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 3.02, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming; Questyle QP1R [.aif], Apple iPod Classic 160GB [.aif], Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio [.aif], Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20
DACs: COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Vinnie Rossi Lio
Preamplifiers: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, COS Engineering D1, Clones Audio AP1, Vinnie Rossi LIO [AVC option]
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; April Music Stello S100 MkII, Vinnie Rossi Lio, AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics M1, Albedo Audio Aptica, soundkaos Wave 40, Sounddeco Sigma 2; Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Eversound Essence w. TR-3D subwoofer
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; Black Cat Cable redlevel Lupo; Ocellia OCC power cord loom [on loan], KingRex uArt double-header USB; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Krion amp shelf
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, two Verictum Silver X Block (EMI/RFI traps for component chassis) on preamp and amp
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: €1'140 ex VAT

November 28th, 2015
. "As an 'anti-crisis' proposition, I am at the moment working on a high-end amplifier which can retail for €1'000. That's because now there are tough times in Russia. If you are interested in reviewing it, let me know." The words high-end and €1'000 could seem mutually exclusive. Without some Rasputin legerdemain, they mostly are. But with the sender being one Alexey Syomin of S.A. Lab and four prior reviews on his gear in our pages, we already knew how he usually does pursue the very highest of our end, concomitant pricing tempered only by the ruble's weak buying power. Alexey's use of 'high end' was thus neither capricious nor ill-informed. The burning question was, what would someone with his steep sonic standards deliver for a Rotel/Cambridge sticker? Surely not a NuForce-style small class D amp.

On the Saturday of his first contact, Alexey was still undecided between two fascia options. Otherwise he was a week from wrapping the Entry Point project. I voted for the left version and a cooler name. Then I uttered a cheerful da to his inquiry. I hadn't yet the faintest on whether there'd be any of his customary tubes; on output power; whether this would be a hybrid; or anything else for that matter. I only knew of the low-ball price and Alexey's high-class track record. It's what caused Polish contributor Dawid Grzyb to email in with disbelief: "Is it really €1'000? It looks to me that one zero is missing." Not!

By December 16th, UPS was booked to deliver. The left look had won out. The formal name had become Blackbird, instantly bringing to mind Paul McCartney's famous song. Then the accompanying specs were quite extraordinary. First off, Alexey stayed true to his purist low-power morale with 6 watts into 8Ω and 10 into 4Ω. Secondly, his 3-stage 6-tube circuit ended in push/pull but fully class A triode outputs via a channel pair of pre 1976* NOS Russian 6Ф6 (plug'n'play interchangeable with 6П6, 6V6 or 6F6). Then there were two double triodes of the 6072 type in the input and driver stages. That's a 12AY7 equivalent. The custom 200-watt transformers with German iron cores were custom designs, the face place was polished brown Corian. Milky white and black were options.

* "The output tubes will be from the years 1937-1976. Those in your sample are dated 1956. I actually had some from 1937 but had concerns about their transportation. I have about 600 in total. Some people will think the output power insufficient but with speaker sensitivity above 88dB, the sound should be rather decent. The amplifier takes about five minutes to warm up. Because the tubes themselves are vintage, they take time to break in fully. I'd say about a month of use."

Other fine parts included Epcos caps and Vishay resistors. On further core specs, there was input sensitivity of 700mV, unweighted S/NR of 96dB—that's some 20dB better than many a direct-heated triode SET at five times this sticker—10KΩ input impedance, sub 0.6% THD, 125W power consumption monstrous considering output power but indicative of pure class A bias, stout overall weight of 19kg and serious dimensions of 19 x 46 x 46cm HxWxD. Due to the rare NOSh on board, Alexey would limit this model to a run of 50. This would hold back sufficient glass to support all Blackbirds for the duration of their select ownerships. I didn't know how to say hot damn in proper Russian. Some happy expletive seemed simply called for to greet so much hifi testosterone for such a fair price. Hotdamski? Better yet, here's the recipe for a Hot Damn Pink Russian. Into an ice-filled highball glass, pour 1 ounce of Stolichnaya vodka, 1 ounce of Kahlua coffee liqueur, 1 ounce of DeKuyper Hot Damn 100 cinnamon schnapps, top off with milk or half'n'half cream. Shake and serve.