For the first time in more than 25 years of audio reviewing, I was hearing a component that caused me to enjoy my own reference system less when I reinstalled my regular preamplifier. That's one problem I don't face when I review entry-level bookshelf speakers!
These pieces have nothing in common with the Munich Airport look of ClearAudio turntables, all chrome and glass, nor do they serve as tube equivalents of the uber-high tech sleekness of Burmester designs.
Prussian helmets, handlebar moustaches — subtle it is not. The Eclipse, though a thoroughly modern pre-amp, looks like it was designed by someone who apprenticed at Maybach. Open the wooden packing crate, and the first thing you notice is that this just may be the heaviest two-channel pre-amp on the market.
Unless my bathroom scales are off, the Eclipse weighs a serious 33lb. And yet it only occupies a space of Externally, the Eclipse is not subtle. Four massive, gilded knobs fill the front panel, one each for output select, source select, volume and balance. Below the first two are arrays of colored LEDs to show you which output and source were selected, the first set also flashing during warm-up. Confirmation was instant: this is one seriously quiet pre-amp.
The side panels slot into a chunky extrusion at each corner, each fitted at the bottom with a large gold foot. Another nifty detail? Each foot has a soft insert, like the non-wiry part of a Velcro strip, to ensure that no shelf is damaged.
At the back are more military-grade fittings, including an IEC three-pin AC mains input, a pair of XLR balanced outputs, and 10 pairs of sturdy gold phono sockets for outputs 1, 2, tape, and seven inputs marked tape, tuner, Aux 1, 2, 3, and CD 1 and 2. The entire circuit and all components reside on a double-sided mother board which fills the base of the unit; obsessives will probably not get around to using the Eklipse for some hours after unpacking because the vista takes in the sort of designer ingredients which cause swoons and will distract them from their original purpose.
Everything is mounted with immaculate precision and care; the bank of sockets as seen from the inside is nothing short of inspiring. Dual-mono construction marks this product, the right and the left channel each enjoying its own power supplies for heat and plate voltage. I did it by accident at first, not knowing it was there, and the flashing lights and machine-gun noises nearly gave me a heart-attack.
Designer Helmut Becker recommends its use once a month, so hygiene fanatics — rejoice! Practical jokers might also use it on unwary friends, just to scare them. Each channel uses a pair of tubes, the first for gain and the second for the output driver for low ohm output impedance. A nice touch for anachrophiles is the use of NOS new old stock , year-old resistors, chosen for their sonics and stability.
Clearly an obvious pairing for the Eclipse is the Challenger, a parallel push-pull design with some decidedly interesting details. Each Challenger has two power tube banks with three tubes per side, for six tubes in total per monoblock. The user can install any octal-base beam power pentode compatible with EL34, , or KT88 and so on.
Depending on the tubes you select, the amplifiers will deliver between W and W. The most I could muster for alternatives was eight KT88s and four KT77s, so I had to stick with the supplied tubes, but I can just imagine what the Challenger would sound like with original M-O Valve glassware.
Remember: with the Challenger there is no need to adjust the bias, because this is handled by the circuit. Should a tube ever veer from its correct operating range, the LED glows, telling the user to replace it. As it only takes a minute to remove the plexiglass lid, tube changing is a breeze.
Each Challenger measures 8. The front has the on-off and standby rocker switches with blue LEDs to indicate status, while the primary mains switch is situated at the back, along with an RCA phono input, an XLR balanced input, and two pairs of WBT binding posts to allow matching for 4, 6 and 8 ohm speaker loads. The main PCB is positioned roughly half-way up, and it contains all of the tubes, the regulation, the capacitors — pretty much everything bar the power supply.
The Challenger certainly provided enough juice to allow the Scintillas to work adequately in my 12x18ft room, at my preferred and admittedly soft levels, but this was just for a laugh.
Back with the Wilsons, it just was not what I expected. Clearly, Herr Becker prefers warmth, a sound more zaftig than the others, more Brunhilde than Claudia Schiffer. At no point was power ever an issue; according to AudioValve, the and KT88 endow the Challenger with W output, whereas the EL34 or KT77 deliver performance at the lower power limit.
As expected, the AudioValves dealt with large works — yup, the Glory soundtrack — with ease. No compression, no clipping, no running out of steam. Without compromising any of the traits which make a tube amp the choice of many, AudioValve has instilled the sort of composure and control normally attributed to W-plus solid-state devices.
The slam, the top-to-bottom control, the sheer mass — all are present. But so, too, are the deliriously tube-y qualities which keep me forever wedded to my old Quads and Radfords; in fact, the Challenger with EL34s sounds like a Radford STA25 on steroids. Most telling of all was the bottom end, which, while slightly less solid and tight than when derived from the Krell FPBc, displayed none of the flubbing or looseness which the anti-tube brigade always uses as a get-out clause.
Well, stone me: these Germans have soul. To try and separate the Eclipse form the Challenger, I swapped them around with the Krell equivalents. Both exhibited the same spatial characteristics, smoothness and detail retrieval.
