I look and watch, I watch, knock, spin and twist and I still can't figure out how it is possible for a product of this class, so built, so looking, manufactured entirely in the European Union, to cost only PLN 4,000. When I became acquainted with the origins of the Silver Luna creation, the matter became somewhat clarified, although not entirely. It's still too much "good" for too little money.
So if I had to bet on any explanation, it is such that the transformers used in them get "at cost", others would have to add the price to their price, if not more. This is possible due to the fact that the owner of the Fezz Audio brand is known, not only in Poland, the company Toroidy.pl , which produces toroidal transformers. This is a family business in which Mr. Lech Lachowski and his two sons work: Tomasz and Maciej.
I'm sure you remember it from the construction descriptions and photos in "High Fidelity". They are used by various companies, including Krakow's Ancient Audio and Mytek - an American company, but producing their pickups in Warsaw. Pulling out of the brackets and then reducing some of the costs is a big relief for the wallet. In the price of a tube amplifier, the most important components are: the housing, tubes and transformers. And these, almost always, are at least three: power and two speakers. Choke is also common. And they "set" the sound of the amplifier.
And everything is beautiful, although attention is paid to the combination of the name "Toroidy.pl" and the type of amplifier, tube amplifier. It is because the vast majority of such devices at the output, before the speakers, have classic transformers, with EI type sheets. This is the historical heritage of the 1920s and 1930s, when there were simply no other transformers. The power supply is different, designers have no resistance to adapting newer solutions and have been using EI transformers as well as toroidal, "double C" and R-core transformers for a long time. The resistance to the use of toroidal transformers at the speaker output is associated with both sound characteristics that differentiate them from EI and "tradition".
What is the aspect that designers are reluctant to talk about - a toroidal transformer designed for a tube amplifier, especially a single-ended type, is difficult to design, difficult to make and costs a lot. So designers don't have much experience with them. So it's easier to choose EI and have peace. I am not saying that it is bad, that sticking to EI is a mistake, because it is not so. I'm just saying that abandoning toroids only for practical reasons impoverishes our industry. The more respect is due to companies that have previously taken up this challenge, with Amplifon at the forefront.
As Mr. Maciej Lachowski from Toroida says, the Silver Luna amplifier was created to prove that toroidal transformers are not bad in themselves, on the contrary, they offer measurable benefits, among which the most important is the much wider frequency range from above. It is worth knowing that the so-called "Tube sound", especially in relation to vintage amplifiers, is very often the result of output transformers that cut the frequency response, often at 10 kHz! You can work around this, but it generates additional costs. And please look at the frequency response of the tested amplifier - 77 kHz from above is more than a large part of transistor amplifiers offer.
First, however, we see the body of the device. It immediately caught my eye during the Audio Video Show 2015 exhibition, followed immediately by the price. Their combination did not give me peace, so I asked for a copy for the test. At home, the Finite Elemente shelf mounted amplifier looked even better. The low profile, solid, precisely made housing and refined transformer covers are something that I expect from an audio device, which does not always happen. The casing can be painted in one of four colors, and at any extra charge. I chose the fantastic-looking red version for the test. The device was built around EL34 lamps, a power pentode invented in 1954 by Mullard and Philips, its owner.
This is a push-pull design in the AB1 class, i.e. two identical power lamps work in each channel. The choice of class was dictated by the desire to obtain higher power than from class A. The ECC83 lamps control and reverse phase. All these lamps have been designed specifically to work in audio systems and can be found in both home and stage devices as well as guitar stoves. Output transformers are toroids of our own design and production, but the system is classic, ultraline. The output power is 2 x 35 W. We have three line inputs. The remote control is missing. Electronics designed by engineer Zdzisław Kulikowski - a man with many years of experience in the design of tube systems, for years cooperating with the Toroid company. The housing design and finish is the joint work of the entire crew. They did it great. The amplifier in an unusual way resembles the constructions we encounter in Japan - it is both about sensitivity to shape and color, and about solidity.MACIEJ LACHOWSKI Owner, designer
Our family company Toroidy.pl is the basis of the Fezz Audio project . We have been strongly connected with the audio world for many years. We supply many reputable companies with network transformers. For over 20 years of activity, we have completed many interesting and prestigious investments. We have established cooperation with companies such as: Mytek (Manhattan DAC), LampizatOr , Amare Musica , Audio Valve , Ancient Audio , WILE and Baltlab , receiving favorable reviews.
