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The Mœbius is a non-standard size and at 17" wide by 9" deep (to the tip of the volume control) on the smaller, lighter side of the scale. It's a mere 3.5" high when standing on its rubber footsies. Fit'n'finish are first rate, with the wood and metal work expertly done, switches and connectors recessed into the wooden chassis rim. I find the overall look and feel handsome and a tactile pleasure. It echoes the craft of a 30-year + guitar maker. From a pure design perspective, I prefer the Mœbius' look to the metal faceplate slapped on a metal box look no matter the fascia's thickness. The single divided chassis is another nice touch and prompts the mystery question of the day: how do the sides get connected? I know they're wired but how the hell did he make that channel? I tried photographing this so that you can see how you actually can't see. It's an inside joke for sure and a nice nod to the craftier in spirit.

Speaking of insides, we're talking one straightforward, simple circuit. Reminds me of popping the hood of the '57 Ford I had in college. You could see a lot of ground through that engine. Three-on-the-tree, that was one great car. I used to drive around those Vermont winters, blastin' the Beach Boys at 30 below. Never did have no stinking problem with that engine.

Some standard additions to the stock Mœbius include two additional inputs (giving you 4 total and an Elma rotary switch as selector replacing the toggle switch) and dual parallel outputs for biamping or driving a main and sub amp. Cost for each additional pair of input/outputs is $100. One option that has just become available is upgrading to a DACT attenuator for $150. And for those tweakers whose curiosity just will not let them leave well enough alone, Vishays and Black Gates are possibilities that can be discussed with Poinz. But remember that convergence thing. This is one highly tweaked and optimized circuit "with quality where it counts".

I should also mention a few potential peeves. The first is that our Mœbius inverts phase. I will once again let Poindexter explain: "The unit does invert absolute polarity. This is common to all plate-loaded circuits with a single gain stage. There's no practical way to correct this... I am a proponent of maintaining correct absolute polarity but it's actually a rather thorny problem. Correct polarity is not always observed in recording, from song to song or track to track before the mix down."

I have to admit to being nonplused and noticed no sonic effect, cable swapping at the amp in my rig not required. My CD player includes a phase switch on the remote. Reversing phase at the source, I never hit upon an audible change. There are two other visual nits to pick. The first actually pleases me to no end. It's the absence of a status indicator light. To my way of thinking, toggle switches are fairly obvious operators. The idea that a user needs a second or third reminder that her unit is powered on seems painfully redundant. The second nit to pick is also not one of mine but I mention this to cover my back from the barkers who may obsess over this kind of detail. The ends of Mœbius' little rubber feet are clearly not perfect. This is only evident when they're off since you can only see their unevenness when looking at their ends - but I do not want any future Mœbius owners to berate me for omitting this detail. I would suggest that the uneven surface adds to the LRF's resonance isolation properties and you get these at no extra charge. Gratis.

For anyone wanting a closer understanding of the insides, I refer you to the AudioTropic website where you can gather as much information as you'd need to build a Mœbius on your own. If you have a question, shoot Poindexter an email. For those of us without the skill, knowledge or time, there's AudioTropic.

Pump it up
If you're looking for a performance-enhancing preamp, one that will add some bulk here, some weight there, you'd best look elsewhere. The Mœbius is one quiet, transparent tube preamp. It's not overly detailed or analytical and certainly not soft, dark or tubey. You know what else that makes the Mœbius? One hard piece of audio to talk about. This was one of those instances where I put in a new piece of gear and just kinda forgot about it. No big ooohs or ahhhs, just music. While I think this says nearly enough about a preamp, I really should try and elaborate. That's the dexterous point here after all and I do have to justify my - um, roll (R).

Syd Barrett's Barrett [CDP 7 46606 2] is from 1990 but it could really be from anytime after the early 60s. Unlike Pink Floyd the band he founded -- and let's just say quit -- Syd never got melodramatic although it appears he had every right to. The songs on Barrett are lovely disjointed jaunts through Syd's thoughts. While these trips are more akin to dreams, the musicians could be playing circus tunes. These are happy, goofy, jingle tunes that are clean and fairly precise, with that obsessive quality found in an entomologist's specimen display case - all tacked up in perfect rows. And coming through our Mœbius, every specimen remains intact, neatly pinned against a clean white background. Compared to my Déjà Vu with its fat-
toned 6SN7s, I hear more of the leading edge. This equates to more rhythmic drive, more dance due to a lighter foot. Speaking of obsessions - have you seen any of the 'fan' photos of Syd over the years? As he drifted into self-imposed obscurity leaving the music and fame business behind, any number of fans just won't let him go, hunting him down like some endangered species. Their goal? To snap a candid photo, typically morning paper in hand, scurrying back to the relative safety of his mum's basement. The only use these photos could possibly have would be to earn Syd a place next to a royal in a Weight Watchers ad, his shifting physical appearance becoming the subject of these intrusive snaps.

Dawn Upshaw has sung some great collections of songs and The Girl with the Orange Lips [Electra nonesuch 979262-2] is one my all-time favorites. Featuring music from the 20th century by de Falla, Ravel, Stravinsky, Earl Kim and Maurice Delage, we're talking passion and mystery, not vocal pyro-puddle jumping. The title is from Beckett's translation of Rimbaud's Drunken Boat put to music by Earl Kim:
"The girl with the orange lips / At the edge of the forest -
dream flowers tinkle, / flash, flare
The girl with the orange lips / knees crossed in the clear flood
that gushes from the fields / nakedness shaded, traversed,
and clothed by rainbow, flora, sea."

