Graeme Holland heads up Audion, a high-end valve amplifier manufacturer based in South West France, having traditional values and service, yet at the forefront of tube technologies. Now celebrating 25 years of supplying and creating high-end audio products, Audion goes from strength to strength. More »
Glow Audio say the amp has a “classic sound, has the punch of a good push/pull amp, without the graininess that is so characteristic of many push/pull amps in its price range. It has the sweet high end of the EL84, a tight, impressive bass output, and a natural sounding mid range. It sounds wonderful on a wide range of music.”
The retail price of the GLOW Amp Two is $1508 and will be available in February in either high gloss black or white.
There are those who argue that valves as used in audio reproduction have ‘no sound’. They are merely devices designed for amplification of current, dependent for their quality entirely on their implementation. We should forget any characterisations of EL34s as sounding sweet, KT88s as warm or punchy, or 300bs as midrange maestros with weaknesses at the frequency extremities. Such sweeping generalisations are entirely wrong, we are told, and expressing them merely a display of ignorance.
And in a purely technical sense, this is true. Given clever design, high enough quality transformers, and a sympathetic choice of speakers for any given product, limitations posed by individual valves’ characteristics can be transcended, stereotypical results avoided, critics’ prejudices confounded, and listeners’ ears delighted.
Sadly, this happens all too rarely. An initial design may be stunning but once production begins, corners are frequently cut to keep component within cost targets, limitations are exposed, and the resulting products all too often fit into stereotypical pigeon-holes. At the same time, a considerable number of designs currently in production are merely rehashings, sometimes inexpertly done, of ancient circuits from the 1950s or even earlier.
Directly heated triodes, while top of the tree in terms of audiophile desirability, are perhaps the biggest sufferers from dubious execution of all the various tube types. I used to own an 845 single ended amp from a prominent continental manufacturer, that despite a hernia-inducing complement of transformers on board needed double digits of negative feedback to hold the circuit together, and made the bass cones in my 97db Tannnoy 15in Monitor Gold GRFs sound like they were made of soggy lettuce (while it wasn’t a great deal better with many other speakers). There are certainly better 845s around than my example above (it didn’t hang about long), but getting the best out of the 845 tube, as with the 211, or indeed the 300b, is an expensive business. More »
Hi-Fi distributor Sound Fowndations has announced the addition of the CANOR TP134 valve amplifier to its portfolio of high quality audio components.
The CANOR TP134 is a high quality stereo integrated amplifier that uses EL34 output valves to generate 35 watts per channel operating in pure class A up to 10 watts per channel. The circuit boards feature patented CMT ™ (Canor Milling Technology) which means that areas of the circuit board are precisely removed to give the circuit similar electrical characteristics to one direct wired with air dielectric cables.
The TP134 features a high quality relay attenuator volume control which the company say provides a “more direct signal path with fewer contacts than typical volume controls leading to precise control and higher sonic performance”.
All control electronics, such as input switching and volume adjustment, are fed from a separate section of the power transformer and the control circuitry is only active when being used which Canor says avoids degradation of the sound quality of the amplifier.
Further the Canor TP134 boasts double copper foil shielding between the mains transformer to prevent mains noise from affecting the performance, a high capacitance anode power supply filtration providing “tight and accurate bass performance”, audiophile quality polypropylene capacitors in audio signal paths, custom designed bifilar wound output transformers “providing maximum power evenly across the entire bandwidth.
For the terminally lazy the TP134 is supplied with a remote control – Hifi Pig REALLY wants a remote control!
Price is £2495
Linear Audio Research is a little known brand here in the uk and is manufactured in Poland. It seems these days that there are some very good things hifi-wise coming out of Poland so I was intrigued to see how this modestly specified EL34 based valve amplifier would fare driving a set of amp-fussy Tannoy Turnberrys.
