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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: MacBook Pro, Stello CDT100 / DAC100 Signature
Preamp/Integrated: Glow Audio 2008 Amp One, Dayens Ampino [on review]
Speakers: Glow Audio Voice One, Glow Audio Sub One [on review]
Cables: ASI Liveline lo/hi-level + one power cord, Crystal Cable Ultra power cords
Stands: Ikea butcher-block platforms with metal footers
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S, Furutech e-TP80 on desk top
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: $648/$708 US/global for integrated amplifier (the global price adds $60 shipping); $348/408 for the speakers and sub respectively; $948/$1,038 for speaker/amp system; $1,188/1,308 for speakers/sub/amp combo

As I put it in my review of the original Glow Audio Amp One, it's pretty hard to screw up the sound of an EL84 amp. The EL84 is one of the very best valves for hifi, period. Yet its dirty cheapness compared to designer triodes makes it poison for amps that are to be priced in line with state-of-the-art 300B amps. Nobody would pay $10,000 for a 15-watt EL84 parallel single-ended after all. So the EL84 remains the bastard child of high-end valve fi. Only pragmatic realists like Almarro, Decware, Music Reference and Manley Labs use it (WLM's forthcoming Minueta means to add to that list). On principle and perception alike, such EL84 amps are shunned by most hi-end buyers as not serious enough. What's their loss can be your gain. Just scratch cred from your list of audio accomplishments. Sniff. On second thought, grin.

Glow Audio's mission for good sound and low price snubs snobs by design. For amplification, that's meant integrated, low power, China and EL84s. It's also meant headphone and USB connections. It's the latter two which the new-for-2009 Amp One claims to improve*. That and more add $160 to the original's introductory price. Which doesn't make this the Amp Two. It remains the One which won our Realsization Award in March of last year. But why send customers elsewhere who still need copasetic speakers to match your brutish 5-watter?

Further improvements include strengthened tube rails, strengthened potentiometer assembly, improved shielding, CE certification for European sales, improved paint and finish and a light-ring on/off switch. Otherwise it's still an auto bias, single-ended and thus class A pentode design with minimal feedback, 6N3 drivers, Alps pot and a variety of glossy Enamel finishes with removable tube cage.

Why indeed.
Glow Audio's cleverly named Voice One is a 0-order (no crossover) 3-inch bamboo/Hemp-fiber 1-way. Its proprietary driver sits in an ovoid that's been turned from recycled, then 'butcher-blocked' scrap wood. This elongated and otherwise morphed sphere is buttery smooth on the outside but deliberately faceted along its varying inner diameters to randomize and exhaust internal reflections. Flipped on its longitudinal axis and propped up on mini footers à la nOrh, the Voice One stares daringly at the listener with a very pointy silver phase plug.

The matching Sub One combines a down-firing passive with a front-firing active 6.5-inch woofer in a sealed enclosure. It sports curved bamboo cheeks and black perf metal grills. The 60-watt onboard amp makes more than adequate power for the 95dB sensitivity rating and claimed bandwidth is 30Hz to 160Hz. Standby consumption is a mere 7.9 watts and AC voltage is switchable from the factory-preset 110/120V to 220V operation. The 230mm footprint adds 280mm in height (9 x 9 x 11 inches) and connections include stereo RCA and quality high-level i/o ports. Weight is 6.8kg or 15lb and pointy brass footers ending in integral micro spheres for protection are standard equipment.

"For 2009, we fixed all the identified issues with the Glow Amp One while significantly
improving both the DAC circuit and headphone assembly. We've been very busy and moved the company from Texas to California. I separated with my former partner and am now running Glow with the able assistance of my lovely wife Lita. Things are good with Glow despite the economic hard times hitting everyone. Do you want the basic 'recession buster' system, which is Glow Amp One and Glow Voice One loudspeakers? We think it is the best sub-thou system available. Or do you want the premium system, which adds the Sub One subwoofer? Speakers will come in various colors to match the amp but right now we only have natural wood speakers for review."

I wanted to review both 3- and 4-piece systems precisely because of the economy. A small affordable hi-performance sub/sat speaker trio is often the best way to beat room acoustics and dwindling funds. In this case, the sub can expand useful appeal from the desk top where not everyone might feel it necessary into rooms where one will sit farther removed to require additional bass for a respectable tonal balance. Gamers who insist on blood-curdling mayhem meanwhile might consider the sub mandatory even in the nearfield. There was only one way to find out how far Patrick's 3-incher would go solo. Compare it to the sub and see whether without it was good enough.