Ahhh…tubes. What is it about tubes that makes music sound so…musical? Most amps today are designed to use transistors and associated “solid state” technology to amplify the audio signal. However, Audiophiles have continued to appreciate the unique beauty of tube sound–and many high-end amp manufacturers have continued to offer tube electronics as an alternative to solid state. These very special amps tend to have rather premium pricing.
Then, in 2003, PrimaLuna appeared. A Dutch company, PrimaLuna created a tube amp that was built to a very high standard, offered the lovely sound that tubes are famous for, but also incorporated state-of-the-art engineering that eliminates the hassles usually associated with tubes. Adaptive Autobias, for instance, automatically and continuously biases the tubes for optimum performance. And all this performance and convenience (and reliability…and physical beauty) is offered at a very moderate price–making PrimaLuna a compelling option for anyone looking for a high-quality sound system. Today PrimaLuna manufactures an entire range of tube electronics, including amps, preamps, integrated amps and even CD players. And we now have PrimaLuna available here, in the showroom, for demonstation. Come in and be impressed!
The Rogers High Fidelity EHF-100 vacuum tube integrated amplifier is one of the newest additions to our showroom. Designed to uncompromising specifications and hand-made in Warwick, NY, with military-grade components, the EHF-100 is one of the finest tube amps I’ve heard for under $10,000 (and at $6335.00 it’s truly a bargain). It’s also a finely-crafted piece of electronics whose build-quality can rival amps costing many times more. How well built is it?—the manufacturer offers the best warrantee I’ve ever heard of: lifetime, transferrable. What this means is that—as long as you don’t drop it, spill your bourbon on it, or otherwise abuse it—Roger Gibboni guarantees that his amp won’t break: ever (excluding the tubes, of course).
So how does it sound? Exquisite. Unlike almost any other tube amp on the market, Mr. Gibboni chose to use a pentode input stage rather than the typical triode design. Why? I’ll let him explain: “Using a pentode input stage yields all of the amplifier gain in a very short signal path; this reduces phase induced distortion and layout anomalies with very controlled linearity. [This results in] lots of bandwith, detail, depth of soundstage and incredible transient response.” I don’t have Mr. Gibboni’s engineering background, but after listening to his amp for several weeks now, I have to say that my ears are convinced: this tube amp is truly second to none, especially at this price. It has the rich, liquidy sound that tubes are famous for, but combines it with a fast, punchy (and ample) bass response that is remarkable in the world of relatively inexpensive integrated tube amps. Very conservatively rated at 100 watts per channel, the EHF-100 seemed ready to blow the front windows out of my showroom when mated to the Totem Wind loudspeakers. Of course, if you DO need more power, two EHF-100 amps can be run as a monoblocks.
Curious? Come in and have a listen! You WILL be impressed.
Perhaps you haven’t heard of Hegel Music Systems. They are a manufacturer of audio electronics based in Oslo, Norway famous for their amps (featuring patented SoundEngine technology) and, more recently, their phenomenal line of external DACs. Check out their excellent web page at www.hegel.com. If you have heard of them, you probably haven’t actually heard them (and you should!). They are new to the American market and currently only have a dozen or so dealers. I am happy to report that Adirondack Audio & Video is now one of them.
As a longtime audiophile, I’m thrilled whenever I have an opportunity to listen extensively (and intensively) to new gear, but I have rarely been this excited about taking on an entire new line of electronics as I am with Hegel. Owning a HiFi store allows me lots of opportunities to demo new products, but deciding to become a dealer (with the accompanying financial commitment) involves making business calculations that are often more stressful than fun. With Hegel, none of that mattered. The sound quality of Hegel electronics is so good that I felt compelled to offer it to our customers. If you live nearby and you love music, you need to come in and listen. And then you’ll know what I’m writing about.
For those of you who are too far away, let me try to explain. I’ll start with the amps (and discuss the DACs in a future blog entry). We have the two least expensive Hegel integrated amps on display in the showroom (the H70 and H100). Before you even listen, you will notice that the look of the amp is “Scandinavian minimalist”—simple and purposeful while at the same time looking exquisite and expensive. The quality of design and workmanship is evident immediately. Press the large, central power button and the amp turns on with a satisfying ka-thunk. No matter what source or volume you might have been previously listening to, Hegel will always revert to the balanced input and a moderate volume—a thoughtful touch. Then there’s the sound. I can think of no other amp—at any price—that exhibits as much control over loudspeakers as Hegel does. Each instrument, each note, is clear and distinct, like there are no electronics in-between you and the musician. The base, even at moderate volumes, is balanced and tight—powerful while at the same time articulate and controlled. Hegel amps are exceptionally neutral, so you’ll easily hear any imperfections or tonal coloring coming from the source or your loudspeakers. You’ll want to pair these amps with the best speakers you can afford.
With high-quality loudspeakers, the Hegel amps are truly magical in their ability to present music with all its original dynamic punch and tonal balance. The SoundEngine technology—found only in Hegel products—undoubtedly has a lot to do with this. I’ll let Hegel explain:
The HEGEL SoundEngine™ local error cancelling system prevents distortion in the audio amplifier circuit stages, preserving the original details and the dynamic range in the original music signal. The end result is a much cleaner music signal with a larger dynamic range and lower distortion.
The unique and patented Hegel SoundEngine™ audio technology is combining the advantage of class AB-amplifier and the advantage of class A-amplifiers, without having the draw backs of class A- and class AB-amplifier technologies.
What this means for the listener is a level of clarity and resolution in sound that is immediately apparent. You will find yourself re-listening to your entire music collection, hearing nuances that you never knew were there.
As you can tell, I’m very enthusiastic about Hegel and I hope to play my small part in helping them become as successful in the United States as they already are in other parts of the world. With sound quality like this, the task should not be difficult. You’ll understand what I mean as soon as you listen.