Silbatone – Super exclusive and totally bespoke (phono stages)

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Silbatone – Super exclusive and totally bespoke (integrated amps)

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silbatone products – super exclusive and totally bespoke (power amps)

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Silbatone Products – Super Exclusive and Totally Bespoke (Preamps)

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Avantgarde Factory Visit

Sometime earlier this year, I paid Avantgarde Acoustic a visit in the quiet town of Lautertal (near to Frankfurt) to view their brand new production facilities and showroom that took more than 2 years to build.

While it was very educational to see the assembly of these amazing horn speakers and to appreciate the finer points of their product design and the quality of the parts used, the highlight for me was listening to music in their beautiful showroom! The top model TRIO with triple-level Basshorns really, really needs to be heard to be believed!

To say they were impressive is a gross understatement and doesn’t do justice to the realism this huge speaker system can achieve with any music that goes through it. The dynamic contrast, transient attack and decay, the clarity and separation of details, bass depth impact, and wall to wall sound staging are all truly first class in my book!

 Sure, not many music lovers can accommodate nor afford such an ambitious design but the good news is that Avantgarde make equally good horn systems that can fit into any normal home (even small ones :)), and still sound and look amazingly good!

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MOD DAC 2013


Our annual hifi show MOD DAC 2-13 was held over the weekend (17-18 Aug.) at the raffles City Convention Centre, and we would like to thank all those who have supported us by attending the show and especially those who have given us feedback that we had probably the best sound of the show! Everything was unofficial of course, so there were no prizes for that :).

This year, we demoed the latest and most compact horn speaker from Avantgarde Acoustic, the UNO Fino and partnered with ANUK amplification. Digital source was handled by the AMR CD-777 tube CD player and vinyl was played through the TW Raven GT, Reed 3P and Transfiguration Proteus combination. Here are some photos taken at the show for the benefit of those who were unable to attend.


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The Silbatone JI-300 MKIII

I’ve lived with all the versions of Silbatone’s iconic integrated amplifier, from the original JI-300 right up to the latest MKIII version that I’m listening to right now. As good as the first one was, the MKII version improved on it significantly and this latest version is by far their best one yet!

Using a single WE 300B output tube per channel in pure Class A single-ended mode, this MKIII version is now using all silver-foil output transformers, silver-foil capacitors and pure silver internal wiring from one of the best known manufacturers of pure silver cables. Together with a chassis that is built like a battleship, this amp is one that you will not soon forget!

On initial listening, the level of transparency is simply amazing, revealing details that normally would be barely audible in the background. The speed and bass control of this single-ended tube amplifier is also outstanding to say the least!

In fact, I would go so far as to say that it can challenge the best solid-state amps in those areas that are traditionally their strong points but without losing that all-important musical character that is so beloved of good 300B amplifiers. So much so that I can boldly declare that this is THE best 300B integrated amplifier that I have ever listened to, regardless of price!

Will it be the best for you? That is a question that only you can answer and you’ll know the answer after auditioning it in our showroom! The Silbatone JI-300 MKIII is currently on demo in our main soundroom with the magnificent Avantgarde DUO Mezzo horn speaker system.


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The Kondo Ongaku – A Photo Essay

The legendary Ongaku integrated amplifier is such an iconic product that literally everyone in the audio circles associates Audio Note Japan with it, and vice versa – even though Audio Note Japan (or Kondo Labs as they are now called) make a whole range of extremely exotic audio equipment that many aspire to but only a few can afford.. Actually, that’s not such a bad thing at all as the Ongaku is a special product that comes only once a lifetime.

What makes it so special? Well, the Ongaku is one of the first audio products that popularises the use of pure silver in its circuitry, and it is also the one product that practically brought the single-ended amplifier genre into mainstream attention. In spite of its deceptively low power rating and poor frequency and distortion specifications, the sound was so sublime that once you hear it in a well set-up system with synergistic speakers, the memory of that sticks in your head for a very long time!

Apart from the legendary sound quality, the quality of workmanship on every aspect of tits chassis – from its lacquered copper top-plate, to the finely machined and polished knobs, to the high quality potted transformer caps, to its proprietary silver input connections and speaker terminals – clearly sets it apart as something very special. View the images below and you’ll understand what I mean!

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MOD DAC 2012

The first ever MOD DAC hifi show has come and gone and I must say that we like it enough to already look forward to next year’s show! The venue was a lot more convenient (right in the middle of town) than the one usually held in November, and I like the rooms too – they were generally big enough to show the system’s full potential. Even the room acoustics were a lot better than expected, so we have no excuses for bad sound here!

Apart from the unfortunate choice of name that confused a number of people, we have a good feeling for this brand new show aimed at the high end audio market. It definitely has great potential and will go far with a few tweaks here and there.

This year, we demoed a system that consisted of equipment that we are not usually associated with – high power solid state amplification and lower sensitivity dynamic speakers.

The preamp and power amp was from the Performance Series of Constellation Audio. The Virgo and Centaur combo was the subject of a rave review by Jonathan Valin of The Absolute Sound (in case you’re interested). The speaker was the excellent Andra III Signature from EgglestonWorks. Source components were from Dr. Feickert Analogue (turntable) and Aesthetix (CD player and phono stage).

