Yikes did I screwup the heading.
Having spent enough time with this integrated I thought I would share my feelings of ownership. There aren’t many reviews out there and I thought maybe it’s time I put one out there FWIW. This review also encompasses the Spatial Audio X3’s, and the May DAC, which are relatively new comers to a fairly new audio space, a dedicated audio room poorly built by a contractor. Such is life.
This is a tube integrated amplifier of considerable power. 60wpc in triode mode and 120wpc in pentode mode. It plays powerful in either mode.
It’s a fairly basic integrated other than its most amazing feature, on the fly switching between triode and pentode and its constant impedance volume control.
I haven’t owned very many tube amplifiers in the 56 years I’ve been at this. 2 come to mind, a Joule Electra VZN100 and a Decware Torii mkIII so keep that in mind when I attempt to describe the sound. But I have listened to countless tube amps between friends and audio shows.
The Allnic shows off its massive tubes as well as its huge transformer. It weighs over 80lbs! This amplifier is eye candy. Mine is silver. Black is the other option and is equally in my mind beautiful. The dealer had a brand new silver unit in stock so it sits on my shelf - majestically.
I’ve owned a lot of equipment in the course of my lifetime, even an Allnic preamp many years ago. My wife shares my passion for audio (don’t be jealous) but she gets, ah, anxious when my gear collection starts collecting dust. You know, “the last piece of gear I swear”. So the Allnic is supposed to be my last piece of gear (well amp & preamp anyway). So before I talk about the Allnic, let me share what I’ve been using before this purchase, sort of as a reference point.
I sold my Usher Tower XL’s to purchase the Spatial Audio X3’s. I loved those Ushers. Build quality and finish is amazing and the DMD tweeters were detailed yet sweet and projected a generous sweetspot. As with all my box speakers, placement and room were critical (when is it not)? I have a BMC-S1 amplifier and a Kinki Studio M1+ using the Staccato discrete OpAmps. The Kinki sounds ridiculously good for a $3K integrated. The room sounded good even though it has little room treatment. On order since the summer are some GIK room treatment panels but who knows when I’ll ever see them.
The Allnic has around 500 hours on it. The transformer is massive and needs considerable time breaking in. This is probably the minimum. The speakers have around 600 hours and should be good, they certainly sound that way. During this period we performed tuning to the system in the manner of cables and position. Also note that along with the Allnic T2000 I purchased the Allnic H5500 phono preamp. It takes a signal from my Rega P10. Most of this review uses the Holo May KTE DAC using HQP DSD256 through a etherregen-ultrarendu-Sigao Model B Fanless PC, 10th Gen 10-Core i9 10900T- Roon front end.
I use 3 dedicated circuits, high end outlets and a sprinkling of fairy dust. I’ve been rotating power cables endlessly as my wife and I looked to extract the last note of performance. It is a painful process, believe me. There are endless combinations of cables in concert with other cables and throw in the BPT 2KW transformer, the handshaking between all the network switches, DSD vs ladder vs PCM, you get the idea. We probably explored ~200 combinations.
The sound. I’ll start off by saying that if you walked into the room blindfolded and I had you guess tube or solid state, you might have a hard time guessing. Early on, to me, I might have guessed pure class A high end integrated. It is a smooth sweet operator but it seems to possess Porsche speed. Its delivery can be sudden and explosive with leading edge transients that defy a tube presence. Notes trail deep into the noise floor which is the quietest I’ve heard. And depending on which combination of cables and settings the amount of retrieval was astonishing. What the Allnic told me was that the May DAC can blossom into full potential. In fact, one combination we explored was getting the May to play on its own, that is, removing the rendu, and HQP, using the Holo May driver and setting the dac to native res (ladder). I removed the Triode Labs obsession from the BPT and replaced it with an Allnic L5000 PC (the Allnic T2000 in this scenario was plugged into the BPT. Folks, I gotta tell ya, it was so incredibly dynamic, separated, nuanced and detailed, it caught me off guard. I had to think, is this what the recording was actually supposed to sound like? My wife too was amazed. I wondered too if I didn’t introduce noise that is passing itself off as detail. Then I thought, well wait, I have all this digital gear, LPS supplies as well (although a dell power brick on the PC), do I really need all that digital gear? As we listened I think we started to determine that it might be a little too much so my wife asked me to return to add the “digital” back into the system and run HQP DSD. It was as if everything got smoothed over, less dynamic, a little loss in detail, but it certainly a more traditional analog sound. And now let me explain further the Allnic’s virtues. As I mentioned early on, the Allnic has a front panel button, press in for triode. Press again for pentode. I’d been playing largely in triode mode. A press of the button returned greater dynamics, perhaps more excitement, more detail but at the cost of a little sweetness in the upper registers.
Settling in on a sound. At some point one wishes to simply listen to the music. I’m sure we’re not done as the all important (or not) USB cable I used in the aforementioned less digital mode was a generic type. In full on digital mode I can use an old Cardas USB or an Acoustic BBQ USB. So we settled with all the digital components in place. A LessLoss C-Marc entropic cable feeds the T2000 and a Triode labs Obsession feeds the BPT. The Allnic cables are in evaluation and are the real deal but I don’t own them - yet.
