Bluenote S-3 Signature Amplifier

We are already very familiar with the S series audio equipment, which is handmade by the Italian company Bluenote. In our tests, we had the younger model S-1 and the more expensive S-3. The device you see on the photo is the crowning element of the line - the only amplifiers of the Demidoff series, produced by Italians, are higher than it.

In the S-line of integrated amplifiers all models are externally identical, equally equipped and only differ a little bit in their internal structure. The S-3 Signature has a stamped chassis and a solid front panel, equipped with a mechanical selector for six sources and a motor-driven volume control. Remote control, made in the form of a round aluminum washer, does not allow you to switch sources - only the volume changes. For an extra fee the unit can be supplemented with a phono stage.

In all amplifiers of the S series the Italian developers use the "double mono" circuit, use double input differential stages (with a "current mirror"), which work in the so-called "superclass A" and are matched to the terminal section so that they do not need intermediate filters. The idea of the shortest and cleanest path for the music signal in Bluenote integrated amplifiers is implemented in a very uncompromising way - all unnecessary elements have been removed from the sound path, including those that are intended for monitoring and protection (only protection against overheating is provided).

The main difference between the S-3 Signature and the other models in the line - changed modes of the output stage. More power is taken from the output stage thanks to the enhanced cooling and power supply system. In particular, the S-3 Signature has as many as three power transformers.

The main advantage of all previously tested Bluenote models was the stage - the amplifier seemed to surround us with sound atmosphere, building up to the front stereopanorama flanks and rear consisting of acoustic reverberations.

And the weak point of the "Italians" was the relaxed bass and the general dynamics of playback. Does the S-3 Signature differ? Yes, and noticeably so.

This unit sounds sterile, without bright colors, and very meticulously conveys the texture. The sound is so clear that it even seems cold and detached compared to the other amplifiers in our review (in fact, there are no tonal deviations). There is no single criterion for the soundstage - the focus and echelon, the overall spatial scale and the corporeality of individual images are good. The panorama is a bit distant from the listener, very stable, but, alas, it has lost its charm, typical of cheaper Bluenote amplifiers. Harmonic intelligibility and microdynamics have not changed - both the S-3 Signature is top-notch. This unit has found the right balance between informative and artistic details. Music flows alive, informally, sound nuances do not fall out of the general palette, although the sound, in my opinion, still lacks a little openness.

But the S-3 Signature has noticeably better dynamics of playback. Now the amplifier does not pass up to the insensitive acoustics and copes well even with the most energetic music programs. It is even difficult to clipping this device (although I must admit that I was careful with the volume knob) - it retains exemplary tonal clarity and scene stability even at very high volume levels. The bass is cleaner, hipper and faster, the attack has improved, but, as before, there is not enough damping. So you'll have to be very careful in choosing speakers for the S-3 Signature. Speakers with a loose and heavy bass are unlikely to match the delicate Italian amplifier.

Bluenote S-3 Signature Amplifier photo