Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R]
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO with DHT module,COS Engineering D1, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage 2
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE UP NC500MB; LinnenberG Audio Liszt
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
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; Black Cat Cable Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver; Titan Audio Eros power cord
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: 4 x 6m with high gabled beam ceiling opening into 4 x 8m kitchen and 5 x 8m living room, hence no wall behind the listening chairs
Review component retail: £3'550

According to Osho, the American writer Paul Reps wasn't enlightened. Just so, Osho views his Zen Bones, Zen Flesh as one of the very best books on Zen ever written by a Westerner. Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki meanwhile was fully enlightened and published on a truly massive scale on the same subject. Yet Osho finds his writings not as accomplished. Capturing the true essence of something is possible even for apparent outsiders.

Which segues into the two-chassis Lysios amplifier from Sicilian company Audiozen. Zen and Don Corleone? What will Mario Puzo fans of The Godfather and Scorcese's immortal movie triology make of it? Leave the gun, bring the cannoli? Clearly Sicily isn't just Mount Etna, mafia dons and risotto al nero di seppia, a favourite of the late Luciano Pavarotti. It's also Antonino Pistone for hifi electronics, here with Salvo Giardina of importership Audiopoint Italia [middle] and their mutual audio bud Fabrizio Tuzza [left].

And yes, officially Audiozen are as Italian as Linn and Tannoy are British not Scottish. Still, the actual Sicilian locale plays even better to earthy Zen. That's always embraced the marketplace with its ordinary life. In fact, Zen embraces disciplines as varied as sitting meditation, sword fighting, martial arts, archery, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, gardening, motorcycle maintenance and more. It's not about meditating oneself out of mundane life. It's about participating in it with full awareness. For those into the finer playback arts, this includes audiophilia. Voilà, audio zen not in a remote monastery for just the chosen few. This audio zen might happen in a Catania taverna overlooking the Med, with Tunesia in the distance, a shot of ristretto at hand followed by a shot of Donnafugata grappa. Â saluti!

Quant'è? Scottish importer Elite Audio UK list the Lysios at £3'550; or, in early 2018 Merkel bills, at a whisker above €4K. Either denomination buys us a 150/300wpc into 8/4Ω class A/B amplifier with 125dB S/NR and 150kHz bandwidth at -3dB. With 6kg for the clean signal-path box and 8.5kg for the dirty power-supply box with dual-mono toroids and low ESR filter caps, there isn't a hint of machismo, just Zen practicality. Output devices are insulated gate bipolar transistors aka IGBT from Ixys. Those show up with "quasi complementary symmetry enriched with Baxandall diode to eliminate the local Miller effect"; four per channel. I hoped that Nino would unwrap that for us into everyday language. As our maiden review on his company, some more general background to get properly acquainted would also be useful.

From his LinkedIn cover page, I'd only learnt that he launched Audiozen in November 2008 to approach his 10th anniversary in the hifi business; and from Palermo's Superior Institute for Entrepreneurs and Company Managers had acquired a Mini Masters in business administration in 1992.

Those of a technical bend can read the above-linked PDF white paper. In it Ixys explain how IGBT marry specific Mosfet and bipolar behaviours. But the eyes of the rest of us will glaze over. We'll instead follow Nino along into how Audiozen came about; and let him explain what sets his Lysios amp apart from others that might vie for our wallets. Clear from already the cover photo is that Lysios eschews muscle-amp optics with their multi-branching radiators and thumb-thick face plates. Those into fonts could feel that the 'power supply unit' screening would look better if written out in the same font as 'reference dual mono amplifier'; and that company name and logo ought to be the same size for both boxes. Others could question why the top unit's face plate shows no visible bolts but that of the PSU does. Neither works without the other. Shouldn't they look like they go together all the way?

At this stage of our narrative, Nino went incommunicado for a long time and stopped answering emails. By mid January, he suddenly resurfaced. "More than a few months passed since you kindly published your preview. I'm sorry for this enormous delay in replying but my team and I have been very busy with shows and definitive upgrades to our Zen range. Important upgrades were made to all products inside and out. We have a new logo, one single new font on the front panels, new PCB, better connectors (Cardas on the Insight and Lysios models) and other updates. This important revision process ended just before Christmas so now we are finally ready for a review. Your Lysios loaner is playing in our listening room and soon will be fully broken in. I guess that by the end of January I could ship it." In answer to my request for more background information, "we think that music reproduction must be as realistic as possible and we believe in the commingling alchemy when NOS tubes* meet modern devices like IGBT. Zen range models are equipped with a separate power supply because power supplies really matter to us." By March 7th, "this week Lysios will be equipped with the new panels so you will have the final 2018 version for review. Now it is only a matter of days before shipment." On March 15th I had a DHL tracker and this: "This is the first production unit with the new graphics and PSU face plate without corner bolts." Clearly my comments on the visuals had been partly responsible for these delays. Kudos to any manufacturer who embraces constructive criticism in the intended spirit - to help improve their product even if it's just cosmetically.

Asked for more background intel, Nino added this: "We started about 10 years ago with an approach to hifi more philosophical than technical, searching for the best sound within the tradition plus a little innovation. For Lysios, we decided to use fast devices like IGBT whose high impedance makes them easier to drive and whose great current delivery improves over Mosfets. Usually solid-state amplifiers run complementary devices in n-channel and p-channel guise but IGBT are available only as n-channel versions. Hence we developed a quasi complementary circuit with just n-channel parts like great companies did in the early 70s when p-channel power devices were still unavailable. It seems strange but it's easier to find and match two nearly equal n-channel parts than two complementary versions. We tested several vendors of IGBT and for our project, those by Ixys were best. About 50 years ago, Mr. Baxandall discovered that a diode at a very precise point of a quasi-complementary circuit eliminates the local Miller effect** to obtain superior linearity at high frequencies. It seems strange again but in many amplifiers with a quasi-complementary circuit, this Baxandall diode never appears. In ours it does again. So by mixing a traditional quasi-complementary circuit with the innovative modern IGBT parts, we created our sound liberator aka Lysios."

* This mention of NOS tubes excludes Lysios which is pure solid state.
** About the Miller effect, Wikipedia tells us that "it is due to parasitic capacitance between the output and input of active devices like transistors and vacuum tubes" and becomes " a major factor at limiting their gain at high frequencies." In 1920, a John Milton Miller identified this rogue capacitance in vacuum tubes. Here is a patent link to a circuit which compensates for the Miller effect another way.