With the Spatials facing forward, slightly tilted to where the lower portion of theAMT driver is close to ear level, we got a soundstage that is displayed beyond the outside of the speakers. There’s a solid believable central image that in general portrays vocals along the plane of the speakers. Instruments are layered but not in the absolute sense, that is, although localized and outside of the plane I wouldn’t say I could place them in absolute terms in a room. I think in this sense, one needs to really work with room treatments, speaker and couch locations and fairy dust. I’ve heard this trick in a few systems and in one system, the Gradient Evolutions, I was so convinced of the soundstage, I got up off my listening chairs and swore I could walk around the performers. Very underrated speakers IMO. I do not know of the potential of the Allnic married to the Spatials in this regard. I don’t feel like I’m missing something but I have heard a pretty good placement of vocal and instruments in a room. Not there yet.
Accessing the emotional content.
I have a desert island playlist. On it are some songs performed by Neil Young. I went back in time when he was with Buffalo Springfield, a song called Expecting to Fly. I know from what I read he worked hard on the production of this song and it never disappoints throughout the many systems I’ve owned. Through the Allnic the tune remained true, the violins in the background were clear, haunting and Neil’s voice remains true. I got the raised hair effect here which led me to his Tonights the Night album “Tired Eyes”. This is a sowerful tune recorded late at night in his barn following the death of one of his rhodies. The band was drunk and stoned yet somehow was able to create a seminal album, a must have in any collection. Piano, harmonica and Neil’s gravelly voice is on display, the harmonica biting, the texture of his vocal are displayed vividly but without any additional features that might ruin the moment in time.
OK so what about Jeff Beck’s Blow by Blow “Diamond dust”? This instrumental has in the past invoked emotions but only when I’m in a contemplative mode. Played it anyway. In this system it showed that there’s so much going on instrumentally, between the Hammond and the drum kit and of course Jeff’s guitar. Instruments remained defined but not etched. There is body and weight but not in a tube sense that I remember.
A favorite song of ours is Robert Plant’s album Band of Joy “Silver Rider”.
This is a bass heavy, bass guitar laden duet that shakes the room in a dreamy, intimate melody. First rate here as the Allnic doesn’t shy away from power and finesse of the lower registers although understand too that the Spatial X3’s use an amplifier on the big woofers.
Now it got really interesting. What about music that I loved in the eighties and 90’s that would not play well on the big rig but did in my competition car stereos. There’s a song called Take a Picture played by a group called Filter. I could never turn the song up as it just sounded like a lot of noise. Not anymore. Distortion was absent. Ear fatigue didn’t exist. What I noted after I sang and played air guitar was how my largely untreated room dealt with high volumes. It shouldn’t have. Also, how there seemed to be no end to how much volume was available. Another thing of beauty is that when a song was over, I would wish for a different playlist but failed as every subsequent song had its own beauty, its own presence and wanted to be played. Tears for Fears “The Working”. Total goosebump territory. I wanted to play it on a loop! Damn those guys are/were talented,and the recording is jaw dropping. Which brought me to another point. Old and new I don’t seem to have any more bad recordings and all too often a recording that was just so average has become riveting. For instance “Lady Jane” by the Rolling Stones. It’s a nice song. Well composed. Simple. But with the Allnic in charge, the May feeding its bits and the X3’s doing their thing, the song has taken on a new dimension.The guitar is so present you could not just feel the instrument but the talent behind it. The clarity is so unreal, I subconsciously look for a mistake that never happens. The detail is astonishing yet when the vocals kick in, it’s just so smooth. It forced me to ponder whether I’ve heard this before and I had to. The endless amount of audio shows I attended tells me I did. Even listening to Robin Trower’s Little Love, a bell is being struck and now the actual strike is differentiated. That is, now every strike is not identical. This is the level of nuance on a recording in the 70’s that I’ve listened to since it was released, whether stoned or fully lucid on countless systems. Two important notes. The song remains the same. It’s a brand new song. It doesn’t force one to analyze but you might shake your head in amazement.
I focused a lot on older classical music. Fact is we play almost anything. Almost. There is one song that sounds bad. Radiohead Daydreaming. For some reason it sets up a buzzing sound to my ear that I can’t play this song. I tried it on vinyl, Rega P10, Allnic 5500 phono pre to T2000 and no problem. Weird but not too weird.
I had to give my ears and brain a rest for a few days. Covid too had an impact as I simply felt lazy and had a headache. I could go on naming songs and I could go on making subtle changes in my system. I just ordered a Puritan PSM156 and I still desire a high caliber USB cable. Room treatments have been on order for 6 months! I believe the open baffle speakers are not so needy for room treatments but they certainly won’t hurt.
The constant impedance volume control. Oftentimes, I’ll turn the stereo on and immediately become focused on the music. What I’ll discover is that the volume control is low on the dial. Initially I was surprised by this. I know that is one of the strengths of the Allnic 30th. I will tell you that it is the real deal. I have not listened to any other Allnic amp or integrated, but I have heard a similar feature on my very first high end component. My Yamaha CR820 has a loudness control. Bass and Treble too. I bought it in 78. I still own it. It’s still perfect. Kudo’s for Allnic. My car design would include wing windows FWIW.
You don’t want my wife in the room with your stereo. The truth will hurt. She’s not shy to invest in audio gear but it better deliver. Her favorite speakers were the LS6’s mated to our Pass Labs X350.5. And only after PS Audio’s PPP was inserted. Synergy my friends.
She’s back to spending evenings in front of the stereo. We critique and tune. We drink wine and enjoy the music. The Allnic and perhaps too, the Spatials along with the May are delivering immense musical satisfaction in our new home. I just had to share.
Thanks to John Ketcham @ Kevalin Audio. An Allnic dealer and all around great guy.