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I was supposed to do this review in January, but the local FedEx and customs decided they wanted to play around with ALO’s latest portable tube amp for a few months, and so here we are in May and I am 5 months behind. Is this review even relevant anymore, being so late? I don’t know how many other ALO Continental V3 reviews have been published in the meantime, but I decided I’d still go ahead with mine, even if it’s to be brief.
The way I understand it is that between V1 and V2, ALO only added little things like a gain level switch, but overall there is no major changes in terms of sound. The V3 however addresses the one thing about the Continental, one of those “it’s a very nice product overall but I wish..”. That “I wish” stems from the fact that when we listened to the PanAm, we very much liked the fact that it sounded a lot like the Continental, but with a fuller bass body and overall bigger sound. I sort of understand the bigger sound as the PanAm is meant to be a higher up model, but I wished that the Continental would come with a similar bass body. After all, that clear full midrange would sound extremely nice with a full bass body.
So here we are, and like the cliche “be careful what you wish for” phrase, the Continental V3 now comes with more bass body! I don’t know if ALO actually reads what I write on my previous reviews or if they’re just thinking the same thing I’m thinking cause I never said anything to them directly (or did I?). As I went to do a direct comparison with the Continental V2, I also picked up something else as a bonus: The V3’s soundstage is noticeably larger! WHOA! And lastly, the midrange is less upfront, and the overall tonality is slightly darker. I love dark tonality and so that last bit is very welcome to me, but I know that some people have told me they’re missing the V2’s midrange on the V3 and by that they probably mean they want a more pronounced midrange. Cause everything else about the midrange is pretty much equal, the V3 is just as clean, just as smooth, just as clear, only less pronounced.
Compared to the PanAm, I also find the Continental V3 now possessing an even fuller bass body. Likewise the tonality is also darker on the V3. Obviously one thing I can’t match with the Continental is the PanAm’s overall bigger soundstage and dynamics, even with relatively easy to drive dynamic-drivers like the Beyerdynamic T5p (32Ω). Not that I’m expecting the Continental to kick its big brother’s ass, but I’m just giving a frame of reference here.
All the changes I’m hearing on the Continental is right on from my ears’ frame of reference. Fuller bass that doesn’t translate to a boom-boom bass, bigger soundstage and a less agressive midrange. I think the part about the midrange may be a minus to some, just like some people prefer the newer, brighter version of the LCD2 to the first gen LCD2 that IMO is the best LCD2 version. Other than that, the Continental needs no further words, no other portable amp in the market at the moment can even come close to matching the Continental’s superb black background, clean clear spacious full sound with the signature midrange bloom you can only get from tubes.
Next time I’ll try to pitch the Continental in a formal comparison between the SR-71A, Portaphile’s 627X, and perhaps a Triad Audio L3. Gotta go pick up tougher opponents for the Conti.