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Reviewers: Marja & Henk
Sources: CEC TL5100, Audio Note tube DAC, Philips DVP 5500S SACD/DVD player
Preamp/integrated: TacT RCS 2.0 room control system; Lamm LL2 [on loan], KR Audio Model 150 [on loan], modified Audio Note Meishu with AVVT, JJ or KR Audio 300B output tubes; Moscode 401HR [in for review]; Trends Audio TA-10
Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Avantgarde Acoustic Solo in HT 2.0 setting; Audio Note AN/Jsp silver-wired; Tannoy Glenair [in for review]; Quad ESL 2905 [in for review]; Mobile Fidelity OML-2 [in for review]; Von Schweikert VR5-SE [in for review]; Haliaetus Firebird [in for review]; Final Sound 1000i [in for review]; Velodyne 12DD [in for review]
Cables: Audio Note AN/Vx interconnects; Siltech Paris interconnects; Gizmo silver interconnect; Qunex 75 reference interconnect; Crystal Cable CrystalConnect Reference interconnect, CrystalDigit S/PDIF RCA/RCA and RCA/BNC, Y-cable, Crystal Cable Piccolo iPod to XLR, CrystalPower Reference AC-Eur/IEC; CrystalSpeak Reference, Audio Note AN-L, Gizmo silver LS cable; Virtual Dynamics Revelation power cords [in for review], Bocchino Morning Glory [in for review], Harmonic Technology Magic Woofer, Magic Tweeter & Pro AC11 [in for review]
Power line conditioning: Omtec PowerControllers
Equipment racks: Two double sets of Solid Tech Radius; Acoustic System amplifier shelf
Sundry accessories: IAR carbon CD damper; Denson demagnetizer CD; Nespa #1; TacT RCS calibrated microphone and software; Exact Audio Copy software; Compaq server w/Windows Server 2003 and XP; wood, brass and aluminum cones and pyramids; Xitel surround processor; Manley Skipjack; Boston Audio Design TuneBlocks; Furutech DeMag
Room treatment: Acoustic System Resonators; Gizmo's Harley Davidson cap
Review component retail: $4,995 direct from website

Only the best have a chance at becoming a classic. Having reached classic status from this select group, only the very special entries stand a chance at growing into a legend. And from these legendary products, only a handful get a chance at being reborn. With the Moscode 401HR, a legend has been reborn. To explain why, let's return to the beginning.

It was in the 1930s that the first notions and experiments arose on output transformer-less or OTL amplifiers. During those halcyon days of early audio, tube amplifiers were the only game in town. It was commonly understood that the final part in these designs, the output transformer, was the weakest element which limited the amp's overall performance. The challenge was how to connect the high voltages of tubes to a loudspeaker without damage. Moreover, how to match the high impedance of tubes to the low impedance of speakers without a transformer?

The Second World War changed many things, not just in Europe but also in the US once they entered the war. A young Julius Futterman joined the Signal Corps after he got drafted and he was one of those solder slinger who, if he'd lived 50 years later, would have become a computer wiz. Back then the really hot thing was electrical circuit design. Just like kids of any era, there was an ultimate wet dream to go after. Today, it'd be the perfect computer hack job breaking into the CIA data base or crashing the Microsoft website. Then it was the design of the perfect OTL amplifier.

When the war was finally over, a whole generation of men had gotten trained using high quality tube circuitry. During the economic boom following, only a few diehard tinkerers held on to their OTL dream. Most segued into a standard existence and bought their audio gear off the shelf, mostly in DIY kit form.

This post war period also watched the advent of television. TV sets used tubes and these valves were of superior quality than the tubes used earlier purely for audio applications. The new bottles were more reliable and with such glass on hand, Julius Futterman could finally create the amplifier of his dreams. He patented the Futterman OTL circuit in 1953 using power tubes like the 6082 or 12B4.

Even though the transistor shook up the world of electronics and audio in particular from 1954 on, Julius held firmly to his OTL tube concept. He was lucky that from the end of the 1960s forward, tube equipment was celebrating a modest revival. This made it possible for Julius to start his own company, a kitchen table effort where he fabricated amps for friends and enthusiasts and sold them in his NYC shop.

If synchronicity wasn't afoot already, it kicked into high gear when Julius Futterman met Harvey Rosenberg through a mutual acquaintance. Harvey was a tube aficionado and audio savant who bought almost any tube or tube amps he could get his hands on. As long as it glowed, it was acquired. Now he managed to book a 20-year-old Futterman amplifier. This purchase changed his life - and those of many to come [in the UK, it started what would become Croft Laboratories which still exists - Ed.]. Originally a marketer and brand maker, Harvey -- Gizmo informally -- had wanted to launch an audio enterprise forever. He had designed circuitry and held a special interest in power supplies. For speakers, Gizmo used a pair of heavy modified Quad ESLs, the high-end standard of the day. When he connected the strange-looking Futterman to his cherished Quads, Gizmo was blown away. Until then, he'd been chasing his ultimate goal of tonal transparency in vain. None of the tubes, circuits or amplifiers had fulfilled his urge for the sought-after special quality. This combination of Futterman and Quad now had and gave it all.

