The Allnic T2000 integrated push-pull tube amplifier has been a real breath of fresh air. It is one of only a very few products I’ve had here for audition in the last two years that has not given me a single moment of anxiety.
Let me explain. While there are products out there that deliver honest-to-goodness sonic value, that’s not the norm. A lot of kit is ho-hum and underperforming for the money, and some of it spectacularly so. And yet manufacturers, distributors and dealers go to sometimes considerable lengths to provide review samples. It’s their livelihood, so one should expect them to invest in the process, but still, a generous nature makes me want to be kind to them. On the other hand readers of reviews have a right to be alerted to possible product shortcomings. If the reviewer fails in this duty, then what value should we put on what they write?
In the end reviewers learn to manage the tension by getting better at simply politely returning products that really don’t come up to scratch, and by writing reviews that give nearly-there products their due in areas where it is merited and which draw attention to shortcomings in a way that seeks not to be gratuitously offensive. After all, and I think this observation is perhaps of all audio components most true of loudspeakers, what any of us hear is not simply the product before us but how it interacts with the rest of the system and the room. Something that sounds poor in my system and my room may sound rather better in your system and your room. Sometimes it’s wise just to cut a product a bit of slack.
No such anxieties with the Allnic T2000 though. It is a 40 kilo hup to lift a T2000 out of its double-box packing and plonk it in place. We can then see what our £6,500 has bought us.
The T2000 is impressively built, but in a gently pimped kind of way. If you like tasteful bling with your audio, then you’ll probably really warm to its looks. The chassis is sculpted aluminium with a substantial and quality feel. The mains and output transformers are arranged in a row at the back third of the chassis and hidden under substantial shrouds while the tubes populate the front two thirds, each of them sited within a clear plastic chimney with a perforated aluminium disk atop. To my mind this is a more aesthetically pleasing way of preventing burns from accidental contact with hot tubes than the visually disruptive and bulky cages adopted by some other manufacturers. Two biasing meters with associated trim pots nestle amid the tubes.
At the back are four pairs of RCA inputs plus a single pair of XLR inputs and a pair of RCA pre-outs. Four speaker cable binding posts, a toggle switch to select 4 or 8 Ohms loads, and an IEC mains inlet complete the rear panel. At the front a central volume control is flaked on the left by a power button and a triode/pentode selector – more of this later – and on the right by a rotary input selector and vertical string of indicator LEDs. The selector and volume control have a quality feel to them.
I connected the T2000 to my Audio Note An-E speakers with Cut Loose silver and palladium speaker cable, and to my Audio Note DAC4.1 Balanced with Cut Loose silver single ended interconnects. I tried a standard-issue kettle lead, Audio Note copper Isis and Cut Loose silver mains cables with the T2000. The amplifier was not too fussed about the kettle lead, but it liked the Isis and loved the Cut Loose which enabled it to breathe and sound more muscular and expansive.
Turn on the T2000 by pressing the front panel button and not a lot happens for the first 40 seconds or so while the amplifier goes through its soft-start cycle. There’s then a soft click and the Allnic is ready for business. The needles of the bias meters continue to move for a further minute or so before settling. It is a simple and quick job to adjust bias so that all four of the KT150 output tubes is operating in the ‘good’ zone. I did it once at the start and didn’t have to touch them again.
Ah yes. I hadn’t mentioned the KT150s had I? In its original and commercially very successful incarnation the T2000 was equipped with KT120s but the amplifier has now been equipped with the relatively new KT150 tube. The 150 is able to achieve 70 Watts plate dissipation, ten more than the 120, and it has a distinctive egg-shaped glass envelope that designer and manufacturer Tung Sol claims lessens tendencies towards the microphony that tubes with parallel sided glass can be prone to. More grunty though the 150s are, Allnic has maintained the T2000’s original output of 70 Watts per channel into eight Ohm loads. One may expect that this, and the soft-start, translate into a potentially longer service life for the driver tubes.
I have not heard a KT120-equipped T2000, but the earlier generation of the integrated amplifier won several very favourable reviews. The new generation unit that I received from Richard Morris at Lotus HiFi was a virgin. “Give it a really good running in,” was his instruction.
I left it running for three days before I sat down to listen, and was immediately and massively impressed with what I heard. Sonically the T2000 reeks of very serious and knowing engineering expertise. At Home, the opener to the Tord Gustavsen Trio’s album Being There begins with Gustavsen playing an almost unbearably reflective and deceptively simple piano figure before being joined by equally restrained brushed drums and then stand up bass. It’s a typically dark and shut in ECM recording and yet the T2000 positively illuminated it. I’m not saying the T2000 tends to colouration; in fact the reverse is true. It’s remarkably neutral and uncoloured amplifier. And yet illumination is the right word. The T2000 sounds very powerful and yet at the same time quick on its feet. That subjective power and the nimbleness combine to produce a presentation, whatever the recording, that has dynamic contrast and drive in spades, sounds refreshingly open and is hugely satisfying.
