Review: Allnic L-5000 Tube preamp

Category: Preamps

Review: this review was first posted at:
ultrahighendforum dot com.

Caveat Emptor:

I bought this component from Hammertone Audio. I am a consumer. I write about things I like, so, cut to the chase and avoid audiophile cant and rant, I really like this product. I limit the mention of the other high end brand products, to avoid flame wars with the trolling manufacturers representatives. I mention the Manley Neo 300b preamp, because it has been in my system and is one of the few preamps offering a DHT tube in the line amplification chain. The Manley is a wonderful preamp, but MSRP is less than half the Allnic L 5000. My system can be viewed by clicking by my moniker.

Caveat Emptor about me:

I am a subjective audiophile. You can accept or reject this review base on my own personal opinions:

Absolute Sound:
I do not believe in this, it is an impossibility tagged to a whim to justify an attitude. There is no way to estimate what the original performance is based on a recording for the home environment.
Home audio is and always will be an IMPRESSIONISTIC rendering of something I can never directly experience.

Signal Purity: Some audiophiles talk about signal purity like it is Venus on the Clamshell, arriving pure and perfect on the waves, transmitted by faultless studio gods. The so called objectivists seem to adopt this posture a lot, which strikes me is highly irrational for individuals who are trying to present themselves as rational thinkers.

I believe that the signal is a highly processed, lyophilized product, often flawed, that only bears a peripheral relationship to the original event, and is often engineered that way for commercial, not audio, purposes. The signal is like powdered milk or powdered mash potatoes. The purpose of the amplification chain it to give the signal heat, light, moisture and emotional vitality, all of which of might be considered "artificial" from the original event, the same way the light source and lens of a projector are "artificial" from the original image. This makes components and their contributions very important. The signal needs a lot of help to project, live and breath again. I don't believe that this detracts from the audio experience in any way or dishonors the original.

What I want: I want a stereo system to transport me on a journey of imagination and emotion and do it quickly. I don't want to spend a lot of time "examining" the sound, I want to be immersed in the world presented, and I don't want to be gratuitously knocked off the magic carpet.

Description of the layout of the Allnic L 5000:

You can view the picture above for general appearance. The aluminum chimneys at the sides cover the DHT tubes when the preamp is in use. Two DHT (directly heated triode)tubes are for voltage amplification and I can only surmise the other two DHT triodes are used as part of the power and/or filament supply. However, I am not privy to the absolute details of circuit construction so this may be in error.
There are five stereo inputs, with two of them being balanced. There is a polarity switch on the main chassis, and a switch on the back for grounding or un-grounding the unit. There are three outputs: one balanced recording output, one balanced volume controlled output, and an unbalanced volume controlled output. A remote control will allow switching of sources and volume control, as well as a mute function. The yellow light meters on the front will indicate the condition of the power supply circuit and the output tubes, depending on which way they point. When in the middle of the strike marks, the preamplifier is good to go. The tube sockets of the amplification tubes are of the gel impregnated types that Allnic has become famous for, for controlling vibrations at the tube bases.
I cannot comment on the circuit except to say that the power supply is tube regulated. The voltage amplifiers are 3a/109a British WE telephony DHT repeater triode types, transformer coupled to the outputs. The additional DHT tubes made by Dutch Philips, also telephony triodes, may be used as part of the power supply, but I really don't know. There is no negative feedback used.
The overall gain of the Allnic L 5000 with the DHT transformer coupled is about +12-14db (from Hammertone e-mail).

Sound of DHT (directly heated triode):

The claim to fame of the Allnic L 5000 is in its DHT (directly heated triode) tubed configuration. This is opposed to most of the modern small triodes and pentodes, which have IDHT( indirectly heated ) configuration, where the cathode is INDIRECTLY heated. Mostly, DHT's are considered to be the "old fashioned" tubes of the 1930's and 40's, although through audiophile demand some of the modern manufacturers are making many of the amplifier types like the 300b. Below are synoptic GENERALIZATIONS and do not represent an authoritative or exhaustive review of the topic and certainly do not represent any expertise on circuits or electronics.

