Watching remotely from my seat, I saw my personal problem solver take shape. I felt self-conscious of the part I'd played in getting our Hungarian expat embroiled in this project. GB for guilt burden. For all the endless weekends the Gradient Box occupied our man, I owe his wife Agnes a big debt. Having an idea is easy. Materializing it can be a humdinger. Shifting that onto another man is even worse. Him accepting it reminds me of the default answer mountaineers give when asked why they risk limb and life to climb a particularly treacherous mountain: "Because it's there." Creative people look at their own mountains the same way. So do athletes. Why don't I swim from Ireland to France and break a record? Pubs the world over are filled with inspired notions. How many ever make theirs true?

Pál & Agnes: "We are not serious mountaineers but like to hike with our backpacks in high places."

By October 3rd 2021, "for me continuous product development is a matter of course. After my nice orange 7-segment LED display you're familiar with, some icOn models will soon get a new white OLED display or retro Nixie tube option. The 40mm tall glowing Nixie tubes will show exact volume in 0.5dB resolution across 160 steps for an 80dB attenuation range. I think that's a rather nice achievement for an autoformer preamp."

Unpacking that understatement gets us at a new PCB. Note the words icOn hi-res. "The coming high-end icOn AVC will have technical specifications, features and a user experience never seen before." Perhaps this doesn't count for serious mountaineering but in the world of high-end passive-magnetic audio, Pál was about to enter the Reinhold Messner zone.

For more on his background, there's this interview which also contains the next photo of the Gradient Box prototype set to two different turnover frequencies.

By April 26th 2022 via Martin Gateley of sound|kaos, "I tried to finalize the Gradient Box for your Munich exhibit but after two weeks of hard work had to admit that this first prototype wasn't good enough to use at a show." Or as Martin added who knows only too well, "that's R&D for you." But he did score an icOn4 preamp and external box with 40/75Hz fixed lo/hi-pass paths to premiere his Liber|8 oval dipoles and 2×15" Ripol subwoofer with.

Post show, Pál had this update: "We very much enjoyed the exceptional sound|kaos system which produced far more natural and lively sound than 10-20 times costlier setups at the MOC. Unfortunately I wasn't able to give Martin the first version of the Gradient Box. Due to the mixed analogue/digital circuits the two different grounds induced some background noise which I wasn't able to eliminate in time. If my analog switch chips from Vishay become available again, perhaps by the end of the year I get to redesign the board. In the meantime I started work on a stripped-down Gradient Box 2 based on my favorite engineering principle from Watson-Watt: 'Give them the third best to go on with; the second best comes too late, the best never comes'. Because I'm a Virgo and perfectionist, I go for the best until circumstances force me to remember the cult of the imperfect. This second best, one year delayed relative to my original plan, will have limited remote control to compare two different settings from the listening position, 'only' seven crossover frequencies with LP shelving but I won't need the unobtainable Vishay chips to execute it which is a big plus."

Just how crippling the disappearance of parts central to a design can be we learnt in this company obituary. A flippant 'just redesign the thing' can miss big. In the case of GB, the exploded functionality originally planned relied on a part which suddenly went extinct. Whilst Pál made adjustments to soldier on without the Vishay part, my guilt burden increased exponentially.