The privatization of large companies from behind the Iron Curtain producing audiovisual equipment did not have a common denominator, except that it was fast and required in-depth changes in the employment structure, thinking about the market and defining its place in it. So, reading the history of Audio-Hungary, the owner of the Qualiton brand, I had deja vu . This brand is a direct continuator of the largest Eastern and Central European manufacturer of electroacoustic devices, founded in the late 1940s by Rafilm National Radio-and Film. Changed profile and names - 1951: Audio Voice-and-Film Technical Co., 1960: BEAG (Budapest Electroacoustic Factory), 1990: Univox Kft - is something that we also know from the history of Polish companies.
In this case, it seems to have a happy ending. In 2014, the company Univox Kft, still producing in the same factory in Nyíregyháza, was bought by the company Audio-Hungary Kft. A year later, the first amplifier created by the cooperation of both teams hit the market, the Univox APX 200 power amplifier being a kind of tribute to the still produced by BEAG and the APX 100 amplifier, reaching high prices on the aftermarket.
The currently available product line bears the Qualiton logo. It is divided into two parts: Classic and A-series. The first includes only two products - the APR 204 preamplifier and the APX 200 power amplifier (rebranded Univox APS 200), both stylized for the 1960s, with tubes enclosed in housings. In the second you will find four products - two amplifiers integrated with the exposed tubes: A20i and A50i, phono phono preamplifier and step-up transformer with the equally simple name MC. The A50i amplifier tested by us is its most expensive product. This is an integrated tube amplifier, on the output of which they work in push-pull, class A, KT120 stream tetrodes from Tung-Sol. Because the device is equipped with an autobiass system, you can also use KT88 and even KT120 lamps in it. The preamplifier and control used NOS Tungsram ECC83 and E88CC tubes from the new production Genalex Golden Lion. The amplifier is surprisingly small and compact, but the weight says it: iron and copper were not regretted. A special feature, apart from the lamps used and the fact that they work in class A, rendering 50 W at very low distortion and noise - <0.75% and <1 mV, respectively - is the housing. It was made of polished stainless steel, whose surface looks like a mirror. The black aluminum knob visible on the front panel consists of two parts - a knurled ring and a smooth cylinder. Once this split was used to separately set the recording level for the left and right channel. Here, in this simple, cool way, volume control and input change have been handled. These are three unbalanced pairs on RCA sockets and one on balanced mini-XLR, and selected are shown by a small LED next to the bottom edge of the front. The LED next to the knob in turn informs about the status of the amplifier. When it is red, it means the signal is muted and the amplifier is warming up; when it turns white - a sign that we can listen to music. Many great elements were used in the construction of this device to mention, for example, the great loudspeaker sockets of the Hungarian company KáCsa Audió , great resistors, WIMA polypropylene coupling capacitors, but above all very good-looking, mechanically stabilized output and power transformers. The latter is a toroidal transformer, and it is bolted through a large wooden core. The device is controlled by a radio remote control, insensitive to the position relative to the amplifier, through which we change the volume and turn on the "mute" mode. The remote control is also metal, it also has a mirror surface, so a cloth with the company logo, which we will find in the set, will be useful.
Business development manager / CEO
The owner and founder of Audio-Hungary Ltd., the owner of the Qualiton brand, is my father, Laszlo Fabian, who is the owner of the largest telecommunications company in eastern Hungary. He financially supports the company and also leads new product projects. It is a company that is the result of his passion and investment in the future. We would like to get to the point where this brand will be internationally recognized. Audio-Hungary currently employs 16 employees and occupies a factory with an area of over 1000 m². Almost all stages of production take place in our factory due to the utter unpredictability of suppliers. Production under own roof can be subject to greater requirements, more precise and more reliable. Prototyping and developing a new product can also be faster, which saves money and time in the pre-production phase. At the same time, we are expanding the distribution grid in new countries.
We continue to develop new products, we are constantly improving existing ones, taking into account the voices of our customers and sellers. The Qualiton brand appeared on the market in 2016 after many years of research. Orders for our products flow to herbal countries around the world. To achieve this, we took into account that in order to exist we have to be different from all other companies, so we decided to offer very high-class products at a much lower price than our competitors. We believe that passion, hard work and our experience will help us meet this goal - we want to be a company with the best products in the entire audio industry :)
If I were to mention in points the most important features of our A50i amplifier would be:
- we make the housing ourselves from polished stainless steel without any visible screws,
- we used a special knob in it: adjusting the signal level and changing inputs on the same element,
- unique remote control, made of the same steel as the amplifier housing,
- 3 pairs of RCA inputs and 1 pair of mini-XLR, with a balanced input,
- taps for 4 and 8 Ω impedance,
- gilded speaker jacks are virtually intact,
- push-pull in class A,
- autobiass system for output lamps (automatic bias change for KT88 and KT150 lamps),
- the power transformer is vacuum impregnated,
- permalloy shielding of speaker transformers,
- transformers are made by ourselves,
- we use sockets for NOS lamps with military specifications,
- in all places we use elements for much higher currents and voltages than necessary (Nichicon. Vishay, Omron etc.),
- all components are measured and selected by us before use,
- each product undergoes annealing for about 100 hours before it goes on sale,
- we have ISO 9001 certificate.
