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No.66 November 2009

Anyone who watched the series Sex and the city knows, that accessories are the basis of good presence. A gown does not need to be super doper, but the shoes, belt, jewelry does. Because those accessories work just like spice – in fact those are responsible for the final effect, they dignify that, what is good. In audio, accessories are a never ending story. Starting with the fact, that some people treat cables like accessories, like other exotic products like “quartzes” from Acoustic Revive or spike supports.

One of such “accessories”, probably the most often quoted one, and also one calling most emotional reactions, are vacuum tubes. In solid state devices (based on transistors and ICs) the case is clear: the amplifying elements are an integral part of the amplifying circuit, and although a qualified electronics engineer or a hobbyist can exchange those, in reality it will change the sound (not always for better) only in a minimal way, changes in sound between transistors coming from different manufacturers are almost not audible – change can be brought by carefully selecting the elements. It is different with tubes. In the over one hundred years of history of those glass bubbles we dealt with many manufacturers of the same kind of tubes, many versions, and each company made those in their own way. Just look at the mechanical construction of those elements – the possibilities to make changes, to implement variations of some solutions are huge. Hence the changes in sound.

And this is the reason, that upgrading tube devices by exchanging tubes is so common. In reality this is the easiest and most effective way to change the sound, often in the good direction. This is also a splendid way of finding the right tonal balance in a given system. But the exchange of tubes became so popular not only because it brings measurable changes to the sound, but also because it is very easy. Most devices has the tubes exposed on the outside, and even when they are closed inside, they are mostly seated in sockets, and not soldered to the PCB. You can check for yourself, how nice is this game, you can also read the report from the 61. meeting of the Krakow Sonic Society, where we describe the MC275 amplifier from McIntosh (HERE), where we applied different KT88 tubes.

I am writing about all that, because I was intrigued by the changes to sound brought by tubes manufactured by EAT (EuroAudioTeam). The company was founded by Josefine Krahulcowa in Austria, but it uses the machines and experience of the Czech company Vršovice. Ms. Krahulcova comes from Czech and decided to exploit those connections as much as she could. We cannot exclude, that for some extent family connections helped her with that – the lady in question is the wife of Heinza Lichtenegger, the owner of Pro-Ject. The tubes of EAT are manufacturers in Prague since 2001 – first upon order, later by the company itself (EAT bought a part of the factory and some of the machines). The main idea was to implement changes, which would increase the lifespan and repeatability of parameters. As it turn out, the second part, keeping parameters in EAT tubes, turned out to be key. We can see that on the example of the 300B triodes – almost all tubes available now – both NOS and contemporary ones – are made based on the Western Electric layout and parameters, which are the reference point for most of manufacturers.

The EAT team went another path, what resulted in a different sound, than the NOS tubes. The Cieszyn based company Voice, the Polish distributor of EAT, send me the power tubes 300B and KT88, as well as low power ECC803 and additionally CoolDampers for other tubes. All of the tubes belonged to the selected version Diamond. We auditioned the tubes in the amplifier Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono (300B), McIntosh MC275 (Commemorative Edition and MkIV - KT88 and ECC803) and the Tri TRV-88SE (KT88 and ECC803 + CoolDampers).

The sound of all those kinds of tubes coming from this company is alike. Oh, wrong, let’s get back – those are different tubes and have the characteristic sound for such kind of tube, but there are some characteristic points in their sound, which can be called common, and that are there, regardless of the amplifier used for testing. First of all this is clarity. Tubes, all of them in general, tend to create their own sound. Genelex are dynamic and warm, Harmonix are dynamic and spacious, etc. EAT try to show as little of their own character as possible. Also their resolution is phenomenal – treble has signs of high refinement, in terms of dynamics differentiation as well as in terms of timbre. Also the bass – it is worked out, going low and full. But there can be some problems at the midrange. This is an element, that returns in conversations with my friends, who heard those tubes, or use them. The midrange is precise, but in the opinion of many people, too cold, it has too little saturated lower midrange. And it is true – this could be heard with all amplifiers, and the final effect was depending on how this fit in the timbre of the device itself, or the whole system. However I have my own theory for this – I think, that the manufacturers designed their gear for working with lesser tubes, tubes which color the midrange, what does not allow them to notice, what is really happening there. I am almost 100% percent convinced (almost, I need to leave some space for uncertainty…), that when an amplifier would have been designed using EAT tubes, then their brilliant dynamics, space, differentiation capabilities could be exploited fully, with a saturated midrange added to all that. And the CoolDampers? I am not sure – in some settings they improved the stability of the sound stage, in others they cooled the sound. We should try those at home, because there is no straight forward recipe here.

The EAT are exceptional tubes. We need to give them a try, as those may be the first modern propositions, that are, in some aspects, better than the most renowned NOS. They will not be warm, smooth but rather true. If we are searching for that – then we do not need to look further.


