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Reviewer:
Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Apple iMac 1TB with AIFF files up to 24/192, Pure Music 1.72 in memory play, Weiss DAC2, iPod Classic 160GB, Sieben Technology dock, Onkyo ND-S1 digital-direct iPod dock
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03 (transistor), ModWright LS100 (tubes), Bent Audio Tap-X (AVC passive), Yamamoto AT-03-1A [on loan]
Amplifier: FirstWatt F5, Trafomatic Audio Kaivalya
Speakers: ASI Tango R
Cables: Complete loom of ASI Liveline, Furutech GT2 and WireWorld Starlight 5┬▓ USB A-to-mini-B cables [on loan], LaCie and Entreq Firewire 800 cables, Black Cat Cable Veloce S/PDIF cable [on loan]
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, 1 x Furutech RTP-6
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail: from $1.450


Self interest
: As I'd profiled in Going Passive - Again, Yamamoto's purist AT-03-1A passive volume controller had reminded me just how well passive preamps and superior valve power amps can get (it) on together. Suddenly Google was my uncle.

I quickly assembled a private little list of currently available passive preamps from resistive types to transformer volume controls (TVC), from autoformer volume controls (AVC) to light-triggered variable resistors. StereoKnight from Canada had numerous TVCs in their catalogue. The non-remote earlier models [left] recalled Audio Zone's implementation of S&B transformers [right].


Dispatching a query to StereoKnight's James Zhang about whether his iron was indeed Stevens & Billington issue—their product I already knew from the Music First Audio passive—I learned that "my TVCs are no copy of S&B or any other brand for that matter.┬áMine are unique and come with some exclusive features like dual 33-step rotary volume switches designed and manufactured in my factory; dual 0/6dB gain switches; multiple RCA/XLR i/o ports to support simultaneous cross connections; a silver option with silver-wound transformers and silver wiring; and a remote option with display and even balance control."


As teaser on build quality, James attached to his explanation a number of shots on his revised balanced model. While not as tidy as John Chapman's 61-step relay-switched AVC modules [left] which avoid the otherwise mandatory rat's nest of wiring, StereoKnight's routing is as neat as their chosen approach enables. In fact their clam-shell assembly of hollowed-out solid Acrylic is both trick and 20lbs substantial.



To enable his flexibility of "in one way, out the other" via paralleled single-ended and balanced connections, James naturally had to run two of everything for a total of four transformers and four stepped mono switches.


To add remote control to the above of course requires relay switching and a power supply to trigger the relays. Given the latter, James opted for going whole hog on a comprehensive display including channel balance and input switching.


Enlarge!