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Eleven to twelve

In October I published my 2023 Redux. The early date gave holiday shoppers plenty of advance notice should anything on that page trigger lustful bumps. With 90 days to go before Year's End, other product releases or hands-on discoveries were bound to drop later. Today's feature—November being 11, December 12—focuses on three discoveries or announcements that rang my jingle bells since.

Of the three, the CanEver ZeroUno Ultra Plus is the only one I've heard yet. Relative to lust bumps, it's given me a serious bout of malaria. I'm itching all over. It's a DAC/pre with top Cirrus-Logic CS3318 volume/balance control, two analogue inputs then the usual bunch of digital inputs feeding a top ESS DAC. Where the differences kick in is with a direct-coupled minimalist signal path. Per channel it begins with a Swedish Lundahl input transformer, then hits an ECC88 triode paralleled/summed with a Jfet from Linear Tech's LSK 170 range. Sprinkle in a few resistors. Bolt on a massive power supply of eight transformers. Omit all feedback. Bundle 24dB of voltage gain. Insert a 6H30P for the anode power supply. Cap off with 10Ω output impedance. For the final polish, add Apple's remote wand and program your display such that any volume and sample-rate changes show big and bold before the readout reverts to its usual 4 lines of data then extinguishes if that's how we set it in the menu. Relative to my status quo, this deck from the Venetian lagoon really takes analogue preamplitude to the next level. If I had a spare €15.6K buried in the yard, I'd get out my shovel.

My 2nd and 3rd entry plays the same party trick of 'where's your other half'. Qualio's new Quantum applies a virtual chainsaw to cut their maiden IQ model in half with a clean top-to-bottom sweep. Instead of a 9½" 3-way with width to spare to posture very broad of shoulder, Quantum is a 6" 2½-way whose cab just clears its drivers. That makes it half as wide as the IQ. Yet by overlapping its two dynamic drivers in the bass, they sum to a compound 8½" woofer which reportedly only gives up ~10Hz of reach whilst visually slipping into rooms off limits to the IQ even if just for décor reasons. The Quantum premiered in late October at the annual Warsaw show and I've been offered a review sample. Given my far from shy enthusiasm for the IQ which plays in our main system, I'm over-the-moons excited by the prospect of a narrow version which the designers promise comes very close to bigger brother. At €5'990/pr in standard finishes, the Quantum duplicates the IQ's high driver cachet with the same dipole Mundorf AMT and SB Acoustic papyrus-based Satori mid/woofer. Then it adds a 6" Norex woofer also from SB's catalogue. Filter parts again reach for Janzen and Mundorf. My developing review will have more details. For now this is all I know. But it's enough to get the juices rising.

My 3rd entry weighs €27K/pr and 32kg/ea. But the latter is a lot less than the 55kg of Electrocompaniet's mighty AW800M mono-bridgeable amp which I tested in March. With another chainsaw stunt the Norwegians' follow-up amp is the AW300M which goes half as wide and full-on mono. Side by side we'd be back at the AW800M; without our back being out of order. By now we're playing a fiscal league that's beyond my reach. Such mundane limitations simply didn't prevent my radar from pinging. I thought the 800M to be one of the very best amps I'd ever hosted. During my time with it I wished it came in a smaller easier-to-handle form factor. The new 300M is precisely that. Hurray. And it's still my favourite gain topology of ultra-bandwidth DC-coupled class AB so another example of the Enleum ⇒ Goldmund ⇒ Kinki ⇒ LinnenberG Axis of Excellence I've explored and listened on for many years now. Given price, it'll be appropriately superior to our kit just as the 800M had been. The only competing amp I've reviewed was Ivo LinnenberG's 100-watt class A Georg Friedrich Händel mono with switch-mode power supply. Of course the Norsemen's tagline of "If music really matters" should read "When music really matters"; if we're picky. But they make the point regardless. If, not when, I more loved gloss-black hifi and had another buried treasure in the yard, Electrocompaniet's AW300M would top my exploratory short list.

Like your friendly neighbourhood drug peddler, my job for November is done now. I'm fresh out of supplies. So pass it around. I might be back in December. Or not…