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Then as if to answer the question of whether a clear conscience is the sign of a bad memory, "De Forest continued to manufacture and supply audions to the US Navy up until the early 1920s, for maintenance of existing equipment … elsewhere they were regarded as well and truly obsolete by then. It was the vacuum triode that made practical radio broadcasts a reality."

Is there another word for synonym? After asking Graeme Holland—CEO at Audion International since 1987—about the company’s name, I got this reply: "As you know, 24 years ago we were known as Audio Innovations. Following the split between the three key people at Innovations—David Chessel, Erik Andersson and Peter Quortrup—Audion’s founding members David and Erik wanted a name that summed up innovation, a fresh beginning and above all a name that the old Audio Innovations customers could relate to."

"Audion as you also know was the name of the first triode tube ever made by Lee De Forest. The name Audion conjured up those heady days of invention and innovation; and as it later turned out came ahead of AudioNote in the phone and exhibitors’ directories which also helped Audion in those early days. The other thing that really helped was that in 1992 Audion was the first to market with a newly released 300B which was originally reviewed by Sam Tellig helping Audion to its first million … but that's an aside."

"The name Audion as you rightly say preceded the triode (in actual fact it was the name given to the world's first triode in 1903), which we kind of did albeit a re-release of the 300B." Sporting a chassis that is black powder coated aluminum (as is the transformer cover) with a mirror-finished stainless steel top plate and badge, this product is hand built by artisans in Audion France’s factory and features point-to-point wiring and a zero feedback design said to be best suited for use with loudspeakers of 89dB or better efficiency, delivering 7 watts into 8 ohms.

Audion prides itself on winding their own transformers. To the extent possible they’re also inclined to use European and American components throughout their designs. No Chinese or Russian tubes either by opting for the more expensive Electro Harmonix or JJ variants. In addition to in-house electroplating and powder coating they are able to offer customers personalized color chassis from hundreds of colors.

What if there were no hypothetical questions?  The bit about winding their own transformers got my curiosity up so I asked the obvious: "What can you tell me about the output transformers other than 'output transformers are wound in-house to our exacting standards'? Are they wound by organically-fed virgins after luxuriating in Calgon® for three hours before entering an antiseptic yet fresh-air environment?"

Zu Audio's Sean Casey using Audion at show [photo credit Todd Krieger]

Here’s Graeme’s response: "Our power transformers are toroidal, our output transformers are EI configuration. I'm ashamed that Gary [our US representative] confessed to you under duress our manufacturing processes. The red wine drinking, cool fizzing, vestal virgin weaving, camembert eating, ace winding, cognac swilling transformer making pixies that come from true audiophile land were up until now a closely guarded secret. Only a select number of people from the 33rd order and above knew about. It’s even worse that my staff gets their photos taken and illicitly bandied around for all the world to see. Okay so I use green apparel for our winding staff ... and they are forced to sit on organically fresh toadstools whilst inhaling pure French countryside air with the merest hint of organic hallucinatory substances to increase their overall wellbeing and improve the techniques of tensioning and fabrication in our exacting environment!

"But on a more serious note, they are an EI interleaved configuration wound using high-purity double enamelled British copper wire into an M6 grain orientated silicon steel EI96 laminated frame. The SE transformers in our amps are air gapped. They have each interleave spaced with polyimide tape. They are wound on an American Itasca Model 100 winding machine. After being wound, each transformer is hand laminated, then the air gap is set to within a tolerance of 1/10th mm and the whole transformer is dipped in a special varnish for 15 minutes, then oven-baked for one hour to allow the resins to cure and fully invade the transformer.

"The transformer is then Hipot tested using a Rod L M100Dc Hipot tester to 1000V and finally batch tested on our Vitrek 944i dielectric analyzer. As a side note these transformers are Hipot tested to 3000V DC/AC and have proven to work fine and have been ramp tested to over 7000V before the insulation starts to break down. As our amps only produce about 500V HT from the 300B these are well within tolerance. I can't really tell you much more about these transformers without giving you a road map to actually building one; or having one of our pixie winding girls resplendent with lamp come over." I was also told that all Audion amps have volume controls. "In simple systems there is no need for a preamp. A very compelling offer to budget-minded customers. Many people believe the best preamp is no preamp." This makes the value prospect of a built-in volume control perfect for people like me who have all the money we’ll ever need - assuming we die by 4:00PM tomorrow.

But how does it sound?

In a word … erm, picture, it looks like the photo on the left.