What does a DHT sound like? DHTs do sound different from one another and are very tube dependent. DHTs were the first and simplest of all the amplifier tubes, using a directly heated cathode, a grid and an anode. The classic types tend to have low mu, or amplification factor. The impedance of the particular tube tends to affect the sense of the frequency balance and competency for audio. Too high impedance, the highs might be great but the mids and lows anemic. Too low impedance, and the bass and lower midrange might be glorious, but the highs deprived. DHTs tend to consist of filaments suspended on glass and wire in large glass globes. They suffer the liabilities of enhanced microphony, RF interference and filament noise in exchange for their incomparable sonic virtues. The liabilities of low mu, microphony and filament noise also make them nearly useless for very low level signal amplification, such as phono stages.

When used as output tubes in amplifiers, the power ratings of DHTs tend to be low except with some of the transmitting tubes. The output may sound charming, but thready at times, with different tubes emphasizing competency in different frequency ranges i.e. 300b for midrange, 45 for midrange and upper midrange etc. High efficiency speakers may be mandatory when using DHT amplification, imposing limitations on what can be used in the stereo system.

However, when used in line amplification, as in the Allnic L 5000 preamplifier, DHTs sound balanced, linear,open and direct, with the virtues of the DHT tube but not many of the drawbacks as when used for speaker amplification.

Also, the triode cognescenti believe that the old fashioned Western Electric telephony repeating triodes to be the top of the amplification heap in sound quality.

Absurd Subjective Impressions:

My own subjective description of the sound quality of DHTs when used in line amplification would be that DHTs sound like a direct report from the infinite and boundless ether, as if the air is being wrinkled for my sole benefit but with a huge energy of space and light around it.

DHTs, unlike small dual or mono idht triodes in particular, can give the impression of expanding the dynamics of music and tone rather than contracting them. The imaging opens up with DHT and the sound scape can become quite vast. Also, when well executed, as in the Allnic L 5000, the sound attains a non pareil sculpted and textured quality. It is as if you can feel the tiniest pebbled surfaces of the music and see around edges.

The relative dynamics of the signal stand out with bold relief with the Allnic L 5000. However, this dynamic unfolding is not the posterized dynamics often characteristic of transistors. The DHT breathes without emphasized leading edges and without leaving a tonal shell where the substance of the music should be. The small idht dual triodes may be able to capture pieces of this effect in particular instances, but never in my experience with the sense of completeness or whole-ism of the DHT effect.

The tone color of the Allnic L 5000 is rich and subtle. The detail and expressiveness of the upper midrange and high frequencies have no comparison with any small triode I have heard.

The Allnic L 5000 also conveys a complete ease of presentation that is one of the rarest qualities in audio. It is like viewing a coordinated and powerful athlete executing the most difficult tasks and making it look easy and natural.
If the most subtle musical inflection requires emotion, then the Allnic L 5000 captures and conveys it. You are getting the flesh and blood, not just the corpse after the vampires have drained it.

Also, the Allnic L 5000 pushes these great qualities through the amplification chain and out the speakers, even if the subsequent or previous stages are not entirely DHT. I tried the Allnic L 5000 using the solid state amplifiers in my home theater receiver, and the qualities managed to convey quite nicely. My Wavac amplifiers use IDHT input tubes and a triode strapped IDHT pentode input with a DHT transmitting tube output. With the DHT preamplifier and the final DHT amplifier output , the pairing takes on a one two knockout punch. The voodoo DHT ingredient holds in mixed company, which means the DHT in the line amplification stage is potent medicine that manages to convey itself well across the amplification chain no matter what the elements of the chain.