A little about Linear Audio first. It was started by a Polish audio engineer, Eugeniusz Czyżewski. He had been making amps for friends when he decided to go into production with his designs. Mr Czyzewski’s background includes obtaining a doctorate in technical science from the Politechnika Wrocławska, one of the foremost technical colleges in Poland. From there he had a career in the military sector before going on to form Linear Audio Research. His attention to detail certainly shows within the IA30 amplifier and this is in no small part due to the standards expected with his previous military technical support role. This attention to detail on close inspection does seem lacking today even in so called “high end” hifi.
The IA30 is a push-pull EL34 design with a difference. Particular emphasis has been paid on low distortion and an even bandwidth, so great attention has been paid to the transformer windings in the power supply and output transformers and in general to the quality of components used throughout the circuit, and the circuit layout itself. More »
Cary Audio of North Carolina have announced the new Constellation tube preamplifier from Audio Electronics by Cary Audio. The Constellation uses the 6SN7 tube running in Class-A triode mode which is coupled to a fully-regulated power and heater supply. The transformer is a custom R-core power device designed to Cary’s own specifications. The preamplifier was built with as a simple signal path with sonic purity in mind.
The Constellation preamplifier is currently available for purchase through Audio Electronics by Cary Audio’s online store or through your local Cary Audio dealer.
Weight: 22 lbs.
Dimensions: 13” L x 14.25” W x 7.5” H
Retail price: $1,495
Since the introduction of the Van de Leur Audio 002 tube preamplifier and their Audio 402 Class-D dual mono amplifier the company has received high praise and their high end audio products have been well received in the Dutch media.
Only the two products are in the range at the moment but we are assured a new product is very close to announcement.
Hifi Pig will hopefully have the amp and matching pre for review very soon.
Offering both Moving Magnet and Moving Coil stages The Violin allows for fine tuning of gain, eq, polarity and operates in Class A with no feedback.
The front-end MC gain uses low-noise matched JFETs to boost up to MM levels, where the vacuum tubes take over providing all gain, equalization and output buffering.
- Gain: 44dB (MM) / 54dB, 60dB, 63dB, 65dB (MC)
- Input Impedance: 50k (MM) / 955, 305, 170, 122, 84, 70, 59, 52 (MC)
- Output Impedance: 600 ohms
- RIAA Response: +/-0.5dB from 20Hz to 20kHz
- Bandwidth: 6Hz to 500kHz
- Distortion: <0.5% @1kHz
- Noise: 82dBA (MM) / 74dBA (MC)
- Size: 17″ x 8″ x 6.5″
- Weight: 12 lbs.
- Power: 120Vac/240Vac 35W
- Tube Compliment: 12AX7 x 2, 12AU7 x 2, 5AR4 x 1
Huw Brandt, out man from Uppsala takes a visit to Prague and the old TESLA factory in which KR Audio, the manufacturers of the Kronzilla amplifier and tubes now find themselves housed. More »
Let’s get the technical spec out of the way first. This is headphone amplifier and USB DAC in one compact little unit with a power output rated at a healthy 1 Watt per channel in Class A. It has a switch on the back to switch between 32, 120 and 300 Ohm headphones, two stereo line inputs, a stereo minijack input, a USB input and a stereo line output. It can also be used as a preamplifier…more of which later.
In the packaging you get a small instruction manual, a pair of white gloves, the amp and its hefty separate power supply. Valves fitted are 1x6N2X1, 1 x 61X1 and 1x 12AX7X1 and the whole caboodle weighs in at 5Kg.
It’s an attractive little unit being matt black aluminium with the valves being kept from harm behind individual transparent ‘cages’. On the front of the DARED is a large input selector knob where you can switch between Line 1, Line 2, Aux and USB, a volume control dial, the headphone output socket and a round, illuminated VU meter which lends the amplifier a somewhat retro feel. It’s a nice looking bit of kit measuring 180 x 220 x 150mm (LWH).
