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Our experience in servicing consumer electronics regularly brings us face to face with the fact that many products are made to be trashed after a few years of use. Sadly servicing many of these low-cost/import amps makes no sense when the service fee or even just replacement parts cost are often higher than what the amps themselves are worth. We would rather spend the time and effort to create something built to last than waste time on products with design flaws or bugs.

Secondly we want to create job opportunities within the audio and manufacturing sectors. Both have suffered over the last 10 years like so many other blue-collar occupations. It's an uphill struggle in Canada where costs are very high but it won't dampen our determination to open up our own production line and invite our friends and others in the industry to help. We want to do something for our people. Last but not least—and we don’t want to dwell on this point—we've had some frustrating experiences as OEM designers. Without naming names we have run into challenges with intellectual property for our designs and suffered disappointment seeing our prototypes and ideas poorly executed and not delivering the results we’d intended. This led us to ask ourselves that since we are doing OEM design both solid-state and tubes for hifi companies around the world already, why not do it under our own brand.

What are your design principles for Triode Lab?
We want to develop something more special and revolutionary by injecting our philosophy into the design of hifi amplifiers. Many existing designers use circuits from the 50s or earlier which aren't high-end or in line with today's standards. In talking amongst ourselves we concluded that making tube amplifiers with already developed old circuits made no sense even though it might sound good. Because of the extensive expertise of our team we never worried that taking on the challenge of innovating new approaches would be a problem we couldn’t overcome. We call our design concept for audio circuitry Natural Beauty Sound Art Integration. The goal is to ensure a life-like music expression delivered to you and your body via your loudspeakers. For us it's very important that sincere music emotions are delivered to the audience. If the amp can't pass the music to you, it's useless regardless of whether it delivers 100 or even 1000 watts. Above all we try to keep the music natural and unspoilt by maintaining its transient speed, timing and response, bandwidth, definition, soundstage and all the other elements of a good performance. Thus our amps are voiced and made like no others based on our own impressions of how the reproduction of music's emotions and immediacy should be. People will not hear the kind of reproduction our amps offer elsewhere.

All our designs are unique and most of the time have nothing to do with legacy circuits. Our amplifiers are modern and ready for today's music playback, be it digital or analog. For example our amps always use auto bias which we think they ought to past the year 2000. Our approach is like Baroque art. It encouraged the release from conceptual restraints and empowered individual expression. Our work is a reflection of our philosophy, thoughts and feeling. It’s safe to say that we aren't a mainstream company. Our amps are designed and built for ourselves and those who like us enjoy pursuing their own impulses and interpretations. We don't pursue the broad market or latest trends.

After this email exchange I had to confess that their approach seemed quite refreshing. A simple desire to advance a long established technology whilst securing manufacturing and design in Canada sounded like a very good place to start. A few minutes spent on both Triode Lab’s main website and its sister site Tube de Force for OEM design and servicing of older electronics (a neat play on words, meaning both power tube and feat of strength in French) quickly confirmed that I was not dealing with your typical newcomer. Over the years a lot of thought had gone into developing a unique line of products and services from upgrades to the venerable Dynaco ST-70 to full rebuilds of new and old amplifiers to lay-outs of brand-new PCBs as part of their OEM services.

I don’t think anybody would expect to find a full line of EL84 amplifiers as part of a new company’s market introduction. Yet that’s just where Triode Lab actually started. A fashionable 300B SET is nowhere to be found. Instead there are three different circuits with the more rarely used EL84 ranging from 6 to 15 watts at the lower price points whilst various 2A3 designs from 3.5 to 15 watts come next topped off by a flagship 211 power amplifier/integrated and a few preamplifiers. No KT88, EL34 or 300B as the usual suspects are in sight but certainly some 'out of the box' products that grabbed my attention.

My personal Zu Essence speakers and the Ocellia Calliope in for review would have accommodated the 2A3 SET initially proposed but I know from experience that both speakers really prefer to being treated to a little more power and certainly enjoy more control in the bass than a SET typically offers. Hence my attention quickly went to Triode Lab’s entry-level EL84 integrated which offers 6wpc from 2 x EL84 per side run as triodes for maximum tonal transparency and flow but in a push-pull circuit for better bass control. I could have jumped directly to one of their premium-priced amplifiers with all manner of parts upgrades but find that the true talent of a designer is usually found at the entry level and in how they handle compromise rather than in any cost-no-object efforts. So I threw down the gauntlet and Triode Lab picked it up without hesitation - as good a sign as any.