A few years ago we decided to create something that would break the stereotype. It was to be a toroidal speaker transformer designed for single-ended construction. Managed to. Work on the structure lasted 3 years. We have developed a unique technology for the production of cores and winding. Thanks to this, we are able to design and most importantly produce a speaker transformer for virtually any type of lamp, regardless of whether it is SE or push-pull design. In the parameters we have achieved, sometimes it's hard to believe looking at the dimensions and price of our transformers.
Everything is cool, but why nobody wanted to use it in their constructions? The main reason is the stereotype I mentioned earlier. It says that a good loudspeaker transformer cannot be made on a toroidal core, and a transformer for the SE construction on a toroid has no right to operate at all.
Therefore, we decided to construct an SE amplifier based on the transformers we manufacture. As a non-commercial model, intended only to destroy the stereotype, we presented the Laura amplifier during last year's Audio Show 2014 exhibition. Interest exceeded our expectations. The production of speaker transformers started in full swing, and another idea dawned on my mind: let's create a new brand and design a tube amplifier in a commercial version at an affordable price, which is a Polish alternative to the "Chinese". This is how the Silver Luna amplifier was born.
The relationship between price, build quality, technologies and sound quality is quite loose in audio. And this is because there is no common pattern according to which such products should be valued. So it is done in a way known from other industries, i.e. taking as a reference a similar product of a competitor, sometimes several such products. The Lachowski gentlemen do not hide that for them they were constructions from China.
Let's start with a brief summary of such a comparison. And it will be really short: Silver Luna has no competition in the range of up to 5000 PLN, at least when it comes to tube amplifiers. Or when it comes to appearance, performance, much less sound. This trinity is compact here, everything is equally polished and refined. Under obviously accepted restrictions, i.e. the final price. But there is no gap between, for example, sound and solid performance, and yet we know that cheap products from China are also cheap because they do not undergo stringent quality control. This usually results in multiple product replacements, repairs, and sometimes also a "farewell to Asia".
When I heard a few years ago that American manufacturer Rogue Audio , offering tube amplifiers in medium price ranges, returns to the US with production. The explanation given was not as clear as it is today.
The thing was that in the United States manufacturing costs (labor costs) decreased, and the company no longer wanted to pay for continuous repairs and corrections, which it had to carry out after receiving another batch of equipment from the factory in China. The return of production under one roof with quality control, under the watchful eye of the owner turned out to be not as expensive as one might think. I think exactly the same mechanism worked for Fezz Audio, except that it managed to bypass the OEM stage. In this way we get an extremely refined product with incredibly natural sound. If we would like to describe it as "tube", that's fine, so be it. Let's keep in mind that such a SoulNote SA300 , or SPEC Japanese digital amplifiers , sound much warmer, more "tube-like". Not only them, because I would also describe completely analog amplifiers from the German company ASR and others, e.g. from the French Lavardin .
The tube character of the tested amplifier is the lack of sharpness and results from a slight preference for medium bass and low midrange. Voices are slightly zoomed in and out. The double bass also plays closer and more intimately. But that's what we expect from this type of amplifier, right? However, even those who have a different vision of sound should listen to what is happening here, because the accents I am talking about are placed lightly, without being pushy. This heat is something general, not about rounding the frequency response. I would even say that the treble is very nicely open, there is no shortage of glow, opening, the sound is lively and vivid.
If we have experience in audio, we should quickly appreciate the naturalness of the message. A beautiful thing, because it gives a lot of freedom in the selection of musical material. Wonderful electronics, e.g. the new GAD Records album with recordings of Mikołaj Hertel, Laurie Anderson, fantastic Kortez, all this was reproduced with a large volume, very spatially, in an open but a bit sweet way. The amplifier obviously gives recordings its own character, mainly by unifying the lower bass. This one does not go as low as with strong furnaces, but this is not heard, I think, due to the activity and energy of its medium range. This is not an amplifier with which we would analyze the bass parts or the bass basis of Suzanne Vega's recordings.
