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Linear preamplifier

Price (in Poland): 4998 zł

Manufacturer: Audiomatus

Andrzej W. Matusiak
ul. Grunwaldzka 13, 72-010 Police | Polska


Manufacturer’s website:

Country of origin: Polska

Text: Marek Dyba | Photos: Marek Dyba
Translation: Andrzej Dziadowiec

Published: 6. May 2013, No. 109

Audiomatus – a Polish manufacturer that to me, and I also suspect to most of you, is nearly synonymous with power amplifiers operating in Class D. It is the most legitimate association, as it's exactly such devices that have formed the basis of the manufacturer’s product lineup since its inception. It is worth noting that the company will soon celebrate its tenth anniversary. Audiomatus power amplifiers are based on ICEpower modules and their merit, worthy of the 21st century, is their small (especially when compared with Class A or even AB amplifiers) power consumption. Nevertheless, they offer high power output and can drive most of the speaker designs. And they have another advantage: against their competition in the form of tube or solid state amplifiers, Audiomatus products are inexpensive, not to say downright cheap. I will not comment on their sound, as it’s not the subject of this review, nor do I have much experience with Audiomatus amps. Besides, Class D amplifiers have their supporters and opponents, and I don’t intend to start discussion about the superiority of Christmas over Easter.
Power amplifiers, whether stereo or mono, need to be driven one way or another. One option is to use a source with adjustable output level, and the other is to use a separate preamplifier. I will pass the first solution, because only high-end sources implement volume control of sufficient quality not to have a negative effect on the sound. Let me then discuss the second option, of course mainly because it is the preamplifier that is the subject of this review. As I recall, Audiomatus had at one time offered a passive preamp, but it does not seem to be offered any longer [Ed. Note: it was the PP03, see HERE]. From my experience with Class D amplifiers (rather negligible with Audiomatus products, mind you, and not much better with other designs), the best results are achieved by combining them with high-end vacuum tube preamps. Given that I received for review from Mr. Andrzej Matusiak, the owner and designer of Audiomatus, his newest product, the TP-01tube preamplifier, I can probably assume that I am not alone in this belief. This device is even more interesting in that there are not really too many Polish tube preamps on the market, and since one has just appeared, it just needs to be checked out. It’s also worth noting that on receiving the unit, and even during a large part of the review, I did not know its price, which is really a perfect solution, because despite the fact that I always try to be objective, the price is always at the back of my mind and may somehow influence the verdict. Here, there was no such risk – I asked about the price at the end of the review, during which I compared the TP-01 against my ModWright LS100, so most of my notes and remarks below were not in any way 'contaminated'.

The Audiomatus TP-01 preamp has been designed to match stylistically power amplifiers from the same manufacturer. The front panel is a solid aluminum plate, silver colored, the rest of the enclosure is black; the whole unit makes a very solid impression. This is obviously not a device that can compete with the beauty of Accuphase designs, but its fit and finish are absolutely impossible to fault. On the front panel we will find four knobs. The two slightly larger, outer knobs are the input selector and volume control, respectively, and the two smaller are the main switch and the balance control. In the center there is the name / company logo, with a single LED underneath, indicating that the device is on. On the rear panel we have 5 line inputs (RCA) and two unbalanced outputs. All the RCA connectors are gold-plated, very solid and, importantly, placed at reasonable distances from each other, so even oversized RCA plugs should not cause a problem. In the version that will go on sale, the unit will be equipped with a remote control, but my review sample has not yet had it. The interior houses two 6N30Pi dual triodes, one per channel, with zero feedback – seemingly a simple design. Except that in the case of tube devices, simplicity is most desirable and generally gives better results than extensive, complex designs.

