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Riviera Labs - Italian School of Super Hi End Audio

edited November 2019
Introducing the Italian School of “Super Hi End” ‪on June 15, 2019‬ at AE Sheung Wan Branch.
AE proudly presents Riviera Labs of Italy to connoisseurs in HK/China.  Luca Chiomenti and Silvio Delfino of Riviera Labs will come to greet us all this weekend.  As founder of AE, the gears I use at home often illuminate attention.  The front end is JMF Audio 3.7 universal transport/DAC 2.2, which needs no further introduction given endorsements worldwide.  The lesser known is the amplification chain.  I have been using the Riviera Lab APL-01 line-stage and AFM-50 mono amplifiers (Class A) driving the Goebel Epoque Reference speakers (85db sensitivity) for almost a year.  Until now, I have not experienced a better amplifier driving this relatively inefficient German speakers.  

A professional clarinet player, Fred Fung, had visited this system once in ‪Dec 18‬ and subsequently wrote a review article:
The theory of Luca Chiomenti involves neuroscience.  The distortion distribution of Riviera Labs’ amplifier follows the human ears after certain threshold of sound pressure level (SPL) is reached.  The human brain could then recognize it as if this distortion is generated within the brain. Why is this important?  Because our brain generates wave to neutralize such distortions automatically.   

Minimisation of distortions from the measurement perspective is still crucial according to Luca.  But there is a catch here.  Audio electronics are made for the ears to consume musicality.  The ends are not made for measurement instrument which is a linear input-output system.  The construction of human ears is a non-linear system, however.
Which approach convey musicality better? Absolute annihilation of distortion should safeguard certain level of standard.  I have no doubt about this point.  But does it always translate better in musicality terms?  That I don’t know until I encountered Luca’s school of thought. 

Indeed, my home system under the baton of Riviera Labs naturally commands the grandeur of symphonic crescendo, tranquility of music conscience (Milstein’s violin for example), and the spontaneity of a countryman singing a folk song.  The picturesque experience is further enhanced by Tripoint Troy Elite.  
For the sake of running a full Italian course, I shall introduce the Elettra, the flagship speakers by Casta Acoustics from Italy.  I admire the 2-way design concept of it very much. I replaced the original feet of Elettra to Revopods. And it really touches me and a few connoisseurs. Please read the last post on 

They will be driven by APL-01 SE line stage and the world premier of AFM-100 SE mono amplifiers.  Digital front end is Wadax Arcadia DAC. Analog source is the almighty flagship Vertere record player with top configurations in partnership with Robert Koda Takumi MC One phono stage. 


See you all

1st session: 10:00am to 12:00pm
2nd session: 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Chris Leung/JLam


  • See u tomorrow.  Darth Vader and Yoda will come too
  • They were preparing for the event. They really worked hard in the showroom using all available acoustic tools to achieve perfection. And they discovered a resonance point!  Luca was ear-testing while Silvio was manually lifting up an Audio Replas diffuser against a column on the ceiling. They tested inch by inch!

  • The profundity of the “Italian School of Super High End” event was immense.  It was one of the most joyful functions ever.  

    The session was alternated by music and philosophy/technology explanations. The choices of music materials were carefully selected to demonstrate the uniqueness of the system by progressing the difficulty of reproducing them.  

    Musicality chilled the nerve of all participants.  Nathan Milstein showed his ability to draw out the most ringing tone from the violin by speed and energy of his bow. Vibrato was well controlled. The purity of his intonation touched our senses gracefully.  

    An unforgotten cellist, Daniil Shafran from Russia, playing Schubert’s Arpeggione, was another real stun.  His uncanny command of the highest registers of the cello was mastery.  The unusual fingering of Daniil in the uppermost soprano range was “visible” to the eyes.  The palpability of the cello was so dimensionally real as though he was playing in front of us.  His cello made by Amati was slightly less than full size, which he held more vertically than other cellists, was accurately rendered by this system.  That was the reason why all felt the imaging of his cello was so real. That shocked me and some off the chair!

    And then came Maria Joao Pire.  She tripped through the roulades with filigree dexterity.  Her tone was so thoughtful, serious and occasionally spontaneous.  I have to credit the beauty to the Fuuga cartridge.  This piano playback is the most realistic I have ever experienced anywhere.  

    Then, the radiance of Sally Yip’s live performance of 情人知己 was breathtaking.  Even though it is a digital format 24/96 playing through Music Core server/Wadax Arcadia DAC (entry level), many participants in both sessions said to me, “my skin 起鷄皮”.  In the 2nd session, they encored this track to the betterment of musical sensibility. 

    The last demonstration of Gladiator probably quickened heartbeats and raised blood pressure somewhat because of the very wide dynamic contrast at very high sound pressure level (preamp volume position at 3 o’ clock).  Yet, the stage was stably presented with clear structure layered with overtones and depth. It is not the best recording quality amongst all, but 1/3 of the participants reported “sweating in their hands” to me afterwards.  But there was no fatigue at all, thanks also to Tripoint Troy Elite.  And the flagship Elettra speakers by Casta Acoustics is another big surprise to all. 

