Monday, June 6, 2011

Intact Audio - Slagel AVC - Is Less More?

I have been wanting to experiment with a passive preamp or transformer based volume control for a few years now. In fact doing research about passive preamps and autoformer volume controls I found many of my old posts asking about them. Recently Dave kindly let me use one of his autoformer volume controls which was unexpected but heavy boxes at your doorsteps are wonderful things. Out of the box visually it does have the drug through the Hudson look although I would call it steampunk. Very cool looking device and not your ordinary boring high dollar black box solution.
I'm not an "audiophile" reviewer but just a guy with a new piece of equipment to listen to for a few weeks. As I told Dave and Jeffery I'm not great at putting into words what I hear. I can't discern the crinkling of Diana Kralls nipples as I'm listening to a piece of music nor will I delve into audiophile techno babel verbal masturbation. I hate that crap. Please shoot me if I start to do that.
Now with that out of the way I'll try to tell you what I noticed as best I can. This is in my system in my room so your mileage may very. It took me a little while to find out what this box is and does. I read the FAQ numerous times. The less is more approach does appeal to me but this thing doesn't even have a power cord LOL. The speakers I use are very revealing and efficient so I am accustomed to detail. This is where I may struggle a little. Now when I added the Slagle AVC it took me a while but I knew something was different. After being in place a few days I noticed there seemed to be even more detail and more information on songs I knew by heart. It was like getting a more powerful microscope but for music and system. When I switched sources it was apparent which source was superior. Listening to cds was not as enjoyable as vinyl. The system with cds sounded pretty good but the vinyl was king in this setup. My 301 suddenly asked me for a better cartridge and my George Wright AG Phono preamp asked me to dial down the gain. Once dialed down it was very nice. I also noticed the needle was dirty faster than normal due to the noise but once removed the music shone through. These were just a few very simple but telling observations. There are times when you add a piece of equipment to your system and it raises the bar. This certainly happened with the Slagle AVC. Adding the AVC reminded me of my first experience with highly efficient speakers. They are very honest and true to the sources and source material. That says more than anything I can think to convey about the AVC. It has been a while since I changed anything in my system so I know it very well. I've been blissfully listening to music since getting my speakers together. Now it seems I may be on a new path. How can so few parts make such a big difference? I don't know but it does. In this instance less is more. Take the less resistive path.

Photo from the first five minutes of listening. Sorry for the iPhone quality pic.
System components:
Klipsch Jubilee LF clones.
K403 protorype last hf horn PWK designed with Roy Delgado.
ALK ESN 120DB slope crossover
Cambridge Azur 640C CDP
Garrard 301 Jelco 12" Ortofon 2M blue
George Wright AG Phono Telefunkens and square halo Mullards.
Pioneer 707
Tube Luxman KMQ60/SQ38 50CA10 based 30wpc

This post originated at retro vintage modern hi-fi


  1. Less IS more. That is also why tubes are on their way back (less components) and vinyl is returning. Idler drives like your 301, Lenco's L75 or the ROK are in high demand because they outperform megabuck new machines in a big way at a fraction of the cost. Any good tube amp with high efficiency horn speakers gives a sound stage that the most modern technology simply cannot reach. It has a depth and breath that is incredible and totally natural. Quad's ESL57's are re-manufactured again on a big scale. The original design is as old as I am, for Pete's sake! Still hardly anything surpasses it for clarity and stereo image. It does need a perfectly stable amp (because of its capacative load) and dedicated music room) though. But 'old' is not necessary out-of-date. Just this weekend I listened to a recording from 1927 and I didn't believe my ears. OK, there was not much treble above 8K, but the internal balance and the overall sound quality was incredible. That was made just 1,5 years after electric recording was introduced. Amazing.

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