|Before I get to the review of the Flora EX DT Linestage I would like to share some background information regarding my year long odyssey doing home auditions of some very highly regarded tube based linestages. The reason for this to give a context of what I was looking for when listening to these different pieces. |
I had lived with to great passive preamps, that had replaced a ML-32 reference, the Placette Active(buffered,no gain) and Bent Audio's great transformer based Tap linestage for the last three and a half years. My personal taste for certain audio "flavors" would be reflected in the choice of a TVC passive linestage:
1) An absent noise floor were music just floats out of a black background into my listening space.
2) Natural timbres, I listen almost completely to acoustic jazz, so I want trumpets to sound brassy and a bass fiddle to sound different then an electrical bass.
3) I find clarity/transparency very important and believe it is an important aspect for allowing leading edges of notes and microdetails to be present in the music.
4) Full extension of the top and bottom, and that the lower bass be quick and not "plumy" or rich and fat.
5) Layering in the sound stage with "air" around the players without bloating the players into oversized cutouts.
I thought it was important to share what I'm looking for sonicly in a linestage, along with system synergy, because the three linestages I auditioned have recieved stellar reviews and other GON members I'm friends with have them in their systems and love them. So, are we clear, no "shoot out" or the best with a capitol B, just a perspective of how the Flora sonicly fits in with this group of linestages.
So, I was very curious if I could keep the sonic virtues of my beloved TVC based TAP and get some of the "magic" that tubes can offer at the same time. Here's a brief rundown of my experience with these different pieces.
1) Shindo Labs Monbrison-Found this linestage quite average in its performance. Did nothing very good or very bad in my system. It was OK but not better in any way then the TAP, yet it was more then $4000.00 above the price of the TAP!
2)Joule Electra 150 MK2- This linestage was just given a golden ear award by Harry Pearson. In my system it offered what I would call a overly "lush" sonic perspective that put my system to sleep. It also had a very apparent lower midrange or upper bass "hump" that I found annoying as time went by.
3) Modright 36.9- This linestage almost won my sonic heart because it offers many of the sonic attributes I was looking for, however it fell short in two areas compared to the TAP TVC. It was not quite as transparent as I was used to, but quite close. It was wonderful at not being "fat" or over the top with warmth, but was great with the body and decay trails of notes, but fell a little short with clarity on the leading edges. Almost a keeper!
Well, I decided that active tube linestages just were not my cup of sonic tea, and then I read on some website about this very different linestage that was active but used autotransformers like a TVC, but used one active tube based gain stage, before finally going back into a transformer-coupled output stage. Maybe, the best of all possible worlds?
The ASL's Flora EX DT linestage is a massive large black box, it's weight is 35 lbs.,and is very well built. It's surely not "eye candy" but its not exactly an "ugly duckling" either. You can reverse phase or mute either from the remote control or on the front of the Flora.
As far as what makes this linestage unique from a design veiwpoint is the following. The absence of any type of potentiometer volume control. Instead it uses a autoformer/switch-based input stage, into a single triode gain stage, and finally to a transformer-coupled output.
The importer highly recommends, a ASL installed mod of Mondorf capacitors to replace the standard large coupling caps. I ordered mine with this upgrade, cost $250.00, along with replacing the two tubes sourced from China with two NOS Sylvania 6SN7WGTA 1958 Chrome Domes.
Well, not only did the flora give all the sonic virtues of my Tap TVC that I mentioned at the begining of the review , but it added the following:
1) The most remarkable sound stage with the greatest depth I have ever had in my system, but with 3-D sense of a "air" around each player and layering that was precise and natural.
2)The best timbres/tonal accuracy of any preamp I have ever listened to.
3) My whole system became more "alive" and dynamic yet at at the same has more liquidity then ever before.
4) On macrodynamics the sense of scale/attack is very lifelike and yet the body of notes is still full with wonderful decay trails.
Wayne Donnelly reviewed the Flora on www. Enjoy the music. com and just gave it a Best of 2007 Award. Here's his explanation of why this $3000.00 linestage competes with mega dollar pieces out their today.
"Its sound presentation is tonally accurate, harmonically complete, and outstanding in creating a broad deep spatial rendering of the recording, with startling degree of palpability and precise location of voices and instruments within the sound scape.... the best-sounding preamp this writer has heard. In fact much of the Flora's real competition comes from top models in the five-figure price range."
The flora is my new reference linestage. I would recommend that anybody looking for an active tube based linestage consider it for audition, I consider it a bargain even with the CAP upgrade at its $3000.00 price. Remember I did not say it is the BEST linestage, but a terrific one that is on the same level as world class reference pieces at a very reasonable price.
Click to view my Virtual System
by Teajay on 08-31-07