Allnic - Nature Vs. Nurture
Allnic L-6500 Line-stage Preamplifier
Thinking further about the theme of my previous post, I started to consider some terms used in relation to music reproduction in the home, including “natural” as opposed to “electronic” or “artificial” or “distorted” sound, “psychoacoustics”, “scale”, “realism”, “subjective” and “objective”... My theme in that post was summarized in this paragraph:
I think my system should let me forget about what’s making the sound and be transported by the music, intellectually and emotionally, in whatever balance suits me best. Various types of amplifying devices, analog and digital sources with all their sub-parts, cables, speakers, my room, my ears, equipment stands, etc. need to play together, creating unity, not discord.
It's clear from those words, I think, that the “unity” is according to my judgment, and that the goal for me is personal satisfaction with what I’m hearing in my listening room. If that’s not a subjective stance, then I don’t know what is! It’s quite different from a goal of being able to evaluate music reproduced in the home by whether or not that sound measured by mechanical/electronic means matches precisely a set of measurements made by identical mechanical/electronic means at a different location, in the venue where the recorded music was performed live or in a studio or in the highly localized environment of a set of headphones.
in other words, a human judgment is made based on the personal (or externally approved) perceptions, attitudes and goals of a specific listener or specific listeners in a specific set of circumstances.
So, the fundamental problem for determining accuracy to the original event (if there was such an “event”), assuming I will never get the opportunity to compare the two sets of mechanically/electronically made measurements above noted – or perhaps second best, that the person/group who “finalized” a recording come to my house and say, or not, “YES! That’s it. That’s exactly how I remember making (or wanting to make) it sound”
Of course, recordings aren’t finalized purely according to a set of measurements. We all know that recordings are finalized when someone or some group decides the sound of the recorded music they are listening to, wherever they are, is right, “accurate” according to some standard as determined by a specific listener or group of listeners...
Image credit: syos.co
(and what if that’s the judgment but you don’t like how it sounds?!) – seems to be that my name is John, not Joe, and our hearing capability, how we listen, why we listen, our taste in music, our moods when listening, the gear we’re listening to, the place where we’re listening, our goals for listening, our body chemistry, what we consumed for dinner and after, etc., are most likely not identical at any given time.
Pretty clearly, this is also not the same as a discussion about whether the output of one piece of electronic gear measures the same as another, through the same instrument, when fed identical input, or whether a speaker in one particularly organized physical location meets a set of standards for reproduction of sound by a speaker established by a person or group according to measurements of another speaker in another particularly organized physical location.
Nor I suspect, is it the same as discussion around whether one piece gear that measures in certain ways on certain tests will sound to everyone the same as another piece of gear that measures the same way - or at least within a range that should, for some reason, make impossible detection by listening, by anyone, of any difference - with any possible combination of associated equipment in any possible physical circumstances.
As for how and what humans as a species can actually hear, my understanding is that the ranges for human auditory frequency, pitch and spatial perception/sensitivity were established and continue to be tested and refined by controlled studies of groups of people of various ages, backgrounds and other specific characteristics, using a range of testing and analytical methodologies because researchers understand there are variations in auditory perception even among individuals in small groups of people of similar age and background let alone across any large population – hello “average listener”.
“Empiricism” and “subjectivism”. Are they completely distinct methods of producing generalizations and judgments about what is “best” or most “real”? How do they interface? Does each have its place? Is one the servant of the other?
Is a sound “natural”, as in closest to “nature”, “reality” or has it been “nurtured”, as in manipulated to be different from the “original”, to be made “fit for purpose” – in either the making of a recording or in a recording’s expression through a sound reproduction system? These questions and others related to them, and all the “hard science” and all the “soft science” they involve can be great fun, to study and make a career of, or just to contemplate privately, or to debate with others; and they’re parts, even the major part for some, of this audio hobby for many of us who are not also experts in a related, relevant field.
For others, including myself, the main motivator for participation in our hobby is “simply” the miracle of being able to listen to music at home whenever convenient so that it makes us happy - without possibly having to own a house that contains a concert hall, and/or prepare for and then host a bunch of strangers and all their instruments, etc., costing us money probably, wanting food and drink and making a clutter and mess and staying too long, and maybe abusing our hospitality in other ways, and then maybe not even performing “well”, or too loudly or quietly, or disappointing us because they don’t sound just as if they are playing in Carnegie Hall, with me in my preferred seat. That could also all be great fun! Or not. And am I prepared to make a real performance happen in my house every day around 7 pm - or ever?
OR do I want to make a place in my home optimized (in terms of both gear and the physical environment) within whatever limits I decide are appropriate so that I can listen to music reproduced in a way that increases the chances that my experience of the music will meet or exceed my expectations? Fortunately, that’s another of our personal judgment calls, even though it involves figuring out how to make a lot of other judgments.
Another, more specific (maybe) subject of debate in our hobby is about the purpose and appropriateness of an active preamplifier. Allnic Audio clearly believes that active preamps are the way to go. The lineup of Allnic preamps, though, does provide variations in approach, from the perspectives of both cost and sound qualities. I say “qualities” because I believe all Allnic’s preamps offer amazing “sound quality” and relative cost/performance value.
Today, Allnic offers six line-stage preamps. Three are transformer based, the newest and lowest cost (and soon to be reviewed) L-6500, the L-7000 (using 300Bs as voltage regulators) and the L-8000 DHT (Direct-Heated Triodes), using DHTs only in the signal path. Read the reviews!
