The 88's rear panel should delight the techno nut. Gold-plated connectors abound, both the conventional RCAs and balanced XLRs. Output is of both types.
The volume indicator is quite novel and is a circle of LEDs in whose middle is the infra-red signal receiver (the 88 has a remote controller). As you push the up/down push-buttons, the corresponding LED indicates the volume level. This system sets the 88 apart from other remotely controlled pre-amps. The conventional type use a motor to turn the potentiometer (basically a variable resistor) and this can degrade the amp's performance. The 88 uses a series of individual fixed value resistors, and actuation is electronic and dead-accurate. The action is not unlike that of an input selector, there being a momentary silence as you move the volume from one point to the next. This arrangement doesn't muck up the main electronics.
AND so, to business. Feeding my Thiels, a resident TDL Studio 1M and a visiting Avance Signature 3, the OCM combi produced the kind of sound only a carefully designed, high-power amplifier can... Musical? You got it! Of course, it is the bass that provides the most visceral of thrills. My Thiels go deep, but not often with as much confidence or eagerness as with the OCMs. That beast of a recording, Saint-Saen's Oratorio De Noel sailed through in full majesty, the deepest notes of the organ felt as well as heard. So did other difficult CDs.
Detail doesn't take a back seat, either. To the limits of the Thiel's performance, the OCM dug deep into every recording, its powers of resolution sometimes astonishing. This makes the OCM a keen monitoring tool, and one which guarantees that the reviewer plays through all his test discs. With full enjoyment, I may add, because all the ambient information comes out, with attendant prancing space inside a wide and deep soundstage.
Verdict: Effortless sound; impressive resolution and attack; deep and wide soundstage.
* David Belles designed vacuum tube and solid state circuitry for professional and domestic audio-visual markets for over 35 years, the last 15 years concentrating on the perfection of tonal balance. His circuitry topologies are renown, and many companies hired him to bring their components to "life" so to speak. He was one of the first to design solid-state circuits that had the tonal purity of the very best tube-amps but without their measurable distortions and colorations.