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Srajan Ebaen & John Darko
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 1TB iMac running OSX 10.6.7 with PureMusic 1.8 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192, Esoteric UX1/APL Hifi NWO-M, April Music Eximus DP1 [on review], Resonessence Invicta [on follow-up review]
Amplifier: Woo Audio Model 5, FirstWatt S2 proto [on loan]
Speakers: Voxativ Ampeggio
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event, Entreq USB
Stands: 2 x ASI HeartSong 3-tier, 2 x ASI HeartSong amp stand
Powerline conditioning: 1 x GigaWatt PF2, 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: €2.070

"It started innocently enough. There I was reading the review by 6moons about the new Kaivalya tube amps where Srajan wrote that people should really talk to amp designers to build something specifically for them. Well that idea wouldn't leave me alone. The idea rattled around in my head for weeks. Why settle for second best when I could get an amp designed specifically for the speakers I wanted to match it to? I wanted something to match the Hoyt-Bedfords to perfection. To have energy and speed. To have single-ended purity. There really was just one catch. It needed to be built to a budget. A reasonable budget but a budget nonetheless. No point selling well-priced speakers if you don't have an amplifier that is punching in at the same level.

"So I emailed Sasa from Trafomatic. I told him what I wanted. I explained that these single drivers will expose any weakness  the amp has. It needs to be clean, it needs to be fast and it needs to transport the emotions of the performers into the room. The response was almost immediate and very concise.  Sasa had already worked out the design 12 months earlier. Single ended, class A with EL34 tubes. Low power at 6 watts wasn't going to be an issue for the Hoyt-Bedford's 97dB sensitivity and very easy load. I gave Sasa plenty of artistic license. Build it in whatever shape you wish. I put all of my trust in Sasa to make it work. I placed an order sight unseen, sound unheard." - Tony Schmidt, Audio Addiction [Australian hifi importer]

I'd ridden the wave on the Kaivalyas on the very front. With the Aries I was way behind. This tickled me to no end. My commission had inspired someone else. If just being white counts, cosmetically the Aries even looked like son of Kaivalya. Proud daddy-in-absentia reflexes would make it so no matter what. Sniff.

Contrary to my EL84 monos in push/pull pentode, the bigger EL34s are strapped here for triode and biased single-ended. That means one power bulb per side driven by half an ECC81 double triode. The 6wpc output rating falls right between a 2A3 and 300B. Even so it lacks exotic street cred. This is no direct-heated designer triode. This is the favorite pentode of Blues guitarists. In home hifi it most often shows up in mid-power push/pull amps of about 40 watts. The Aries adds three RCA inputs, one pre-out for perhaps a subwoofer, a passive pot to make it an integrated solution and an optional €100 remote control for ± volume.

Input sensitivity is 0.85Vrms, THD 1.55% at 1 watt. Bandwidth is 10Hz (-2dB) to 40kHz (-3dB). Size is 350 x 220 x 200mm. Weight is 12kg. Unlike most other Trafomatic amps which share a strong family resemblance with WLM valve gear—which of course is designed and built by Trafomatic—nobody will mistake the Aries behind its wooden shield for a WLM. That's probably no coincidence. Avoid confusion, get proper credit in show reports and such.

Neither will snobs mistake the Aries for a real SET. They scoff at converting a pentode to triode operation. They view it fit only for newbs and paupers. Having owned my fair share of bona fide triode amps—I still own Yamamoto's A-09S and Woo Audio's Model 5 300B specimens—I specifically commissioned the Kaivalyas to be push/push pentode in class A. With or without feedback I didn't care. Sasa opted for very little but applied it in a very trick fashion. Confessing that I prefer the Kaivalyas to any comparably priced 300B variant perhaps makes me a counter snob. Even so I remain open to being reconverted. Accepting the Aries assignment simply had the earmarkings of not doing that.