Comments on the Audion Black Shadow 845?

I've read the few favorable comments on Audiogon regarding this amp that were posted about five years ago. Since Audion is making the Black Shadow 845 again, how does it measure up to the older version or the Elite 3 Box 845?

I have never owned an 845 amp and have preferred the 300b SET, but I currently need a little more wattage than 8 (though I still own a Berning too) and the Audion 300b and 845s amps have always intrigued me but unfortunately I’ve not heard any of the Audions amps.

I am very familiar with the sound of the Carissa (heats up like my old Joule), although I'm more interested in an 845 that puts out at least 25 watts, and I have listened to the deHavilland Aries several times. I would also be interested in anyone's comments on how the Black Shadow or Elite 3 compares to the Aries or whatever other 845 you’ve heard or owned.

I have spoken to other audiophiles who have had experience with the elite 3 box and the old black shadow. Their findings were that they could not distinguish a benefit between the two. I am of the approach that everything should be tested for oneself but this comment is a place to start.

I would venture to say both are about in the same league. The shadow takes up less shelf space, which is one thing to take into account.

The shadow was a successful design. It has a cool name too. If Graeme at Audion is reintroducing it i imagine he will introduce it to be at least the equal , if not better than the old version.

I think the way to think about these amps is partly by the tube utilized as well as the fact that they run single ended. Think, integrity of signal multiplied by the gutsyness and the linearity of the 845 tube and you have a foundation for beginning to understand what these amps will sound like.

I own the elite 3 box with a output transformer wound in silver.

In the context of the rest of my set up, I hear this amp as extremely tonally rich, strong, fast, robust, utterly transparent, timbrally superb and clear.

To my ears this amp is all about transparency and purity of tone.

All these qualities wont be heard if you have other components that lack similar qualities. For example if you have a dark speaker it cant make it sound clear and uncolored even though the amp itself is that! The more neutral and clear the rest of the system the better the system will sound with this amp.

Generally speaking their 845 amp will be a more linear presentation and probably suited better for rock and the audion golden dream 300b for jazzlike music. Though both will play all genres well.

I'd really like to own their fully loaded 300B for awhile, it is the pinnacle of Audions amplifiers as i have heard it plays all musical genres WONDERFULLY.

These single ended amps dont suffer from the typical problems of the wimpy bass of regular single ended tube topologies.

The elite is not a dark amp. It is a clear amp.

If you prefer a 300B set then their golden dream is a very good candidate for being your last 300b amp.

As i write this i am trying to be very objective and not spit out a whole bunch wild statements, so i'm sure my thoughts on these amps sounds a bit flat but really i am excited about these amps and think they are quite amazing and impressive but i am trying to be responsible about my comments.

For example, I dont think it an overstatement to say that these two amps are solid nominations for being some of the best if not the best 845 and 300B amps out there.

I own the Audion elites and i have to ask myself the hard question. How much more can i expect from an amp? Where can i go from here? and will i really gain much more if anything?

There is however no substitute for audition and ownership and for a well put together system.

If you like tubes, if you like good bass, if you like plenty of tone and transparency I can see you really liking Audion elite and the golden dream.

How will the 845 tube and 300B tube differ in sound?

For the most part, the 845 will have a subjective 'sense' of sounding more robust and provide a more objective linear presentation. I highly recommend the humble 845b tube. It has the kind of warmth that you will appreciate and like with plenty of soundstaging and air. This will not be a cold, flatfield, clinical presentation in the elites, rather its polar opposite.

The 300B Golden dream, partly because of the 300B tube, by contrast will have a little more bloom, a little more liquidity, a little more lushness and beauty but not to the point of it being a fault. I have spoken to golden dream owners about this and am just passing on what i belive to know about this amp. I have heard 300b tube amps too. So, the golden dream because of the above and compared to the 845 tube will be in my estimation a very seductive and sensual attractive offering with amazing bass and resolution too.

Without actually owning the golden dream and auditioning it in my home for a couple months I cant say definitively one way or the other if i would prefer it over the elites.

The fine differences have to be experienced and compared to do that. I might very well prefer its 'persuasions' over the elites. My inkling is that i would probably prefer the golden dream as 'the best' of the two. Its sound must be very beguiling.

I would love to kiss both scarlett johanssen OR Megan fox. Either would be just fine with me.

My elite 3 box often gives me the feeling that i am listening to 'nothing!' That is, they are very good at getting out of the way and fooling you very well that there is no sonic signature to them. You have to struggle hard to try and find something fake about their reproduction. I say this with the qualification that i am listening to them with virtuosos and the jan allaerts mc 1bmk2, the breuer tonearm and the audion quattro with all amperex white label pq shields. These and other things in the system which are champions at, neutrality, musicality and clarity are all contributing to my perception of the amp so, you have to match this amp with items of good calibre to understand this.

