Richter Mystique Valve Amplifier
I don’t know what it is about Autumn. But I interpret something about the mellow season as an invitation to shelve my Krell KSA 50 solid state amplifier and take my McIntosh MC275 and Radford STA25 tube amps out of mothballs.
I asked audio buddy Arthur Rapos of Electra Audio what his take was on this mood and time of year in Australia’s Southern States.
‘’I don’t know about you, but I’m wearing shorts and a tee-shirt and I’m comfortable! What about you man?’’ Rapos said.
Had to agree. “Same here Arthur. I’m in shorts and a tee, same as you.’’
Autumn for Arthur is all about mild weather. Coming after a heat wave of what to Melbournians seemed an eternity of days when the Mercury travelled regularly North of 32-38 degrees, mellow, hazy, Autumn days brought relief to the body – and the mind.
Arthur has just finished building a series of new Electra Audio stereo power amps with an integrated model poised to follow.
In this flurry of productive work Arthur was also matter-of-factly updating his valve pre-amplifier. He’d borrowed mine about two weeks beforehand and I was ringing him to take it easy because Phil Sawyer, the Australian Audio Research supplier had come to the rescue and loaned me an LS17SE.
I needn’t have bothered because an integrated valve amplifier was just around my corner.
Neat and Petite Mystique
Which brings me neatly to Richter’s latest gift to music lovers, The new Mystique integrated valve amplifier. A honey of a model and just the low-priced ticket to give music lovers audiophile credentials.
It’s also good enough to make audio veterans proud they stuck fat by their Leaks, Quads and Raddies when most of the world went into a solid state frenzy back in the sixties and seventies.
What’s more at $1799, the wee Mystique is an audio bargain with a capital B. But why Richter didn’t just price it at $1800 is probably down to a mistaken sense of consumer psychology.
Either way you do price it the Mystique is quite an achievement for a designed- in- Australia- manufactured –in- small- quantities-in China project. And here’s the thing: no it doesn’t plum the lowest depths of the lowest frequencies and it’s a tad rolled off at the top. And while it can’t compete with the outright steam train attack of a healthy Radford STA25, the little Richter Mystique has a full hand of its own to throw in the audio mix.
With a see-through mid-range that’s more than a nod to the venerable Quad 11’s, and a sense of musical timing that’s Naim /Nait like, the Mystique creates a highly addictive sound if it's matched to the right combination of speakers.
After long sessions with the Mystique driving a pair of Tannoy’s magical DT4 Signatures and my resident set of 15ohm Rogers LS35/A’s, I can say Richter’s Mystique simply adds to the pedigree of what good valve audio gear ought to be.
If I had to characterize its sonic signature I’d say it merges a Quad-like midrange and bass with the Radford’s treble sparkle without the grain the 25 has between the upper-mid to lower treble.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not positioning the compact Mystique in the same class as its august Quad and Radford forbears. I’m simply saying where you could look should you want to look for an approximate sonic analogy.
Retreat From The Heat
About a month ago, John Cornell, Richter’s urbane and well-liked CEO arranged to deliver a spanking new Mystique to casa Familari.
I was reluctant with an offer made during a record breaking Melbourne heat wave that turned lawns yellow and gardens to dry, dirty dust.
With humidity levels you could swim in, I signed the courier’s docket. I cursed shouldering the 15 KG Mystique in carton down our sweltering corridor to the back of our old, weatherboard house where my modestly proportioned listening room lives.
Two weeks later, the weather broke. With a cool South Easterly breezing through Melbourne and its environs, I unpacked the Mystique.
What strikes you about the Mystique in the flesh is the standard of its finish, the simple operating ergonomics but most of all the overall styling which is minimalist and evokes a sense of pride of ownership.
The Mystique’s one-piece casing is superbly balanced with left and right channel valve compliment built either side of a centre console, which itself has a wonderful nod to the valve past in the shape of an oval VU meter on the front of its facia.
So either side of the console reside a pair of 6L6 output and single 12AX7 and 12AU7 input tubes. All the tubes are sourced in East Europe and point to the care and attention Richter Australia designers lavished on the Mystiques parts, which include Nichicon capacitors and Alps volume control. Take it as given the Mystiques low-noise resistors, are audiophile grade as are the circuit boards and transformers. Cornell says the built-in 24/192 DAC is super high quality and comes with its own power supply.
Along with the USB 2.0 input for the DAC the Mystique also provides inputs for Line 1, 2, 3 and AUX.
Speaker tappings via electro gold plated terminals are 4ohm and 16 ohm. I’ve heard the Mystique sounds great via the 4ohm tap, but in the case and context of my own system, the sound fell into place via the 8ohm tap. When inserting a new piece of audio kit into an existing system, by all means read all the lit you can find but be prepared to suck it ‘n see for yourself.
In the days and nights that followed (all mercifully mild by the way) the wee 30 watts per channel Mystique charmed the people that love to drop in to my place for a quick audio and espresso.
Most loved the styling, but all were bowled over by the easy going nature of the Mystique and its magical mid-range. And please note: it’s always a positive sign when visitors are more than content to sit and listen to whatever’s spinning on the CD player rather than rifling for discs they know in your CD cabinet.
My musical fare for the last two months? Mid-Air by the Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan available as a two-disc set on Ebay for a paltry $17. The Vinyl version is sublime. I know because an audio buddy has it, but I can’t afford it.
Mid-Air is a masterpiece. I should say a deceptively crafted masterpiece. Casual listening points to simple music fronted by a vocalist. Wire up the Mystique with a decent front-end, in this case the understated elegance of Arcam’s CD35, and competent loudspeakers the calibre of the LS35/As, and what’s revealed is a subtle but complex musical architecture that will involve you effortlessly from first track to last.
Yes, we tried different genres ranging from ambient, jazz, post rock, the classics, acoustic and even some wonderful country and whinging by Iris Dement. The Mystique will remain unfazed as long as you remain adult and adroit with the volume.
Summing up, the budget-priced Richter Mystique, is a deceptive, pint-sized amp with abundant charm, poise and complex musical elegance.
Mystique Features and Specs
- Max output power: 2 x 30 Watts RMS
- Vacuum Tubes: 6l6G x 4, 12AX7 x 2, 12AU7 x 2
- Frequency Response: 20 - 20KHz (+/- 1dB)
- Distortion: < 1%
- Signal to noise ratio: > 89dB
- Input sensitivity: 225mV
- Output Impedance: 4ohm / 8ohm
- Input channel: Line1, Line2, Line3, AUX, USB/DAC
- Phono Input: No phono input is included. This is good because it allows you to choose what suits your needs and budget.
- Output impedance: 4Ω or 8Ω
- Headphone: 6.5mm socket
- Dimensions (WxHxD): 380 x 160 x 300mm
- Nett Weight: 13kgs
- CD Player: Arcam CD35
- Speakers: Tannoy DT4 Signature, Rogers LS35/A
- Interconnect: Shunyata Aries
- Speaker cable: Shunyata Phoenix
For more information: Richter Acoustics
About the Author
Peter Familari is StereoNET Australia's Senior Contributing Editor. Additional positions within the industry include appointment as CEO of the Australian Hi-Fi Association. Previous employment has included more than twenty years as Audio & Visual Editor of the Herald Sun.