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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
27" iMac with 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 16GB 1.333MHz RAM, 2TB hard disc, 256GB SSD drive, ADM Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, PureMusic 1.89g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM and AIFF files up to 24/192; Audirvana 1.5.10 in Integer mode 1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2
Preamp/Integrated: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X, Crayon CFA-1.2, Bakoon AMP-12R, Gato Audio DIA-250, Clones Audio 25i [on loan]
: First Watt SIT1, Goldmund/Job 225, AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Speakers: soundkaos WAve 40 + Zu Submission, Boenicke Audio W5, AudioSolutions Rhapsody 200, German Physiks HRS-120
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Audio Event,
KingRex uCraft and Light Harmonic LightSpeed and Zu split USB cables, Van den Hul AES/EBU cable, Tombo Trøn S/PDIF cable, AudioQuest Diamond Toslink
ALO-Audio recabled Audeze LCD2 & LCD3, Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 & T5p, AKG-K02; stock-cabled HifiMan HE6, HE-500; MrSpeakers Mad Dog & Alpha Dog; Aëdle VK-1
Artesania Audio Exotyeric for front end, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Powerline conditioning:
Vibex Three 11R on front end, Vibex Two 1R + GigaWatt power strip on amps
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: $3'295 & $2'995 for L1/M1 respectively

'twas January 3rd.
With 2013 wrapped, I wondered. What hifi surprises might the new year hold in store? That day Wow Audio Lab's project manager Alan Cheng presented me with the first. "We are a Hong Kong based audio company. We start our business with two audio amplifiers, L1 (preamp + headphone amp) and M1 (power amp). We would like to raise a review request for our L1. Please visit our website for detailed information and let me know how to proceed." Taking one look, I sent him my address. Some things are very simple.

In this 6061-T6 'aircraft-grade' aluminium case of subcutaneous wave patterns and facial diamond facets, Jeff Rowland had met Avalon. The inside shots continued the obvious ultra-fi theme. A speedy check to the 'buy' button—Wow sells direct whilst a retail network is being put in place—netted what for this show was a very reasonable $3'295. Toggling back to specs I got 10.8kg and dimensions of 240x357x96mm WxDxH. Compact but lavish build, super fair pricing.

How about performance specs? With fully separate preamp and headfi sections operating in class A*, there was bandwidth from DC to 1MHz for the former, 10Hz to 300kHz for the latter, with 15/16dB of gain respectively. The RCA pre-out could swing 30Vpp, the 6.3mm headphone output a very stout 75Vpp. My HifiMan HE-6 made lustful noises in its Klutz cradle. In hard figures there were 5.2 watts of headphone power into 32Ω, 4.5w into 64, 3.5w into 120, 2.1w into 250 and 1 watt into 500 ohms. The L1 even had remote control over 96 x 1dB volume steps and input switching plus a fancy silent white-on-blue display if only two inputs and a single out. Those i/o limits were clearly due to chassis width where more than half is taken up internally by a potted power toroid within its own perfectly sealed aluminum bay.

*The L1's headfi circuit runs a JFET input with Mosfet output, the preamp a JFET input with BJT output.

But good grief, 2014 was kicking off with a bang as loud and sparkling as had the New Year's fireworks above our old haunt Chardonne. We'd viewed those fireworks from the mega terrace of the Mirador Kempinski Hotel on Mount Pèlerin overlooking the lake after an hour of meditation in the Rabten Choeling Tibetan monastery up the road. If high-end was dying as certain hoarse pundits keep reiterating, Wow Audio Lab hadn't gotten the memo. Like the good book says, "if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him". That's good advice.

With first production of the matching 100wpc M1 stereo amp scheduled for mid February, I signed up for the pair but proposed to kick off with the L1's headfi features, then assess the pre/power combo as a luxo desktop set then big-rig proposition. When Alan was game for the 1-2 plan, I sent him my usual questions to properly profile their new company.