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

The world can seem an awfully small place when you're having fun. "About amps, I had one positive experience (Glow Amp); one very positive (Tecon, also with USB port); and one negative (more expensive EL34 amp from another vendor with no dynamics and both bass and highs rolled off, together with poor communication -- emails not answered -- while the little guys were very courteous). But you know me, this didn't influence my verdict." That was my Swiss friend and benefactor. When he sez 'very' which ain't often, I pays attention. So I investigated the unfamiliar Tecon Audio website and posted a little announcement on their Model 55 in our news page. Two days later, Swiss expat Pierre Tecon checked in from California with an unexpected offer to review it.

But the world was smaller still. During my review of Glow Audio's Amp One, one eagle-eyed reader had spotted an apparent knock-off on eBay and sent the link to present the evidence. I doubled it back to Glow and my sidebar for that review painted the picture: "That is a Kenny Wu amp, made when he had a company called Timester which has been out of business since 2006. I know because when I was scouring China for someone who could make a small SE-based amplifier, I spoke with Mr. Wu among many other amp makers. I liked the Timester amp. It had some good features including the USB port and a pretty good sound. However, it needed substantial improvements ... Glow contracted Mr. Wu to produce our Amp One... Shortly before we entered into contract, Kenny formed a new company named GuangLong and relinquished 51% of his ownership interest to an investor. When we signed the contract, it was with GuangLong (Timester was defunct at that point). We acquired the rights to the Timester amp. It was understood that Mr. Wu was to be the lead in developing the Amp One. But GuangLong fired Mr. Wu shortly after we entered into the development stage... The company subsequently went out of business... We don't blame Kenny Wu. He too was a victim of the GuangLong melt down but has since found new work."

At Tecon Audio as it turned out, something I didn't mention then because it came off the record. When I asked Pierre Tecon to confirm it now, he was surprised and asked for my source. Oops. Though my Mediterranean island residence is remote, the audiophile web is very small. A centrally placed spider can detect tremors on the outer edges easily. Though this established some genetic connection between the Glow and Tecon amplifiers, there are obvious differences. One, the Tecon is dedicated to speakers - no ¼" headphone output. Two, the Tecon runs a single 9-pin NOS Raytheon 5755 dual-triode driver originally designed as a DC amplifier and equivalent to the Western Electric 420A. Three, the EL84 output tubes are actually 6P14s referred to as NOS Beijings (not the ones from Shuguang's Hunan/China factory which were originally designed by Mr. Lau of Full Music). A full retube set from Tecon Audio will set you back a whopping $55. We're back at that model name. Gimme fifty-five!

What this adds up to is 5wpc class A single-ended pentode power with no global feedback, a choke input filter, ALPS pot, blucool LEDs below the tubes instead of a power LEDs, 47K input impedance and less than 1% THD at full output. Dimensions are 7.5" x 10" x 7" WxDxH and weight is a substantial 13lbs. Like the Glow, the Tecon 55 has a USB input with a built-in superiority complex - er, precedence effect over the unswitched RCA input, meaning if you want to hear the latter, you need to unseat the USB feed first if that's plugged in. If you're running a PC as source, the USB connection could be a simple auto recognition plug'n'play or require a one-time basic setup as explained in the owner's manual.
Unlike the Glow, the 55 comes in one color scheme only. It's rather more expensive - most of the time. You see, it attempts mixed distribution, with Pierre openly soliciting international distributors (listed MSRP of $1,049) while simultaneously selling direct ($749) and seasoning the stew with eBay auctions (observed as low as $250).

Adding to this unusual conglomeration is a trio of websites linking to the Model 55: teconaudio; audiotecon; urbanchicaudio. I don't know about you but I prefer the Glow Audio approach: One source, one price, no confusion, no feeling raped if you missed the special auction deal. China-sourced audio has enough perception hurdles. Pricing games don't help take 'em down. Especially when Pierre's eBay ads are not for a close-out model but new merchandise. While I was awaiting a perfectly harmless explanation, I confess to visions of an ambitiously stocked Southern Cal warehouse, lack of brand awareness, a soft market for 5wpc amps and a business man with a tied-up investment trying to liquidate without creating a fire sale panic. So you massage presence with multiple sites; credibility with a fair but solid price to establish expectation; pursue reviews before the truth breaks; all the while quietly auctioning off the goods on the side for the bare minimum, i.e. at 50 - 80% off. Call it paranoia on my part but my job includes due diligence upfront to minimize the risk of business-related unpleasantries when readers act on our reviews.

"I will offer a better response later but suffice it to say that at this moment, while the situation is not what we want, it does not have to be like that forever." On the Kenny Wu connection: "The Model 55 evolved from the Timester T200, a very successful multimedia single-ended EL84 mini amp that has been manufactured and copied by many manufacturers for some time. Some of the engineers involved with the original T200 wanted to extend the concept, both of the physical design and the electronic circuitry. The resultant product was the originator of the Model 55. We use custom-manufactured output transformers based on a UK design known for its musicality and tight sound. We scaled up the power transformer and improved the power supply. This results in a very quiet amp and fast response to transients. Using only local feedback to preserve clarity and speed, we wanted to obtain a sonic quality acceptable to a wide range of listeners, including younger ones who listen to contemporary punchier tunes. We therefore wanted to work on the bass to tighten it and increase
impact. Selecting the NOS Raytheon 5755 was an early decision made when we worked on different bread boards. We knew these would be quite costly and not so easy to find but the sonic quality was outstanding. We also spent many hours testing different tube manufacturers and argued about the sound of JJ, Sovtek, Electro Harmonix and Shuguang EL84s but at the end of the day, I liked the sound of the 6P14 from Beijing best even though they were hard to get and more expensive. Their body and depth are superior. We maintained the single RCA line inputs and the BurrBrown PCM2702 USB DAC which is well accepted by audiophiles."

As to what prompted Pierre to brave the shark-infested waters of audio: "High-end audio has become a very expensive hobby. It is not unusual nowadays to have high-end equipment priced in the tens of thousands. We knew some time ago about opportunities offered by manufacturing in lower cost countries. We had contacts with several offshore designers and manufacturers and purchased from them for our own use. It then was a logical step to consider importing for others. I realized I could be a bridge between these opportunities available to me and the market in the US. Unfortunately, many products available are not well suited to our market either because of quality issues, after-sales service or other intangibles. I realized the need for a lot of our own input and effort to bring the product up to the quality and specification that would be acceptable to us and our customers. After much thinking, we decided that while it would be lengthy, difficulty and costly, the long-term success would be better served by creating our own brand, a brand that would reflect what we are trying to do. And so, tec•on audio was born." On warranty support: "I support all of my own product."

Amen to hifi's pricing misery. I just don't concur with Pierre's tripartite distribution attempts. To me, they signify a fundamental misunderstanding of market realities. What that might signify -- or not -- I'll leave to each prospective buyer to determine. In the end,
I'm just as stoked by great deals as the next guy and gal. And these auctions are smmmokin' deals. Pierre also assured me there's no fire sale, just attempts to get some visibility and action while hoping that more reviews will stimulate dealer and distributor interest down the road. He also mentioned "no more deals" once the first batch runs out. So there you have it - a product introduction rather than formal review which deliberately leaves a lot to the imagination so you can write your own story to find out what it all means...
Tecon Audio website