Although many believe that an active line amplifier is not necessary with digital sources, we find that interest in line amplifiers seems to be continually growing at the higher end of the audio market. Not only do separate amplifiers provide convenient control center functions, but a really fine line amplifier can greatly improve the overall presentation of a quality system. Even in the best DACs and players, the output stage is usually somewhat of a compromise and this can become a weak point in an otherwise well-appointed system, one which Silbatone can remedy with our specialist preamplifiers.
The newest Silbatone collection of line amplifiers features trickle-down technology from our reference-grade L-101 preamp which features a WE 262B triode in a unique zero volt in/zero volt out circuit that requires no coupling capacitors from the silver autoformer input to the Bendix 6900 driven silver wired double C core Finemet output transformer. To date, this is the best line amp topology we have experienced and we decided to explore the possibility of this approach on a less costly basis.
For the L-103 and L-106, we use somewhat less expensive but still super high grade tubes in the same ultra simple but uncompromising circuit. The L103 uses two silver input transformers, then a 24 step autoformer volume control, with a WE 310A triode stage directly coupled to 7044 tubes driving a single core Finemet silver-wired transformer. Five unbalanced line inputs and balanced or unbalanced output
The L-106, which is the baby of the line, but still much nicer than most commercial top of the line units, has a TKD broadcast-grade 40 step attenuator, NOS German Post C3m triodes, an excellent performer, and 7044 output stage with double C core Finemet copper output transformers. The L-106 also features five line inputs, two balanced/three unbalanced, and balanced or unbalanced outputs.
The musical portrayal of the L-103 and L-106 Line Amplifiers illustrates our basic argument, which is that something is missing in most “direct connection” or passive line stages. A Silbatone line amp adds vivid dynamics and realism to your system without adding noise or overt coloration. The verdict of our experiments is that Silbatone's 21st century approach to analog tube technology is the answer for those who want a little more than they are now achieving from digital playback. Great with Silbatone phono stages as well!
Over the past decade, Silbatone has dedicated tremendous resources to designing and refining very ambitious tube phono preamplifiers, We think the phono preamp remains foremost among challenges for the designer and continues as the promised land of the art of music reproduction, yet in general, the field lags behind other areas of audio in innovation and evolution. It may be a digital world but for really deep listening, many here in attendance still turn to analog, as we do. We believe that phono is still the soul and conscience of specialist audio, the reality check.
Our newest entry in the stable, the SQ-102 Mk.II is a phono-only preamplifier incorporating various refinements that emerged in the course of our R&D programs. The new SQ-102 features a new twist on jc morrison's transconductance amplifiers using the German Post D3a tube. The all-important input stage sets the noise figure of the entire system and does much to establish its character. This first stage can swing 45V and the gain window is optimized for headroom to lessen record noise. The phono EQ is craftily incorporated into the input stage circuitry as opposed to a separate lumped filter stage driven by the input stage, as found in most non feedback RC and LCR based preamps. This topology minimizes series components and enhances the dynamic and nuanced presentation we have come to expect from the D3a transconductance circuit. A DC servo on the 6900 buffer is used to avoid coupling capacitors enroute to the transformer output.
Admittedly, we are dealing with difficult technical minutiae and it doesn't always make great sales copy to talk about it, but such arcane developments are what allow us to make incremental progress in phono design, even after all these years. Such is the path to Mk. II status, the current state of the art.
The SQ-102 is built to high Silbatone standards. A handsome and heavy milled chassis provides a non resonant foundation for the electronics, Input (1:10) and output transformers (600 ohm) are super quality pure silver wired models that we have relied on for years. Two MC and Two MM inputs are supplied with front panel push button selectors. Single ended and balanced XLR outputs are available on the back. No muss, no fuss...just high performance.
For those who wish to experience the leading edge of phono preamplifier performance, Silbatone invites you to audition the SQ-102 Mk.II, a perfect partner for our line amplifiers and integrated amps, and a gateway into the magic of high-end phono reproduction in the 21st century.