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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 2TB iMac 27" quad-core with 16GB of RAM (AIFF) running OSX 10.8.2 and PureMusic 1.94g in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM, Audirvana 1.4 in direct/integer mode, Metrum Hex, SOtM dX-USB HD with Super-clock upgrade & mBPS-d2s, AURALiC Vega
Preamplifier: Nagra Jazz, Bent Audio Tap-X, Esoteric C-03, TruLife Audio Athena
Power amplifier: FirstWatt S1 monos, SIT2; Bakoon AMP-11R; Job 225; Clones 25i [on loan]
Loudspeakers: AudioSolutions 200, Zu Submission, Boenicke Audio B-10, German Physiks HRS-120
Cables: Complete Zu Event loom, KingRex uArt split USB cable with Bakoon BPS-02 uninterruptible battery supply
Powerline conditioning: GigaWatt PF-2 on amps
preceded by Vibex Two 1R, Vibex Three 11R on front-end stack
Equipment rack: Artesania Esoteric double-wide three tier with optional glass shelf, Rajasthani hardwood rack for amps
Sundry accessories: Extensive use of Acoustic System Resonators, noise filters and phase inverters
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review component retail in the UK: £4.250
At the Munich HighEnd 2013 show, a properly British chap introduced himself as Iain Borthwick, procurer of fine hifi to the royal crown. Well, not exactly. But his expressive gushing over the Audio Music two-box R-T1 preamp could have aroused even the blue bloods. In short, the designer of the $1.450 StereoKnight Silverstone passive magnetic preamp I'd reviewed a few years back had parted ways with his former partner James Zhang, gone solo and launched a new brand. Iain had not only signed on as dealer/importer for the UK but as a global marketing liaison of sorts. With the designer Chinese and his former US-based marketing manager out of the loop, an English-speaking go-between who knew the product inside out by selling it himself was a mega asset to bust the language and cultural barrier.

Like the earlier one-box Enigma preamp under the StereoKnight banner below, the now twin-chassis R-T1 combines 6H30 drivers and 6922 voltage gain bottles with a custom 33-step magnetic volume control using multi-tapped step-down transformers. Whilst it does lose the relay-switched remote volume—said to be in the works again—and manual volume is dual mono, Iain's enthusiasm over sonics and build quality flooded right over any such piddling inconveniences. Having kissed off valve amps, my remaining glow Jones is on preamps. The man's timing and delivery thus were spot on. Do me and that. A month after the show a broken-in unit was available to hop, skip or pop across the Channel.

With a ship weight of 37kg, there'll be no real hop. Schlep is more like it. Or a small pop in the lower back. With 20Hz~100kHz bandwidth and >98dB S/N, this is clearly a serious machine. 600Ω output impedance on RCA/XLR isn't excessive but far higher than my equally tubed Nagra Jazz's 50Ω. A hefty smattering of U-cap copper-foil capacitors should lead the resourceful to some digging and shortly this statement: "We're a factory that has made tube electronics for more than ten years. These include silver-wound volume transformers, dual C-core power transformers, C-core output transformers and different types of capacitors. Due to the high price of genuine copper-foil caps from Jensen, AudioNote and V-Cap TFT, we decided to produce our own." Listed as U-cap's general manager is aka Audio Music. That too is resourceful. The still up StereoKnight website isn't. It injects confusion about directly competing products from the same pen. So I asked Iain—who was proper game as befits his marketing efforts for AM—to inquire with China about their formal stance on any carry-over/revised products.

Osborn Loudspeakers of Australia are their importers for Down Under. "StereoKnight was one of my best-selling brands. They consisted of two partners. One designed and made the products, the other was responsible for promotion & sales. They'd been working on an all-new mono amp design for some time before they closed due to the global financial crisis. The two partners went their separate way but the designer since perfected his new monoblock and formed a new company. He also has a new balanced transformer-attenuating preamp released as a StereoKnight model shortly before that company closed. There's also an all-new balanced preamplifier based on the quite awesome StereoKnight Enigma. Design and internal layout look very impressive but the minimalist exterior leaves me with some reservations so keen as I am to try it, at the moment I've not purchased one."

True dual-mono power supply with twin umbilicals.

At £4.250, lack of remote, numerical display, clear input socket and selector markings admittedly make the R-1T a tough sell. On paper. If Iain Borthwick was right—his name conjures up a kilted gael daring you to disagree—sonics would undercut any such hesitations. Yet not all agree that superior sonics couldn't or shouldn't be accompanied by modern features. I'm a PC-audio user who routinely listens to playlists or in random mode. Now remote isn't nice to have. It's mandatory as tracks will be all over the place on volume. Getting up every five minutes to tweak signal strength isn't my idea of advancement. Personally I'd thus never consider a preamp without remote. But since I knew going in that this one didn't have one, I couldn't bitch about it now. You obviously are under no such obligation.

Because the Enigma had already licked the challenge of mating a dual-mono TVC to synced remote volume with balance and display, it's strange that our designer would have forgotten himself here. Even his new output socketry has gone retrograde. The Enigma had two each RCA and XLR to support bi-amping or subwoofing. The R-T1 shrinks such generosity back to one each. For easy cachet, the

Enigma had Nichicon caps from Japan and US MusiCap caps. The new unit favors Mexican U-Caps few will have heard of before. It either took a stout name like Iain Borthwick to overlook all of this; or (and it wouldn't be the first time) ...

... our importer of a sonically hot new brand had picked a reviewer to nudge a designer unresponsive to just importer feedback to get with the program. If so, do it! Give us remote, balance, display and twinned outputs. And while you're at it, name or mark the inputs and duplicate that scheme on the selector. Making things simple is very good. Making them simpler than practical isn't. Especially when here we're smoking serious cashish. A daily on-line currency converter turned the British pound sticker into 4.964 euros or 6.480 US dollars.