This review was especially written for us by the editor of Russia's AudioMagazine and translated from Russian by Viacheslav Savvov to introduce an exotic Russian hifi brand to a broader audience. The writer's signature at the end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of Artjom Avatinjan - Ed.

Reviewer: Artjom Avatinjan
Sources: TAD D600 CD player, Spiral GrooveSG1.1 turntable, Studer A810 open-reel tape deck, step-up transformer SA Lab, phono preamplifier SA Lab London
Integrated amplifier: SA Lab White Knight Special Edition, SA Lab Erato
Loudspeakers: Tannoy Canterbury GR, Tannoy ST200 super tweeter
Cables: PhysicStyleEverest low-level, SA Lab high-level
Equipment rack: Finite-Elemente Pagode Master Reference HD07
Review component retail price: €34’000

6moons continues to introduce its audience
to the works of Russian audio engineer Alexey Syomin and his uniquely interesting products bearing the branding S.A. Lab (Sound Analysis Laboratory) which a year ago celebrated its 10th anniversary. I already told you about some of their no-compromise tube masterpieces: the 3-piece amplifying set Ligeia based on a vintage British tube 14D15, the 5-piece Erato based on the Russian GU-80 and the White Knight integrated transistor amplifier. Let me remind you that it’s this engineer’s conscious choice to use tube and traditional transistor circuits—no class D or switching power supplies—to implement in his components devices with the best parameters and sound characteristics. As a rule, these items were manufactured not later than the second third of the previous century, i.e. before the 1960s. Alexey Syomin explains this with the fact that original tube manufacturing technologies are virtually extinct now; that original production equipment has worn out and in most cases was never modernized; and that vintage tubes simply sound better.

The head of S.A. Lab pays extraordinary attention to circuit layout and output device quality, hence to the hardware upon which his components are built. He designs circuits with considerable margins which partially explains the huge size, colossal weight and high energy consumption of the flagship S.A. Lab sets. Syomin strictly verifies the musical signature and quality standard of all his electronic parts. For him the most important thing is not the audiophile reputation of a particular brand or part but their true musical abilities. Whilst talking with Alexey, I often caught myself wondering how he manages to hold in his memory and to constantly enlarge his ‘mental and aural’ bank of electronic parts to remember all their inherent sound features.

Working on a specific project, he not only designs a circuit as an engineer but also creates a unique audio/musical artwork just like the overseer of an elite brandy or whiskey would. The only difference is that his products are never of a single malt or poor vintage variety. I must also admit that musical strictness and precision are never sacrificed at the altar of individuality. It never occurs to a listener that S.A. Lab amps sound vintage, old-fashioned or reproduce too much of the designer’s preconceptions and too little of the actual recording. The reader may have noticed that speaking previously about Ligeia and Erato, I’d more than once mentioned the 300B DHT. During my meetings with Alexey, he probably talked about it as often and passionately as he talked about the main tubes for Ligeia and Erato: the 14D15 and GU-80. In both components the 300B plays the part of output tube driver.

Alexey constantly underlined the considerable technical and exclusive musical values of this filamentary triode invented by Western Electric at the end of the 1930s. These opinions and appraisals obviously ring in unison with estimates made by a majority of audiophile societies, namely that the 300B may be regarded as an embodiment of a true audiophile tube. In Alexey’s own words: "The GU-80 in triode mode reminds me of the 300B, my favorite tube. The winning candidate for the job of GU-80 driver is the 300B, providing a huge aperture and large amount of gain at the expense of the previous stage and very good linearity. One could use a 2A3 or other tube instead but the 300B is really beyond competition. Due to its high anode voltage and excellent linearity, the 300B is able to easily drive the output tube. Its advantages are perfect VA characteristic and linearity, low internal resistance, high dissipation power and a distortion spectrum at max signal that is ideal for sound reproduction."