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That's what it took my friend Dan to finally meet his Marie.
Amplifiers that is. 87 different ones came before. Many of those were custom commissions. They explored exotic valves or configurations not commercially available. The last one had been Sasa Cokic's 75TL Vilobha monos previously showcased in these pages.

That commission had given rise to the single-stage direct-heated triode preamp Tara. It runs a single 10Y for voltage gain per channel. Six small tubes handle rectification and stabilization. Dan was so smitten with the Tara—named after a Serbian river and not the Tibetan deity—that he now wanted Sasa's take on a 50 power amp. And he wanted a 10Y to drive it. The Tara had planted her moist kiss on his heart and would now pass her magic to the output triode driving his speakers (Aries Cerat Gladius and Voxativ Ampeggio, the latter his most favored). At least that was the plan. But it would take two to tango.

It was the ten ypsilon specification as he calls it which put our Serbian maestro through five months of conniptions chasing noise out of the circuit. A single 10Y just didn't generate enough voltage gain. He'd need two in series. And that merely compounded their infamous microphony issues. Ever resourceful, Trafomatic's head man soon devised a clever spring suspension. It has their tube sockets behave as though on roller bearings. It only took sorting through hundreds of springs to arrive at four matched quads of exactly equal tension though they all measured identical in length out of the box.

To prevent bottoming out during tube swaps, there are excursion limiters on top and bottom. The actual hookup wiring to these tube sockets also is very special 'gossamer' ribbon to further attenuate mechanical resonances.

The result? A zero feedback amplifier with notoriously microphonic valves that's shockingly quiet over Dan's 100dB widebander.

For cosmetics Sasa once again had carte blanche. Or rouge in this instance. Dan's environment sports plenty of red so he thought a matching set of final amps fitting. As usual Sasa's partner Mica was in charge of crafting the stacked Ply enclosures and painting them. To add a classy touch, the amps would be mirror-imaged.

To get at the power supply valves beneath the solid L-shaped cover, the entire affair dismounts on simple shafts. A Yamamoto tube socket tracks valve aging of the output triode and creates a visual point of interest. The model name is CNC-cut aluminum. Since acquiring the expensive machine, Sasa has learnt to program it inside out.

The two 10Y are interstage-coupled, the second one is direct-coupled to the 50. The signal path is very simple to impede the music signal the least. This leaves the majority of various bits and bobs for a truly massive power supply that's stacked with Sasa's usual project-specific custom chokes and transformers.

In a long line of hopefuls to Dan's amplifier throne, this 88th attempt has the markings of being it. "Those are the last ones, we agreed" I overheard Marie whisper to him over dinner with Sasa and Mica who had delivered the other Maries to hear them at their final destination. If the flesh'n'blood Marie is to be Dan's final lady, it's perhaps only fitting that the amps named after her play by the same rules.

Dan certainly didn't seem put off by that notion. Granted, the audiophile virus and plain old curiosity with the means to indulge either are a dangerous mix. Here Sasa Cokic is a very dangerous man to know. As he did with my Kaivalyas or the Aries and Premise amps for Aussie importer Tony Schmidt, he always delivers. If you have sensible ideas with real potential for good sound, can't isn't part of his vocabulary. Perhaps someone ought to teach the man some basic English before he becomes a menace to audiophiles everywhere?

With the Marie monos in Dan's system, Sasa might have learnt that lesson the better way by hitting the proverbial bull's eye for that perfect marriage between a client's well-honed very individualized tastes and his existing ancillaries. Game over? 88 as the magic number? Very possibly so!
Trafomatic Audio website