Indonesia High End Audio Club or in short, IHEAC, held an blind test (or maybe I would prefer to call them as blind scoring) for tube pre-amp. The session was  started on the afternoon, around 11am. Some equipment used shown below.

We can see some stuff like Quadral Platinum M4 speaker, Consonance Droplet CD Player, Air Tight Reference Pre-Amp ATC-3, and KT88 tube amplifier (I believe in Push Pull configuration).

The Consonance Droplet on action. Quite natural sounding source, flat, not too “tubey-sound” (although it’s tube based CDP), and overall a nice choice as source. Below her, we could see the Reference Pre-Amp Air Tight ATC-3. Also a very nice stuff as a reference. It has a really pure sound as I would recall, not too much “ingredients”, dynamic, fast, and sonically excellent. Again, although it’s a tube based Pre-Amp, but she was not that “tubey”. It’s very nice to play the Amanda McBroom – The Rose (from the Growing Up in Hollywood Town, Sheffield Lab CD-13), and ultimately enjoyable to play Jazz at The Pawnshop – High Life (Audiophile Reference II, FIM CD007). FYI, those two tracks were used as reference in scoring all Pre-Amplifier in this session.

The KT88 Amplifier. Enough juice for any speakers. Probably not as sweet as the Single Ended Amplifier, but it could be more speaker friendly to any kind of your power hunger speakers type.

Some contenders showed as below. Quite various option on this competition, from small tube to bigger tube, from solid state rectifier, to full tube rectification.

Another contenders shown below.

More to see. Some tubes covered with a metal cage, to prevent outside interference (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you are playing with detector-class-tube).

Tube #26 with AZ1 Big Mesh Rectifier. Quite serious combination (but I would suggest RGN 2004 or 2504 for this #26 – personal opinion – don’t take it seriously 😉 ).

Some visitors visited the back stage to see the operator checking the contenders, usually after or before the scoring began.

On the final session, we changed the speaker from Quadral Platinum M4 to Transmission Audio M1. The judges (including me), decided to switch to a bookshelf speaker. There was no problem with the Platinum M4 floorstander performance, but probably we just wanted to see if this ribbon tweeter on the M1 could give us something different (well, after a really tiring 4 sessions judging nearly 20 amplifiers, probably some changes could give us -me- chance to refresh my ears).

Surprisingly, the M1 could give quite enough low extension for such small mid-woofer (it reminded me of Jordan, but they were not) Probably those KT88 could feed quite enough power for her. I heard a slightly boxy sound, on some note, but not really significant. Placement could be the reason. But I love the ribbon transparency, and it seemed the mid-woofer could “catch” the ribbon speed.

Some gift from the sponsors, VT4C/211 tubes, KT88, Full Music 274B Rectifier, some cables, some tube and DAC kits, etc.

The champion, TubeLover #26 with RGN 4004 Black Mesh. Deadly combination provide deadly sound. Although I noticed some “not well controlled tonal balance” on the complex music (like the High Life session). It has been a common problem for #26 Tube, but overall, it deserved to get the title. Congratulations!

The 2nd position taken by a small tube, but with very huge chassis. I forgot the tube model since I wasn’t really familiar with the numbering. I would update once I got the detail. The chokes and the oil capacitors seemed contributed a lot for its overall sonic characteristic.

The winners on the photo session. Congratulation to all of you! 🙂