The other afternoon I spent some very interesting time in the company of Jason Hector. Some of you may remember Jason from when he was a well known reviewer for Hifi Plus magazine. These days he runs a very nice Well tempered system with the Amadeus turntable, XV1-s cartridge, Dynavector amps and Shahinian Obelisk 2 speakers. This is a nice little system I know well and one that has gained a lot of traction over the last few years here in the UK courtesy of Pear Audio. It’s a cohesive balanced marriage that works well, has a low box count, and a relatively low price compared to comparable rigs that you might find on the British High Street. All in all I was very intrigued to see how the Allnic phono preamps would fit in ino this synergy and Jason was kind enough to play host.
We started out by warming everything up, feeding the obelisks plenty of watts and generally getting atuned to the sound of the system as it is with the well regarded Dynavector P300 phono stage Jason ordinarly uses as fitted inside his L300 preamp. Overall everything pretty good; a large airy soundstage, plenty of power and bags of drive and prat. My first observation was that the HX100 power amp is a fair bit better and more dynamic than the smoother outgoing HX1.2 model. The Amadeus table sounded as good as it ever did with great speed stability and a strong sense of coherency and solidty.
After some interesting and enjoyable album selections by Jason, we then plugged in the baby Allnic H1201 which had been pre-warming since my arrival. This is a £2250 stage and the entry model in Allnic’s lineup but like all products from this small bespoke company, it will be highly competitive with market choices many many times it’s price. To be fair to the Allnic, if Dynavector made the P300 as a separate box with its own power supply then it too would surely retail for around the £2000 mark. I also know that Jason has compared his P300 to a fair few solid state phonos from the likes of Tom Evans, Whest, Naim etc. and he does rate it as ahead of much of the competition.
Switching over, from the very first track the differences were very obvious. The music opened up a great deal with a very natural liquid feeling and there seemed to be quite a lot more air and space around individual instruments and you could start to sense their shape and form within the soundstage. The tonal saturation and fullness of sounds increased making them seem more real. The whole treble also had a smoother sweeter quality without any trace of harshness. The Guitar and drum brushes on Amos Lee’s ‘El Camino’ for example just sounded exquisite with a lot of the low level timbral information really coming through. There was a dimensional feeling to that track as well with layers of sound extending back into the living room. It seems odd to talk about Shahinian speakers in this way but the Allnic made the mk2 obelisks image a little. With a more traditional speaker design of course, these improvements would be even more apparent.
Overall the best way to sum it up for me was to say that the music just sounded far more refined and much more alive and hence engaging. Jason did feel that on the harder hitting music from the likes of AC/DC, at the very lower end, the Allnic had lost a little leading edge slam on the bass notes compared to the P300 but we both agreed that everywhere else, the improvement was quite radical. I also surmised that if one’s collection did heavily favour the heavy rock/electronica side of things then some of that slam could be tuned back into the system if need be with some fettling elsewhere.
After spending a good hour enjoying Jasons eclectic music collection with the H1201 we swapped over to the big H3000. Now for anyone who doesn’t know, this is quite a jump here. The H3000 has won many many fans the world over and it’s a current state of the art reference for various manufacturers and reviewers such as Myles Astor and Harry Pearson, so it certainly should be good, and should feel like a big jump to anyone coming from a £2000-£3000 phono.
Sure enough on the very first track I think that Jasons grin and the odd shake of his head showed that he was suitably impressed. The best way to describe the effect was that there just was an abundance of everything now, a very large increase in all the properties we gained when moving to the H1201. The sense of 3d space, the sense of air around instruments, the timbral realism of notes, the out and out resolution, the massive sense of presence and ‘reach out and touch’ believability, all of these took a very large leap. The more useful way to describe the overall effect though was that the music just felt so much more real with a huge sense of immediacy and “there-ness”, like we were suddenly given unrestricted raw access to something that was before merely just a distant impression.
The Kings of Leon album sounded absolutely incredible, so raw with so much power delivered to the room. If one could say that the H1210 possibly had a slightly more languid character suited more to acoustic/jazz/vocals/classical more than Rock, the H3000 redressed that by just having everything and being good at everything. The delectable texture of a single bow on a violin, the transcendant sense of energy, the unlimited dynamic ability and feeling of endless bandwidth made for an extremely powerful and engaging sound which when first swapping over was almost a little overwhelming …. it was like three or 4 sets of doors had been opened and we were now standing so much deeper and closer to the raw music. We also played a few timing torture tracks but the H3000 seemed to piece them together so simply and effortlessly, coherently assembling all the discordant and offbeat sounds into a perfectly intelligble whole, nothing hidden, nothing out of place, no stone left untuned.
Jason remarked that the jump seemed very large and I did explain that we had actually leaped right over the Allnic H1500 which sits in the middle of these two at £4500. After another hour or so of enjoyment we both pondered on the fact that the HA3000 head amp takes this performamce to even greater heights and then the forthcoming H5000 DHT from Allnic is said to leave the 3000 in its wake with not just an incremental upgrade but a whole new rewrite, a whole new level of transparency, resolution and musicality that has arguably never been accessed before by any phono preamp in the world. Exiciting times ahead and my thanks goes to Jason hector for being such a good host and playing some damm fine music; my keyboard was a blur that evening when I got home, ordering up many of the albums that I’d heard.