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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Eastern Electric Minimax CD player, Audio Zone DAC-1, Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable w/Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Shrimp, Audio Zone AMP-1, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), HornShoppe Horns, REL Q108 MkII subwoofer
Cables: Acoustic Zen, Audience, Auditorium 23, DH Labs, JPS Labs
Power Cables: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology
Stands: Premier three-tier, filled with sand
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets w/ Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, GutWire MaxCon, Blue Circle BC8
Sundry accessories: Pro-Ject Speed Box, Gingko Audio Cloud 11 platform, Skylan damping boards, Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Nanotech Intron 8500 CD fluid, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug
Review Component Retail: $3,200
I can be sure of three things when it comes to product lines offered by Jonathan Halpern of Tone Import. I will be unaware of the brand; there will be a whiff of the hair shirt about it; and it will sound better than I expected. It's been true with Leben, Shindo and Auditorium 23 for me and now I can add another to the list: Euphya.

The Euphya Alliance 270 integrated amplifier definitely qualifies in the hair shirt department. The outer casing is a mixture of non-magnetic metal and Perspex i.e. plastic; the main power switch is tucked under the front left side of the chassis; the mains cable is of the captive variety fitted with a two-prong Type C Euro plug that requires an adaptor for North American use; the amp accepts only banana-terminated cables; and the balance control is activated via a rear-mounted slot that requires a screwdriver. Hair shirt indeed. While plastic casings might lack true audiophile cachet, Perspex possesses superior resonance control properties and is relatively immune to what Dr. Pierre Johannet of the EDF (Electricite de France) calls MDI or interface micro discharges. Additionally, all interior components exhibit high resistance to MDI. See Michael Lavorgna's PHY cable review for an explanation of MDI. There are further MDI-related articles at Google's translation tools should provide a decent if not ideal translation to the language of your choice. To these Anglophile eyes, claimed MDI effects read akin to skin effect and the influence of insulation and nearby materials on signal cabling and electronic circuits. [The descriptions also seem related to Lavardin's "Memory Effect" - Ed.]

Knowing nothing of the Euphya, Jonathan put me on to Jean-Francois Fronton for the low-down. Euphya is a Greek word that roughly translates into those who have an open mind. "The Alliance 270 was designed by Eric Lamaignere of Euphya. This amplifier uses original concepts developed by Eric with overall musicality as the prime objective. The two first stages are amplifier gain with a high independence between power supply tension and quality: gain without noise and sound quality consistently good at all listening levels. The third stage is based on an inverted cathode. The overall objectives are high transparency, high musicality and the ability to drive complex loudspeaker loads with good current capability (we have tested these amps with many different loudspeakers and my personal system includes Venture 3-way ceramic driver speakers, Wilson Watt/Puppy 3, Quad ESL63 loudspeakers, Lamm and Cello electronics, Metronome CD players and turntable. The Euphya amps have been successful on all of these combinations and at good listening levels. However, my listening room is relatively small by US standards).

"Regarding MDI, the management of these parasitic charges is part of the design and partially contributes to the overall result. MDI are static currents present at the surface of components, cables and unfortunately all parts used in an amp. The level of MDI interference is directly related to the material used for each part of the amp (components, chassis, AC harness, transformers). All parts used in Euphya products are carefully selected to have the lowest possible MDI interference. All this patience and quite a long selection process are based on technical specifications and careful listening. However, all components are also selected for their reliability and industrial qualities. That means that Euphya people have a huge knowledge of MDI interactions and how to manage them.

"Regarding the chassis and casing, the choice of Perspex is in relation to the MDI battle - all the RFI and MDI noise can escape out of the box. Also, Perspex gives improved vibration control, no large vibrations or ringing at one or two frequencies (generally in the center of the midrange) but damped and controlled ringing, thus maintaining a high level of transparency and musicality."

Dimensions are 430mm wide, 95mm high and 302mm deep. Weighing 6 kilos, the Alliance 270 features 4 line inputs -- including an onboard moving magnet phono stage -- 2 optional pre-outs, 1 tape loop and 1 quartet of recessed speaker connections. Line input sensitivity and impedance is 300mV and 15KΩ respectively while the MM phono stage sports a 2.9mV sensitivity and 50KΩ impedance. There is a ground post for your vinyl rig and curiously a second post for grounding the amp. The manual suggests experimenting with this as the amp may perform better in some systems when separately grounded. However, unlike all three-prong components, the Euphya does not require an earth connection for safety. Stated power output is 40 watts per channel. The manual, while quite thorough, is translated fairly at best. A spelling bee champion it ain't.

Next to the large volume control on the front panel are 4 small push buttons, one each for power on/standby, tape monitor and the remaining pair for scrolling through inputs. Small yellow LEDs indicate which source is active. The amp sits on three large rubber feet.

The awkwardly positioned main power switch suggests the amp should be left in standby mode when not in use, woken up via the standby button. This was confirmed in the manual. This circuit keeps critical sections powered up for optimum performance. The included remote is a universal plastic jobbie that requires the user to program it before first use. The remote controls power on/standby, volume and source selection.

During my time with the Euphya, I listened to several recent music acquisitions which seemed tailor-made for the assignment; CPE Bach Symphonies [Harmonia Mundi HMU 807403], Beethoven's Third & Eighth Symphonies [BIS 1516], Romane's French Guitar [Iris 301899], Sonny Rollins Vol. 2 [Blue Note/Classic 81558] and Jenny Lewis [Team Love 8]. The 270 also rocked with REM [EMI 3699422] and Yo La Tengo [Matador 10692].

