Country of Origin


icOn 5

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn 80Hz/4th-order hi/lo-pass; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 mono, Enleum AMP-23R; Headamp: Kinki Studio; Phones: HifiMan Susvara; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf w. sound|kaos DSUB 15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Cube Audio Nenuphar Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; 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: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/40Hz hi-low pass; Amplifier: Goldmund Job 225; Loudspeakers: Acelec Model One, Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; 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;  Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
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: TBA

Got religion? A Slagleformer is an autoformer designed and wound by Dave Slagle. His multi-tapped magnetic volume controls were first popularized by John Chapman's TAP-X passive preamp when the Stevens & Billington parts became unavailable to OEMs. They've since been used to great effect in Pál Nagy's icOn preamps. It won't surprise you now that a Palformer will be an autoformer of his own design. In mid May he described it to me as "an autoformer with variable sonics, something like a tilt control with remote but no passive or active additions in the signal path. If the process wasn't so costly, I'd consider patenting it. I'd love to send you a first working prototype hopefully no later than September. I want to introduce it at the UK Audio show October 8th-9th in the Staverton Park Hotel of Northants, our first exhibition. Yet these days nothing is certain. From extreme parts shortages to prices going through the roof, Brexit-induced import/export issues and new customs clearances, here in Manchester we're confronted by challenges on many fronts which can play havoc with our best scheduling."

Eagle-eyed readers elsewhere in our pages spotted mention of THE icOn—Theo for short as in, getting theological on the passive-magnetic attenuation concept—which should include volume in 160 x 0.5dB steps; and a white e-paper display. Still greater more granular attenuation range is for audiophiles who unwisely combine a valve amp of 0.3V input sensitivity with 105dB hornspeakers and a DAC with 9Vrms outputs and wonder why they go from mute to shout in a bleeding hurry; and have noise. On Pál's FaceBook pages, an earlier January post includes this teaser. "The material of the iron core has a much greater effect on the sound of an audio transformer than the material of the wire. Hitachi's cut Finemet nanocrystalline cores from Japan are the finest audio transformer cores, period." Another post mentions "a retro 40mm high Nixie tube display option". Throwing these crumbs at the grinder of our collective imagination, what picture forms on how exactly Theo might unveil in the UK in two months' time?

"I'll introduce four new products but unfortunately not yet the new top version with nanocrystal-core 'variable' autoformer. That needs much more development time because everything will differ from the current 4Pro platform. Hopefully I can show it in Bristol next February. Sometimes I imagine that my days have 48 or 72 hours and give unfounded forecasts. This October I'll show something unique for high-end loudspeakers with DSP crossovers: an 8-channel 4Pro with four pairs of autoformers together with my own Linkwitz LX521 4-ways with analogue active and DSP crossover and a dozen of my own acoustic panels for room treatment. icOn 5 will bow with its 168 steps, a beautiful white display and 8 pairs of RCA sockets; the icOn 4 Zen with 48 steps, same Slagleformer but no optical encoder or CNC'd faceplate for half the price of a 4Pro in limited quantities and for a limited time; and the latest Gradient Box with remote-controlled volume and balance between sub and mains. I'm waiting for the new PCB."

… to be continued when the audio gods smile next…