This preamp asked me to go deep, to appreciate the refinement of transients, the spatiality and tonal range of recorded elements, and the flow of musical dynamics regardless of the musical content. When was the last time you heard a piece of gear that let you listen how you like, to whatever you like? I can’t recall the last time a piece of gear didn’t direct my attention in one particular way or another. And somehow this coexisted with that DHT magic that made everything just a little more beautiful and special sounding.
Never once did the price of the L-8000 really occur to me as a factor for or against it, simply because there just isn’t anything I’ve encountered that’s quite like this line stage. The L-8000 earns a deserved Reviewer’s Choice from me, and if you have a dealer nearby, especially if it’s Kevalin or Hammertone, I’d urge you to go take a listen.
Grover Neville, part-time audiophile, April 29, 2021
Three are OTL/OCL (output transformer-less and output capacitor-less) models, the L-8500, the L-9000, and the L-10000. The different design approaches taken in these preamp models all are intended and function to provide exceptional sound, and not just at their respective price points, as well as opportunities for pairing with different kinds of sources and power amplification.
The original KS Park designed Allnic OTL/OCL DHT Headphone Amplifier - HPA-5000XL still manufactured today handles a broad impedance range noted in the contemporary reference headphone market. This unique piece inspired KS to apply the OTL/OCL technology and expand the line stage product line.
Allnic, for example, manufactures power amps featuring single-ended triode (including in DHT configurations), push-pull, parallel push-pull, and parallel operation with a wide variety of power tubes.
A-2000 25th Anniversary SE – ON SALE! A-2000 Stereo Power Amp product page
The different combinations make possible opportunities for users to obtain a sound that will make them happy every time they turn on their system. Just for example regarding the L-10000 (well worth reading for the descriptions of use with different makes and types of amps alone):
But for the lucky few of sufficiently deep pockets and independent ears who trust themselves over magazine measurements, Kang-Su’s very best all-tube preamp will be that mythic missing link which finally proves that oft-read claim that triodes are the lowest-distortion voltage gain devices known to man. How we shall miss thee!
Srajan Ebaen, 6 moons, December 2018
L-10000 6moons review
All Allnic’s preamps except the L-6500 utilize Allnic’s exclusive, and world’s first, 61 step constant impedance attenuator, built into a precision oil clutched, motorized and volume control, manual and remote-controlled. With fixed impedance at no (± 0 dB) channel unbalance, these line-stages help to eliminate the noted sweet spot for listening and preserve dynamics and imaging at any volume; an achievement rarely met in the industry.
61 step constant impedance attenuator
Also, all the preamps can drive virtually any amplifier, sport RCA and XLR inputs and oututs, and without exception are ultra-quiet and provide outstanding dynamics, detail and soundstage. “Addictive”.
L-6500 rear view
The 8500 spun the bits into liquid gold. Accurate, sure, but with timbres so full of life and passion that its sound became, to use Allnic’s word, ‘addictive’. Frigging catnip for my ears.
-Anthony Kershaw, Audiophilia, April 2021
These reviews, among others, offer thought-provoking descriptions and insights into the various Allnic line-stage preamps. Please take a look at the product pages on this site for more detail on each of the six Allnic preamps.
As noted in a previous entry, Kang Su Park's foresight and need to support his products has led him to take initiative to manufacture tubes in-house! This is EXCELLENT NEWS for H-8000, H-5000 and A-5000 DHT owners! Here is the simplest and most cost-effective to nurture your music! The proprietary coating of the HL2 makes these tubes resistant to RF/EM pollution. These tubes effectively removed the noise floor and through this previously unachieved clarity reveal new discoveries of all aspects of familiar recordings. The scarcity of some treasured, rare NOS tubes has motivated Allnic to pursue new and exceptional means to support their flagship designs. We cannot find any NOS Telefunken RS242 or Marconi HL2 gain tubes at reasonable prices and recently have been relying on boutique tube manufacturers to produce these. So, Allnic’s KS Park spent an arduous but ultimately successful two years working to reproduce and manufacture the fabled Telefunken RS242 and Marconi HL2. These two tubes, KS claims, are some of the most difficult to reproduce, and now KS is pleased to say that the final versions of the tubes are very high quality – quiet, stable and glorious sounding and stock in all new production of the products using them. Old is new again!
These tubes by themselves are sold factory-direct – an advantage to the user for pricing - and all warranty issues and inquiries are handled by Allnic in Korea. You can contact KS Park at Allnic directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. PayPal is the payment method.
Again, as I’ve also mentioned before, there is news about Allnic’s MC step-up transformers for the AUT-2000, the H-7000 and H-7000V, and the H-8000 DHT– all these models are now available with silver wire wound MC SUTs! Please note that the silver wire SUTs are optional on new production H-7000/7000Vs for an additional $2500, and standard on current production H-8000 DHT. In addition, upgrade packages of the new silver wound SUTs are now available for installation in current units – at customer’s cost by a qualified technician of customer’s choice - for $2500.
To inquire about the Allnic products discussed above, please contact me here at Kevalin Audio, and if you’re in Canada, Corby’s Audio, at the coordinates below.
Also, as always, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any of us to discuss purchasing an Allnic product for the first time or moving up the Allnic product line – quality trades are always welcome!
Website link: Kevalin Audio
Email or call John Ketcham:
Tel: +1 503–292–5592
Website link: Corby’s Audio
Email or call Don Corby:
Tel: +1 905.689.1976
Toll free: 1.877.689.1976
Hammertone Audio (Allnic North American Distributor)
Website link: Hammertone Audio
Email or call David Beetles: