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Quasar & Albedo One

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (i5, 256GB SSD, 40GB RAM, Sonoma 14), 4TB external SSD with Thunderbolt 3, Audirvana Studio, Qobuz Sublime, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 & SW-6 switch, Laiv Audio Harmony and Sonnet Pasithea; Active filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos & Gold Note monoa on subwoofer; Headamp: Kinki Studio THR-1; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Kinki Studio Earth, Furutech; 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 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: FiiO R7 into Soundaware D300Ref SD transport to Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe; Preamp/filter: Lifesaver Audio Gradient Box 2; Amplifier: Kinki Studio EX-M7; Headamp: Cen.Grand Silver Fox Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini + Dynaudio S18 sub; 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; DAC: iFi Pro iDSD Signature; Head/speaker amp: Enleum AMP-23R; Speakers: Acelec Model One
Headphones: Final D-8000 & Sonorous X, Audeze LCD-XC, Raal-Requisite SR1a on Schiit Jotunheim R
Upstairs headfi system: FiiO R7; Headphones: Meze 109 Pro, Fiio FT3

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: Quasar €6'640, Albedo One €7'940

May 5, 1789. La révolution. By 2023 so 250 years later, France enjoys established hifi brands Devialet, Focal, Métronome and Triangle; plus more rebellious outliers Audionec, Aurai, Neodio; and today's Kallyste whose Défi preamp names as piqued challenge. There are many more brands on either side of my artificial mainstream x underground divide. But this is no thesis on Gallic entrepreneurs. It's mere segue into Pascal Curin's Quasar and Albedo One tube preamplifier and companion 70wpc stereo amp. We first crossed Pascal's path in my review of his Amethyste headfi/preamp. That was introduced to me by Oleh Lizohoub of Berlin's boutique Camerton. He is a designer who clearly knows his beans. Whilst working up that assignment, Kallyste indicated wanting to follow up with another gig. So here were are. We recall that Pascal is both a Methodist who likes tubes and transistors in circuit junctions best suited to either; and a Pentodist who denies the dowdy dogma of triodes.

"It was in 1981 when Belgian electronic musician Michel Huygen and Spanish colleague Carlos Guirao, both better known as Neuronium, met with Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, better known as Vangelis, to record a joint session in London. Michel Huygen remembers: "The music we played together starting from my score was flowing so fast and smoothly between us three that I can now, many years after, say that we recorded all the music's parts in one single shot since the result was absolutely what we all wanted and Vangelis told us not to touch what we had recorded because it was lovely and so we didn't." These notes accompany the remastered album In London – The Platinum Edition. Neuronium of course authored Quasar 2C361 and Vangelis Albedo 0.39. Is there a connection to our like-named Kallyste components? Is it pure coincidence and conjecture?

I asked Pascal's assistant Nathalie Fougues who handles their English communications. In science a quasar is a super-bright celestial object whilst albedo is light refracted off one like our moon shines not with its own light but the sun's. Were we to take this naming literal, we'd conclude that Pascal views his preamp as the true generator of radiance, the amplifier merely as its reflector. If so, this would also reflect the 'straight wire with gain' notion for the power amplifier, the 'is the heart of any system' idea for the preamplifier.