I managed to hook up the Allnic L 5000 for headphone listening, too, with a pair of Sennheiser 580 headphones. You can do this with any preamp by using a Ratshack RCA to miniplug adapter for direct hookup to the preamp outputs. I am sure this is neither fair to the preamp nor the headphones, as there could be impedance problems, but it worked quite well and the preamp had lots of headphone gain in this configuration. I am not a headphone guy or a headphone expert, but I thought I could sure save a lot of money on speakers and amplifiers listening to my sources this way.
The sound was ethereal and hypnotic in this direct listening mode. Strings and piano were most convincing, and I wound up listening to several record sides with the headphones without intending to. The headphone sound through the L 5000 has extraordinary rich, fast transients combined with delicacy of presentation. It also managed to be more of an "out of head" presentation rather than the "in the head" type headphone experience that I don't like so much.
The Manley Neo 300b has some great headphone outputs, but the Allnic L 5000 was a step up again from the Manley, even though the L 5000 has no specific design element for headphone use. At least, the L 5000 worked well with the Sennheisers in this configuration.

Detail per se is not necessarily an overriding goal of audio reproduction. However, if a particular component lets you hear more detail from familiar sources, on all fronts such as tone, size, texture etc. then you tend to think that previous components were holding out on you. The Allnic L 5000 has let me hear this greater detail when I just didn't think it was possible. If you think you have heard all the detail and texture that your sources have to offer, the L 5000 might surprise you.
When used in conjunction with the Allinc H 3000 phono stage, the effect is magnificent with vinyl playback.

My more mystical, self indulgent and possibly addled description of DHTs when used in line stages are that they are angel tubes. If you had an angel singing your music, it might describe the charm factor. My 26 DHT preamp was a medium sized angel, but its wings got tired on dynamic swings. The Manley 300b Neo is a large, powerful angel, but somewhat dark and ever so slightly glazed. The Allnic L 5000 is an even larger angel made of platinum and brightly lit.

Specific Recordings:

FOGEDDABOUDIT! The Allnic L 5000 seemed to open up just about everything to some extent, both analog and digital, and vinyl is just swell.
The sense of dynamic expansion has the effect of diminishing and dispersing vinyl surface noise.
Sometimes with vinyl, the noise kind of travels around the room, like you are sitting in a chair suspended directly above the spinning record surface wider than your speakers, a kind of eerie needle's eye dimensional effect.

Does the L 5000 commit the heinous crime of making everything sound good? No, but if there is beauty to be mined in your recording, the L 5000 will find it and project it with delicacy and panache.


The DHT used for amplification in the Allnic L 5000 is the British WE 3a/109a telephony repeating triode, with transformer coupling. The transformer coupling of course affects the DHT sound, but how and where, I am unable to differentiate, so I will just describe the overall sound as "DHT sound."

The chassis of the L 5000 does display microphony when tapping. This is the stated liability of these rare triodes. However, this microphony does not seem to have any practical implications during actual usage as far as I can tell. There is no filament noise that I can detect on my system, the tubes seem otherwise very quiet. I have mounted the L 5000 on bricks with Aurious bearing feet, and that seems to be more than enough isolation for the chassis.

I don't really need a remote control, but I did find the remote to be very easy to use, and it did come in handy in dialing in fine gradations of volume without leaving the listening chair.


This is the most Unjust of components. I don't see why I have to travel through this eye of the needle, along this narrow isthmus, and pay this kind of money, to get this kind of sound quality. This preamp is expensive and uses ancient, rare, expensive tubes. However, I can't imagine getting this sound quality any other way, at least not until Wal Mart releases a Yorx model that does the same thing. I suppose I could set up a work bench and build different DHTs and try navigating the DIY maze to build my own type. I think I would just rather pay the dough and enjoy my music.

Final pointless philosophizing:

The Allnic L 5000 is not about neutrality, straight wire with gain or putting in a sawed off electronic signal in one end and measuring the same sawed off electronic signal at the other. There really is no such thing as straight wire with gain or neutrality anyway, these are thought and theory exercises that have limited meaning when describing audible performance of material objects in audio. These concepts mean different things to different people, and tend to be roundly abused to justify poor sonics.
The Allnic L 5000 preamplifier is about the epicurean magic of the DHT tubes used, what the DHT tube does to the sound and how the L 5000 transmits that sound through the amplification chain. The sound is huge, lavish and indulgent in addition to being innately liquid and natural sounding. Once you hear this sound, the preamp can create an itch that nothing else scratches. With this preamplifier, you have entered the land of the lotus eaters. It may take an audiophile search and rescue party to drag you out.
Audio masochists need not apply.