The full system was connected to a Shunyata Hydra Telos for power conditioning and all cables and power cords were from Shunyata’s latest Ztron Series. We managed to get a sound that was very dynamic and with very good bass control. Impressed even me! Sound staging was big and airy, and also with pretty impressive 3 dimensional layering from front to back.

This confirms the claims that Shunyata Research makes about their conditioners not having any current limitation, unlike conventional designs. Sounds just like plugging your power straight from the wall, except with a lot more refinement, finesse, front-to-back layering, instrument separation and better image focus.

Regardless of the type of equipment being used, we promised great sound reproduction and we sincerely believe that we achieved this very well!  For the folks who were not able to drop by and also for our many overease friends, here are some photos that we took of our system at the show. Enjoy!


interview with head of egglestonworks – jim thompson

Hi Jim,

1)    I understand that you are not the original founder of EgglestonWorks. Can you give us a bit of information on your own background, and how you ended up as head of EgglestonWorks?

This is true. EgglestonWorks started as a furniture company with its first products in audio being high-­‐end furniture that had speakers inside. It was quite interesting, but there was no demand for speakers that looked like furniture. I was recruited to help on the business side of the company as an accountant in 1996. My father owned a music instrument store, and as I child I spent many hours in the store playing and tinkering with amps, so I was not a stranger to HiFi. I was still in school at the time that I came to EgglestonWorks, and could not believe my luck in finding a company and an industry that fascinated me to such a degree. I devoured everything I could get my hands on as far as reading material on equipment, system set-­‐up and speaker design. During my first year at the company, the founder of the company decided to move to Los Angeles to work in the movie business. At that time, the company was run by myself and our production manager. The investor group in the company, sold me a percentage of the company and over the next 5 years I purchased the entire company.

2)    EgglestonWorks has a reputation as being a manufacturer of expensive high end loudspeakers. However with the introduction of the Diane and now the Isobel Signature, you are now offering some very affordable and attractive-­‐looking speakers. How do you manage to do this and still maintain the quality and “family sound” of Eggleston?

We believe in maintaining a consistent voicing of our products, so that a customer can get familiar with our brand and know what other models in the line will sound like based on any other model. We are able to do this by a consistent philosophy regarding crossover design, box construction and driver complement. WE look for components that are neutral but still musical. We want to recreate a realistic listening experience, but still a non-­‐fatigueing expereince that people can enjoy for many hours at a time.

3)    I notice that you favor using Dynaudio tweeters and Morel midrange/woofers in almost all your speakers. Is there is reason for this preference?

As I mentioned earlier, we prefer components that are nuetral and natural and easy to listen to. This applies to wire, crossover parts, cabinet material, and drivers. The drivers that we use fit our criteria for quality. The reason we use the same types of these in most models goes back to our goal of having a “house sound” that customers can get acquainted with and grow within our line from one model to the other almost seamlessly.

4)    What are the qualities that you aim to achieve when you design and manufacture any loudspeaker, and are there any factors that you feel allow your company to stand out from the mass of speaker manufacturers’ nowadays?

I have touched on most of our design goals already but one that helps us to stand out from other is our speakers’ ability to truthfully represent a piece of music while still being accurate. This is the main reason that our products are used in some of the most important mastering studios in the world. We are the montiors at GateWay Mastering Studios in the USA and at Wisseloord Studios in Holland. Mastering engineers see the value of and apprecaite the balance of accuracy and musicality, which is the ideal balance for any customer looking for the best view into a piece of music.

Also, our cabinets are quite special. Some aspects are a secret, but mainly we lay up two sheets of mdf with a propietary adhesive to all but eliminate cabinet resonance. This is very important for any high performance loudspeaker. There are a lot of cabinet deisgns on the market these days; I would put ours up against any other design without hesitation.

5) Eggleston speakers are generally known to require a certain amount of power and current from amplifiers in order to sound good. Do you agree with this opinion, or are there any models that are more ‘amplifier friendly’ in your current line-­‐up of speakers?

This used to be quite true though not as much as the reputation would have made you think. Our speakers in the past tended to be of average efficiency but very stable impedence. What this meant is that it took a moderate amount of power to drive them adequately but they could also handle huge amounts (almost unlimited) of wattage due to the quality of the circuits and drive units. The most recent models in the Signature series have improved efficiency. The Andra III for example is rated at 89 dB with an impedence that never drops below 5ohms making it very easy to drive. This is an aspect we have tried to employ in many other models.

6) Do you have any plans to introduce any new models or upgrade/update any of the current ones in the near future?

We are always working on something new or working on how to improve the current models. Quite often we will employ an improvement and not mention it. This is done as we try to make the best speaker we know how to make. Some thing that frustrates me as a customer is when a product is constantly coming up with a new release because of some small change. We only change a model when the improvements are on a scale large enough to garner the change. Usually anything new will be debuted at CES in January of each year with an announcement a month or so prior. So, for now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

7)    Where do you see your company headed in the future in order to stay relevant in an increasingly competitive market?

I believe there is a strong emphasis these days on design in terms of lifestyle products. We know how to make a speaker that sounds great and we have to maintain that aspect of course. But I see a trend where consumer opinion on outward appearance is becoming quite important. People are getting more critical of the industrial design aspect of audio products – especially speakers. For the most part, speakers are imposing pieces of furniture and finding a balance visually so that they organincally enhance the environment in which they are placed is more and more important.