Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac late 2020 with Ventura 13.4, 40GB RAM, Audirvana Origin, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-6 & SW-8 network switches, Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 100Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & EX-M7 stereo; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: Qualio Audio IQ w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Vibra 68 footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Kinki Studio Earth; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Shanling M3 Ultra, Soundaware D300Ref; DAC: Sonnet Pasithea; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box at 60Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Amplifier: Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini, Dynaudio S18 sub on sound|kaos Vibra 68 footers; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF + Akiko Audio Corelli; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Masterclock: LHY OCK-2; Headphones: Final D-8000; Headfi/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics Mythology M1
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: €15'900 for amp, €4'660 for Binom-ER headphones
The 'power in' sockets are for a forthcoming 'harmonic equalizer'.
"I shared your email address with Kallyste who want to get a review of their Amethyste headphone amp. I hope you'll do it." That surprise invite was signed Oleh. Camerton's designer in Berlin is one very sharp cookie. He never crumbles when asked 'why' on any technical decision he made for his loudspeakers, headphones or proprietary drivers. Truth told, I'd never gotten around to asking him why at Munich HighEnd he keeps showing with French brand Kallyste. It seems obvious. So I recognized a wet insider reco when it nibbled me on the ear. "Sure, I'd be happy to".
Knowing naught else, no sooner said than some instant Google recon it was. Sacré bleu. My very next question—to myself—was, what's up with the French and UltraFi named Kalista? There's the sister brand of Métronome where, if you must ask, you can't afford it. Then Kallyste's rhyming Amethyste swallows a cool €15'900 to sing her hybrid siren song. Yet I didn't think that in these photos she looked all that Champs-Élysées. Solid and clean absolutely. Poutily ravishing? Arguably less so. To my eye the Riviera Labs hybrid head amp from Italy exudes more posh. Today we get a valve line stage, tube-rectified power supply, 15W/8Ω transistor outputs, three output Ω settings implemented with resistors not transformer taps, motorized remote volume, 10-year warranty.
As befits if-you-must-ask placement, the Kallyste site was sparse on tech detail. I did take note of various colour options for how the head unit's rotaries and inset area may get anodized. Still, my Oleh link promised true substance where it matters to classic 'philes: circuit smarts and resultant sonics. I felt in safe if spendy hands. To learn more, would I need a tête-à-zoom with designer Pascal Curin; or some Google Translator emails? On such matters I'm like a surrogate mom. I fuss but after my review gives birth, I must hand the loaner back to avoid an invoice. It's how our kind learns how Jean and Jeannette live in the 7th arrondissement.
For suitable loads I had HifiMan Susvara with fenestrated Dekoni pads and with Forza Audioworks cabling, Final D8000 & Sonorous X, Meze 109 Pro and Audeze LCD-CX. For amp comparators I had an Enleum AMP-23R, Cen.Grand Silver Fox, Vinnie Rossie L2 Signature with direct-coupled Elrog ER50 and iFi Pro iDSD Signature. After my June 2022 review, Oleh's original Binom-ER headphones had long since flown back to Berlin. That Munich show combo I wouldn't get to duplicate. Or so I thought. But Oleh explained that his design had undergone significant updates for 2023 so he'd ship me a sample for inclusion in this review. Teaming up valves for voltage and transistors for current gain is an established division of labour. In such a mix less so are tube rectifiers. With four transformers in the power supply (one perhaps a choke?) and Nichicon oiled-silk caps, we spot a classic old-school recipe. No SMPS here.
Some obvious questions curious buyers might harbour are what these tube types are and which if any substitutes are allowed; how Pascal coupes his tubes to the transistors; how many gain stages there are; what the overall voltage gain is for preamp mode; and what max voltage his input stage is most happy with. DACs like the recently reviewed Métronome AQWO 2 for example can be set to 1.4V, 2V or 3V out. My Sonnet Pasithea can be set to -10dB in the menu. It then adds another possible 10dB gain cut by inside jumper which also lowers its output impedance from 16 to 8Ω. My Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe can be set to variable mode to pre-trim its output voltage should Amethyste prefer less. I also expected that punters ready to part with €16K might wish to know some background on the designer and his audio credentials.
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