The amp ran quite cool and was fairly quiet with just a slight hiss and hum audible when my ear was placed near the speaker drivers. There were no clicks or pops or other weird behavior. While solidly built, I noticed a few cracks in the plastic top cover surrounding the chassis screws. However, my review loaner had passed through several hands and if you can resist the temptation to remove the cover to peek inside repeatedly as reviewers are wont to, I doubt this will be a problem in normal use. The manual states that the amp is highly sensitive to AC polarity but then the company doesn't ship the amp with a polarity-fixed AC connector. Phrases like "respect the phase which must be linked to the shorter side of the product's plug" doesn't tell me which blade goes into which slot of the adaptor. Argh. To save you the trouble of sussing this out, insert the blade on the tapered side into the wider neutral slot of your wall outlet. Otherwise you will need to discover the correct orientation by ear. While it was certainly easy to hear, Euphya should address
this. Of course, being a typical obsessive-compulsive audiophool, I sought Jonathan's permission to chop off the stock Euro plug and wire up a proper North American, polarity-correct 2-prong connector. Ah, now I could sleep at night.

All futzing aside, this modest integrated was a superb performer. Music with the Euphya was essentially grain-free, sweet, nuanced and remarkably transparent without affordable solid-state's typical chalky texture and upper midrange glare. I wouldn't go so far as saying that the 270 sounded like a tube amp because it didn't. Missing was that characteristic valved liquidity and sense of energized or charged space. Call it image density or presence.

Although rated for 40 watts, the Euphya had considerable weight and bottom end extension that belied its modest power rating. There was plenty of punch and excitement when the music required it. Bass was taut and tuneful and not at all bloated or loose. The Alliance 270 displayed a deft combination of sweetness and impact, a neat trick.

The Euphya drew out plenty of nuance and detail from recordings and offered an expansive three-dimensional
soundstage with excellent rendering of recorded ambient space around instruments. The presentation was not at all homogeneous as is the case with most affordable solid-state amps where the tendency is for individual lines to blur. Not here. Instruments and voices were clearly delineated. The 270 also got the timing and beats right. The leading edges of notes weren't soft nor were they underlined. The body and trailing edge of notes weren't truncated either.

Compared to my Audio Zone AMP-1, the Frenchman possessed just a touch more warmth and refinement while the Canadian chip amp had more jump and incisiveness. I had a difficult time picking a favorite as both were excellent but in different areas. Let's just say the AMP-1 is for adrenaline junkies while the Euphya seems aimed at the pipe'n'slippers crowd. I liked 'em both.

The 270 and the JM Reynaud Twin Signatures I reviewed a few months ago made a particularly fine combination as the Euphya's sweetness and transparency complemented the verve and exuberance of the Twins. Together, the sonic results were greater than the sum of their parts. It's not often I get jonesing over a solid state amp but hair shirt quirks and price aside, this is a good amp to build a system around. And you won't need to worry about replacing or biasing tubes either.

I enjoyed my time with the Euphya. I listened to it long enough that I forgot about it and the reservations I usually harbor with sand amps. The Euphya did not shout or hype anything nor did it bore me. It managed to keep me interested and engaged with whatever music I chose to throw at it. The Euphya lacked the unnatural edge or sharpness of solid state most noticeable on vocals -- particularly female -- and percussive transients such as on drum whacks, piano and plucked or struck strings. It didn't quite exhibit that last degree of thereness or textural purity I associate with tubes but it certainly wasn't thin either.

No, I'm not about to trade in my tubes. There's a tonal richness and tactile presence with glowing glass bottles that I can't live without. Having said that, if I was looking for a well-appointed solid-state integrated, the Euphya just might be my prime choice. I wish I could have sampled the MM stage; unfortunately, all I had on hand was an Ortofon Rondo Blue MC cartridge. Fellow moonie Michael Lavorgna who spent some time with the Euphya earlier this year commented via email that he was certainly impressed with the on-board phono stage.

At $3,200, the Euphya seems poor value for a 40-watt integrated, especially one as quirky as this in operation. However, with its superb refinement and clean transparent sonics, the 270 certainly ranks right up there as one of the most relaxed and enjoyable solid-state amps I've heard in a long time. Of the amps, glass or sand, I have reviewed for 6moons, I'd give the thumbs up to the Alliance 270 over the Blue Circle NSCS, the Almarro A50125A, JAS Array 2.1 and the far more expensive and powerful Stello M200 monos and DP200 preamp. In fact, the only solid-state I currently prefer over the Euphya are Audio Zone's AMP-2/PRE T-1 combo and Vinnie Rossi's Red Wine Audio Signature 70s. It's been awhile since I've heard most of the above but my aural memory suggests that while some would handily trounce the Euphya in areas such as bass slam and power, I don't believe any would deliver the same degree of clean, smooth yet utterly grain-free refinement as this Frenchman. Pair the Euphya with a modest two-way speaker such as the JMR Twin and you'll have an excellent foundation for a killer music lovers' system.

The Euphya Alliance 270 doesn't seek to overwhelm or startle; it just quietly goes about its business presenting music in a natural, unforced manner, allowing listeners to focus less on sound effects and more on the artists' intentions. At the end of the day, that's what I'm ultimately after. A slightly oddball hair shirt piece but a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable one nevertheless that's definitely worth a closer look.

Tone Imports replies:
Mr. Candy,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write up the Euphya Alliance 270. I think this line says it all:
"The Euphya Alliance 270 doesn't seek to overwhelm or startle; it just quietly goes about its business presenting music in a natural, unforced manner, allowing listeners to focus less on sound effects and more on the artists' intentions. At the end of the day, that's what I'm ultimately after. A slightly oddball hair shirt piece but a fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable one nevertheless that's definitely worth a closer look."


Best regards,
Jonathan Halpern
Manufacturer's website
US Distributor's website