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Whilst still covering introductory hardware ground, the M1's carved-out cheeks add Boulder to cosmetic inspirations of top pedigree. On the concept of a fully discrete non class D stereo amp of utmost power from as compact as possible a casing aka monolithic heatsink, the M1 takes a respectful bow to Burson's well-liked Timekeeper. Response is 10Hz to 150kHz, gain 27dB, input impedance 22KΩ. Case dimensions mirror the L1, mass is 13.4kg. Given the crystalline casing, the $2'950 sticker huddles unreasonably close to Burson's $2'600. Unlike the Timekeeper however, the M1 doesn't bridge for quadruple power (which given the size of its power supply would never track into 4 ohms in the first place). Stereo output is 100/150wpc into 8/4Ω from two pairs of BJT per side.

Again like the Aussie Timekeeper, this class A/B circuit is all about fully discrete and a linear (non-switching) power supply. PCB copper traces are gold-plated and eschew the usual solder mask like in the L1. A protection circuit eliminates DC at the outputs and the overall modular design builds in future proofiness. Those expecting a DAC to complete this twosome note that "we already have a prototype DAC based on a WM8741 platform. It runs two 8741 chips per channel. However it won't go into production yet because for now we'll focus on our amplification components."

If Wow Audio Lab—WAL for short which makes 'em a whale in German—missed the earlier memo, they'd gotten this one: eye candy, headfi and small are in and big. Price gauging is even bigger but decidedly out. Here our newcomers from Hong Kong are brothers in arms with Korea's Simon Lee and his April Music Eximus DP1, S1 and new MkII Stello range. These folks cater to pride of ownership just like overbuilt old-style hifi did. But now they insist on far friendlier foot prints and a market placement that's far more within reach.

As a writer I'm more interested in relevance than cost-no-object efforts. Hence this is a far easier manifesto to get behind. It's also right up my notions of realsization. There one pursues more with less and for less. That means opting out of features and specs one no more needs than an Escalade or Porsche to sit in rush-hour commutes. Now boilerplate broadcast goes offline and the microphone passeth to Alan Cheng to tell us how they bagged their glittering whale.

"Wally Chan and I founded WAL in 2010. For 20 years before that we'd both worked in broadcast engineering. Since the 1990s I have also operated a high-end hifi trading shop where quality brands like Mark Levinson, Krell, Cello, Wadia, Goldmund, Gryphon, Jeff Rowland and more gave us ongoing exposure to the very best. During the 1980s and '90s we really enjoyed a golden era for hifi. Manufacturers still produced stunning gear at reasonable prices. I well remember the happiness from owning their components. This era continues to inspire both of us. Wally started his career as a recording engineer. He then worked in the engineering sectors of pro audio and broadcasting. This included extensive visits to various recording studios and CD mastering facilities to ensure both optimal sound-quality recordings and reproduction. With a keen interest in exploring the sound differences between the music recording industry and our high-end consumer world, he paid regular visits to my hifi shop.

"By 2008 the financial crisis of course was roaring and it also affected our domestic hifi scene a lot. Young people stopped buying expensive gear, manufacturers attempted to compensate for lost sales volume with ultra-pricey flagship models to regain some profitability. It's a vicious cycle all around. Into this cycle we believe we can introduce gear with true high-end genetics and inspiration but again for a fair price. And for us the L1 and M1 models are that dream come true. Hence we quit the audio trading business and transformed ourselves into a manufacturer. 'High end' really is no badge to be worn by the wealthy nor is it synonymous with amplifier size or weight.

"We hope that our components will bring joy and inspiration to those who truly love the music. We are a small company. Everything here is under development. We want people to feel our heart and passion when they consider our products and think 'wow' when they actually look at it, handle it and hear it. For the music lover the L1 and M1 make for a relatively easy entry into the world of high-end hifi. Our compact foot prints are of value wherever space constraints exist yet every critical part of the circuits was actually selected during blind listening evaluations. We pursue a perfectly balanced sound that expresses perfect synergy like the true happiness between family members."