Ms. Upshaw and our Mœbius-tuned system is all tinkle, flash and flare. Confession time. The Déjà Vu that has been the apple of mine eye is a bit flabby around the edges. I didn't really mind this until the Mœbius showed up. I actually ditched the Audio Note M2 Balanced for the Déjà Vu after finding the AN too lean. If memory serves -- and it's a leap but a logical one -- that'd place the Mœbius sonically between the two. A nice place to be for my musical tastes. There may only be that last ounce of presence missing from Ms. Upshaw's voice which the 6SN7-based pre imparts; and that airiness ain't so airy.

I've only recently grown back into Fitzgerald & Pass ... Again [pPblo ojccd-1052-2]. This was the kind of music I'd hear growing up and for a while I just wasn't ready to go back. One brief track heard at the In Living Stereo room during the HE2005 show through the Devore Silverbacks snapped me back by a few bars. Technically stunning and a bunch of good songs sung and played as well as one can ask in this context of voice and guitar, the Mœbius delivers the package. Joe Pass' playing was so good yet natural, you can almost miss his stunning technique. Here the leading edge is important to get. The snap, thumbed strum or pulled and pinched strings accompany Ella like an extension of her style, giving further voice to these well-crafty tunes.

If I have one sonic nit to pick, it's relative to the 6SN7s way with space. The Déjà Vu opens up the soundstage a bit more, relaxing the overall presentation. While I enjoy this ease, I would also have to say this is a double-edged sonic sword and relates to something Srajan described to a T in his ModWright preamp review: "... Still, going from a particular 6SN7-based preamp to ModWright's 5687 unit did demonstrate without fail that testicular fortitude in a preamp nets plain dividends through the following amplifier. The SWL is taut and snappy, not loose, indistinct, dark or veiled. It isn't bloomy either in how minor fuzziness around the edges can often be mistaken for bloom...."

While the Déjà Vu may present things as if heard through a glass darkly -- which I admittedly prefer to the hyper-detailed -- the Mœbius' quad of 6AQ5 power tubes cut through that haze and had the requisite drive and stomp to hang with the boyz. The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik [Warner Bros 9 26681-2] is all testosterone- laden juiced-up funk rock à la producer Rick Rubin's magick touch. Flea's bass is the primal mover here and there's no mistaking the grapefruit-sized drive delivered by the Mœbius. John Frusciante's scorching guitar licks are also served up in full-course fashion with no blurring or softening of that razor-sharp leading edge. The 6SN7s get pushed around on this recording. This is most evident on Flea's bass, which has much less drive and much more flabby flutter. The overall effect is less funk, less fun.

How about something along the lines of a sonic obstacle course? How nimble, how quick is the Mœbius? On Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky [CBS mk 42433], I actually listened through the whole thing, "Petrushka" and "Sacre du Printemps" twice. Back to back. "Wow". That's from my notes. Since there wasn't anything else, I went back in for a third listen. This time I did a swap putting the Déjà Vu back so I'd have something more to say. And while there was more tinkle, those big kettledrums got bigger and much looser and the mids moved more to the fore, pushing both ends of the spectrum back a bit. Bloom? Blur? Okay, when push comes to shove, I'd have to admit there are additive colorations in this presentation. Switch back to the Mœbius and we rein in those loose ends, bringing the symphony back into focus.

Does this dress make me look fat?
There are any number of difficult questions one needs to answer. Just how good does the Mœbius sound? Well, I'd say it sounds great - but not too great mind you, as it does not draw undue attention to itself in a cheap sort of way. It doesn't bump up the mids and it certainly doesn't add any tonal weight that can blur the edges, making the sound flabby and giving the impression of a bottom end that's bigger than what's really there. No push-up here but perhaps just the right amount of control, the Mœbius let's you focus on the music instead of the makeup of the sound. It provides a balanced presentation so it's decidedly not for those part lovers. Mid-range bloomers and bottom-end fetishists, take note.

On the other hand, to each his own in terms of musical tastes. This is where it makes perfect sense to me to sometimes want a bit of muscle, or a leaner lighter fare, or perhaps a big lush romantic symphony. Our gear should be able to accommodate these choices even if we prefer a little of each. This is where I believe the Mœbius is weighted right down the middle. It delivers an even-handed, well-balanced, not lean but certainly mean sound. It's for people who love music "firstest and mostest".

Audio Tropism
I asked Eric about his future plans for Audio Tropic: "The web is an odd place. There's so much empty talk. To be a real long-term success, I think one has to show product out the door, service to the client, standing behind the product rather than hyperbole. This takes the time it takes."

Eric's straightforward and transparent approach to AudioTropic suggests to me a love of the craft more than the cash. As such, the Mœbius is a good sound investment. What about resale value? If you're thinking about that, you're probably not ready for a Mœbius. No value judgment's attached to that statement from my side
but as in art, I say buy for present rewards, not the possibility of future returns. For those budget-conscious consumers or on-the-fence DIYers, you can easily tally up the total cost of the parts, add in your labor and see if you think you're getting a good deal. Personally, I don't feel the need since the casework alone is something I'd surely butcher. I appreciate the craft of Eric Kingsbury and the craftiness of Poindexter readily apparent in the AudioTropic version.

What the Mœbius has done for me is akin to a wake-up call - a nice rich steaming cup-o-Kona to clear up some of the haze I've been listening through. Mind you, it's a beautiful purplish haze but the Mœbius has taken some bloom off that rose and I am thankful for that. A push in the right direction then. I may very well end up following a twist here, a turn there only to find myself back at the Mœbius.
Manufacturer's website