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Cambridge Audio CXA 60, integrated amplifier
Matrix Audio X SPDIF 2
Matrix Audio Quattro II
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PMC Fact 12 speaker in graphite
2014 Midwest Audiofest Tent Sale & Vintage Audio Swap
Allnic L-1500 Valve Line Pre Amplifier Review
5 star Timbre Merchant.
- Review item: Allnic L-1500 Valve pre amp @ £4395.00
- Reviewer’s system:
- Acoustic Solid Turn table, with Audio Note Arm and Benz Glider cartridge.
- Puresound P10 phono stage and Puresound T10 Step up transformer.
- Advantage (Bladelious) power amp.
- Teac VRDS CD player.
- Meadowlark Shearwater HotRod loudspeakers.
- All cables from MCRU and Wychwood Audionics.
Sometimes you get a good feeling about a bit of kit as soon as you open the box. The quality of the double box, the heavy aluminium remote control, the heft of it as you lift it out and occasionally the “oooh” as you stand back and admire it’s svelte lines on the shelf. How much of an impact this favourable aspect lends the aural pleasure may be impossible to measure but I am not going to deny the effect exists.
So, with that in mind I put some tunes on and started to read the supplied blurb -the manual goes to great lengths to remind you how clever you are for purchasing this amp, you already know this of course; stupid people can’t afford such luxury. As I read I am interrupted by some Bongos. Bongos I’d never really noticed were bongos before. I’d heard them in the song, knew the sound they made, but never really tuned into the thwock of hand on skin, never felt in their presence before, not on this busy track. Not on this Orbital track, I’d always assumed all the instruments were electronically generated. It had never occurred to me that the bongos were in fact real! Before the Allnic has even warmed up I’ve discovered something new in an old favourite.
What more do you really need to know? It’s tempting to end the review here. People that know me know how much I like Orbital. How often I listen to Orbital. How I worship at the altar of Hartnoll, and after 20 years of hearing their music on top quality hifi I really should be well beyond such revelations, but there it was, clear as day..My flab was aghast, my gob was smacked and I thought “this will be interesting when it warms up”. And so it proved.
The blurb informed me that the secret to this amp’s success is transformer coupled – rather than capacitor coupled- output stage. This is preferable to capacitor coupling if the transformer is of the highest quality and matches the tubes correctly. With this in mind Allnic manufacture their own permalloy core transformer. This output transformer gives an ultra wide (16hz ~ 75kHz, -3db) low distortion and flexible (up to 50kHz square wave response) output. The L1500 has a constant output impedance (at all frequencies) of 150 ohm.. Some advanced voltage regulation is also employed to keep noise low, along with some valve damping gel to stop vibrations getting into the signal path. All this makes sense when you hear it, the amp is dynamic and utterly silent in operation. Running in pure class A, it has a nice warmth, while the clean signal means the the timbre, shape and feel of each note is rendered cleanly and believably. In fact this amp is a real timbre merchant, you get to feel the texture of the notes as much as the tone and pitch.
Once warm, I gave Philip Glass’ Violin concerto number 2 a spin and a similar thing happened, it wasn’t just the extra layer of detail that impressed, I found a new depth to the recordings, both in the sound stage which was more holographic than I had experienced before from the Meadowlarks, but also wider and therefore more involving too. The piano intro on Nuyorican Soul’s I am the Black gold of the Sun, sounds real and tangible. The deep bass line is powerful but doesn’t smear and the voices are clear, with a diction that almost doesn’t fit with the otherwise full bodied sound. The price for warmth is too often detail. The easy way to get detail is to present a bright lean sound. That sets the Allnic apart, more detail than I am used to without the fatigue caused by brightness, I’ve said this before about other kit, it’s something I really admire, but what I am saying here is the Allnic manages more of this than I get with my current (very good) set up. It’s a real sonic upgrade, not just a financial one.
It is traditional in a review to temper praise with some sage warning to the potential purchaser of any negatives. I struggle to find any here. Perhaps it just gels well with my power amp and speakers, synergy is key of course. Perhaps it’s just a seriously good pre-amp. My only bug bears are the light show. The bright orange light on the dial (which basically lets you know all of the tubes are healthy) cannot be defeated, so late night sessions are a touch more illuminated than I normally favour. The beautifully engineered motorised volume control whirs gently as you press the button on the remote, and perhaps volume increases could be a touch finer. Really I am scrabbling to find anything other than the price that might prevent someone purchasing this. There is nothing much I can think of.
I suppose at £4395.00 this pre-amp really should be exceptional. Best part of £5k for half an amp should bring top quality results. And it does, from AC-DC to Philip Glass, I’ve taken it to hell and back and sat on my sofa wondering which organ I can live without to fund such a purchase. Sadly, a fat audiophile’s pickled innards don’t fetch much these days. Back to the day job it is then. At least I have it here for a few days more, and of course the law of diminishing returns means my own (£2k) pre-amp will not be too horrendous a climb down from these lofty heights.
There is one other down side that has occurred to me, you are buying in at the entry level. Oh yes, there’s a L3000 and an L5000 DHT to really bust your bonus on, so you may sit there wondering – “if this is this good, what must the next one up sound like” – expensive hobby this. What a joy being this in touch with music is though!
- Input : Line level × 5
- (Balanced × 2, Unbalanced × 3)
- Output : Balanced × 1, unbalanced × 1
- Input Impedance : Unbalanced 10kΩ
- Balanced 20kΩ
- Frequency Range : 20Hz ~ 20kHz (FLAT) 16Hz ~ 75kHz (-3dB)
- Voltage Gain : +20dB
- THD (1kHz) : Output 0.3V, 0.06% – Output 1.0V, 0.15%
- S/N Ratio : -90dB (CCIR, 1kHz)
- Maximum Output : 15V RMS (Non clipping)
- Output Impedance : 150Ω Constant
- Tubes : D3a or equivalent × 2 , 7233 × 1, 6485 × 1 (Voltage Regulator)
- Dimension : 430mm(W) × 300mm(D) × 120mm(H)
- Weight : 9 kg
Richard at Lotus Hifi /to arrange a demo
If you would like to comment on the review, or ask questions about the amp, there is a thread here.
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