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Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Source: Zanden Audio Model 2000P/5000S; Ancient Audio Lektor Prime; AMR CD-77 [on review]
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Cabernet Dual; Wyetech Labs Jade; ModWright SWL 9.0SE; Bel Canto PRe3; Melody HiFi I2A3; ModWright LS 36.5 [on review]

Amp: 2 x Audiosector Patek SE; First Watt F3 and F4 [on review]; Yamamoto A-08S; Fi 2A3 monos w. JJ 2A3-40s
Speakers: Zu Definition Pro with WLM Sys V active crossover; Mark & Daniel Ruby with OmniHarmonizer; DeVore Fidelity Nines; Mark & Daniel Maximus Monitor [on loan]; Esoteric MG-20 [on review]; Zu Presence [on review]

Cables: Crystal Cable Ultra loom; Zanden Audio proprietary I²S cable; Crystal Cable Reference power cords; double cryo'd Acrolink with Furutech UK plug between wall and transformer
Stands: 2 x Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular 4-tier
Powerline conditioning: 2 x Walker Audio Velocitor S fed from custom AudioSector 1.5KV Plitron step-down transformer with balanced power output option
Sundry accessories: GPA Formula Carbon/Kevlar shelf for transport; GPA Apex footers underneath stand, DAC and amp; Walker Audio Extreme SST on all connections; Walker Audio Vivid CD cleaner; Walker Audio Reference HDLs; Furutech RD-2 CD demagnetizer; Nanotech Nespa Pro; Acoustic System resonators for room tuning
Room size: 16' w x 21' d x 9' h in short-wall setup, with openly adjoining 15' x 35' living room

Review Component Retail: $1,700/€1,250

Our world is constantly shrinking. And what tangled webs we do weave as a result. Imagine. Yours is a younger company of audio transformers entering a market dominated by, hold on, Amplimo, Antrim, Audio Consulting, Audio Note UK, Automatic Electric, Avel Lindberg, Bartolucci, Cinemag, Danbury, Elektra-Print, Hammond, Hashimoto, Intact Audio, ISO/Tango, James, Jensen, Keen, Lundahl, MagneQuest, Partridge, Plitron, Silk, Sowter, Stevens & Billington, Talema, Tamura, Toroidy, Tribute, OEP, One Electron, UTC and other established firms. Amidst this solid competition, you wish to demonstrate the quality of your parts to electronics manufacturers and DIYers alike but lack a Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio fame who showcases MagneQuest iron in many of his creations. Singaporean SilverTone Audio faced the very same issue. Kazooks, they issued against it with their very own amplifier reviewed in these pages. Presto, a showcase project to demonstrate their own Permalloy magnetics to best advantage.

The unmistakably christened Trafomatic company of Mladenovac/Serbia decided to walk a similar path. New York firm Engineering Vista is their New World marketing arm and, among other services, offers amplifier kits using Trafomatic transformers and chokes. Their offshoot Vista Audio under the auspices of Boris Sasic markets a branded 15wpc integrated push/pull EL84 amplifier called model i84 with Trafomatic iron. Belgrade-based Korato meanwhile "has a worldwide distribution of double C core output (SE and PP) and mains transformers and C core chokes made especially for us by Trafomatic". They also offer their own tube preamps, integrateds and amplifiers under the Korato brand, naturally with Trafomatic iron. However, there's no connection to today's review subject.

When Sasa Danicic of Serbia's HiFiCafe site in Belgrade checked in months ago asking for suitable speaker mates to go with his Trafomatic Experience One 2A3 integrated review loaner of the usual 4wpc rating, I had no notion that, through Sasa as go-between, Trafomatic would eventually solicit me to review the same piece. Naturally I said yes. Making the world a smaller place is fun. As a friend of the little guy -- and lady -- I personally get particular pleasure out of showcasing newer smaller firms that might have break-thru or very cost-effective products which the global audiophile community deserves to know about. Mainstream companies meanwhile
counter with long-term experience, a developed infrastructure and solid reputation. Today the origins are Serbia, the product Trafomatic's first self-branded amplifier. Hence don't expect track record, reputation or massive infrastructure. This stuff is new on all fronts.

"Your loaner will ship in about 10 days while Trafomatic waits on JJ tubes," Sasa chimed in. Being very fond of JJ's 2A3-40, I took this as a good omen. "I've got six JJ 2A3s so I'm all set," replied I knowing word would get back to Trafomatic. No need to have them procure new valves when I had fully run-in samples and spares. Trafomatic owner Sasa Cokic then assigned Darko Sasic to be my point man, an engineer intimately involved with R&D on the Experience One project from the very beginning and well versed also in the company's overall history and production.

I luv the direct-heated Emission Labs solid-plate 45 triode but its max 2-watt power rating in a conventional single-ended circuit (Roger Modjeski makes 4 from his Music Reference) does seriously limit speaker playmates. Not that the 2A3's generic 4 watts are much different. Still, it's one small step closer to expanding usability. In integrated form and push-pull, Melody Valve Hifi's I2A3 at $3,000 is the hammer but the category as such isn't exactly brimming with choices. The Eastern EU Experience One could be a welcome addition. Sasa's picture of it looked very attractive and nicely finished, too.
 I even spotted this suggestive photo in a Danicic thread. While I made out zip in the Serbian commentary, the combination of 103dB Avantgarde horns and Experience One boded well for low-noise performance.