You may not have heard of DARED but the Shenzhen Danyigao Audio Equipment Limited was founded in 1995 with the “sole purpose of designing and manufacturing vacuum tube audio equipment” and DARED is the company’s registered trading name. The name DARED derives from the Chinese pronunciation of ‘Dan yi gao’ which means “high-end tube amplifier and artistry” – In English the company use “Daring, Artistic, Reliable, Elegant and Definitive” as their mantra. DARED kit is designed and manufactured in Shenzen, China, the company say that all their products are thoroughly tested electronically and by ear before leaving the manufacturing plant and that every unit is properly “run in”. The units all bear the CE mark and letters of authentication can be found on the company’s website. There is a wide range of amplifiers in the company’s portfolio with the T300P monoblocs being their flagship product – a pair of these amplifiers boasts no less than 16 x 300B valves and weigh in at 95Kg for the two!
For the purposes of this review I’ll be using the DARED with a Wilson Benesch Circle turntable fitted with a modified Rega RB250 arm with an Audio Technica AT33EV moving coil cartridge, through an Electrocompaniet ECP 1 phono stage. For Redbook CD I’ll be using the Unison Research CD Primo and I’ll be using the Hi Sound Audio Studio digital audio player into the auxiliary input to test that out too. The USB DAC input will be fed by a netbook computer with FLAC files. Headphones will be primarily Grado 325i. More »
The 50 Watt RMS, 50TNT monoblock amplifier is Ohio based Audio Power Lab’s latest product and was officially launched at the Capital Audiofest earlier in the summer. The company say the amplifier is the “ultimate marriage of astounding audio transparency and sophisticated physical design” and is hand-built by the company in Ohio .
The amplifier has taken over three years of work by a team of engineers and designers and the 50TNT is the newest addition to the company’s family of push-pull amplifiers utilizing directly heated triode output tubes, transformer coupling, zero negative feedback and pure Class A operation.
The amplifier features a tube complement of 2x572B, 2×5881, 2x12BH7 running in push pull configuration and weighs in at an impressive 27Kg.
Lampizator, the famed Polish manufacturer owned by the maverick genius Lucasz Fikus, has announced that they are to introduce a new monobloc tube amplifier for the European market only. The company are aiming the GM70s at people who would normally buy a stereo 300B amp, but with 30 WPC instead of 8 supplied by the impressive looking GM 70 triode valve.
The amplifiers are single ended from input to output and operate in pure class A mode with zero feedback. There are no solid state parts in audio circuits and the power supplies are unregulated and over-specified for the task. The GM70s boast a separate transformer for each task with a total of three per side. Signal paths have been kept to an absolute minimum with just 2 inches of silver wire from RCA to pot, 2 inches of silver wire from pot to first tube, one inch to second tube and a hop across one capacitor to main tube without additional wiring.
Dimensions WHD : 450 x 140 (250) x 600 mm
Weight: net 30 kg per each mono
Power: 30 WPC single ended class A
Power Tube: GM70 triode graphite version
Driver: doubled 6N6P
Input tube 6N1P
Input impedance: 47 K
Output impedance (speakers recommended) 8 Ohm
Volume: Stepped input potentiometer ALPS
Power transformers total capacity: 700 VA
Rectification: two separate tube rectifiers for HV
Inputs: One single ended RCA
Price 4000€ per pair plus 23% VAT with a special edition available for 5500€ plus 23% VAT
After having a long lasting and unhealthy lusting for Decware amplifiers, news that the American company was to produce a flagship pair of KT88 mono amps caused a flutter of excitement at Hifi Pig headquarters.
The Zen Torii monoblocs are designed to be your final amplifier purchase and are made to order by the company, so expect a substantial waiting time, but they do come with a lifetime warranty.
- 60 watt class-A monoblocks.
- 2 Transformer Balanced XLR Inputs – selectable.
- 1 Single-ended RCA input.
- Input level control.
- Ultra cool bias adjustment – no tools required and can be done on-the-fly.
- Large Simpson Meters – let you maintain perfect tube matching without effort.
- Exotic parts – cost no object design.
- KT88 Ultra-linear output stage.
Price is around $5500
Not everyone needs an integrated amplifier and not everyone has the room for monoblocks. The ST60P from Icon Audio is the company’s first stereo power amplifier and has no selector, no volume control and the input socket is directly connected to the grid of the first valve.
It has a big power supply, big output transformers, and uses the new KT120 valve.