I don’t think this forwardness would become wearing over time. The T2000 is not impolite, brash or forward in a hi-fi kind of way, it just sounds more alive than so much of the competition, and yet it combines this with a relative lack of grain that belies its fairly modest price. I’m not qualified to make an informed judgment on whether the circuit topology adopted by the designers is truly responsible for this, but Allnic certainly talk a good fight from a technical perspective.
Allnic CEO Kang Su Park named the company to reflect its adherence to the use of Nickel alloy in the cores of the transformers in its products. The Nickel is combined with FeSi, and the transformers are oversized compared with those used by many other manufacturers, with an unusually wide bandwidth and a lesser tendency to saturation. Allnic also implements what it calls Full Engagement. Say you select the four Ohm tap on a conventional amplifier. The 8 Ohm secondary idles. However Allnic connects the ‘unused’ secondary to the load, with the result that there is no loss of transformer output efficiency, nor the introduction into the output signal of distortion from parasitic oscillations of the secondary windings. Or so Allnic says.
The T2000 also has just two stages of driving circuit to achieve a voltage gain of 35 dB, a simplicity that Allnic claims results in less coloration and more speed compared to other integrated amplifiers with three or even four gain stages. The choice of the D3a in triode mode as the second stage driver tube is also a bit of a departure from the 12AU7 or 12 BH7 norm, as is the fact that Allnic loads it with 5K Ohms and uses 20 mA of current. Despite this the T2000 is astonishingly quiet. Even close up my 97 dB efficient Audio Note Es gave off little hiss to betray the amount of gain on tap.
The front panel mode toggle switch gives the user a choice between some 35 Watts of more linear output or 70 Watts of balls-out pentode grunt. I ran the amplifier in both conditions for the first week, switching back between them on the fly as the design intends can be done. While the pentode mode was evidently more powerful it gave a hard sheen to music that I did not find anywhere near as offensive as that produced by a lot of sand-based amplifiers, but which nonetheless did not please me. In triode mode the T2000 has what to my ears is a more natural and less mechanical presentation but it was still able to exert really impressive control over the easy load of the mid/woofers in my Es. The T2000 was able to drive the Es to stupidly loud without any signs of compression from the amp.
I want to return to one aspect of its performance that I feel merits particular praise. In my system and my listening room the T2000 was even right across the audio band, neither highlighting certain frequencies nor attenuating others. This is no mid-band wonder like some tube amps can be. It pushed the sonic envelope right out to the extremities. It’s not a transformer coupled design and one might therefore expect the capacitors in the signal path to introduce anomalies even if the behaviour of the transformers and the gain stage and output tubes is exemplary. Amazingly, and despite playing a lot of well recorded piano which normally shows up such artifacts in a rather glaring way, I could detect none that really bothered me.
I spent about two weeks with the T2000 in my system, and that in itself will tell those ‘wammers that know me how much I liked it. In triode mode it showed me when recordings had captured tonal complexity, it was revealing top to bottom without being shouty, and it delivered really quite astonishing grunt when necessary. In many ways it was the ideal house guest – easy company to enjoy and missed somewhat when the time came for it to depart.
I had a long-standing invitation to visit fellow ‘wammer George47 at his home two junctions along the M4 from mine. Me on the phone: “George, it’s Kevin. I’m leaving now. Look, do you mind if I bring something with me today? I think you might find it fun.”
I dragged the Allnic out of the boot of my car upon arrival at George’s house, but it was several hours later when we placed into his system, driving his Wilson 6 speakers and feeding it first with CD and then the output of his Voyd Reference turntable and SME V arm. I had an inkling what was coming. At one point I looked to my right at his face and he was visibly shocked at the depth and power of the low bass now being produced in the room by the Allnic on the same track we had played just minutes before on his household Acoustic Research VS110 amp. It’s not that the AR is a slouch in this regard – just that the Allnic is notably better. Later still we swapped the Allnic for his Krell Evo 600s and the world was shaken on its axis by the same track. But that’s not really the point. The Allnic had shown that it could drive the Wilsons without breaking into a sweat, and produce an immensely musically satisfying sound.
George liked the Allnic, so much so that when I asked him if he would care to contribute his thoughts he sent me this: “It really looks the part and whilst distinctive does not go over the top into bling or worse super bling. They look quietly impressive and the controls have a real quality feel to them. Once warmed up and in the preferable triode mode the quietly get on with the business. They have a modern sound and played super fast bass really well with the tight control of a solid state amplifier but with the right flow of a valve amplifier. The amplifier has the real character of a valve amplifier with good tonal colour, very natural dynamics with a relaxing, settle into sound. The amplifier played loud enough into the tough load that is the Wilson 6s without any problems. At £6.5K it looks the part, sounds excellent and is a really, really good buy.”
George’s reaction to the T2000 pretty much mirrors mine. He just doesn’t waffle like I do.
Folks; I give you the Allnic T2000 integrated tube amplifier and award it an unreserved and very enthusiastic recommendation. It is a real belter of a product.
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