Hong Kong Audio Visual Show 2012

For many, Chinese manufacturing means the availability of high-end products at previously undreamed-of prices. Where once a CNC-machined fascia was a serious statement of high-priced, high-performance intent, now they are everywhere, underlining the potential dangers of drinking by the label; what’s on the outside tells you little or nothing about what’s on the inside.

While the standard of Chinese casework has narrowed the visual gap between the great, the good and the sonic also-rans, the gulf in available performance has rarely been wider. Yet, despite the flood of dubious-sounding designs, there are some brands that have worked hard at developing a solid reputation for delivering value and quality. Chief amongst these is Shanling, whose massive range of (mainly) tube-based electronics embraces everything from CD players to flea-powered triode amps -- visiting all stops in between. Just to show that they’re not losing their touch, here’s one of their latest offerings.

Decidedly Krell-esque in appearance and scale, the A3.1 is a substantial hybrid integrated amplifier with a 12AU7 front-end driving Sanken solid-state devices in its output stage. Output power is quoted as 200Wpc into an 8-ohm load, the beast weighing in at nearly 65 pounds. But beyond the slickly finished casework and recessed, motorized volume control, the most eye-catching feature is the price: a mere $11,500 HK (approximately $1480 US) to you, good sir.

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