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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S; Opera Audio Reference 2.2 Linear
Preamp/Integrated: ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Music First Audio Passive Magnetic; Bel Canto Design PRe3; Wyetech Labs Jade; Supratek Cabernet 'Dual' [on loan from owner]
EQ: Rane PEQ55 active merely below 40Hz
Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; Yamamoto A-08S; Canary Audio CA-308s; FirstWatt F3 & F1; Bel Canto e.One S300; Eastern Electric M-520; Korneff 45 Custom with mercury vapor rectifier [on loan from owner]
Headphones: AKG K-1000 w. hard-wired Stefan AudioArt harness; audio-technica W-1000
Speakers: Zu Cable Definition Pro; Anthony Gallo Acoustics Ref 3.1
Cables: Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable, Zu Cable Varial, Gede, Libtech and Ibis; Stealth Audio Cable Indra, MetaCarbon & NanoFiber [on loan]; SilverFi interconnects; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; double cryo'd Acrolink with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer; Crystal Cable Ultra [on extended loan]
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular five-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S fed from custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option; Furutech RTP-6 for 240V connection via Crystal Cable Reference
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Extreme SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 15' x 35' living room
Review Component Retail: $339 solid-plate, $414 mesh plate [Ram Labs pricing]
Among direct-heated triodes -- and shy of leaving the reservation for types only the truly obsessed have even heard of, never mind listened to -- 45s are legendary and by some considered what 300Bs and 2A3s can only aspire to. Among 45s, many cognoscenti regard the current-production Emission Labs super bottles as the cat's pjays. But there's two to choose from: Solid plates or mesh plates. Which one for what occasion?
|Having a pair of tubes each plus two amps to test 'em with, here's the upshot of spending time with them. If you value extreme articulation, a slightly less resonant quality, more overall tautness and more explosive dynamics, the solid-plate is your poison.
If you're into more hallucinogenic tone colors and heightened contrast -- what I call image pop -- the mesh plate is the one.
The meshie is just a bit looser all around, fluffier and a tad more voluptuous. That also translates into the bass registers which become less damped.
The solid plate strikes me as the more even and linear tube and is thus my personal preference, especially for rhythmically convoluted and hard-hitting fare. It's also less money.
But if you're in the mood for a dose of magic mushrooms, the mesh plates do a peculiar thing of highlighting unexpected elements of the sonic mix to be the 'trippier' valve of the two.
|For apparent acceleration,|
|control and even-handedness, the tube without the fishnet stockings takes the honors. That's what I use in my Yamamoto then. Regarding reliability, one of my solid plates gave up its ghost without any fireworks, just failed to come on bias one day to leave one channel dead. Still being under its original 1-year warranty, Jac van der Walle, the German part-owner in EML, is currently replacing it in a very professional, no-fuss manner.
In case you're wondering why no comments on the Korneff 45 Custom, it's because Jeff Korneff isn't looking for reviews at the moment. I got my loaner from an actual owner. In fact, Jeff doesn't seem to be accepting orders either. I'll thus not provide his contact information. If you're meant to find him, you will. In which case, stubbornness, persuasiveness and raw desire on your part could carry the day and convince this underground designer to return from his self-imposed sabbatical to resume building amplifier and making one for you. While not as cosmetically stunning as the Japanese Yamamoto, his Korneff 45 performs sonically in equally exalted leagues. Rather than emphasizing the lit-up, microdynamically charged qualities of the 45 like the Yamamoto, the Korneff is more relaxed and concerned over exploring tone.
Regardless, the real star here is the Czech bottle from Emission Labs. It's physically monstrous, considerably taller than a WE 300B. It also utterly dwarves traditional 45s. Many users don't even consider it a real 45 - just as the KR 52BXLS and its VAIC/EML variants aren't conventional 300Bs. However, anyone who cares to compare an NOS Cunningham to an EML 45 will quickly hasten to admit just how real this glass from Prague really is. To my ears, it makes the Cunninghams sound on the pale, tame and wan side. So for a full dose of the particular 45 magic which one on-line poster refers to as audio crack -- and that's true here for either the Yamamoto or Korneff amp and should also translate to the Music Reference amp -- the EMLs are the winning speeding ticket. I've long since gotten written up for mine and, for once, didn't mind paying it...