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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: APL HiFi NWO 3.0-GO; Ancient Audio Lektor Prime; Raysonic Audio CD-168; Yamamoto YDA-01
Preamp: ModWright DM 36.5, Esoteric C-03
Amplifier: Yamamoto A-09S, FirstWatt F5, Trafomatic Audio Reference monos [on loan]

Speakers: ASI Tango R; Zu Essence [on review]
Cables: ASI Liveline interconnects, speaker cables and power cord; Crystal Cable Ultra & Reference power cords
Stands: 2 x Ikea Molger, Ikea butcher-block platforms with metal footers
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option for 120V gear
Sundry accessories: Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: The sound platform is 3 x 4.5m with a 2-story slanted ceiling above; four steps below continue into an 8m long combined open kitchen, dining room and office, an area which widens to 5.2m with a 2.8m ceiling; the sound platform space is open to a 2nd story landing and, via spiral stair case, to a 3rd-floor studio; concrete floor, concrete and brick walls from a converted barn with no parallel walls nor perfect right angles; short-wall setup with speaker backs facing the 8-meter expanse and 2nd-story landing.
Review Component Retail: $10,900 & $18,500/pr respectively

Kang Su Park of South Korea has plied his trade as a devout valve electronics man for a few decades. First he ran Silvaweld, then he launched Allnic Audio in 2005. He is a stout proponent of certain principles including:
  • vacuum tube voltage regulation for superior noise floors of low-level circuits, particularly phono
  • overspecified power transformers and rectifying circuits
  • proper tube type selection for the intended application
  • careful matching of circuits to transformers
  • in-house capabilities for CAD, CAM and CNC work
  • exclusive use of Permalloy*-core signal-path transformers

* Dating back to 1916 and G.W. Elmen at Western Electric, permalloy is an alloy of nickel and iron

Like Shigeki Yamamoto in Japan, Mr. Park insists on top-quality parts and builds his own if commercial samples don't meet his criteria. Proprietary variants include 41- and 61-step silver-contact, constant-impedance bridged T and H-type attenuators; and patent-pending Absorb-GEL tube damper sockets to attack tube microphonics at one of their sources (the other being airborne). Like Van den Hul, Kang

Su builds his cartridges by hand, one at a time, personally. His is an enterprise by audiophiles for audiophiles. Allnic's seven employees are family members and all related. They wind all their transformers in-house. They assemble all equipment by hand as is de rigeur for upscale boutique operations. While for the geographically challenged, Allnic's location in Songnam City/Korea might conjure up 'over there' mainland China associations, this company's credo is rather more Japanese in spirit. Think Kondo, Shindo, Yamamoto Sound Craft.

Invoking silly nationalist characterizations seems justifiable only in the face of the massive influx of Sino goods which, on a whole, may offer fantastic value but are often bereft of circuit originality and advanced implementations. Or what K.S. groups under the sly reference secrets that aren't found in text books and require rather more than slick finishes and the ability to produce volume. Nothing perhaps underscores this point more than his focus on tubed phono stages. In matters of S/N ratios and distortion figures required to be considered competitive, that's arguably the most difficult component category for any valve electronics designer to work in. Kang Su Park believes his phono preamplifiers to be state of the art, something experts like Michael Fremer and Roy Gregory will have to affirm.

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The current Allnic Audio offering includes three phono stages priced at $1,600, $5,000 and $10,900 respectively; a $2,300 cartridge; two line stages at $4,800 and $8,900; an integrated at $4,500; a stereo amp at $4,500; and two monos at $10,000 and $18,500 the pair respectively. There are also speakers, step-up transformers and additional electronics.

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David Beetles* of Hammertone Audio in Canada handles US/Canadian distribution; Keith Cooper of Purite Audio imports for the UK; and after a brief stint through Ralph Krebs of Cessaro Horns, Peter Schmitz of Preference Audio serves the German market. Mr. Darko Anderluh of Lager GmbH has come on board for Croatia and Warwick Freemantle with Pure Music Group for Australia. Further representation is obviously planned as Allnic Audio develops its sales network outside Asia. But with key players for the euro and US markets now in place, we can take a first look at these promising products. It's a companion story of sort to our review of the KM-300SE integrated. Emillé Lab was the first high-end valve audio firm from South Korea we profiled. Today's introduction of Allnic Audio focuses on its top preamplifier and 50-watt single-ended monoblocks. The latter incidentally drove Cessaro hornspeakers at the Munich HighEnd 2008 show to indicate how they ace the high-efficiency noise magnification hurdle (next to valved phono stages, that's perhaps the other profound challenge in tube audio design).

* When it comes to ambitious new valve audio, some background on its importer is helpful to know against what background and context a particular line was chosen. This Sidebar 1 provides such data on the Canadian/US distributor.