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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Esoteric UX-1, Yamamoto YDA-01
Preamp/Integrated: Esoteric C-03, ModWright DM 36.5, Yamamoto HA-02
Amplifier: Yamamoto A-09S, Ancient Audio Single Six, FirstWatt F5, ModWright KWA-150
Speakers: Acoustic System Int. Tango R, Zu Essence, AudioTechnica ATH-W1000 earspeakers
Cables: Complete ASI Liveline loom
Stands: 4 x Ikea Molger with Ikea butcher-block platforms on metal footers
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2
nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls; short-wall setup against 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: €1,190
The man with the new tools
Like 007's nemesis with the golden gun, Sasa Cokic of Trafomatic Audio in Serbia's Mladenovac has grown more dangerous. Not to himself but competitors. With his own valve gear, he always knew how to make good sound without a fortune. He's a true transformer expert who rolls his own for each application. The kind of fit 'n' finish he could achieve was simply handicapped. He still lacked a certain specialty experience. And tools. His ascent to WLM Acoustics' chief engineer at large (Sasa designs all their circuits and builds all their sub assemblies and transformers) created a small infusion of working capital. Sasa immediately invested that into building a new dedicated assembly facility, hiring more personnel and acquiring his own CNC router. The Austrian connection with wood-work champ Hannes Frick & Co. rubbed off further. During a gruelling 3-day training course at the WLM facility in Sülz, Sasa and two of his key men were shown certain expert tricks on how to achieve the immaculate finish level WLM demanded for its new brand of tube electronics.

Click on thumb nails of WLM Acoustics Minueta, Linea, Gamma and Allegra models for full-size images in new windows

Once the WLM project had aced the proof-of-concept hurdle (it sounds terrific) and the bigger 'Austrian standards' challenge (these designs can be built to perfect cosmetic spec in Serbia), the formal roll-out of an ambitious number of brand-new WLM models was scheduled for HighEnd 2009 in Munich. Ever restless, Sasa Cokic immediately applied his new tools and skills to face-lift his own Trafomatic Audio models well before he set off for his first-ever German hifi show.

To document his progress, Sasa submitted these images of his existing but revamped Experience line.

The visual tie-in with the WLM Acoustics models was deliberate. "For Hannes, I designed push-pull circuits around EL84s and EL34s exclusively to meet the criteria of his speaker models and tastes. At Trafomatic Audio, I already had 2A3 and 300B single-ended integrateds, 2A3 and parallel 300B monos, a headphone amp/preamp and transformer-coupled power filters. Adopting the same cosmetics we developed with Hannes made sense for those WLM clients, dealers and distributors who might prefer SET circuits and triodes. We do have one 6550 push/pull model called the Experience Elegance in our Trafomatic brand. Yet for that I retained the original front panel dress plate as you can see below. So there's zero overlap or competition with WLM. Rather, we have a nice strategic dovetailing to cover many different bases without doubling up."

Those whose only hesitation with Trafomatic Audio in the past had to do with appearance no longer need to restrain themselves. In their price range, these models are now as bling and gussied up as good conservative taste would want.

Naturally, looks aren't everything. The time had come to take another - um, look at the Experience line and report on sonics. As a headphone listener, I was curious about Trafomatic's Experience Head One. That's an unusually flexible tube-rectified design with multiple impedance taps for the earspeakers.

It also runs a pair of 6S45P triodes with 1.8dB of negative feedback on the outputs while one EZ80(81) becomes the indirectly heated rectifier. Two inputs switch via rear-mounted toggle, twinned preouts allow for biamping or subwoofing to turn this piece into a bona fide preamp. The right four-pole control on the front selects from 30, 100 and 300-ohm loading for the headphone output or preamp duty in its last position. Max output power on the 1/4" socket is 300mW while preamp gain on the pre-outs is 18dB with a max voltage swing of +/-9V. Beyond the expected Trafomatic trannies and choke, parts include Rubicon electrolytics, an Alps potentiometer and metal-film resistors.

This image opens to full size in a new window

Sasa's headphones of choice are the same AudioTechnica ATH-W1000s I favor. The noise floor of the Head One was optimized for high-sensitivity ear speakers of this caliber. My favorite headphone amp of course is Shigeki-San's Yamamoto HA-02. Fairly or not, that's what the Serbian would have to duke it out with. More soon...

Trafomatic Audio website