The KT120 lamp was the first, in many, many years, new design in the KT series and more. Based on KT88, it was supposed to provide more power and electricity, which was successful. As soon as the audio producers got acquainted with it, they began to replace the KT88 amplifiers they offer with KT120. With different results. Whether because of a rush or lack of understanding of the new design, but a lot of these devices, in my experience, did not sound very good. High dynamics, high power and greater purity than KT88 were obvious. There was no shadow of magic that the older version offered in the middle of the band.
After a year, maybe two, the situation began to change. As if it was understood that pure power is not everything and it is easier to spoil something than to improve it. When I came across the Jadis I-88 amplifier , listening to it first at the Audio Show and then at home, I realized that it could be done differently. It was the first time I heard the KT120 stream tet amplifier sounding better than the KT88. Then came the Ayon Audio, Octave etc. amplifiers and everything changed.
However, there are still constructions on these tubes, in which the advantages are put, so to speak, obvious, i.e. the mentioned power and dynamics, but also the scale, impact and bass control. While being vigilant, this is a good direction, although personally I prefer going deeper into the sound than in its width and length. Such constructions grab our heart and guard our vertical - they make sure that music is the most important thing, the rest [...] That's why I listened to the Qualiton A50i amplifier from Audio Hungary with such, almost physical, pleasure.
Looking at the technical data, you can see that its designers were not interested in power trim, although 50 W from lamps working in class A is a lot. It would be enough, however, to power them differently and we would have much higher power at our fingertips. But that was not the point here.
The original sin of these "shot through" constructions on KT120 which I was talking about was the lack of empathy, the inability to evoke in the listener emotions similar to those contained in the recordings. And already in this one respect Jadis, and now Audio Hungary are light years ahead. The sound of the tested amplifier is dense, warm, unambiguously and almost ostentatiously "tube-like". This type of sound is easiest to obtain using EL34 pentodes and manufacturers often do it because they cover the imperfections of their designs. Qualiton A50i does not slip into these ruts, because first - I hear it so - basic things were taken care of, such as cleanliness, speed, control, color differentiation, and only then turned into the direction I am talking about.
The thing that the amplifier "buys us" right away is the incredible scale of the message. I haven't heard such a big sound for a long time. And this is not an enlarged sound, but simply large. Compared to what we will hear from the Hungarian amplifier, a large part of the devices will seem thin and dry, such a small one. Along with the scale comes fantastic differentiation of plans. This differentiation consists in smoothly extracting a specific color for a given instrument, voice etc. in space. It has nothing to do with cutting out sounds, but rather with something like their "pressing".
And this is very nice, although far from engineering - I think about theoretician engineers - correctness of color.
The high treble is clearly lowered, and the low midrange and upper bass are emphasized. This gives the "lamp-like" effect I mentioned at the beginning and causes that even poorly recorded discs, as long as musically interesting, will be addictive and simply cool. This does not mean that the amplifier cannot differentiate the recording class - I am not talking about that. He does it, but not for show, rather by the way. Listening to a given device involves choosing a group of recordings - I have already written about it once. The nature of the sound in a way guides my choices and I can learn from which repertoire a given device "feels" best. In the case of the Audio Hungary amplifier it was different, I was just curious how this or another disc will play, without looking at its provenance, the people behind it, thinking only about the music.
So different discs stood next to each other, like The Route by Chet Baker and Art Pepper from the old edition with the remaster from 1989, Schubert performed by Nathalie Stutzmann and Inger Södergren, OK Computer by Radiohead in the new version OKNOTOK , pressed on Ultimate HiQuality CD, Master CD-R with electronic music of my friend Robert Kowalski and pampered, sleek edition of the Songs my mother tought me on gold , where Arturo Delmoni plays the Stradivari violin from 1721. And Ego: X Diary of Dreams . As I said, the differences were clear, but they did not determine my choices. The Hungarian amplifier in some way integrated them all only because thanks to my eclectic taste I like the music contained on them and I am happy when it sounds as good as in this case. The device somehow made them all come together, because the sound modifications I was talking about are common to everything I have listened to.