The new KT120 has 50% more power than the KT88 tube.
The Ultra Linear/Triode switch on the amp allows switching from 80 watts to 40 watts of triode sound.
A built in bias meter simplifies keeping biasing.
Specifications and Features
Built in “Easy Bias” Meter
Hand wired point to point
Class A, Triode front end
Output circuit Ultralinear or Triode switchable
2x 6SL7 first stage valves
2x 6SN7 output driver valves
Valve Voltage regulator
Valve warm up, protection circuit
80w RMS* per ch Ultralinear 8Ω KT120
65w RMS* per ch Ultralinear 8Ω KT88
35w RMS* per ch Triode mode 8Ω KT120
Typical gain 70 (High) 20 (Low sensitivity)
Signal to noise level better than -97db
One line level inputs
Tape monitor circuit
44W, 40D, 23H, 35kg
Bob Carver have launched the VTA20S and will ship in July at a cost of $2100. The new stereo amplifier is rated at 20 WRMS in 2 channel stereo mode or 40 WRMS when used in single channel mono mode. The amplifier features auto biasing and low idle current greatly increasing EL84M output tube life.
Bob Carver hand-build their amplifiers in the US using point to point wiring and with no circuit board traces, no surface mount components and no depluggable connecters.
“The VTA20S represents Bob’s latest and greatest thinking on vacuum tube amplifier designs. ” says Bob Farinelli. A screen voltage regulator and DC restoration circuit minimizes crossover distortion and output tube power dissipation. “The 1.5 ohm output impedance coupled with current and voltage feedback loops also allows the amplifier to listen to the room via acoustic feedback from the speakers”. “The room to speaker to amplifier interaction delivers a huge acoustic space and allows us to believe the performance could have existed in another time and in another place. It sounds so beautiful!” Says Bob Carver.
- Input Impedance: 20K ohms in stereo, 125K ohms in mono
- Nominal Voltage Gain: 26dB (into 8 ohms)
- Input Tubes: 12AX7B
- Output Tubes: 1 complementary pair of EL84Ms per channel
- Rated Power (Stereo): 20 Watts
- Rated Power (Mono): 40 Watts
- Speaker Impedance: 4 to 16 ohms
- Noise: Better than 96dB A weighted ref. into 20 watts
- Frequency Response: 8 Hz to 40 kHz (-3dB)
- Full Power Bandwidth: 26Hz to 43 kHz without filters
- Distortion: Less than 0.5%
- Hum: -100dB
- Generator Source Impedance: 1.5 Ohms
- Weight: 17 pounds
Solaja Audio is a Serbian Hifi manufacturer of valve based amplifiers and preamplifiers and owned by designer Dragan Solaja.
The Sedra One is a single ended headphone amplifier with one input and a passive volume control. A 6N2P feeds a single EL84 per channel and delivers 0.5W per channel in triode mode without negative feedback. It’s available in 115 and 230v versions on request and will cost.
The Sedra Two is an integrated amplifier with three RCA inputs and a 62NP double triode valve feeding a single EL84 per channel and delivering 1.5W per channel. With its tiny output the Sedra Two will be of interest to flea power aficionados.
Finally the Sedra Three (Pictured) is the line preamplifier in the series and offers 3 inputs and 2 outputs. Input is a 6N6P and the rectifier is an EZ81.
Each unit is 300€ plus shipping and we have contacted Soloja with regards review items.
The Coffman Labs G1-A is a limited production amplifier that has taken three years to come to fruition, indeed it is the only product in the company’s arsenal. Featuring rare and custom parts the G1-A been designed in Portland, Oregon as something that will last for decades with proper care. It is a line stage, phono preamplifier and a headphone amplifier.
In part the G1-A has been inspired by an RCA amplifier around a century old. As with the RCA amplifier the G1-A is said to contain “nothing that could degrade easily over time”. All internal wiring is point-to-point and is hand done, though apart from the input and output wire runs are non-existent due to the 3D topology of the layout. All of the components are claimed to be “over-sized for voltage” and all switches are “military aircraft quality and rated for millions of operations.”