Pursuing the idea of owning an audio business, Gizmo thought briefly on simply copying the seemingly very

simple Futterman circuit and voilà, he'd be in business. Then sanity and morals thankfully interrupted his ecstatic head trip and Gizmo instead decided to visit Mr. Futterman in his 72nd Street shop just a few blocks over from his own posh flat. What a shock it must have been to enter Julius' digs. Every one of his amps was hand-made, each was unique. Each and every transformer was hand-wound. According to Rosenberg, bits and pieces, tubes and resistors were sprawling around in one giant mess through which Julius moved like Moses parting the sea to do his magic.

At the first meeting, Gizmo asked Mr. Futterman whether he would license his circuit to him. Julius declined, explaining that he'd already done so repeatedly to many renowned companies none of which, despite expertise and investments, had yet produced a single working unit. Harvey wasn't dissuaded in the least. What he saw inside his Futterman amplifier was so simple, it could not possibly be hard to replicate. He already entertained the notion of cleaning up what to him were sloppy solder connections and bizarre wire routing routines. Gizmo envisioned board mounting the parts for easier mass production. How wrong could he be?

For those who have known Gizmo and his charming chutzpah, it won't come as a surprise to learn that he indeed persuaded Mr. Futterman to license him the use of the circuit. Now Gizmo's life took a sudden turn. He sold off all his businesses, his apartment, left the Big Apple and founded New York Audio Labs or NYAL for short. NYAL was dedicated to commercialize the Futterman circuit. All of this happened quickly as though a higher power steered it so that just before Julius Futterman departed this dimension in 1979, Gizmo and his associates had been able to wrest almost all there was to know from the OTL magician. The NYAL version of Julius Futterman's idea -- after lots of trials and even more literally flaming errors -- finally became a viable statement amplifier.

Even though Futterman was a red-blooded tube guy, the fact that Gizmo & Co. remained the only outfit to manage producing OTL amplifiers to his specifications made something in the back of his mind click. He wanted to design an OTL that would use Mosfets in the output stage instead of tubes. This was based on the fact that Mosfets wouldn't require tube matching and outlive valves. Further, Mosfets seemed ideal to cope with the rise of inefficient loudspeakers with their extreme low impedances. A Mosfet-based amplifier could also provide almost infinite power compared to tube-based equivalents. And not lastly, Mosfets could be made to sound very similar to tubes.

Forward to 1982, the year when NYAL struck a deal with AFP Imaging, a manufacturer of medical and veterinary X-ray equipment, to form a joint venture. This company was viewed as an ideal partner since they had a complete automated electronics manufacturing system on hand. NYAL could now pursue Futterman's final dream of a Mosfet-based tube-type amplifier.

One of the problems NYAL had to face was finding a solution to drive the Mosfet's gate. This required a driver stage with low output impedance but enough current delivery. At the same time, the driver stage would be of crucial importance to the overall tone of the amplifier. With these prerequisites, a transistor driver was out of the question. The only possibility left was of course the beloved tube. Enter one NYAL associate who was working with cascaded triodes or cascodes as they were named. These cascodes were already employed in NYAL's phono preamps. George Kaye now adapted his cascode follower circuit as driver stage for the Mosfet. It just took seconds to come up with a name for his new hybrid circuit: Moscode.

The amplifiers built on this circuit sounded really good. All the very difficult loudspeakers with their extreme low impedances came to life and the voicing the cascodes provided was unique and reminiscent of the original Futterman OTLs. Only the hyper-drive brain of Gizmo would come up with the notion of using a Moscode amplifier for a household appliance demonstration. A 600-watt Moscode was fed with a steady 60Hz signal and the output terminals of the amp were connected to a vacuum cleaner. Imagine Gizmo cleaning his room on Moscode power. Quite a useful break for an amplifier. Another Gizmological trick was using Moscode juice to power a blender for making Margaritas.

Gizmo so believed in his amplifiers that the owner's manual contained directions for an elaborate sacred ritual before unpacking the shipping box. The procedure began with a solitary bath since the presence of a lover would be mere distraction. Following this would be an ice-cold shower before relishing a massage to loosen up all muscles, especially those of the upper back, neck and face which are involved in the hearing process. Then a medium warm shower to finish up before one was directed to step into the silk bathrobe and -- if a smoker -- to light up the best one could afford and perhaps have a glass of excellent wine to go with it. Only after this turn-on sequence would one be physically and emotionally prepared to unpack the new Moscode. Now you get an idea why we loved Harvey and are still sad about his passing in July of 2001. When in the New York area, we pay our respects and honor him by putting a tube on his headstone.