There’s something about tubes, right? Maybe it’s the shiny, glowing glass bottles, maybe it’s their benign low-order distortion character, or maybe it’s a mix of those two with a healthy glug of nostalgia thrown in. Or maybe it’s just that the voltages are high enough to flash-fry you if you touch the wrong wire.
Whatever it is about tubes, these beguiling devices still have a presence in high-end audio, perhaps now more than ever. And one of the most captivating displays here at Audio Video Show 2023 in Warsaw was found in the Fezz Audio and Pylon Audio room. But first, a fair warning that prices are in three different currencies: euros, US dollars, and Polish zlotys.
Fezz brought a fully tubed (and mostly new) system to show off, including two Titania stereo power amplifiers (zł12,100), each bridged in mono to give a total of 80Wpc, two new phono preamplifiers, the Gloria Evolution and Gratia Prestige Evolution, and a new line-stage preamplifier, the Sagita Prestige Evolution, all three of which have prices that are yet to be announced.
The system used a turntable setup from Warsaw-based Muarah Audio, showing off its new MT3 turntable equipped with its MY-1/9 tonearm (€3535 for the combination) and its PSC with InteliClamp (€2070). The PSC is a standalone speed controller and power supply, but there’s a very cool twist: the InteliClamp technology is, in essence, a record clamp that measures the speed at which the platter is spinning, communicates that wirelessly with the power supply device, and creates a feedback loop to maintain an accurate 33⅓ rpm rotational speed.
Music played through a new pair of speakers by Pylon, another Polish company. The speakers are also new, called the Diamond 30 mkII. Pylon CEO Mateusz Jujka told me that Pylon does not yet have a distributor in North America, but he said the company is searching for one presently, and he gave me an estimated price of $2500/each for the Diamond 30 mkII. He also told me that Pylon has started selling speakers under its own name after building cabinets for other speaker manufacturers, including Germany’s Audio Physic. He stressed that the company specializes in building speaker cabinets, and has many years of experience in doing so. This shows in the designs of Pylon’s speakers. They’re a bit understated aesthetically, but they look to be of excellent quality. And the sound of the Diamond 30 mkIIs playing in the room was great.
The big event for today, however, was the unveiling of Fezz’s new Equinox Evo DAC, which was created in collaboration with Lampizator, another Polish company. The DAC, which I was told would sell for €2500, or zł10,000, is the first Lampizator-licensed product, and Lampizator founder and CEO Łukasz Fikus handled much of the design, which is based around a Fikus-designed PCB and uses a Texas Instruments PCM1794 chipset. Fezz Audio and its transformer-making corporate affiliate, Toroidy, have designed a custom power supply for the device.
Oh, and the tube—how could I forget? The Equinox Evo uses—praise be!—just one 12AU7 vacuum tube. Though it’s seemingly pedestrian, I’m in love with the concept. This means that if a tube goes down, replacing it involves walking into a Guitar Center store and buying a new one. No need to spend a fortune and wait six weeks for a Dutch nonagenarian to pick through his hoard of rare NOS valves or an Uzbek gangster to raid a collapsed Soviet military bunker. The Equinox Evo is designed with a sliding glass cover, which makes the tube easily accessible to the end user, as well as displaying the device.
A Lampizator-branded tube DAC for just €2500? Unheard of! I’m all for hi-fi for the masses. Lampizator’s own products are way more expensive.
In case you’re wondering: yes, I heard the Equinox Evo play, and through the Fezz electronics and Pylon Diamond 30 mkIIs, it had a gloriously full, clean sound, with just the right amount of tube-y romanticism. The Fezz rep said the Equinox Evo DAC will be available in North America in early 2024. I won’t make any hard promises at this juncture, but you can bet we’ll be reaching out to our contact at the distro to see if we can get one for review. Stay tuned for more from Audio Video Show 2023.