As I stated in my Munich HighEnd Show 2009 report, "...the 7-model deep launch of WLM Acoustics was flabbergasting. When was the last time a valve audio brand launched fully mature with a phono stage, USB DAC, remote-controlled preamp, EL34 and EL 84 integrateds, EL34 stereo amp with input transformers and equivalent EL34 monoblocks? Frankly, I can't recall a single precedent. Now add the Serbian connection and the fact that all this transpired over six short months. In our scheme of things, that's practically from zero to hero overnight. This deserves a very unique achievement award. Though we don't have one at present, I'm working on it. Seriously !..."

Here it is now. The Harvest Moon is the perfect image for it*. But now I need to explain why a little better. After our surprising RoadTour Serbia, I had gained an outsider's appreciation for the challenges facing small-time entrepreneurs in this country whose infrastructure still bears the scars of sanctions and wars. Having visited a number of audio manufacturers there, I was particularly impressed by the irrepressible resourcefulness and sheer l'esprit of Trafomatic Audio designer Sasa Cokic.

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I'd already reviewed his Trafomatic Audio Experience One 2A3 integrated amplifier, then later the Experience Reference parallel 300B monos with interstage transformer coupling to appreciate just how gifted this man was. But it was the personal visit to his operation in Mladenovac where something else crystallized. You see, achievement is relative. If you start out with wealthy parents, the best schools and fanciest opportunities, you should be expected to excel. If you start out far more humbly, your road is longer and harder and arrival far more uncertain.

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The next step in my growing appreciation for the Trafomatic Audio phenomenon was chronicled here. Still, nothing could prepare me for encountering in Munich a week ago the plethora of seven brand-new Cokic-designed and built WLM Acoustics models and a fair smattering of Trafomatic Audio models that had undergone a significant face lift (without raising their prices, incidentally) since I'd reviewed two of their components and seen others in Serbia. Just what Team Trafomatic and chassis master Milorad 'Mica' Despotovic had accomplished since my first review was truly off the charts. And again, it must be understood and viewed against the background of operating out of Serbia where nothing works as efficiently or easily as many of us have come to take for granted in Europe or the US.

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Given the above evidence -- and I'm not doing this lightly -- I felt compelled to formally recognize this accomplishment and create the Harvest Moon Achievement Award. Others like Hannes Frick who contracted with Sasa Cokic for the creation of his WLM Acoustics line have their own story to share, their own satisfaction and excitement to talk about. Future owners and reviewers will weigh in on performance and value of Cokic-designed valve audio no matter its brand name. I've seen, heard and felt enough to need no further proof. Alora as the Italians would say -- let's get on with it in plain English -- here is our first-ever award for human achievement. It goes well beyond clever capacitors, coils, resistors and circuit boards. And, of course it also pertains to all of that, the things we obsess over and write about.

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Everything in this emerging picture mattered so here's some additional evidence of the 'geeky' kind.

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Then there was Munich with its rollout of the Phonata phono stage, Gamma DAC with USB, Linea line stage, Sonata EL34 integrated and stereo amp (the latter with input transformers), Minueta EL84 integrated and Allegra monoblocks (also with input transformers), all circuitry and iron designed and manufactured by Sasa Cokic and Trafomatic Audio.

Then there was this pair of one-up custom amps for an upscale customer who wanted the Experience One in mono guise and with "the best" 2A3s. Rather than simply converting the existing model, Sasa beefed up the transformers, added a second tube rectifier and applied a fetching cosmetic makeover, all while working on the WLM Acoustics deadline for the Munich show and overseeing the Trafomatic commercial transformer business. Phew.
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"I had to take out credit to finance this entire venture and all the cash our Trafomatic Audio sales generated we invested in a new facility just for amplifier manufacture, a CNC machine and hiring and training added personnel. Once Hannes places his first sizeable order post Munich, our bank accounts should be recovering from all this expansion."

Taking risks, burning the midnight oil, rolling up the sleeves, going the extra mile, not taking can't and won't for an answer - all those chestnuts apply and then some. In short, I hope to have painted for you the picture of why and how this award came about and the significance of it. By implication, it'll be a very rare thing. I'm not sure I'll ever quite encounter such a sudden from-nothing-to-big rise again. I salute Sasa Cokic and the entire Trafomatic Audio team. Incroyable!

*From the Wikipedia on the harvest moon:
The harvest moon is the moon at and about the period of fullness that is nearest to the autumnal equinox. The Harvest moon is often mistaken for the modern day Hunter's moon. In the legend of the Harvest moon, it is said that all full moons have their own special characteristics based primarily on the whereabouts of the ecliptic in the sky at the time of year that these moons are visible. The full moons of September, October and November as seen from the northern hemisphere -- which correspond to the full moons of March, April and May as seen from the southern hemisphere -- are well known in the folklore of the sky. All full moons rise around the time of sunset. However, although in general the moon rises about 50 minutes later each day, as it moves in orbit around Earth, the Harvest Moon and Hunter's Moon are special, because around the time of these full moons, the time difference between moonrise on successive evenings is shorter than usual. In other words, the moon rises approximately 30 minutes later, from one night to the next, as seen from about 40° N. or S. latitude, for several evenings around the full Hunter's or Harvest Moons. Thus there is no long period of darkness between sunset and moonrise around the time following these full moons. In times past this feature of these autumn moons was said to help farmers working to bring in their crops (or, in the case of the Hunter's Moon, hunters tracking their prey). They could continue being productive by moonlight even after the sun had set. Hence the name Harvest Moon.

Often, the Harvest Moon seems to be bigger or brighter or more colorful than other moons. These effects have to do with the seasonal tilt of the earth. The warm color of the moon shortly after it rises is an optical illusion, based on the fact that when the moon is low in the sky, you are looking at it through a greater amount of atmospheric particles than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere scatters the bluish component of moonlight (which is really reflected white light from the sun), but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to your eyes. Hence all celestial bodies look reddish when they are low in the sky.