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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Metronome T-1i CD player with DAISy HE Remote Control
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition monoblocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties WATT/Puppy System 8
Cables: digital -Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; analog - Cable Research Laboratory (CRL) Gold with Bocchino XLR and RCA; Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon; speaker - Cerious Technologies and Harmonic Technology PRO-9+ loudspeaker cables; power - Cerious Technologies AC; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; Shunyata Research Diamondback, Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; PSC Gold Power MKII AC cable
Stands: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature equipment racks
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only)
Acoustic treatment: Fonic Designer panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: Burson Audio Buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions around DAC, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 17' w x 35' d x 12' h in short wall setup, opens to adjoining kitchen at opposite end of room
Review component retail: US$4.000

It's a brave company that launches at a time when the industry faces an ever-decreasing and struggling market presence. Industry commentators have poured blame on the home theater onslaught, the world economy, raw materials shortages, the iPod etc. However, to this writer it seems as though more and more audio adventurers are joining the fray with well-designed and intelligent new products that challenge the notion of a suffering or declining industry. Of course this means that the consumer is the winner here with a wider -- and ever-expanding -- choice of product that offers superior technology, more features and a lower competition-driven entry price.

And this somewhat simplistic overview also applies at the niche end of the market where Hong Kong-based JE Audio is squarely positioned. With today's review subject, we have an unusual proprietary valve topology in a well-built chassis with six signal-path valves, eschewing such modern aspects as slim line casing and remote control. But don't let the conservative exterior give you the superficial impression of another me-too preamplifier. John Lam -- JE Audio's proprietor -- has released onto the crowded high-end market a product with some distinctive circuit features that promise, if nothing else, an individual approach to maintaining signal purity from source to amplification.

JE - Just Enough features
Not that the JE is too minimal though. The VL10 offers a full compliment of inputs with a choice of both single-ended and balanced. That means three line inputs in RCA and XLR configurations, a balanced XLR tape/record input and balanced and single-ended outputs. An IEC power inlet finishes off the rear panel connections.

The front fascia sports two nicely machined rotary knobs, one for volume and one for input selection. A multi-coloured LED that flashes during the 30 second start-up process and then lights up permanently while the unit runs is all that adorns the front panel. That's it, simplicity itself.

The chassis is very solidly assembled and further strengthened by the four corner pillars that tension it. The top cover held by an uncountable amount of hex screws (whose equivalently sized key I lacked to break inside) has a classy JE etching and a removable metal grill that airs and displays the six 6H30 valves that make up the circuit's heart. So set-up is a breeze; just hook up your source and power amplifier. JE recommend balanced all-round for a subtly more dynamic and detailed sound.

The VL10 uses a shunt-type volume control rather than a variable resistor-type, with the signal therefore not having to pass through a set of VRs. This linestage employs a patent-pending design topology: dubbed Wideband Unity Balanced Amplifier (WUBA). John Lam explains:

"WUBA is a single-stage amplifier. The VL10 contains 6 triodes and no global feedback is used. Since it is a single-stage amplifier, the phase shift is less than a conventional line amp that has several cascading stages. As no feedback is used, the purity of the signal is well preserved. A patent is being applied for the WUBA topology in 4 countries. The patent application has been published in the US patent office and now is in the final stage. Once the patent for WUBA is granted, JE Audio as far as we know will be the first company in the current market to offer both a balanced vacuum tube power amp and line stage protected by patents. And although having patents may not mean anything to the users, the innovative designs do improve the sound quality and differentiate our products from the competition. The granted patent also provides stimulation and encouragement for us to develop better products in the future. This is really necessary for a small company like us."