Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core w. 16GB RAM running OWS 10.8.2, PureMusic 2.02, Audirvana 1.5.10, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, SOtM dX-USB HD w. super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Bent Audio Tap-X
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, GigaWatt PF-2 on amps
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail in Europe: €7,400

As my report on the 18th installment of the annual Warsaw Audio Show proved, domestic hifi talent in Poland is high and numerous. With Ancient Audio, GigaWatt and Mytek the perhaps most recognized abroad, brands like sounddeco, AbysSound and Amare Musica appear poised to be the next splashers in the global pond. Cue Basho's frog. Croak? Not. Plop? You bet.

This year owners Marcin Solowiow and Maciej Lenar not only showed their new Diamond music server and a pair of still prototype Diamond Etna speakers fitted with Accuton ceramic drivers, they demmed their DeForest which at first glance I mistook for their Entropy integrated. We had syndicated its Polish review a year ago to have me familiar with the general cosmetics. A look at the actual bottles on deck quickly disabused me of that notion however.

To wit, Emission Labs 30A direct-heated triodes in the output stage, with 5U4G rectifiers and EL84 plus EF86 as anode voltage stabilizers. This was no integrated but a proper preamp with full remote control and 400Kohm of input inpedance. Jac van der Walle's EML 30A is named for its amplification factor. In the DeForest, it still generates beaucoup voltage gain to the tune of 25dB. DHT preamps are rare. Mick Maloney of Supratek always had some as does Thomas Mayer. Israel Blume of Coincident makes one. Ditto Kang-Su Park of Allnic. Sasa Cokic of Trafomatic Audio had built two custom units based on the 10Y/VT25 for my friend Dan. Chinese brands like Opera/Consonance and Mingda/Meixing have some. There will be a few more. No matter, the list of formal production not DIY offerings probably remains confined to fewer than 10. Not endangered species turf, exactly. More like never fully developed species to begin with. That's why Basho's frog was squawking so energetically in my mind when I clapped eyes on the DeForest in Warsaw.

With my well-documented departure from valve amps—precipitated by the evil Dr. No aka Nelson Pass and his wonderful FirstWatt stable of low-power transistor amps including my single-stage zero-feedback single-ended SIT1 monos—doing the dirty with direct-heated triodes had left our flat, that particular door slammed and locked shut. I had partaken of the forbidden very high-hanging fruit in the interim with a Cokic non-production loaner to be confident that especially with the ultra-purist SIT1 monos, there was magic to be had from mating them to a DHT preamp. Now you'd be right as rain thinking that this assignment was all about shameless self interest. Rain! My frog was green as a lime. Thankfully the Amare Musica gents were willing. It was time for me to revisit the genre and a prior super-compelling match. Being a big van of EML tubes which had run in my prior Yamamoto 45 and 300B amps, I was already sold on the brand's expertise with current production triodes. My real question was trifold: would the volume taper and high circuit gain play nice or come on way too eager; and would I have any noise issues from direct heating high-gain power triodes which can be notoriously microphonic? How about output impedance and driving my 6-meter interconnects? Only one way to find out.