As the Eclipse proved ghostly quiet, with only the slightest hint of tube noise when ear is placed next to speaker, I was able to determine that the Challenger has a shade more of the low-level whoosh than the pre-amp.
But I compared it to two other octal-base amplifiers I had handy — both champions in the quietness stake — and determined that it was the tubes rather than the Challenger per se. For the curious, the other amplifiers used two and four valves per channel, s and KT88s. But it sure is nice to know that you can convert the Challenger for either reasons of either economy or sound.
It was easy to fall in love with the AudioValve pair, even the baroque styling; it was like looking at a gigantic Montblanc pen. The Eclipse impressed me because of its authoritative performance, openness, ergonomics and build quality.
Small footprint, not too heavy for a 6-valve amp with huge transformers — yet they drive any load without complaint, maintaining their composure at all times. Yeah, I could live with these without complaint.
Unusually, given its country of origin, the AudioValve set-up suffers not the traditional German curse of being over-priced; forgive me, but it seems like a bargain. As one who utterly despises the manoeuvrings of European Community — the largest scam ever perpetrated on an entire continent — I am pleased to note that all currencies linked to the Euro, including the once mighty Deutschmark, have been devalued against the dollar.
With the Euro tanking — just writing that gives me a woody! Grab yours now, before the non-elected, corrupt scum in Brussels artificially shore up the benighted currency. This way you can enjoy your high res files quickly and easily. All you need is a player on your cell phone, tablet or desktop computer with an Xmos driver and the fun can begin. MAC and Linux computers already have this driver on board.
The fact that no additional cables are needed, because everything is already wired internally in the Eclipse, makes this solution better than many external variants. Signal main circuit electrolytic capacitors used in Taiwan brand, the main filter capacitor using imported aluminum electrolytic capacitors, to ensure a steady flow of power to support strong.
Support 32bit up to Khz. This version is available from November The pre-amp is gorgeous to look at! An absolutely stunning mixture of Art Deco architectural loveliness and German hi-tech precision. It has a see-through perspex top and is gently internally illuminated with a couple of red LEDs when in operation. You just have to see it, photos really do not do it justice.
AudioValve have been around for quite a while and have earned a reputation for making good sounding valve-based equipment with salon-level visual appearance.
The current product range encompasses 14 different models of valve amplification, from headphone amps to pre and power amps, and integrateds. The Eclipse or Eklipse as it is called in German speaking areas is a valve tube -based remote controlled pre-amplifier.
The front panel sports and output selector including mute , source selector, volume control and, quite unusually, a balance control. I decided to perform this review with the pre-amp valves in stock form; four Electro-Harmonix 12AU7A.
The audiophile world is practically awash in tube-rolling options, and undoubtedly the overall flavour and presentation of the Eclipse pre-amp can be substantially modified by inserting your own choice of valves. Depending on what your sonic tastes are will determine which tubes you will want to use in the Eklipse. And I would certainly encourage Eclipse owners to try a few alternatives to see how the sonic standard can be raised further from the excellent performance already available with the ElectroHarmonix valves.
I knew I was going to enjoy this review from the off. Overall tonality is pretty much spot on, I think. A genuinely full-range sound, from the generous but not too generous! Vocals have more individuality and character than I often hear, with excellent articulation and clarity, and sheer in-the-room presence. Very nice indeed. Bass is deep, textured, controlled, powerful and vibrant. It really is impressive. Those listeners who prefer some valvey bloomy loveliness to the lower frequencies may well be disappointed by this valve pre-amp, but my own view is that the Eclipse is far more realistic in its portrayal of lower frequencies than that.
There is an impressive lucidity in complex, multi-strand music. I was very impressed by this, all too often the musical plot is lost as the going gets going, not so with this pre-amp. He says it has absolutely NO bass response. He claimed that it wasn't matter of trade-off regarding size I was a bit surprised since one of the things that really caught my interested about the ELS-3's was Reina's comment: "Jazz fans will love the ELS-3's reproduction of well-recorded string bass.
As a bit about what I'm looking for I'm a big jazz fan, though I also delve into a good bit of classical and classic rock. Anyway, one of the things I'm looking for is good instrument separation and especially good treatment of acoustic string bass hence my interest in Reina's comment.
I like my stereo warm almost to a flaw. Anyway, wondering if people can offer insight into the ELS-3 and whether it meets my criteria. And fish and chips, right off the boat. I met his girlfriend, later his wife, listening to music in his apartment in Queens.
Ellen and Bob were inseparable from that time on. He was deeply involved in music, an audiophile, and recommending great restaurants.
Bob is my first cousin. While we did not see each other often, we spoke from time to time and I always enjoyed hearing about his music and I knew how much he loved his family. He was proud of all their accomplishments. I was so sorry to hear of his passing; wondered why we hadn't spoken in several months. My heart goes out to. My heart goes out to you Ellen and the kids. I know your family loved him very much and it gave me great comfort seeing how much he was loved. He will be missed by all he touched.
My heart and prayers go out to Rob's family and friends. Family Login:. Robert J. Reina Obituary. Click on the item you would like to print. Share This Obituary. Arrangements made by Doyle B. Send Flowers Send Flowers. Robert passed away on Friday, March 27,
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