Country of Origin
This review first appeared in January 2024 on HifiKnights.com. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of HifiKnights or the manufacturer – Ed.
Reviewer: Marek Dyba
Analog sources: J.Sikora Basic MAX turntable, J.Sikora KV12 tonearm , AirTight PC-3, phonostages: Grandinote Celio mk IV, ESE Lab Nibiru V 2.5
Digital sources: passive custom PC with Win10, Roon, Fidelizer Pro 7.3, JCat USB Femto card with iFi power supply, Hdplex linear power supply for PC, JCAT USB Isolator, LampizatOr Golden Atlantic +Ideon Audio 3R Master Time (USB signal regenerator), LampizatOr Pacific
USB: iFi audio 0, micro iUSB3.0 and 3x Mercury cables
Preamplifiers: Audia Flight FLS1
Amplifiers: GrandiNote Shinai
Speakers: Ubiq Audio Model One Duelund Edition, GrandiNote Mach4
Interconnects: Hijiri Million, KBL Sound Red Corona, Metrum Lab Edge, TelluriumQ Silver Diamond USB, Stavessence USB Eunoia and Apricity, Ethernet Eloquence
Speaker cables: LessLoss Anchorwave, Metrum Lab Edge, KBl Sound Red Corona
Power components: GigaWatt PF-2 MK2 and GigaWatt PC-3 SE Evo+; a custom power line with GigaWatt LC-Y in-wall cable; GigaWatt G-044 Schuko and Furutech FT-SWS-D (R)
Rack: Base VI, Rogoz Audio 3RP3/BBS
Sundry accessories: Rogoz Audio SMO40 and CPPB16 platforms and BW40MKII feet, Franc Accessories Ceramic Disc Slim Feet and Wood Block platform
Retail price of reviewed components in EU: €6'900 w. KT120, €7'200 w. KT170
A sleek valve amp, not too big, with enough power for most speakers plus the bonus of extensive tube rolling… can it be done for reasonable coin? Audio Hungary claim that it can with their Qualiton A75. Let's rewind. For several years already, Lukasz Lewandowski, head and chief designer of Lublin speaker brand hORNS, has cooperated with Audio Hungary. It seems that the beginning of this cooperation could have been coincidental. Hearsay has it starting at one Munich High End Show a few years back when urgent need drove Lukasz to enter their booth empty-handed then leave with an amp. A preamplifier also used in a show system worked so well that it returned with him to Poland. Ever since hORNS have shown their speakers with Audio Hungary electronics, usually with David Laboga Custom Audio cables. As Lukasz told me, over those years he had a chance to sample several Hungarian models to learn that each offered not only an objectively high-quality sound but one that suited him personally and dovetailed well with his speakers. An important factor was their attractive pricing. The successful marriage of Audio Hungary valve kit with hORNS speakers led to a permanent partnership and Lukasz now acts as the brand's representative for the Polish market.
As you learn on their website, the company has a long tradition. It all started with the 1940s' launch of Rafilm National Radio & Film which after several changes, acquisitions and buyouts became Audio Hungary by 2015. This brand also bought out another of the first company's heirs called Univox, which is well-known in many countries around the world. Post acquisition, the new owners changed from a manufacturer of public sound systems to a supplier of home audio gear. As should be clear by now, that features tubes inside amplifiers and preamplifiers. Today the line-up divides into Qualiton Classic and Qualiton A-Series models. The former include the C200 line preamplifier, P200 power amplifier and X200 integrated. I received the most powerful representative of the Qualiton A-Series, the A75 integrated. That range includes the A20i and A35 integrateds, a phono preamplifier and a step-up transformer. Despite the brand's young age it already enjoys more than a dozen distributors in highly demanding markets of Europe, Asia and the Americas. This plus Lukasz's recommendation suggested that it was high time I got to know at least one Audio Hungary product.
And so it came to be that Lukasz Lewandowski called a few weeks after the 2023 Audio Video Show in Warsaw, which for the first time in my audiophile life I skipped due to Covid. He offered me to review his favourite Hungarian amplifier, the Qualiton A75. To be honest, I recognized neither model nor what tubes it runs. But given how much I like hORNS room at each show and being a big tube amplifiers aficionado, I immediately agreed. Although not particularly hulking of size, the A75 weighs quite a lot as virtually any good non-OTL tube amplifier does. It first took part in a review of the Joseph Audio Pulsar 2 Graphene speakers before I heard it with my own speakers. From the onset it made a very good impression but I left proper evaluation for subsequent sessions with my familiar Grandinote Mach4 and Ubiq Model One speakers. The form factor of the A75 is quite modest, almost square if slightly deeper than wide, 25cm tall with the tube cover installed, with classic transformer canister and in all black. Only the small Qualiton and rear inscriptions are white as is a dot on the volume control knob. On the front panel is also a small black input selector button which runs through a row of four corresponding LED. The selected input lights up white, the others red. Their unmarked layout is the exact opposite of the back panel execution. Input selection, volume and mute are also available from the remote. The single XLR input is only pseudo balanced so just for convenience. Speaker tabs are for 8/4Ω. The mains switch is on the left cheek's far rear and includes a soft start. The tube complement is an input quad of 12AT7/ECC81, a driver duo of 12AX7/ECC83 and a quad of KT-type outputs so a push/pull pair per channel. These can be KT120, 150 or 170 and auto bias makes that choice plug ‘n' play. No precise power ratings for each is given, just a generic 75wpc.
Our maker shares no specifics on their circuit, parts or transformers and I didn't peek under the hood. [Why ever not? – Ed.] The unit gave me the impression of being solidly built and well finished. Like much high-end tube equipment, there are no circuit add-ons like a DAC, streamer or phono modules to complicate the design and add sources for potential noise or interference. The best tube amps tend to be famous for simple circuits executed well. In my view following their precedent was a promising good thing. Fitted with KT170, the Qualiton integrated handled all three speakers I threw at it but spent the most time with the Grandinote as my trusted standby for all tube-amp reviews where it already shines with just a few watts.