The Coffman Labs preamplifier is available in 120 or 24 volt versions, has a separate power supply and has a tube compliment of 2 x 12AX7 for RIAA, 2 x 12AU7 for phono boost, 2 x 5687 in the line output and a single 5ARE.
The Coffman Labs G1-A is being sold in the US exclusively through Echo Audio from June 2012 at a cost of 5500$
I’ve had this particular silver disc spinner for a little over a two years now and so I thought it about time I put fingers to keys and write a review about it.
The first thing that strikes you about the Italian unit is its distinctive appearance. For sure this isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I quite like its styling. Apart from the wooden ‘badge’ with its gold and silver Unison logo the front panel is dominated by a large LCD display and then just 4 small buttons controlling the player’s main functions. There is also the infra red receiver window for receiving instructions from the substantial wooden, yes wooden, remote control. I’ve found that the remote is pretty much obligatory as the front of the unit quickly becomes a little grubby if you use the onboard controls. The remote control looks and feels absolutely glorious, but in use it’s actually a little bit fiddly for a sausage fingered oaf such as me. More »
A lot of very interesting hifi equipment is coming out of Poland these days.There seems a real passion and drive for innovative excellence and a lot of this work is targetted at the higher echelons of audiophilia.
The item under review is a two chassis valve (tube)-based pre-amplifier, with the PSU housed in an identically-sized and -finished casing of its own.
Designed in Poland by valve-guru Andrzej Markow and built by Wojciech Korpacz whose obsession with this preamp resulted in 3 years of work on its design and the eventual formation of his own company to promote the Absolutor in its current form.
A quite thick but flexible umbilical cable links the pre-amp and the PSU, the one on the review sample was 1m long.
Drop dead gorgeous to look at – the review sample had a piano black finish with large central aluminium volume control on the main pre-amp chassis. The Absolutor pre is also available in white with a black volume control.There is a small green, not too bright, power indicator light on each chassis. the front fascias are subtly contoured. Beautifully finished, this is a work of art. Very, very, nice. More »
Zesto introduced their first product, the Andros PS1 phonostage, back in 2011 and it received a good deal of attention and glowing reviews.
The Leto claims the same “bloodline” as the Andros and promises to be “warm, musical and very quiet”. The basic philosophy of George has been to focus on only the important components of the Leto and to add nothing that could compromise the signal path. To this end the only active components in the Leto preamplifier are the valves themselves (Valves used are 2 gold pin 12AX7 and 2 gold pin 12AU7).
Using true floating transformer balanced inputs and outputs the Leto promises a lower overall noise and isolation from other equipment in the set up. The Leto has 3 sets of single ended inputs and 2 sets of true balanced transformer inputs, 2 sets of balanced outputs and 2 single ended outputs.
The Leto is hand-built in the US and has a retail price of $7500.
Hot on the heels of the original review of the Radford Revival STA15 I had the chance of a direct comparison with the original recently. I won’t say “with the real McCoy” as the Revival unit is just as “real” in terms of circuit topology and design. There were a few critics doing the rounds voicing opinions that older valves in unrestored versions were bound to sound softer, so setting the newer version in a glowing light, but if you read on, you’ll see that they completely missed the point.
During a brief recess in the downpour, which had been of biblical proportions of late, a knock came at the door last Friday and I found William Moores from Radford Revival was at the door accompanied by a large box containing an original STA15. The revival unit was still with me following the last review and so we settled down to an uninterrupted afternoon of music and amplifiers. They way it was going to go was to first listen to the system playing the recordings used for the previous review (all on LP) so that Will could get a feel for the system and each of the recordings before switching from my own amp to the Revival unit, then immediately to the original STA15. An important (as far as I was concerned) part of the review was to compare not just the sonic merits of each ‘amp, but also the physical characteristics, looking at internal build quality, exterior appearance and discussing measurements for both amps.
