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At this point it's probably worth elaborating on the different types of volume control options in the analogue domain, firstly because it's useful to know when evaluating preamps or integrateds; secondly because Emmanuel believes the First Sound 'ladder type' configuration may be unique in the audio industry; and thirdly because he was good enough to provide me with a very informative response when asked about this configuration: I will try to explain the different types of popular analogue volume controls so a perspective can be derived between each type. First a definition of terms. The music signal is comprised of 2 legs, the positive and negative leg. Contact rating is the amount of current able to pass through a contact point. That value is dictated by the area and tension of the two contact surfaces. Tolerance refers to accuracy of the resistance or value. 10% accuracy for a 200Ω resistor means the resistor value can be anywhere between 180 to 220Ω.

A potentiometer is commonly known as a pot. That is basically a disc of phenolic with carbon deposited on one of its surfaces. The distribution of this carbon is very thin at one end of the disc (say at the 6:00 position) and gradually increases in thickness as one rotates the disc around. The thinner carbon will result in louder volume; the thicker carbon will result in a lower volume. There is a wiper that makes contact with the carbon on the phenolic disc (imagine a phono cartridge on a vinyl record). Due to the fine point of the wiper, the contact rating is not really high, usually less than 0.5 amps. At any given time the negative leg of the signal has to go through all of the carbon (one to the other end) regardless of what volume is used. The positive leg of the signal has to go through the amount of carbon determined by the volume setting. At minimum volume the positive leg of the signal has to go through all of the carbon. If the volume is at the 12:00 position then the positive leg of the signal only goes through half of the carbon.

A series type attenuator starts off with a switch. For the purposes of discussion let’s use a 23 position switch. A series of resistors are connected to each other one in front of the other. Imagine how in a train the different box cars are connected to each other. In this case we have 23 resistors connected one in front of the other. The negative leg of the signal has to go through all 23 resistors at any given time regardless of volume. The positive leg of the signal goes through a number of resistors depending on where the volume is at. At minimum volume the positive leg of the signal also has to go through 23 resistors. At the 12:00 position the positive leg of the signal goes through 12 resistors.

With a ladder type attenuator we have only one resistor for the positive leg and one resistor for the negative leg regardless of volume setting. To compare, a pot has the least performance due to deposited carbon not sounding as good as a discrete resistor. It also suffers a low contact rating below 0.5 of an amp. Imagine an 8-lane freeway. At one point it becomes a 2-lane freeway, then an 8-lane freeway again. The bottle neck is at the wiper of the pot. A series type attenuator is superior to a pot because a discrete resistor will perform better than any deposited carbon. First Sound uses high-quality metal film resistors with 1% tolerance.  Depending on the switch used, the contact rating is better than a pot. First Sound uses a switch with a current carrying capacity of 25 amps! A ladder type attenuator is superior to both of the above due to the purity of the signal.The positive leg of the signal goes through only 1 resistor at any volume setting. The negative leg of the signal goes through only 1 resistor at any volume setting. In the series attenuator (and similarly in the pot), the negative leg has to go through 23 resistors at all volume settings and the positive leg goes through a number of resistors depending on where the volume is at. The total number of resistors used for a 23 step attenuator is 46 resistors.

Looking around the back of the chassis we get the same mirror-imaged configuration save for an earth terminal on the left side. Describing just the left-channel layout again, from left to right the gold-plated solid body RCA inputs are labeled Line 2, Line 1, CD, Tuner and Video. Tape In, Tape out are also included and there are two outputs to facilitate biamping or the inclusion of one or two subwoofers.

Being short of rack space I sat the power supply on a bespoke wooden plinth (alright, a kitchen chopping block from the local hardware store) and placed this on the carpeted floor. All that was needed now was to position the Presence Deluxe on its shelf and  flick the 'on' switch on the power supply chassis. However I first wanted to have a peek underneath the hood and take a few photos. This was a task best undertaken before the large computer-grade electrolytic capacitors had been freshly charged. With a total of greater than 180.000uF in capacitance, the Presence Deluxe uses ten blue 2.0" x 4.125" caps of which only two sit in the external power supply alongside the transformer (which is banished from the main chassis on account of radiation and vibrations). I'd certainly know if I shorted even one of these caps with a probing camera lens or careless finger. Replacing the rectifier in a fluorescent light as a teenager the end of my finger was reduced to a throbbing burned yellow reminder of how much current can be released from a capacitor. Let's just say that the shock you'd receive from a shorting 230 volt appliance is like being tickled by comparison. The First Sound manual gives very clear and precise guidance on what procedure to follow when connecting the power supply umbilical cord to the power supply chassis. There is a button beside the umbilical socket on the PSU which should be pressed for three minutes to discharge the capacitors within. If this is not carried out, there is a risk a stray fingertip could touch the pins on the socket and that shock could be fatal.

Bearing in mind the fact that even one capacitor can almost blow off the end of a careless fool's finger, it will come as no surprise that ten will provide more current reserves than will ever be needed by a preamplifier. Emmanuel himself suggests "the massiveness of the power supply as a whole is perceived by the lowering of the noise floor, creating a space for the music to unfold that is as black as space itself - no grain, milkiness or electronic haze. Rather, just the music itself with all its possible intricacies and purity."