This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Did you see that glory? It’s an appropriate icon for our subject today.

For me it first brought to mind a halo—also known as a nimbus or aureole—which is a ring of light that surrounds a person in art. Halos may be shown as almost any color but as they represent light are most often depicted as golden, yellow or white.

Depending on the position of the sun coming through one of the windows in the listening room, it appears as a luminous disk around the amp. As the day wanes it becomes an aureole, with the disc shape becoming oval and then elliptical in form, eventually enveloping the whole system.

Did you know that the combination of halo and aureole is called a glory? I sure didn’t but it’s a fitting word for this amp. When used as an adjective (or found in an amp) we end up with the word glorious as in highly enjoyable.

Which is what the hobby is all about for me. Of course she who can’t help but be adored for her seemingly inexhaustible tolerance calls the hobby something else. But, but - for the record, I do not suffer from insanity. I try to enjoy every minute of it.

"Vanishing Point" by Iardacil

Seriously … how does it sound?! What makes the Audion special is the fact that it offers both aural ease and liquid momentum. It’s also eerily quiet upon powering up. In those respects it reminds me a lot of the Pass Labs INT-30A. Listening sessions were exceptionally effortless. Then again it doesn’t remind me of the Pass at all. Despite its absence of electronic hash the Audion doesn’t deliver the same level of lucidity or extensive reach in the top and bottom octaves. It does however make music come alive with impressive emotional essence in the mids - more spirit or musically vibrational bloom if you will. So in the realm of tone, harmonics and texture it surpasses the Pass. And in classic 300B form the Audion is sumptuous with voices whether it’s Jacinta purring, Chrissie Hynde panting, Sinatra swingin’ or Lightnin’ Hopkins supplicatin’... all—and here’s what separates it from some others—whilst remaining well-balanced, well-grounded and well-focused.

Of course every piece of audio gear has some imperfections. Or not depending on your tastes. I simply try to put things in a fair light without too much spin. The Audion is not dynamically flamboyant or the ultimate in transparency. It has limits at the frequency extremes in absolute terms but we’re not talking steep cliffs. It’s more akin to backing off the accelerator in your vehicle. Still, whatever may have been missing might become less relevant when you consider the organic nature of what is there - an emotional conviction that grabs you and makes you forget about the audiophile checklist.

Consider bassist Curtis Counce's You Get More Bounce. Its mix of cool jazz and hard bop coursing through the 300B tubes snatched the reviewer’s pen right out of my hand. This is a band with plenty of solo strength and they're not shy about letting it show. The Charlie Parker tune entitled "Bigfoot" brings us to Hard Bop's equivalent of the duelling banjos, with intense and palpable drumming on the right side of the stage playing off against penetrating sax and trumpet on the left. The timbral truth was hard to deny. With no tipped up and ultimately fatiguing tonal balance issues it was impossible not to connect. Tuning in and dropping out of reviewer mode could not be helped. Case closed on the definition of insanity.

A friend is someone who will help you move. A good friend is someone who will help you move a dead body. A really good friend is someone who helps you move yet another unknown amp into their system for evaluation. As is my custom the Audion went on tour. First up was Jeff Day’s place for a comparison with the Sophia Electric Model 91-01 300B mono amplifiers. Jeff’s amps are leashed to Tannoy Westminster Royal Special Edition via (mostly) Acoustic Revive cabling. The source was the VPI Classic turntable using either a Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood MM cartridge or an EMT TSD-15 MC phono cartridge in combination with an Auditorium 23 MC step-up transformer. To cut to the chase, the message from that session was clear to everyone. The Audion was charming and suave with excellent center fill and realistic imaging but less transparent and less deep-bass savvy than the Sophia mono amps. I found the same to be true of the Audion when compared to my Melody i2A3 integrated. As one might expect, the Sophia monoblocks also displayed greater dynamic range and channel separation.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure. Early in our liaison I didn’t get fully affianced with the product. But due diligence mandated that I give her a chance to unwind. Once up and running she pleads to be played. As it turns out the Audion doesn’t fully reveal herself in initial or brief listening sessions. She slowly saturates your experience and the more she begins to unwind you, the more involving the music becomes. Doubts about sonic merits begin to evaporate. More frequently over time I found myself looking down at my notes only to see a blank page.

Before that though one of the first qualities I got a grip on—even though it was from another room—is that this had jump. The nearly impossible to categorize Adrian Legg was doing his thing with an axe and steel strings. "Lunchtime at Rosie’s" from Mrs. Crowe’s Blue Waltz had the drive and swing it should but that day it moved with even more fluidity than I recall hearing before. Smooth momentum. Effortless drive. We were off to a great start.