Audio Note UK Level 2 System

Our Audio Note UK brand launch back in November 2018 at the Roseate Hotel here in Reading, where we demonstrated their flagship £800K system proved to be an overwhelming success. Equally the response we have had from those who have visited our store and heard a more affordable system in our all new dedicated Audio Note UK demo room has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Level 2 system in our new dedicated Audio Note UK room

Level 2 system in our new dedicated Audio Note UK room

In this demo room we have in permanent readiness, two full systems of vastly different costs to showcase the Audio Note UK sound; it is the lower cost system I would like to describe in this post.

 This system, all hand built in Hove, Sussex, comprises of a choice of source components in the form of a CD player and/or a turntable, an integrated amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers.

 At this point I would suggest reading Audio Note UK’s philosophy to better understand the designs and choices they make. (Saves me from a lot of typing too).

 The CD Player.

Audio Note UK CD3.1x/II

A Red Book integrated CD player designed specifically for sonic performance rather than specifications, it features a vacuum tube output stage being driven by an Analogue Devices AD1865 18bit chip set with no over sampling or digital filters whatsoever. Typically for Audio Note UK, their own in-house wound copper foil capacitors and tantalum resistors are used when commercially made components that meet their exacting demands are not available.

The Turntable.

Audio Note UK TT2 Deluxe

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The TT2 origins are founded in the highly acclaimed Dunlop Systemdek of the 1990s but completely re-engineered to meet today’s exacting standards and expectations.

At the heart of the TT2 is a two motor drive system designed to take full control of the lightweight acrylic platter by means of high torque enabling this deck to have superb speed control and pitch; essential for accurate reproduction of music, especially acoustic, be it piano, orchestral or jazz.

iQ3

The cartridge, their IQ3 is the top of a three model MM (moving magnet) range. It features their very own stylus profile mounted to a unique tapered titanium cantilever as found on their £3k and £6k moving coils. This in turn is mounted onto the top of their three arm range; Audio Note UK Arm 3. A highly rigid, in-house build tonearm featuring pure silver wiring throughout. Arms 1 and 2 differ by use of two grades of copper wiring to reduce costs but the mechanicals remain identical.

 The Amplifier.

 Audio Note UK Oto Phono SE Signature

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Representing something of a sweet spot in the middle of the Oto range of amplifiers, the SE (single ended) Signature features an all vacuum tube phonostage, a perfect match to the IQ3, and an 10wpc output stage comprising of 4 matched EL84 pentode tubes in pure class A single ended configuration with in-house custom designed and built iHib output transformers. Four inputs plus tape monitor, balance and volume controls complete the classic uncluttered aesthetic.

 The Loudspeakers

 Audio Note UK AN-E Spe HE Hemp

The AN-E is the top and largest of a three model series constructed not from MDF but Russian birch ply. These speakers feature a minimum of damping and bracing to allow the the cabinets to enhance the drivers performance to the maximum ensuring the highest level of musical performance possible rather than the usual totally inert designs of their competitors.

 Another sweet spot in a vast range of AN-E options, the Spe HE Hemp feature all silver internal wiring and voice coils. Paper bass/mid cones are replaced with stiffer and lighter HE (high efficiency; 98dB ) Hemp bass/mid drivers and horn loaded silk dome tweeters. The key to the design is high efficiency, full range bandwidth (18Hz -23kHz) and high dynamic range making them perfect partners to low powered, high quality tube amps such as the Oto.

The speakers sit atop a 10” mass filled custom designed stands and are available in 20+ high quality exotic veneers at no extra cost unless one specifies high gloss lacquer. They are designed to be placed close to a wall, indeed preferably in the corners whereby they pressurize the room for maximum efficiency and an optimal tonal balance.

 The Cables

 Audio Note UK ISIS LX Reference

Isis LX Reference  interconnects  and  speaker cables

Isis LX Reference interconnects and speaker cables

Finally, the system is wired with a complete loom of Audio Note UK’s own custom designed cables. Isis Reference represents their flagship in copper and only topped by their ranges of all silver cables at considerable cost too.

All cables are copper litz in configuration and hand built to order.

 The Sound

Rather than attempt to dissect this into describing the sound of the individual components I shall allude to the system as a whole, indeed, as good as any Audio Note UK components are, it’s when they are assessed as a collective then their true magic shines.

 The first thing that strikes you is the sheer sense of scale, that an event is taking place before you.

Instruments, singers, indeed the whole ensemble is present in the room, or rather, when the recording allows, you are present in the recording space; often almost life size.

The second, is the dynamics. No one expects the sudden change in volume this system can muster, from the tiny sound of a triangle to full blown orchestra in an instant, (Scheherazade, Living Stereo, Analogue Productions AAPC 2446). With such high efficiency speakers this comes easily and without any trace of distortion or strain promoting the desire to increase not decrease the volume; low volume listening is equally rewarding though. 

What grabs next is timbre accuracy. Instruments sound like they are supposed to, not Hi-Fi caricatures; each and every one in its own space with its own correct scale.