Some blanket statements: The manley stingray was quieter but darker and slightly opaque RELATIVE to this amp. The classe cap 80 was cold, hashy and mechanical RELATIVE to this amp. The marantz 2270 was highly colored and syrupy RELATIVE to this amp.

The quattro and elite have to be heard with good tubes to really see what they are capable of. I think its important to remember that before passing final judgment on them. I have heard the quattro with plain jane tubes and with great tubes. It sounded unoriginal with plain jane tubes and then stellar with great tubes.
Interesting and informative reply. Can I ask which 845 tubes you favor for the Audion Elite?
Its a toss up between the KR845 and the thrifty Chinese 845B tube.

Briefly, the KR845 to my ears is..."bloomy/lushlike like a 300b but still has the "linearity" of a 845? Giving great "flow/expressiveness/articulation" to the music which has to be heard to be understood, these qualities distinguishes it from the chinese 845B. Which presents details with a bit less thrill?.The Kr845 in my system is very "4th row experience". Depending on what side a system falls may come across as a bit "cool"? relative to the cozily warm colorful 845B. The KR845 has a wider dynamic range and more expressive upfront dynamics. This was my experience in my system. Both tubes are great and i would give either 4.5 stars out of five for a success of design and musical execution. If the KR845 was fused with the warmth of a 845b it would be stupendous!!!. Both have their virtues and their weaknesses, nevertheless both great tubes.
Update: If you've read the above already i'd like to add comments to the the kr845/chinese 845B comparison. One of the many challenges in "hi end" audio is to try and get all the best attributes to happen, all at once and without any negative effects. This is a daunting task. After longer listening, i feel the kr845 is overall the winner in this regard. It displays a more seasoned and mature sound than the 845B, though the 845B is still a great little tube.
I own the Audion Black Shadow 845 SET monoblocks, and the Audion Golden Dream 300B PSET monoblocks. I have each pair in a different system, but switch each between systems frequently. I've also heard the 3-box Elite in my system and a recent pair of Black Shadows, though I am told the pair made a few months ago are not full Mark II, which are just now entering the market. So I can't yet comment on the very latest version, the just-completed Mark II update.

My own Black Shadows are seven years old, and my Golden Dreams about ten years old. The Black Shadow have silver audio path wiring, but as far as I know, copper-wound transformers. The Golden Dream have silver wirepaths, and silver-wound transformer secondaries. These are "Level 6" Golden Dream. Two improvements have been made to both. A couple of years ago, seeking better bass discipline, I asked Bob Hovland to examine the amps' circuits, listen to them, and recommend component upgrades. He chose to leave the signal path alone but to change out the power supply electrolytics to Nichicon, specifically tall, slender Nichicons. In the Black Shadows, he found he could considerably beat the factory hum noise spec via custom shielding of the toroidal power transformer, so I had that done as well.

The recaps made the Black Shadow pair "more like themselves" without dramatic changes to overall signature. They just became better at what they were already good at: bursty, objective, expressive, toneful sound with deep, muscular bass, blissful midrange realism, spatial honesty, smooth and extended top end; convincing tonal and dynamic realism on my Zu Definition speakers. The recaps instigated a much bigger improvement to the Golden Dream pair. The GD is an ultra-resolving amplifier that's also loaded with expressive tone. But the stock GD, like most 300B amps, brings with it some bass bloat, which varies by what tubes you use, but it's there. That euphonic fatness in the bass certainly fills a room but it's sloppier than it ought to be. Above 70Hz or so, fine. Below that -- and on something like a Definition, this is obvious -- bass loses objectivity.

Well, not so much if you get Hovland's Nichicon recap. Suddenly mesh plate 300Bs that were unusable on Definitions became disciplined. KR Audio 300Bs that were "hard" sounding and lean, became energetic and toneful.

The Black Shadow and Golden Dream are both rated 24w. Both use triodes in single-ended topology. Nevertheless, their sweet spots are a bit different. The 845 tube gives the Black Shadow more drive, energy and momentum than the 300B paralleled. The Black Shadow can tonally tune the system by your choice of 845 tube, but the essential assertiveness and explosive drive of the big-glass triode remains intact regardless. The Golden Dream has the edge in revealing delicate detail and in dimensional realism. GD tone is rich and holistic, fully formed aural "shapes" to distinguish even small differences in same instruments or voices from themselves. The PSET 300B config isn't weak by any means but the same watts are smooth and revealing, with less shove in exchange for more focus.

Both amps have all the speed and transparency Audion's tube amps are known for.

I've listened to SET amps much more expensive than Audion's two top models. For me, with 101db/w/m speakers that are also resolving and energetic, Audion's SET and PSET 845 and 300B respectively, are for all practical purposes, as good as hifi gets so far, and bring enough power to show it. For the past seven years I haven't heard amps by any other company I'd rather listen to and own.

Can someone comment how the Black Shadow's sound compares to the 845 models of Melody?