
When you ask for more this delicious integrated never jells nor the sound becomes harsh: it starts reducing the overall dynamics, just to let you know it's not the case to turn that volume knob clockwise any further.
Thanks to a very lively mid-bass the sense of rythm and swing is very realistic and even the limited depth of the bass range becomes inifluent if one thinks at the ideal loudspeaker one should match with this amplifier: a compact, refined and fast freestander.
Every kind of music is welcomed by the Puccini: only with electric pop and rock one could ask more *punch* and impact but one should also remember that the Puccini is a very budget-conscious integrated with a very classy sound: for that price one shouldn't ask for more.
But, if you want the Puccini grace coupled with a *punchier* sound look no further than its brother Puccini SE: a dual mono integrated amplifier which is, roughly speaking, a double Puccini.
It costs a little bit more, of course: 1000$ more or less.

The pictures above show the Puccini SE (see the two transformers) but the two amplifiers are very similar *outside*. Actually just the aluminium front panel of the standard Puccini is less thick than the one in the SE version.

Overall dynamics

I've already pointed out that this integrated isn't exactly spectacular nor it will shake your seat or underwear :-). Plus it isn't particularly fast.
But one should interpret these features not as shortcomings but as something strongly wanted by the designer, in order to give to the Puccini this so charming tube-like personality.
Also, the Puccini can sound really loud, especially if you avoid low efficiency (less than 85 dB) partners. I've tried to force its driving capabilities coupling it to a pair of big floorstanders (Opera Terza) which are not exactly an easy task: the little Puccini has been able to drive them with autority even if it feels much more at home with compact freestanders.

The virtual soundstage

The soundstage created by this italian amplifier is rather realistic, well developed into the 3 dimensions. Height and depth are good, width is just fair. These impressions are based on the CD input since with the phono MM (tested with a Grado Signature) the ability to reproduce a realistic soundstage is a little bit worse, especially with respect to the height of the scene.
This is a little bit strange since normally LPs deliver a better soundstaging than CDs.
I don't know the reason for this strange behaviour, I just know that with the Puccini Mark Knofler (on LP) now sings as it was re-scaled.
Taking into proper account the price of this amplifier and the presence of a classy MM/MC input which sounds exactly like the line inputs except for its re-scaled soundstage, I think the Puccini is a bargain and its minimal drawbacks are easily forgiven.

How to get the best out of it

As already pointed out, this amplifier is always in stand-by mode, that is to say its circuits are ready to work well without long and tiring warm-in periods.
This notwithstanding I'd recommend to turn on the amplifier (with the volume knob) at least 15 minutes before listening to it seriously.
The Puccini doesn't overheat, even under heavy working conditions (high volume with low impedance loudspeakers) but usual care has to be taken during installation, especially to minimize resonancies. The four spherical rubber feet do have a function so replacing them with tip toes or other fancy devices is not recommended.
The detachable power cable is a very useful feature. I'd recommend replacing it with our diy shielded power cable Merlino.
Speaker and signal cables need to be fast and refined, dynamically involving, unless you want to underline the tube-like sound of this integrated. In this case sweet and smooth sounding cables are the way to go.


What a nice amplifier! Designed and built having in mind old fashioned tube amplifiers this new Italian amplifier is so delicious that you'll love it after the first minutes of listening. A very strong personality which does nothing to hide its pluses (and cons).
A budget Italian amplifier that shows once again that our HiFi industry is capable to design clever and good sounding products at a reasonable price.
At the same price you can buy a 80 watts Japanese amplifier with tons of knobs and facilities with without the Love for Music the Puccini has. Actually the Audio Analogue Puccini is more than an electronic circuit: it's more like a musical instrument.
I won't say it is the *best amplifier ever built* as the other HiFi mags would say. There are several good sounding amplifiers out there and each one of them sounds different: if you're looking for a punchy and dynamically involving amplifier please DON'T buy the Puccini. But if you're looking for a sweet and smooth Music lover...look no further.

Now available the listening test of the new Puccini SE Remote (2000 ed.)

Copyright © 1997 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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