If we turn a blind eye, the more we will appreciate that the differentiation of everything except the bass is very, very good.
There is no doubt about the differences between Kortez's vocal shots, how Sinatra's recordings change, and what the otherness of the Can band's recording is. This is differentiation with an indication - on connectivity and density. But also with a lot of sheet metal energy and a nice opening of the midrange. When the snares hit, they have a lot of energy, they are fast, when the plates give rock, they really give. Of course, there are albums that will not play so convincingly.
This does not mean that they will play badly - we just expect something different from them. Like In Utero Nirvany, like Black Sabbath discs and generally - strong rock, recordings with strong compression. The amplifier bit them all. He showed the good points of these recordings, but without the lowest bass control, without the energy that is needed there. This does not mean that transistor amplifiers will do better for this money. It's just that hearing what happens with jazz and other discs, when listening to strong rock, we miss the same naturalness, the "passing away" that we get with them.
Despite the moderate power, the amplifier can play loud and gently enters the clipping. It manifests itself through hardening of the upper diameter. Under normal circumstances we won't hear it. This is rich, natural sound with a well-articulated midrange and open treble. The amplifier is almost completely devoid of functionality known from other calls - only three line inputs, no remote control, no digital inputs are costs that must be incurred. But there is nothing to regret. If we can accept it, let's listen to this amplifier, because it's a kiler.Silver Luna by Fezz Audio is an integrated tube amplifier. The tube amplifier circuit uses four EL34 power pentodes, two per channel, and double ECC83 pentodes, one per channel, which initially amplify the signal, and in the other half reverse the phase for the push-pull output system. The power supply is semiconductor. The signal can be sent to three line inputs. There are two loudspeaker taps for 8 and 4 Ω. The device stands on four plastic legs.
Housing base to low, lacquered cuboid. The logo is glued on the front, cut out of thick sheet metal, and two aluminum knobs are placed, one to change the volume and the other to enter. The knobs are almost identical to those currently used by Ancient Audio in the P-3 and A-3 and refer to the 1970s. On the back wall there is a power switch, integrated with the IEC socket. There are also three pairs of gold-plated RCA sockets and two sets of speaker outputs. As with other amplifiers of this type, the tubes are mounted on the upper wall. These are EL34 power pentodes from Electro-Harmonix and double triodes ECC83 from the same company.
They are plugged into ceramic sockets with gold-plated pins. The arrangement of the lamps has been slightly modified by placing a round shielding box for the power transformer in the middle, between the lamps. At the back, power transformers are placed in the longitudinal cover. Measurement points and potentiometers hidden in the casing are visible next to the lamps. Each pair of end lamps must be "set" by matching their undercoat current. Lamp cover not provided.
As in any good amplifier, the system is simple here. Each amplifier channel has its own circuit board. Lamps are coupled by Wima polypropylene capacitors, and the cathodes are coupled with very good Nichicon Fine Gold electrolytic capacitors. The signal to each of the plates comes with shielded cables from the potentiometer, black Alps. Interesting fact - it's a version with a motor, prepared for remote control. Maybe in the future a more expensive version of the amplifier with remote control will be available? Shielded cables run from the mechanical input selector, also located at the front panel, to the potentiometer. To it go long sections of cables from the inputs on the back.
The power supply is mounted in the middle, on a separate plate, shielded with thick sheet metal. We have here a Pi type filter with a toroidal choke (and what else could it be here?) And two filter capacitors from the Slovak company JJ Electronics, known for the production of electron tubes.
It's a fantastic, simple design in which each element has its justification and is neither exaggerated nor reduced. Respect.
Technical data (according to manufacturer)
Type: integrated stereo amplifier
Maximum power: 2 x 35 W / 8 Ω Circuit
type: push-pull, class AB1
Output impedance: 4 Ω / 8 Ω
Inputs: 3 x RCA
THD distortion: <1%
Frequency range: 15 Hz-77 kHz (-3 dB)
Power consumption: 150 W
Weight: 15.3 kg
Dimensions: 400 x 320 x 165 mm
Lamps: EL34 x 4, ECC83 x 2
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