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Hirtel C40/S-Super integrated amp

15.10.2011..
..

Once upon a time, there was in Italy, a small company, making hi-fi equipments…

The reader could think: “That was to be expected. Here it is, always the same nostalgic guy, who gets crazy about vintage, in the belief that the past was better, the electronics used to play well, the tubes had superior quality…” and so on. But, this is not true, since I am not a vintage-a-holic. The fact is that the amplifier I am going to introduce is wonderful indeed. I am talking about the Hirtel C40/S-Super tube integrated amp that I keep at home with great care and pride.

Like the Arabian Phoenix, Hirtel's brand has been arousing renewed interest, thanks to Marco Gilardetti, who has devoted himself to open a virtual museum, www.hirtel.it, where everyone can be familiar with and deepen the story of the Company founded in Turin by the engineer Fulvio Lo Martire. This company was operating, between the fifties and the eighties, in a creative ferment that was permeating the social, economic and territorial context, when the Made-in-Italy was deeply-rooted in the generation of yore people.

Hirtel's brand has also been recognized and praised by Saul Marantz who said, after having visited the factory, that Hirtel is at the same level of the most qualified American and Japanese production.

How is a Hirtel machine made up? How does it perform?

The C40/S is a 20W integrated tube amplifier, with a solid make and a stern aesthetics. In 1966, the promotional catalogue introduced it as “The amplifier doomed to the public of connoisseurs and musicians thanks to its prerogatives of fidelity and power”. At that time, many artists linked up in an association called Pentagramma. They promoted a complete Hirtel audio system with the Excelsound RP250 turntable, as a response to the desire of a domestic, nonetheless hi-end, system capable of reproducing “the tone of a harpsichord, the voice of a famous soprano or… the epidermal sensation of a pop performance”. What a fantastic blending between technology and culture!

The C40/S employs six ECC83 and four EL84 tubes. It has four stereo input pairs with a sensitivity of 0,3 V, a phono input with a sensitivity of 4m V, one recording output, variable output impedances from 4 ohms up to 16 ohms. It measures 14,96" x 5,31" x 12" (380 x 135 x 305 mm), therefore a very compact, but quite heavy item. It is equipped with a programme switch on four position (phono-synthesizer-tape-aux), a function selector with five position, useful to control the switching from stereo to mono mode (mono on each channel). It has also anti rumble and anti rustle filters, a volume control, a stereo balance, in addition to high and low tone controls that are separated and independent for each channel. This machine is versatile and has very simple, although ingenious, electronic circuits, among which the Highline layout was the element of innovation and progress. Looking inside, stands out the rigour of the project, which is conceived to allow technical modernizations and upgrades. The amplifier is air-wired, wiring point-to-point, and employs a circuit board only for the phono stage. The model I am talking about has been "refurbished" with only a scanty electronic make-up. Only the power cord, the terminals of the speakers and just few capacitors and resistors have been replaced or bypassed, because Hirtel's equipments last a lifetime. That is incredible! After fifty years, is impossible to hear neither a noisy potentiometer nor a contact "scratch", typical features of the consumer products.

This integrated amp gives to the listener moments of absolute pleasure and rapture. Its performances are graceful like a ballerina dancing on tiptoes and expresses a beautiful uncommon musicality. Moreover, it is widely known that EL84 tubes encompass this distinctive feature. It is like a gentle sea breeze caressing your face. It is so natural to close my eyes and being carried away by the notes that fly free into the room, producing a wide, deep, palpable sound humus. With the multiplicity of the controls, the machine can adapt to any kind of listening room and, above all, to a wide set of loudspeakers. The Hirtel has performed wonderfully with Allison One, Altec, Quad 989, Sonus Faber, GamuT Phi7 and many other speakers. It has flirted with all of them, as the sailor does with any women when he lands in a harbour. By changing the components, the results are different, but always similar to the real music. All the results are excellent as per dynamics, softness and resolution. Instruments and vocalists have a realism, a harmonic structure that even the best solid-state amplifiers cannot make equal. Hirtel C40/S is a combination of sophisticated balance, extraordinary background of silence and musical coherence. It is free from every kind of sound cliché and can attract and involve emotionally the listener. The warm character of the amplifier is consistent from top to bottom. It is appealing, airy, nicely transparent, soft and sweet, very sweet, but with adequate extension, velocity of the transients, and great focus on all the instruments, included cymbals, bells, xylophones, vibraphones, triangles, small percussions and sound effects.

Its organic completeness can make you forget its presence and helps you to relax, sit down and get into the art of listening. Talking, for the sake of talking, about vintage yes/vintage no, in the presence of such a masterpiece, it would relapse into the reiterate practice of labelling all the things, depriving them of their true value, form and content, as well as happens with music, cinema and painting.

Actually, this wonderful over fifty creature, far from all fashions and clamouring, just with a dab of mascara, would be capable of annihilating many rolling and artful hi-fi equipments of the new generation.

It comes from a glorious past and it is here to remind everybody that… once upon a time in Italy!

 

 

Associated equipment: to Giuseppe "MinGius" Trotto system

by Giuseppe Trotto
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