What’s immediately apparent is just how similar both units are – you have to look really hard to spot which is the Revival unit. A brief glance shows both to be identical, and only on second inspection do the slight changes become apparent. The biggest giveaway is the Revival unit is newer looking and everything is a little shinier, but look closer and you’ll see almost identical but better quality switches around back (taps for the transformer) on the new model, and notably that the casework lacks the crude folds of the original and is smoother and better finished on the newer model. Transformer casings are almost identical and there’s a story behind that too.
The man behind the original transformer casings does in fact still make them (in a Bristol workshop) for the new amplifier, so there’s some of the original DNA from the same pair of craftsman’s hands involved in the new amp. It’s great that Will and Steve have managed to keep some of the links with the original amp manufacture. Their attention to detail and passion for these amplifiers is what makes them what they are, true but improved copies of the original. More »
The Ming Da MC-Phono 2006 Phonostage was reviewed along with other Ming Da equipment and can be found here
New UK dealership BD-Audio, based in the lovely UK Midlands town of Malvern and headed up by Jack Durant, has taken on the Chinese designed & manufactured Ming Da brand of valve-based electronics.
Looking at the pricing of the equipment, many folk might quite understandably do a double-take – perceived value is extremely competitive, especially at the lower end of the price range. When the kit is seen ‘in the flesh’ the feeling of great value for money is further enhanced – these are lovely items to behold. Production quality seems very high and the aesthetic design is distinctive and attractive. Warranty is 2 years on the equipment and an unusually generous 1 year on the valves.
Jack paid a visit to my humble abode a few days ago and brought with him a selection of Ming Da kit for me to audition and review.
I listened to all of the equipment with the stock Chinese valves, and although I have no reason to think they are poor, you will certainly be able to obtain different sonic flavours with a bit of ‘valve rolling’.
Remarkably ugly valve cages are provided to meet CE regulations; these are easily removed for when they are not required to keep inquiring small hands or paws at bay!
Ming Da MC-7SE pre-amp
4 pairs of stereo RCA inputs and 2 pairs of RCA outputs but no fixed level output (“tape”) is available. The circuit includes five valves (tubes), four of these valves are the 6SN7 type, the other, a rectifier, is a 5U4G. More »
Purity Audio Design have announced the release of the Basis mk2 vacuum tube linestage. The Basis mk2 utilizes a Class ‘A’, zero feedback circuit based around a single 6SN7 dual triode per channel with a lower output impedance to allow better integration with a larger variety of amplifiers.
The Basis mk2 is said to “bring to the table a better sense of refinement over the original design with better resolution, transparency and detail retrieval. The larger power supply means dynamic impact remains intact during even the most demanding passages.”
Purity Audio Design also offers additional upgrade options for the Basis mk2 including a choke filtered, polypropylene power supply, signal capacitor upgrade and remote volume.
The Basis mk2 has a starting price of $2,500 US. A limited time introductory price is also being offered.
Unison Research has launched its latest integrated amplifier – Simply Italy – to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification as a nation.
Unison have created a newly redesigned version of the Simply Two that shares many of its characteristics and sonic attributes with the famous original, but with a more modern appearance. Simply Italy offers the same 12 watts per channel, but now features a 6-Ohm output impedance, increasing the amp’s flexibility for use with 4 and 8-Ohm loudspeakers.
Amplifying stages are all strictly valve-based and operate in pure Class-A mode.
The output stage for Simply Italy consists of just one EL34 in single-ended ultra-linear configuration and this mode of operation is made possible by a particular development of the output transformers, which in practice, allow the pentode EL34s to operate almost as if they were triodes. The preamp and driver stage of the power output is entrusted to ECC82 twin triodes.
Unison Research’s design department has created an interestingly designed amplifier that harks back to the original Simply Two, yet incorporates “significant aesthetic improvements”.
The wood parts of the Simply Italy are said to be important for the aesthetic design but also play an important role in damping chassis resonance and “assist the delicate electronic parts, valves etc, to perform at their best.”
The Simply Italy boasts an ALPS motorized pot, infra-red remote handset and gold-plated speaker terminals. It is available in black and stainless steel with cherry detail inserts, or cherry with black inserts.
Cost is a pound short of £1500.