    Although Luca’s theory is not easy to comprehend at first, the demonstrations fully convinced us.  In fact, human brain auto corrects “distortions generated by the cochlea inside our ear” beginning at 90db SPL.  This is the same for all human regardless of race, age and sex.  (Please do not confuse this point with hearing ability, which differs from one to another.) 

    Human brain could eliminate the distortions ONLY IF the brain recognises the “distribution pattern”.  The shape of it follows a gentle downward slope (X axis is frequency range and Y axis is distortion measured in db.). Our brain does not recognise any other pattern of distortion distribution even if  distortions are zero.  Indeed, if zero distortions are the ultimate goal of musicality, then how do we explain amplifiers with low distortion figure sound different?  

    That is why Riviera Labs Electronics do not aim to achieve zero distortion.  Instead, the goal is to reproduce the distortion distribution so that our brain could recognise, and let the brain correct for us.  Executing this profound idea requires the conflation of Class A topology, absence of global feedback and the use of a single end triode in the input stage.  Even the construction of “power transformers” inside the power amp has to be build like “output transformers” of tube amplifier.   The AFM-100 SE mono block amplifier (Real Class A from the 1st watt all the way to 100 watt) is probably the only amplifier in the world exemplifying these characteristics at the same time. 

    I could see the discussions yesterday were not so driven by audiophile languages.  There are many different routes leading to Rome.  We certainly learnt something new yesterday. That was fun.  

    I am happy. 

  • One of the best demos ever done on Sat.  Thanks so much for organising this at such high pressure political environment. The theory is interesting and my ears told me that was right. 
  • The passion was fully felt.  That was a very good point about cello. No wonder the imaging is so crazy.  I didn’t know Shafran’s cello is less than full size and he held it more vertically than others. I fully felt this on Sat. Wow... that was crazy performance. 
  • The cello was certainly great especially after the historical facts were revealed. That really add value to the whole audition experience.  I am equally stunned by piano playback.  Each note has its depth perspective, it is so damn real in a graceful way.  The Fuuga cartridge is truly special, I believe, contributed to such solidity. The gladiator track fully showed off the meaning of control.  Chris was right about the speakers at AE Sheung Wan since the days of Tidal Sunday and T1 subwoofer, all subsequent speakers have an active subwoofer. But this Elettra by Casta Acoustics is the only full range passive speakers ever being used here.  That is quite a phenomenal speakers.  It was great event on Sat. Thanks 
  • I am back!  Hope this long enduring sign on issue will be gone forever with the revamp of this Forum.

    Certainly I was one of the fortunate individuals who could join the sessions on last Sat.   Prior to that, I read again the Facebook article written by PT introducing the ground breaking design concept of Riviera amplification.  I heard the same theory explained to me about 1 year ago when PT first brought in the brand on how human brain has the same and consistent ability of neutralizing sonical distortion.  Such ability is the same across race, gender and age according to many scientific research.  Riviera has actually managed to decipher such complex neural distortion pattern and captivated into the design of their amplification system.  This is quite a different school of thought as opposed to  the ‘absolute sub-zero’ distortion design.  

    I earn my living as an IT guy and over my life I have heard thousands of design theory on programming, optimisation, data, security, etc.  Ultimately a theory is useful only if it works practically otherwise, it is just a sale pitch.  Likewise, in the audio space, how many 3-4 letters acronyms we come across when a new generation of product is launched claiming the birth of new technologies.    

    Early this year, myself and my family went and visited PT and listened to his system home which is usually THE MOST insane and crazy.  I wrote my impression in AE facebook afterwards but in short:  I am utterly convinced garnering all my listening experience in PT’s home and AE showroom.

    Indeed last Sat session was also one of the best performance in AE showroom among all the previous mega systems that have been put in place.  Everything is well calculated and integrated from the matching of the impedance from source to amp and amp to speaker to the choice of cables and even to the choice of music and sequence of playing.  Everything is meticulously calculated and done with one and only one objective:  To Shock Every Single one of us!  I believe PT is counting the number of ‘lost souls’ after the audition to assess how successful the session was.  Marvel certainly contributed one!

    I thought I can stand and resist the continuous bombards of the enticing and live like music first coming out from the locally made music server Core designed by Edison followed by vinyl under the baton of Funga cartridge, Vertere full loaded record playing system and Robert Koda MC1 super ground phono.  My sense of survival after the 1.5 hour session was totally collapsed when PT played (upon my request) the RCA recording of Shafran playing Schubert Arpeggione on Cello.  Again, I bet this may be another calcuated move by PT as he knows I am a big fan of such Schubert piece.  I felt myself melted into the music and for the first time during that session, I can feel the heat from my charged heartbeat started moving up to my head turning into tiny sweat in the hair buds.  A survivor of Gladiator played at 3 o’clock SPL found his soul lost in this cello sonata piece!  Isn’t it ridiculous?  This is a resonance, a resonance of my brain with the music floated in the air, a resonance between my brain and the amplification which is designed to ‘neutralise’ the ultimate hidden distortion that stands between human and electronics!

    I need a discussion with Joan/PT on how to redeem my lost soul!


  • Jlam (not Joan - auto correction by iPad)
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