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Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: PS Audio PWT; PS Audio PWD; Dr. Feickert Blackbird/Zu DL-103; streaming sources Foobar2000; XXHighEnd
Preamp/integrated/power: Tri TRV EQ3SE phonostage; Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Yarland FV 34 CIIISA; Qables iQube V1; Devialet D-Premier; Tron Seven Phono preamp; Tron Discovery [in for review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Arcadian Audio Pnoe; Vaessen Aquarius; Musical Affairs Grand Crescendo [in for review]
Cables: Complete loom of ASI LiveLine cables; full loom of Crystal Cable cables; Nanotec Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotec Golden Strada #79; Nanotec Golden Strada #201
Power line conditioning: Omtec Power Controllers; PS Audio Powerplant Premier; PS Audio Humbuster III
Equipment racks: ASI amplifier and TT shelf
Sundry accessories: Furutech DeMag; Nanotec Nespa #1; Exact Audio Copy software; iPod; wood, brass, ceramic and aluminum cones and pyramids; Shakti Stones; Manley Skipjack
Room treatment: Acoustic System International resonators, sugar cubes, diffusers
Room size: ca. 14.50 x 7.50m with a ceiling height of 3.50m, brick walls, wooden flooring.
Price of review item: Seven Preamp in Reference spec as reviewed £5.995, standard £2.995; Discovery standard £23.000

Like many an avid music lover Graham Tricker did not find the qualities he experiences in live music with reproduced music. Always something was missing, was just different or plain wrong. So what could he do with a backpack of decades restoring vintage audio equipment? Do it himself. Do it better. DIY is one thing, doing it better quite a different matter. Graham also runs GT Audio, the UK distributorship for Avantgarde Acoustics loudspeakers, TW Acustic turntables and Musical Affairs loudspeakers to name a few brands.

For him ‘better’ had to start with designing his amplifier as a whole. That meant the circuit design, chassis and each component used had to be part of a predetermined grand plan to culminate in the best amplifier that would be worthy of the Tron label. No haphazard soldered together resistors, capacitors, transformers and such. Instead carefully selected commercial parts when available at the requisite quality from steady sources or parts made to order. Another requirement was that all parts be sourced either from UK manufacturers or from within the EU. Opening the amps show many Tron-labeled built-to-order parts to indicate how these intentions have materialized.

Delivery of the Tron Seven preamp with phono and the Tron Discovery 300B DHSET power amp was carried out by Graham Tricker personally. Together with Tron’s director of design Paul Bardo they drove and chunneled from Buckinghamshire County in South East England to the Netherlands. On the way they stopped at Hans Kortenbach’s of Musical Affairs who joined them for the last part of the trip to our place with a pair of Musical Affairs Grand Crescendo speakers.

From the car with the steering wheel on the wrong side emerged two large boxes and a wooden crate. The boxes contained spare parts like extra tubes—you never know when you might need one—and the Tron Seven preamp with phono stage. The large crate protected the 45kg of Discovery hardware. Paul and Graham took charge of carrying the amplifier upstairs while we helped Hans with his surprisingly lightweight though large speakers. Once the electronics were unpacked, put in their preliminary spots and in the case of the Discovery equipped with the appropriate tubes, it was time for an audio chat over espressos and dark chocolate.

Owning Avantgarde horns and other high-sensitivity loudspeakers makes for an easy and lively conversation starter. Wearing his designer hat, speakers with sensitivity figures over 100dB are the real challenge for Graham. The amplifiers in such chains should be ultra quiet since the slightest distortion is magnified many times over with this kind of speakers. A poorly laid-out circuit will introduce magnetic induction; earthing problems will cause hum at 50/60Hz and its associated overtones; and a sub-perfect power supply is the basis for extended hum. Hiss on the other hand is due to too much gain between pre & power amp. Graham specifically designed his Tron amplifiers for high-sensitivity loudspeakers. They should thus be ultra quiet, fast and equipped with the correct amount of gain. Even though the Seven and Discovery are two separate devices, they are part of the Tron whole.

The question then arises why a SET type of amplifier for high-sensitivity loudspeakers? This goal of extreme silence could be achieved more easily another way. Trafos and particularly direct-heated output tubes are not known for their quietness as too many unfortunate examples on the market show. For Graham there was no doubt however that SET and more precisely a 300B-based one would be ideal. Of course making a non-feedback SET as quiet as a (dead) mouse is no easy task but possible. Hey look over there at the Discovery. Now that’s an amplifier where it is hard to tell whether it is even on or not whilst idling. Later we would notice just how true Graham’s remark really was.

At Tron Graham took the classic 300B design, ripped it virtually apart and then reassembled it to his standards and goal of extreme silence. From his musical experience an amplifier designed for high(er) sensitivity loudspeakers should output at least 5wpc. That eliminated the flea power of 2A3 and 45 tubes. Push-pull configs too were eliminated from the dream team. There signal is split in twain during the amplification stages. Once recombined in the output transformer it never goes back the same way. A generous amount of negative feedback can better align the recombination but the damage has already been done. The simpler the signal path, the better the result. However in that simple scheme the components the signal encounters better be of the premium-most quality.