Reviewer: 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 & H1, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi Formula, Fore Audio DAISy 1
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Wyred4Sound STP-SE MkII, Vinnie Rossi LIO (AVC module), COS Engineering D1
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8; FirstWatt SIT1, F5, F6, F7; Bakoon AMP-12R; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; Nord Acoustics One SE Up NC500MB monos; LinnenberG Audio Allegro monos
Loudspeakers: Audio Physic Codex; EnigmAcoustics Mythology 1; Boenicke Audio W5se; Zu Audio Druid V & Submission; German Physiks HRS-120; Eversound Essence
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; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC Silver
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components, Titan Audio Eros cords on conditioners and amp/s
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: d-shaped, with the listening "tip" a 4 x 6m bay with high vaulted ceilings which continues into an open 5 x 11m kitchen/living-room area for no wall behind the listening seat
Review component retail: €5'600
The emailer was Roland Krammer of Austria's Crayon in Premstätten bei Graz. "It's been a long time. How are you and what's new? Customers wrote me that they miss a review from you about our CIA-1 and CIA-1T. You have a lot of worldwide fans. So I'm asking whether you'd be interested in writing a review on either one. You would be the first to test these models from our new production which we've now outsourced to Anton Paar GmbH. The CIA-1 and CIA-1T have been revised and improved. Would that be something for you?


"Also, I am currently working on a redesign of your CFA. This will become the CFA-1.3. Again there will be two versions like in the CIA series. The CFA-1.3 will have the same power as before but arrive in a new case with a new display for larger characters and new electronics inside. The CFA-1.3T will do 200 watts into 4Ω and 8Ω. It'll be the last integrated amplifier from Crayon Audio. When that's done, I want you to do the first review. It's almost tradition. Well, let me know what you think." Well, yes of course. I'm a Crayon fan. Asking about differences with the CIA which are always looking for a few good men and women, "the €2'800 CIA-1 (+€250 for V3.00 phono input) does 90wpc into 4Ω, has the same RCA sockets as the CFA-1.2, cheaper speaker terminals and lesser op-amps. The €5'600 CIA-1T does 185wpc/4Ω to double power (+€800 for phono), gets WBT RCA sockets and binding posts, better OPs and a more efficient heat sink. Both have completely new chassis. If I can also outsource production of the CFA range, I can finally dedicate myself to the CHA-1 and CHP-1 (dedicated headphone and phono amps respectively - Ed]."


If you're still unsure what a CIA one-to-the-t is - well, obviously a 90/180wpc into 8/4Ω Crayon Integrated Amplifier with variable and fixed pre-out. Inside tucks a high-speed circuit with local current feedback (no global feedback) that's powered by a Swiss-made shielded switching supply. Special PCB construction with sub 1Ω ground-plane impedance all the way up to 1GHz guarantees broadband decoupling from this power supply; and "cross not linear regulators stabilize the preamp in the oft-disturbed region of 1Hz-10MHz to apply balanced current regardless of operating conditions".


As a bridged output stage with Mosfets, each speaker terminal carries 19V DC so should not be shorted. Hookup wiring is 99.99% silver and the first RCA input can convert to optional MC/MM to then take advantage of the Mäuseklavier dip-switch panel for load adjustments (220/100/47pF; 50/100/500/1kΩ, intermediate values possible). Unlike the CIA-1, the 'T' also gets a 'PA' or power-amp mode switch on the back. That bypasses the volume control on input 2 should you prefer your own preamp. Dual-mono switches on input 2 can also lower its gain by 6dB, useful for sources with >2V output voltages. And as if the photos didn't say so already, this machine comes in all silver or all black.


The included remote is the same fantastically ergonomic unit that already came with our €12'000 Nagra Jazz preamp. This one is obviously branded different and the lower buttons are fewer. But of all the infrared wands I've put fingerprints on in this beat since 2002, this two-tone job is a personal fave. Our CFA-1.2 came with it too, then had a surcharge option for the Bent Audio-sourced metal wand which is also used by Vinnie Rossi's LIO and others. Class acts either way just like the CIA's minimalist but solid aluminium enclosure. Hifi shouldn't just sound good. It ought to look fine as well. Why share our home with it otherwise?
On the spec meter, the CIA-1T clocks bandwidth of 6Hz-200kHz @ -3dB, slew rate of >25V/µs and dimensions of 6x44x31cm HxWxD. Weight is 11kg; just like the CFA-1.2 in fact. Yet junior T is rather more powerful than its 64/90wpc elder. So what if the display and loudness control got lost in translation? Most punters will instead eye the lower price. If we digest subtext, we understand why our CFA-1.2 had to proceed to the nearest exist aka pending point.3 upgrade. We also perceive growing biz, enough to force Roland Krammer out of personal production to instead outsource locally to a firm which employs 2'500 in their Graz headquarters alone and which develops, produces and distributes "highly accurate laboratory instruments and process measuring systems and provides custom-tailored automation and robotic solutions." Hey, not only is our little T-Rex quite the hi-tech deck, it's even made in a hi-tech plant. That it would have to turn into T-Flex and muscle up against our CFA-1.2 was predestined. It just had to play at a little Shakespearean fratricide. Would our elder statesman block the musical attack? Or would things get operatic and - well, ours stabbed in the throat or back? Nothing like a little blood sport to keep our listening room entertained. Cue up Manuel de Falla's Three-cornered Hat suite to do justice to that volume knob!
... to be continued...

Crayon Audio website