Audiomatus in “High Fidelity”
  • REVIEW: Audiomatus AM400 monoblock, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Audiomatus AS250 power amplifier, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Audiomatus AS500 power amplifier, see HERE
  • AWARD OF THE YEAR 2010: Audiomatus AS250 power amplifier, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Audiomatus PP03 + AM500 R – passive preamplifier + power amplifier, see HERE
  • REVIEW: Audiomatus AM250 ver. R power amplifier, see HERE
  • AWARD OF THE YEAR 2006: Audiomatus AM250 ver. R power amplifier, see HERE

    A selection of recordings used during auditions

    • Al di Meola, John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia, Friday night in San Francisco, Philips 800 047-2, CD/FLAC.
    • The Oscar Peterson Trio, We Get Request, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 032, CD/FLAC.
    • Beethoven, Symphonie No. 9, Deutsche Grammophon, DG 445 503-2, CD/FLAC.
    • Rodrigo y Gabriela, 11:11, EMI Music Poland, 5651702, CD/FLAC.
    • Marcus Miller, A night in Monte Carlo, Concord Records, B004DURSBC, CD/FLAC.
    • Eva Cassidy, Eva by heart, Blix Street 410047, CD/FLAC.
    • John Lee Hooker, The best of friends, pointblank, 7243 8 46424 26 VPBCD49, CD/FLAC.
    • Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin, Atlantic/Warner Music, WPCR-11611, CD/FLAC.
    • AC/DC, Back in black, SONY, B000089RV6, CD/FLAC.
    • Hugh Masakela, Hope, Triloka, 7930185215-2, CD/FLAC.
    • Pink Floyd, Animals, Capitol, B000024D4R, CD/FLAC

    Before starting the audition I had some concerns, whether the preamp wasn’t “tailor-made” to fit Audiomatus amplifiers and hence wouldn’t work well with an amplifier from another manufacturer. Just a few minutes of listening to it paired with a ModWright power amp was enough for me, however, to know that my fears were unfounded. In recent months, during which I have auditioned a lot of DACs, I developed a habit of writing down my first impression that often very accurately described the most important feature of a given device. Here, I also jotted down a note saying, "what a dynamite!" In the case of tube preamplifiers or amplifiers, dynamics is very rarely the first feature that draws my attention. Smoothness, fluidity, sweetness of midrange – that’s what I expect instead, and what I usually get. Unless, that is, we consider great amplifiers from Gerhard Hirt, say, the Crossfire III; then dynamite indeed blasts from the speakers. But that's a pretty isolated example, additionally concerning an integrated amplifier, and not just a single part of the amplification chain, in this case a preamp.
    Here, although I know the ModWright amp very well and I’m fully aware that dynamics is not its strongest suit, the Audiomatus preamp added an immediate ‘Wow!’ factor, for the KWA100SE had never before rocked out SO HARD! And it wasn’t even AC/DC that I started the audition with, but one of Marcus Miller’s albums, on which his bass turned into pure TNT. Excellent, strong, tight extension, downright liver-massaging at times and charged with heaps of energy, gave the impression of greater dynamics than in the case of the ModWright. The latter was admittedly a little weightier at the low end, but not quite as fast. With the Audiomatus it was not, however, sound on steroids, artificially inflated, but instead pure, raw energy that the bass guitar doesn’t lack, but its reproductions on home audio systems often does. Each pluck of the string was snappy, transient attack lightning fast, in turn either equally instantly suppressed or long-decaying. Great timing and rhythm complemented the set of features, which made me look slightly different at Marcus Miller’s music, who thus gained a new status of an "uber-dynamic string-plucker" :)

    Following up, I just had to listen to the Australian rock'n'rollers from AC/DC. Again, I was impressed by the dynamics and energy of this presentation. This is, of course, exactly what that music is like, always dynamic, with constant heaps of energy, which many much younger bands can envy those, after all, no longer youngest musicians. With my LS100, in my speakers there was no such expression, such momentum as that presented by the Audiomatus preamp. At the same time there was no trace of any excessive aggressiveness of presentation, any loss of control of the whole; none of these things. Dynamically – yes, energetically – very much so, clearly, lucidly – exceptionally, yet nil chaos, sharpening, and other negative manifestations of this device’s unique expressiveness.
    The TP-01 also did very well with older rock music – Floyd or Zeppelin. I would describe its sound as very clean, transparent, which worked perfectly with older recordings because they sounded a bit clearer and more vivid than with the LS100. The ModWright is rather focused on weight and body, hence it sound appears warm, especially in midrange. And this kind of modification affects our perception of sound in a particular way – it seems somewhat less resolved, less transparent. Is it really less resolved? No, it’s not, but our ears are easy to fool. Old rock recordings seem a bit darker than most of current productions, so when the TP-01 springs into action, with its spontaneity, transparency, it brightens them somewhat, in the most positive meaning of the word. This ‘brightening’ results in an apparent higher resolution, simply because it is easier to see all the details, nuances and subtleties.