Trafomatic being a rather industrial name, the amplifier's gold trim bits upfront don't mention it. However, the central tranny cylinder does so the maker is properly identified. The solid wood enclosure and copper-gold top plate play Old World counterpoint to the more tekkie cues of CNC-happy metal machining and garish backlighting coming out of China nowadays. The footers too pick up the two-tone color scheme for a decidedly non-industrial appearance.

With single-ended output transformers commonly of the EI type or double C cores, the apparent toroids on deck of the Experience might raise question marks. So I asked Mr. Darko Sasic to outline the design criteria of the project. But first, a quickie in geographics. Serbia of late used to be central Yugoslavia until the dissolution of that Socialist Federal Republic in 1990. When Montenegro left the union with Serbia last year, Serbia became its own country once more and, starting in the West proceeding clockwise, is surrounded today by Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina. Yugoslavia of course was home to the Elektronska Industrija factory in Niš and produced the famous EI tubes under Philips license as early as 1951. Ei has now temporarily suspended operations and is said to be restructuring, "with all quality controls, specs and materials being re-assessed to bring you a better product." Slovakia as the home of JJ Electronics meanwhile sits north of Hungary and, clockwise again, is surrounded by the Czech Republic, Poland and the Ukraine. The Czech Republic meanwhile recalls Riccardo Kron's KR Audio and the Tesla valve factory. Eastern Europe and vacuum tubes go way back then. Against such history, it's fitting to see Trafomatic author its own valve integrated outfitted with JJ output glass. Now to Mr. Darko's technical descriptions:

"Underneath the canisters we have dual C core output transformers and a toroidal power transformer. The amplifier circuit is a simple two-stage design with coupling capacitor and no feedback. In the first stage, we have an ECC81/12AT7 whose two halves are connected in parallel. The amplifier was initially tested with Telefunken ECC81s but our goal was that it should work fine with current production tubes. Tube rolling with expensive small signal NOS variants is of course possible. The coupling capacitor is by Mundorf, the volume pot by Alps, the electrolytics are by Nippon Nichicon, Siemens and other quality brands. The 5U4G tube rectifier circuit is simple and well oversized for the job. The 2A3 heaters use a DC supply for better S/N.

"Important: It is strongly recommended to use only new production 2A3s (JJ, Svetlana, various Chinese) because our anode dissipation is set to 18 watts. Old, rare and expensive tubes can be damaged or experience shortened life with reduced performance. The power supply is 230/115V, 50/60Hz but should be changed only by an experienced technician because it'll require rewiring the amplifier. Input sensitivity is 1Vrms, power output 2 x 4 watts into 4/8 ohms. Frequency response is 10Hz - 35kHz (-3dB), S/N at 1-watt output 64dB. Distortion is 0.9% at 1 watt, 5% at 4.4 watts.

"A detailed user manual with complete circuit diagram is being prepared and will be shipped with every amplifier. Warranty period is 1 year for the amplifier and 60 days for the supplied tubes. Outside the USA and Canada, the Experience One will be sold through's e-commerce terminal. Our Canadian importer is Audiolimits, our US distributor ENG Vista. Both will provide full service and warranty repair for the amp." About what future product to expect from Trafomatic's new audio division and what they consider their core strength, Mr. Darko added: "New projects for the same Experience line are ready for beta testing. Our next release will be a tube preamp with output transformers and beyond that, a pair of 300B SE monos. In all of these designs, the strongest point is the power supply with high-quality toroidal transformers and over-sized inductors of our own design, logical in that this relates to
our main parts manufacturing business and core competency. We categorically do not save any money in the power supply and use our very best double C core output transformers. We hope to be recognized for these qualities in the marketplace in the near future."

At this point, I learned that price for the Experience One had been set at 1,250 euros. Inclusive of JJ 2A3-40s. Hello!
That's €260 worth of fire bottles, making the E-1 €990. Curmudgeons, cheapskates and calculators, rejoice. Newly minted Trafomatic Audio seems set to join cost-effective Chinese tube fi from AudioSpace, Cayin, Melody, PrimaLuna and Shanling as solid alternatives to traditional brands - without the questionable assocation of environmental disregard, child labor and sub-par work conditions many equate with China while forgetting that Western industrialization suffered the very same transitional pains for many decades. Or as Darko put it, "from Serbia, it's not so far to Slovakia where JJ has renewed tube production so our choice is logical. Someone may say that the price of Chinese tubes is more attractive but our intention at the moment is to avoid Chinese parts. Personally I believe more in JJ and Svetlana when considering current production but admittedly, things are moving. Perhaps one day soon I will change my opinion."

For context, I'd compare my Fi 2A3 monos.

The Experience One impresses at first with the giant wood crate delivery and 3-inch thick foam slab liners.

For its petite size of 39 x 26 x 16cm (WxDxH, the latter without tubes), the Experience One features surprising iron on deck and under the bonnet.