This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

In my 11 years at this helm, I've never before come across a component this deserving of being called built like a tank. Think Burson squared. The canned TVCs are braced in massively machined aluminum retainers. So are the output and power transformers. The vertical tube board mounts its super-tight sockets to a massive aluminum plate whose back side doubles as mount for the associated circuit board. The grooved heavy-duty top cover locks into rabbeted place with eight long bolts passing with perfect fit through the overkill corner blocks.

Whilst one might rightly question whether this type of build is necessary—I don't think that Jeff Rowland shoppers would though—there's no question that Audio Music's designer is an extremist when it comes to mechanical construction.

By necessity this means high mass to make this one of the heaviest preamps to ever have crossed my threshold.

What in this context might disappoint is the supplied tube complement of electro-harmonix 6H30Pi and 6922. High-volume valve gear makers must for obvious reasons rely on current production tubes which for more affordable gear means Russian or Chinese.

Once we get to the bespoke low-volume level at which today's contender clearly means to play, one expects more particularly when it comes to the ECC88. Here the R-T1 goes hoi polloi.

Common sense—which routinely is just that, common—might look at the horizontal tube orientation with suspicion but there's good reason why it's referred to as military mounting where lives depend on reliability.

If you've ever wondered about manufacturers referring to components as true dual-mono whilst running off a single power transformer with dual secondaries, Fang would have your back. He even extends this divide-and-conquer thinking to his stout doubled-up 4-pole umbilicals; and as we already knew the twinned volume controls where it arguably gets just a tad inconvenient but does double as precision balance control.

If the audio signal is nothing but modulated power supply, the sight of this supply should have us feel in very good hands indeed.

Needless to say, such design intensity has to include completely noise-free operation both mechanically and electrically for zero transformer hum and nada tube rush. The R-T1 complies. Ambitious tube gear which claims that noise is acceptable as long as the sound is good belongs into the past century with wow and flutter and brickwall filters.

This wrapped up the visual inspection of this flawlessly executed hardware from China.