    I noticed a similar effect on older jazz recordings, which were also slightly “lightened” by the Audiomatus, gaining freedom, vividness and, not so much higher but rather easier to notice, resolution. The picture was different with more modern audiophile recordings, where a little better saturation and weight in the midrange, offered by the ModWright, resulted in the TP-01 sounding slightly thinner, in comparison. It was not, however, the kind of thinning that might be pointed out as a drawback; it just didn’t do something equally well as (which I only learned later) its more than twice as expensive competitor. Also, comparing e.g. acoustic guitars’ recordings I had to give the nod to the ModWright that offered, above all, better, longer delays than the TP-01. Again, this does not mean that the latter messed it up – there were decays all right, only that I had the impression they were a tad short. The guitar body clearly marked its presence in the creation of sound, played its role, but it was slightly smaller than with my reference preamp. These are nuances, justified by the difference in price, but at this stage I was not yet aware of this pricing discrepancy, so I tried to catch any, even the slightest, difference in the sound.

    The Polish preamp also built the soundstage slightly differently. Firstly, it was a little further away, as if pushed slightly behind the speaker line. On the same recordings, especially live, I simply felt like I was sitting 2-3 rows away from the stage. This has its pros and cons. The advantage of a slightly deeper perspective in the case of every image, including music, lies in an easier grasp of the whole composition, even after giving it a quick glance, or a casual ear. The ModWright presents the same recordings a bit more "in your face", which makes the listener more focused on what happens in the foreground. With the Audiomatus the foreground of course plays an important, but not as predominant, role. Going back to our discussion of showing the soundstage from a little more remote perspective, it seems obvious that this entails certain consequences – first of all, some details seem to elude us. The point is not even that these details are gone, but rather that they are more difficult to pick up or not as obvious, as when they are shown closer to us. Something for something, as it happens in audio, and it is not a matter of a different class of sound, but rather of a different perspective on the same music and, ultimately, of the listener's preferences. The latter may in part result from the kind music one usually listens to, and in part from how one likes the music to be presented - up close, or rather from a certain perspective. The TP-01 may be a better choice for symphonic music because it makes it easier to "take in" a large ensemble, not to mention the above-average dynamics of the preamp, which can also be of service with large classical music. Unless one is a fan of studying each and every instrument separately, in which case, one may instead prefer the ModWright that shows everything a little closer, making it easier to get into the musical piece. While we are about it, although macro-dynamics is a plus of the Audiomatus, the LS100 has a slightly better micro-dynamics, offering just a bit more nuances, ‘plankton’, which sometimes determines the superiority of one performance over another, or of one release over another. I would prefer the ModWright for small ensembles, or vocal music, because it needs attention focused on the foreground; it is this part of the soundstage that needs to be presented most accurately, most tangibly, the rest being simply background. Both preamps were doing great with accurately placing individual sound sources on the soundstage and properly defining their size; the Audiomatus perhaps even having a slight edge with the latter. Both of them, as befits tube devices, also present the events on the soundstage in a vivid, and hence convincing, tangible way. This includes not only the already mentioned rendering of distance between the instruments, the depth of the soundstage, but also of the acoustic environment, reverb, etc. In these respects, the two preamps went head to head.


