Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.01, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20, Questyle QP1R
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, Vinnie Rossi LIO with DHT module, COS Engineering D1, Wyred4Sound STP-SE Stage 2
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; S.A.Lab Blackbird SE; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; ; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE UP NC500MB; AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: Albedo Audio Aptica; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Sounddeco Sigma 2; soundkaos Wave 40; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence, Rethm Bhaava [on loan]
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt, Zu and LightHarmonic LightSpeed double-header USB cables; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]; Sablon Audio Petit Corona power cords [on loan], Black Cat Cable Lupo
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, 5m cords to amp/s + sub
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands [on loan]
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators
Room: Rectangular 5.5 x 15m open floor plan with two-storey gabled ceiling, wood-sleeved steel trusses and stone-over-concrete flooring
Review component retail: SE version ~€15'000

Prototype shown during Munich HighEnd 2016

Basel's Sven Boenicke is synonymous with eclectic solid-wood loudspeakers. This year's Tokyo show had his models W11 and W5 squat in front of rather bigger Mårten Design and Ocean Way competitors. How the compact sizes of the Swiss disguise uncommon abilities to cause collective mind funks and freezes is shown next. Polish contributor Dawid Grzyb likes to call it a "ratio of box to stage that's off the rails". Quite. Just as a train wreck would, it draws crowds.

Take these ninety-some Tokyo attendees. If they believed refrigerator-sized boxes were mandatory to play their disproportionately large room, they were set straight when the W11 samples I subsequently reviewed kicked off. It's a typical reaction during first Boenicke encounters. It makes for golden opportunities. Collect interesting new swear words even seasoned audiophiles let go off involuntarily if appreciatively. Should he secretly tire of being typecast as a leading speaker not renaissance man, Sven Boenicke will soon have an antidote. Enter the E2 integrated amplifier. He's of course had PowerSoft-based class D options for years; the same adaptable modules as in his sub and flagship W13 speaker with active twin-woofer bass system. This was for customers who wanted guaranteed cost-effective results from Sven's power-appreciative wooden creations. However, work on a posher all-in-one alternative had been ongoing for nearly as long as I've known him.

From Marja & Henk's Munich 2016 show report, "Sven introduced his class A/B E2 integrated amplifier offering 200wpc into 8Ω. When impedance drops to 2Ω, there are a potent 800wpc on tap. For voltage gain, the E2 relies on ultra high quality transformers from Switzerland's Audio Consulting. The output stage includes proprietary error and distortion correction. Volume control is achieved with just one series resistor. When that remote-driven control turns down all the way, its flat edge aligns with the chassis top. When the volume turns up, the point of its flat edge sticks up. In true Boenicke style, there's lots of wood with rounded edges contrasted by aluminium. The aluminium uppers reminded us of Dieter Ram's amplifier designs for Braun which in turn inspired Apple. We really loved what we heard and regretted having to move on." With the W11 woofer's tapped attenuation transformer sourced from Audio Consulting's Serge Schmidlin already—ditto certain optional tweaks—it shouldn't surprise that the E2 too would embrace Schmidlin's proven transformer tech to pursue its voltage gain in purist passive fashion. Far more typical for phono applications where outboard step-up transformers are quite common, their exploit for line-level signal is more rare. Still, Nelson Pass has it in one of his FirstWatt amplifier models; various passive preamps incorporate 6dB of voltage gain from their attenuation transformers; and Audio Consulting does it for both preamps and power amps. That for Boenicke's there'd be phono and DAC options makes sense for punters who are keen to do it all with just one component. With the original teaser sighting of this beast from 2016, the one for Munich HighEnd 2017 showed modified cosmetics with a full six inputs: