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In RoadTour Serbia's Trafomatic chapter, I had reported on a 35wpc EL34 push/pull integrated amplifier platform Sasa Cokic was developing for Hannes Frick of Austrian loudspeaker house WLM. At the time Sasa was close to finalizing the circuit inside a basic chassis that would ship to Sülz for Hannes to audition before green-lighting the project.

Hannes meanwhile confirmed that the Sonata is indeed a go. With an unexpected twist. Trafomatic will provide circuit design, sub assembly and transformers, WLM will handle assembly, enclosure manufacture and final cosmetics. The origin of manufacture will thus read 'made in Europe'. WLM's concept mock up of a split fascia is shown above, floating on a sample of Macassar Indian Ebony which Hannes plans on using for the wood frame.

He also submitted this second mock up with a solid panel. "My Italian distributor visited with a €9,000 Russian tube amp he imports. We also compared the Sonata to Manley Labs and Almarro product I sell and/or distribute through my home-based hifi atelier. We compared a big Pass amp. In short, we gave Sasa's proto a really hard time just to be sure. The fact that we're going forward should tell you something. Sasa is also working on a phono stage for me. While the prototype's first iteration comes close, it's not quite up yet to the level of my Steelhead or Paravicini. But now I know just how talented Sasa really is. He's a dream to work with, very responsive to input and feedback. I'm very excited to be working together, pooling his circuit and transformer design brilliance with our strength in woodworking and international distribution. Serbia isn't the easiest place to achieve fully competitive fit 'n' finish. That's where we'll come in. If all is on schedule, expect a review sample in December after you're done with the Red Wine Audio Isabella, Signature 30.2 and La Scala test."

That particular assignment will become part of a new series of system reviews. While most useful to readers, system reviews make sense only if from one manufacturer -- like an all Naim or Meridian stack -- or if two or more manufacturers collaborate and intertwine their distribution such as to offer specific equipment combinations through a dealer network where customers can audition them as reviewed. With Red Wine Audio and WLM being each other's importers to endorse and package specific systems, it now makes sense for us to review a system. It's useful even if ultimately incomplete (i.e. in this particular case, you'd have to add a source, which could be a computer if the Isabella was fitted with the Isabellina USB DAC).

The then still unnamed WLM prototype at the end of Sasa's office table in Mladenovac

The planned WLM Sonata/La Scala review too will require add-on cabling and a source but it gets us a step closer to the elusive system assessment. As such, it is something we look forward to putting together more often as real opportunities arise. To close the case on the Sonata, Sasa Cokic divulged that he's "using an unusual transformer in this amplifier which isn't common for a push/pull circuit but guarantees better performance. The exotic direct-heated triodes attract all the attention, pentodes like the EL34 and EL84 get overlooked. There's some snobbery involved. Properly designed, an EL34 amplifier can show an 300B amplifier a thing or two. Of course, it also makes more power. Hannes wanted 35 watts for his speakers and not exceed a certain retail price. So I proposed an EL34 platform. Hannes loves the 6C33C in single-ended mode. He was quite skeptical at first but I was stubborn. Now my circuit and special transformer convinced him. I  truly think people will be very surprised. And having seen the woodwork Hannes does for his speakers in Austria, I'm very happy that he wants to take on that part. Considering the historical connection between our two countries, it's only fitting that our two companies should be working together on a few joint projects."
WLM website