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This review first appeared in the August 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of the Einstein Absolute Tune Limited Edition in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or Einstein - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Sources: Analog - VPI Scout II, VPI JMW 9T tone arm; Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Zu Audio DL-103 cartridges; SAC Gamma Sym phono stage; digital – Luxman D-05 SACD player; Computer & Co - Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Readynas Duo NAS-Server, HP Notebook, Apple iPad; Benchmark DAC1 USB, Luxman D-05 converters
Amplification: Octave HP300 MK 2 with MC preamp; Electrocompaniet AW180 power amps; Denon PMA-2010AE integrated
Loudspeakers: Ascendo System F, Thiel SCS4
Other: Creaktiv HiFi-Rack, Zendo cables plus various accessories
Review component retail: €8.000

Glamour straight from the crate
. Far in the West the sun fizzles out as Grönemeyer once sung – but in its stead there shines a bright high-end star, the brand Einstein Audio from Bochum. Their industrial designs might divide tastes but how today’s review subject of The Absolute Tune Limited Edition balances glam factor and reductionism is rare. There are sexy sparkles and factoid minimalism to never cross the line into kitsch. And ‘Limited’ means that this latest and now third incarnation of their integrated amp only became available in May of this year. Factoid minimalism is served by the clean black acrylic fascia framed in chrome and fitted with just two knobs for selecting one of five inputs and volume. The only other item of note is the central logo and beneath it a small window with three LEDs. The outer two light up during the 1-minute warm-up, the middle one takes over as power-on confirmation. A propos power, how does one turn this thing on?

Routine reflex looked around back where the power mains is hardest to reach but nearly obligatory. Nada. I hit pay dirt or navel lint on the belly – left front to be precise. Once found it was very easy to use. Good. More unusual was the adjacent IEC power inlet. I never found one there. Why here?

The location of the power inlet mandates a right-angle power plug which the included cord provides for

”Our mains connection always sits where the transformers are. This eliminates power-line routing through the machine and with it most radiated field interactions” explained Volker Bohlmeier of Einstein. Sounded reasonable too. But why put the iron upfront rather than in the back where most valve amps park it? Transformers radiate as well and it’s sensible to distance the core circuitry from them. And in the pursuit of short signal paths it’s sensible to put the amplification circuits close to the i/o ports, hence in the back. That made even more sense. The overall layout and geometry of building blocks of Einstein’s amp thus is dictated by technology rather than cosmetics. This also flowed into the mirror-imaged symmetry. The Absolute Tune goes true dual mono which benefits channel separation.

Again this is Einstein’s third version of this model. The core hybrid concept remains. It combines valves and transistors. The amp symmetrizes the signal coming in exclusively over RCA. The twin dual-triode EI ECC88 per channel input stage fronts a fully balanced IRF P240 Mosfet-based Circlotronic output stage which is more commonly implemented with tubes. This circuit type was developed during the 1950s—hence its original and ongoing valve focus—and sports an output impedance low enough to allow tube use without an output transformer. That's exactly what Einstein’s beefy monos called Final Cut Ultimate OTL (for output transformer less) do. What those accomplish with triodes the Absolute Tune does with transistors, so Bohlmeier. As key assets of this circuit he cited very low even-order distortion and despite class A/B mode no crossover distortion due to their very high idle current.