Therefore, we do not expect precise reproduction of technical aspects of recordings. However, we can expect and expect emotion, color and scale. These are things that are unique here. The bass goes down very low and is really well controlled. Designers did not fool around with its contouring attempts to sound like transistor devices with low output damping factor and higher current efficiency. Instead, they focused on rhythm, fluidity and density, maintaining a sufficiently large power reserve that it never merged or overlapped.
An unknown company from a small country has prepared an expensive amplifier. Maybe not quite so unknown and not from an unknown country and in addition not so expensive, but I think you understand my thinking. Let's put it aside, because it's a kind of foam in a jacuzzi, where water is important and what happens to it. Qualiton A50i is absolutely "tube-like" in the sense that its color has been specially shaped in this respect. But this is not an end in itself, but the point is that every disc should be heard for its own sake, not for the sound. Scale, timbre, plans - these are the elements we will discuss with friends, even if we do not buy this amplifier. There is something magical about this sound, which only the tubes give. If we manage to present it like here, i.e. as a value, not a burden, we will get a beautiful sound focused on music, not technique.
I have already talked about it, but I would like to emphasize: the artistic design of the tested amplifier is absolutely classic, and yet somehow these classic elements have been modified. The A50i integrated amplifier belonging to the Qualiton series is a tube device with a semiconductor power supply. The output is operated with KT120 stream tetrodes produced by the Russian company Tung-Sol, two per channel, thanks to which it has a power of 2 x 50 W. They work in a class A push-pull system. Like all other lamps, double low power triodes. In the control we find Genelex Golden Lion E88CC tubes from the new production, and in the preamplifier the NOS Tungsram ECC83 tubes.
Behind the lamps you can see two large cups with speaker transformers. The toroidal power transformer is hidden inside the housing. It is thanks to this procedure that the amplifier has a narrower front panel than usual and is extremely compact. Because the power supply transformer is large, the housing is slightly raised. So that it does not look heavy, the lower edges are cut off, and the housing is made of thick steel sheets with a mirror finish.
Front and back
On the front panel there is only one knob and several LEDs. Made of black anodized aluminum, the knob has two elements - the middle one, which adjusts the volume and the outer sleeve, which we change the input. Active is indicated by a white LED; the others shine dimmer and red. There is another LED next to the knob - glowing red indicates that the device is warming up and only when it starts to glow white can you listen to music. The back looks very interesting, and this is mainly due to the fantastic loudspeaker sockets of the Hungarian company KáCsa Audió. They have a spring element that makes it easier to tighten the forks. We have two groups of three sockets - a lot of detachments for 4 and 8 Ω speakers. The RCA sockets also look good, but the pair of inputs at the beginning is a curiosity - they are rare and really great mini-XLR sockets. To use ordinary XLR interconnects, we must have the appropriate adapter. The device has an unbalanced design, which is why I would treat this link as an additional one. The other inputs - three pairs - are unbalanced. There is also one pair of line outputs with unregulated signal, e.g. for recording.
The power supply takes up most of the interior. Its basis is a very large toroidal transformer in a sealed screen, screwed with a thick roller made of wood, which guarantees good vibration damping. Printed circuit boards received auxiliary circuits, such as bias power supply for the final lamps, radio receiver with which the pilot works, as well as circuits that support the input switch and LEDs. The circuit also has a protection system. The audio system is assembled using the classic point-to-point method, time-consuming, and thus expensive, but guarantees a minimal signal path. The mass is run here with thick copper wires, and the system has large, metalized WIMA resistors and capacitors.
The remote control is also manufactured by Audio Hungary Kft. It has a metal, mirror casing and three buttons: two to change the volume and one to mute ("mute"). It is solid and we can, if necessary, hammer nails into the walls. And if we don't have to, it will serve us well to control the amplifier.
This is a very solid, nicely made amplifier, combining classics with newer thinking about tube amplifiers.
Technical data (according to manufacturer)
Rated output power: 2 x 50 W (class A)
Total harmonic distortion: <0.75% (f = 1 kHz, rated output power)
Frequency range: 30 Hz - 100 kHz (-3 dB, rated output power)
Input sensitivity : 425 mV, unbalanced input
Number of inputs: 3 unbalanced inputs, 1 balanced input Gain: +33.5 dB (8 Ω); +25.5 dB (4 Ω)
Input impedance: 10 kΩ
Speaker taps: 4 Ω | 8 Ω
Signal to noise ratio:> 95 dB; output noise <1 mV
Power consumption: 300 W
Lamps: 4 x Tung-Sol KT120; 4 x Tungsram E88CC; 2 x Tungsram ECC83
Dimensions: 350 x 210 x 400 mm
Weight: 25 kg
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