The usual chorus of wailing might arise from the so called objectivists who will say that this is just another distorted, brightly colored but crippled bird. I say, "let them eat cake", they can listen to any old raspy thing they want, I will pick this one for my listening room.

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Totally agree with your view stated in the Absolute sound portion. Objectivists are highly logical and reasonable, unfortunately they like we, myself ncluded, being a subjectivist, live in a rational world, where objectivity is a goal and rarely a tangible reality.
Thank you also for your review. Have been very curious about their components and your review has helped solidify an idea of what to expect from a hearing. Nicely done.
Hi...from attempting to find some Specifications on this Preamp, I discover your name is Carl?

Well Carl, I read your article with interest and indeed, feel you are being true to your feelings about the mucic...and that is what really counts... Bravo from me also; a very well written review.

I would be very interested in find out some specifications on this product, including overall dimensions and weight.

Is there any chance you might be able to provide some? A few more photos perhaps?

Truly interested, Ian
Hi, Ian,

For more detailed information, you can contact David Beetles at Hammertone Audio:

David Beetles can also put you in direct touch with Mr. Park for questions.

Last I heard, Mr. Park will be making a limited edition of about 50 of the L 5000 and I don't know the sales status. There is also a newer model the L 6000, but I have no idea what is in it in the way of tubes. I feel very fortunate to be one of the owners of the L 5000.
All of the dimensions, size, weight inputs and outputs etc are the same as the L 4000, which is on the Hammertone website. If you send me your e-mail, I will send the four pictures I took when I got it.
Great review and I would love sometime to hear your system whenever I can get to the bay area. Coming to Chicago anytime soon? I really enjoy your writing style. Bob
Hi, Bob,

Sure, you are welcome to hear my crazy system when you are in town, maybe some of the other BAAS (audio society) systems if they are available to be heard.
I didn't make it back to Chicago this last year for my usual biennial conference, maybe in 2011.
Congrats again on your growing family.
Hi Carl,

I mailed you yesterday...about your review.

I say again, a very well written review...

and now I have read some more comments and replies from you to others.

I am in the UK, but if I send you my email... would you send me a copy of the photos you took of the L-5000?

Kind regards, Ian
Haven't received your e-mail, Ian. Send it to cjfrbw at comcast dot net, for some reason I haven't gotten through the audiogon system.
For those of you in the greater Toronto area, I am in Brampton. I have the L-5000 with the H3000V phono pre. I will agree with Carl, it just sounds right.

Anytime you want a listen, please email or call, 905-796-3978,
I also have s DHT preamp custom built All Lundahl transformers snd chokes.  Myself being involved with mods for years hand picked every part.every wire Solo crystal Neotech Copper
And all Signal best signal wire currently made Neotech Silver Gold
Alloy  builder incorporated. We could compare building philosophies which may be useful. If someone can direct me how 
to include a picture like the one above I will add a few thanks much.
The tubes mentioned just raises other build philosophies. 
For example Western Electric designed the 274b rectifier tube to use with a 300b, also Western Electric designed the 101d
For audio signal with is very linear and never licensed just used for audio broadcasting. It is evrn more pure gor 2 reasons 
The 300b is a power tube being used for a preamp and sounds very good but by nature cannot be as pure in the signal path for several 
Reasons once you need a custom filament regulator per channel 
And a huge 200+ uf capacitor  plus a couple other tweaks 
These all factor in to sonic purity it still sounds great 
But a 101d 274b is a cool running setup that is  as pure as a DHT can be especially if running all transformer based and choke.
Everyone has their own methods for good sound .they both sound excellent.