And finally something, that most of you waited for – information about this year’s edition of the Audio Show, which will have its 13th edition. This is a happy “thirteen”. Or rather most happy – here, among the raging storm, called crisis, this year’s edition is an absolute record in terms of the amount of exhibitors, exhibition space, and the price of the exhibited systems. Just like the best show of that kind in the world, the Munich High End show, also the Warsaw Audio Show explains, that audio is a world of luxury goods, in some extent an exclusive one. Three hotels, space sold until the last free bit of carpet, one third more than last year, and systems, for the price of which, we could built a fourth hotel… But let’s start from the beginning.

We will tell about this year’s price chimneys, which will probably be the magnets for everybody, but it is equally important, that the big electronics brands are back in the game, those that were responsible for the technological advances – Marantz, Yamaha, long time not seen products from Sony or Pioneer. The latter company has announced, not so long ago, that it will no longer manufacture flat screen TV’s and concentrates on stereo gear. This is why new versions of SACD players and amplifiers were prepared, as well as speakers, utilizing a coaxial driver, prepared by the same engineer who designed the renowned Uni-Q in KEF loudspeakers.

But, like I noted earlier, the imagination is mostly driven by systems, which cost more than a good house, or even a whole flat complete with cars in the garage. So this year a few extraordinary presentations were prepared. The Krakow based Nautilus Hi-End, which occupies a big room in the Bristol hotel, will present a system with products, that will be in Poland for the first time. It will be composed of monoblocks M-6000 Accuphase (88000zl), the C-2810 preamplifier (59000zl) and the split player DP-800/DC-801 (95000zl).

To make the setup complete, one of the most important persons from Accuphase will visit Poland, Mr. Yasu Ishizuka. The alternative source of sound will be another brilliant product, shown only once to date, in Munich, the top Transrotor turntable, called Argos. This is an incredible device, with a fully de-coupled platter, plinth, etc. Price? 600000zl. And another surprise – to make everything sound well, and to respond to all questions, Warshau will be visited by Mr. Dirk Rake, the sales director, and privately the son of the company owner and main designer, Mr. Johen Rake. And finally the most important information: the loudspeakers will be the Dynaudio Consequence in the newest incarnation. Let’s add, that Dynaudio is a new brand in Nautilus distribution.

Another surprise is the return, in full glory, distribution of the company Mark Levinson. And this one will come from top shelf. The distributor, PH Ryszard Bałys, will present the premiere monoblocks N0.53 (200000zl), a class D, reference preamplifier N0.326s (35000zl) and the SACD player No.512 (80000zl), and the JBL icon loudspeakers, K2 9900 (140000zl).

One of the most interesting presentations should be the system based on the powerful Cabasse sphere, called… La Sphere. This loudspeaker integrates four coaxial drivers, driven by a digital cross-over DSP and four monophonic amplifiers. The cost of the system – 600000zl. And finally the long awaited premiere of the successor of the Watt/Puppy 8 system, the Wilson Audio Sasha loudspeakers (120000zl). The electronics will also be up to par, with the Dartzeel NHB-18NS preamplifier (106000zl) and the source in the form of the SACD player sCS Scarlatti (232000zl).

This is of course only the tip of the iceberg, because we should not forget about such pearls like the new, top cabling system Flux from Furutech (RCM Audio), Hansen Audio Prince loudspeakers (Sound Club), the beautiful Luxman SQ38u amplifier, new loudspeakers from Ancient Audio, and another debut, a system from the company Hoerning Audio (Hi-End Studio). And there is also the top player from Ayon, the CD-5, and the Avantgarde Acoustics G2 loudspeakers. The new, top cables from Chord will be presented by the company’s head of sales. So one thing is sure, even now, it will be beautiful! This is the biggest edition of the show to date, three hotels, fully booked, and the smiling faces of the visitors. And the crisis? – What crisis…

Audio Show 2009

Dates: 7-8 Nov 2009
Hotel Jan III Sobieski
Plac Artura Zawiszy 1, Warszawa
tel. +48 (022) 579 10 00

Hotel Kyriad Prestige
Towarowa 2, Warszawa
tel. +48 (022) 582 75 00

Hotel Bristol
Krakowskie Przedmieście 42/44, Warszawa
tel. +48 (022) 55 11 000

The show will be open in the following hours:
Saturday    7 Nov 2009    10.00 - 20.00
Sunday 8 Nov 2009    10.00 - 18.00

Wojciech Pacuła

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Our reviewers regularly contribute to  “Enjoy the”, “”“”  and “Hi-Fi Choice & Home Cinema. Edycja Polska” .

"High Fidelity" is a monthly magazine dedicated to high quality sound. It has been published since May 1st, 2004. Up until October 2008, the magazine was called "High Fidelity OnLine", but since November 2008 it has been registered under the new title.

"High Fidelity" is an online magazine, i.e. it is only published on the web. For the last few years it has been published both in Polish and in English. Thanks to our English section, the magazine has now a worldwide reach - statistics show that we have readers from almost every country in the world.

Once a year, we prepare a printed edition of one of reviews published online. This unique, limited collector's edition is given to the visitors of the Audio Show in Warsaw, Poland, held in November of each year.

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