    Looking cross-sectionally at these two devices (the reviewed unit and the reference unit), I would say that the Audiomatus offers a slightly more neutral tonally sound with a faster, more energetic, more springy bass, a slightly less saturated, but still very good, colorful midrange, and a slightly lighter, "fresher" and more "joyful" treble. It also offers brilliant dynamics, almost perfect "pace & rhythm", and the purity and clarity of sound that is rarely heard on tube devices. Moreover, the unit is very, very quiet – the thing about tubes is that they sometimes generate a little noise, or a gentle hum; in any case, something usually goes on, at least on high sensitivity speakers. Here, there was nothing but silence from the speakers, and even the unit itself did not "hum", although I’d heard transformers on lots of much more expensive devices. These may seem but trifles, but they prove that Mr. Matusiak attaches great importance to the smallest detail, praise him for it!
    Briefly, I can simply say that this is another (after the Rock) Polish product that surprised me very positively, although I should not actually be surprised. It has been known for some time that Polish manufactures are capable of making devices that, although a lot less expensive, can easily compete with the recognized global brands. The problem of Polish manufacturers lies in the attitude of Poles who prefer to buy a foreign brand product, because it will be easier to sell in the future. I can understand such a pragmatic approach, yet on the other hand this game is about the sound, after all, isn’t it? May I ask you then to please abandon any prejudices against Polish products, and not assume right away that you will be upgrading your system within a year or two, and please give a chance to products such as the TP-01 from Audiomatus? To be honest, if I were to decide today on a preamp to the ModWright KWA100SE, I would have a very hard nut to crack. The LS100 from the same manufacturer is, to be sure, objectively looking, slightly better sonically (and, functionally, its advantage is clear), but it’s only a tiny ‘slightly’, and the price difference is more than double! Looking from the other side, the Audiomatus does everything at least competently, while its dynamics, transparency, and speed compare favorably with products from an even higher shelf than my ModWright. For less than 5,000 zlotys, I do not see any competition for it, and pairing it with power amplifiers worth tens of thousands zlotys will not be any misalliance. It's simply a great product.


    The TP-01 is a tube preamplifier from Audiomatus. The device is housed in an enclosure stylistically matching power amplifiers from the same manufacturer. Front panel is made of a 12 mm aluminum plate in silver color, and sports four aluminum knobs. The two outer, larger knobs function as the input selector (left) and the volume control (right). One of the two smaller center knobs is the main power switch, the other one is balance control. On the rear panel there is an IEC connector with an integrated fuse, two pairs of line-level outputs (RCA), and five pairs of analog unbalanced inputs (RCA). The very solid, gold-plated, Teflon insulated RCA connectors come from a well-known manufacturer, Vampire Wire. They are placed at reasonable distances from each other, so even large connector plugs won’t be a problem. The rest of the metal enclosure is painted black, and the whole sits on four rubber feet. The enclosure is rigid and makes a very solid impression. The design is fairly simple yet elegant in its simplicity, and the finish is at a very high level. Care was given to such details as a slightly higher than the rest front panel, or the black color of the screws located on the top cover and side panels, which makes them inconspicuous.
    The interior also makes a very good impression, because of the perfect order it displays. For example, cables are run along the walls and held in place with clips. A shaft extender links the potentiometer located at the rear to the front panel volume control knob – an easy but, I think, the best possible solution.

    In the signal path of the TP-01 preamplifier we find two 6N30Pi dual triodes, one per each channel. The gain stage employs zero negative feedback (no cathode resistors or capacitors in the circuit). Tube grids are polarized with a long life lithium cell. Anode voltage is stabilized via three-stage voltage controllers with the output impedance less than one milli-ohm (0.001 Ω) over the entire audio frequency range (20 Hz to 20 kHz), and noise floor around two microvolts. Such characteristics make the power supply practically inaudible, which usually cannot be said about many expensive tube devices. To reduce the output impedance, the two triodes in each tube are coupled in parallel. Tube operating conditions have been optimized for a long service life, which according to the manufacturer should be not less than 4,000 hours. The preamplifier voltage gain is 10 dB (approximately 3 x), and the minimum load impedance is 5 kΩ. The TP-01 will therefore work properly with power amplifiers with a sensitivity of 1 to 2V and the input impedance equal to or greater than 10 kΩ.

    Specification (according to the manufacturer)

    Frequency Response (CL = 100 pF, RL = 100 k)
    2 Hz-230 kHz (+/- 0/-3 dB) | 3 Hz-170 kHz (+/- 0/-1 dB)
    Input Impedance: 22 kΩ
    Output impedance (Zs = 100 Ω): 700 Ω
    Dimensions (with handles, legs and sockets, W x H x D).: 440 x127 x 388
    Weight: 10 kg