PRaT (pace rhythm and timing) come so naturally that you don’t even think about it leaving your grey matter to concentrate on the composition or the musicians’ virtuosity whilst the dense harmonics course through each piece with ease; it all adds up to a natural, unforced sense of completeness and above all in a totally coherent fashion; in a word, effortless.

Think not that a valve based system necessarily sound overly warm and soft, many do but not Audio Note UK; this system astounds in it’s ability to rock when required; John Bonham’s drums pound, Jimmy’s guitar soars as if his amp is in the room (‘Heartbreaker’ LED Zeppelin II, Atlantic 588198) or play some dub-step such as Noisia’s ‘Split The Atom’ (Maustrap MAU5CD010P) and the sheer force almost bowls you over; the bass shakes both you and the room.

 Music should surprise and be unpredictable, be immediate and involving otherwise the killer of all killers, boredom sets in. At any volume this Audio Note UK system delivers in spades and at the cost offers supreme value for money and promotes long term satisfaction.

Our most recent Audio Note UK customer commented when first hearing the above system “my God, I’ve wasted the last 20 years faffing about with HiFi”. Says it all really. Needless to say, he bought it.

Audio Note UK components are categorised by levels 1-5, 1 being entry and 5 being state of the art, albeit that there are many products of different performance and cost within each level. They recommend not mixing between levels beyond one above or one below so as to maintain system performance. The above system falls within level 2 with the exception of the speakers, which are level 3 in this instance.

So why not pop in anytime, no need to book a demo, and have a listen. Bring an LP or CD you like and maybe make a new discovery?

 We’re thrilled to be in partnership with Audio Note UK and hope you’ll enjoy it too.

 The cost

 TT based system £24,400

CD based system £23,400

TT&CD based system £30,300

Each includes 3.5 Isis single run bi-wire speaker cables and Isis cabled mains block.

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We're At The Front Of The Q To Hear Quad II Forty Mono Block Valve Amplifiers

Over the last couple of weeks we've had the Quad QII-Forty mono block power amps up here in Manchester for our listening pleasure. Designed by Tim de Paravicini from EAR/Yoshino, they have a look which lets you know instantly that they have more than 50 years of heritage behind them, combined with a sound which is as modern as you like.
 

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Ok, so a quick potted history of Quad taken from their website. 

The history of Quad is one of technical achievement in the field of sound reproduction. It is a story that began with the Quad 1 amplifier, which brought the benefits of 15 years knowledge and experience in professional audio and industrial products to the task of making the most accurate domestic audio amplifier of its age.

A few years later, in 1953, the product which set the standard for amplifiers was the Quad II Power Amplifier, the time of Queen Elizabeth's Coronation and the year in which Mount Everest was finally conquered. This amplifier pioneered the principle of cathode coupling through the output transformer to reduce harmonic distortion to almost negligible levels. Such was its clear superiority that this model remained in production for 18 years. Three years later, in 1956, Quad demonstrated the first true full-range electrostatic loudspeaker. This remarkable product (known later as the ESL 57) used a virtually mass-less plastic film as a moving diaphragm between two charged plates. Compared with moving coil loudspeakers, the ESL 57 was free of unwanted colourations and distortions. This landmark product remained in production, virtually unchanged, for 28 years.

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The Quad II Series circuit design is the work of Tim de Paravicini, a man widely acknowledged to be the UK's foremost valve amp designer. His design is faithful to Peter Walker's philosophy of cathode loading onto the same output stage and fundamental simplicity of design, ensuring the amps deliver the same wealth of detail and exquisite tone as its famous predecessor.

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Ok so now the history lesson is out of the way, the first thing we noticed when we switched them on was the obvious bandwidth that the amplifiers have. We have them paired with the Dynaudio Contour 30s and the Quad's managed to unleash a bass extension I wasn't aware they were capable of and at the same time, there was an openness to the mid range and higher frequencies which made me appreciate how directly the speakers are connected to the source.

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The second thing you notice is just how much power and drive these things have. "Not usually something that I associate with valve amps, having used transistors nearly all my life, I fall into the trap of believing all valve amps are under powered and warm sounding." The whole Q range from Quad disproves that particular trope with a resounding musicality. 

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The speaker binding posts offer  4 and 8 Ohm taps for impedance matching. 

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With the whole QII series being developed as an homage to Peter Walker's original QII design, the valve choices have been no different. The QII Classic, which is a faithful reproduction, uses a pair of KT66 valves, this has been kept the same for the QII Classic integrated. With the need for more power as they go up the range, the QII-fortys that we have had the pleasure of listening to, uses a pair of KT88 for the power and the top of the range "Eighty" doubles that to use 4 KT88s in a dual push pull configuration. 

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The Quad II Forty mono amplifiers will be at the Manchester store for the next few weeks. Ours are running at the front of the store with a pair of Dynaudio Contour 30's,  and when we feel like it the Contour 60's get a work out too. (see pics below)

Lets hope Quad will forget about them and we can keep them for a few weeks more.

See you at the the store.

Ciao for now.

Mike, Munir, Haden, Dave and Simon - Audio T Manchester

QUAD Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOxfordPrestonSouthampton
Swindon