J.K June 2021

Reviewing Classique – Phono Valve Preamp Amplifier With Passive RIAA Using 12AX7 / 12AU7 – DIY Kit

I think in hindsight, I was a little ambitious embarking on this project. I thoroughly enjoyed it all, and found it strangely relaxing! however, my lack of basic knowledge was soon exposed.

I have to say I was impressed with the kit, and particularly impressed with Indra’s patience with me, and his determination to ensure I ended up with a unit that both worked as was intended, and that I was proud of.

I now have an outstanding Phono stage, that fits perfectly in my restored ’60s system. it is not out of place with the 33/303/esl57s i now have a stage that would likely cost in excess of £1k if it d a badge on it, and I made it myself! ok, with a lot of help!

thanks – now onto the integrated amp!

 

CG – Netherlands – June 2021

Reviewing the 6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Valve Amplifier Kit:

Having just completed the ECL82 complete kit build, I am very pleased with the result. Even with a low power output it still drives my speakers with enough volume to fill a small room. The quality of this simple class A design is a delight. It is easy build, the instructions are great and it is nice to have almost everything you need in the kit.

“I am really surprised at the quality of this amp, given the simplicity of the design. It stands up well against my main hifi system.”

User build - ECL82/6BM8 SE Valve Amplifier
User build – ECL82/6BM8 SE Valve Amplifier
User build - ECL82/6BM8 SE Valve Amplifier
User build – ECL82/6BM8 SE Valve Amplifier

W.B. December 2020 – on 6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Integrated All Valve Amplifier Kit

Reviewing the 6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Valve Amplifier Kit:

I am very happy with the apm and I am very happy with the whole process of ordering, building and provided support. I have been provided with exactly the experience I was hoping to receive when I made my order. I was looking for a right kit to build my first own valve amp and what received meet fully my expectations. Once build my amp sound excellent (well after few hours of ‘burning in’). Although its only 3W per channel it powers my IPL-S2tlK speakers (88dB) with ease to reasonable volumes, giving me this ‘warm’ sound I was looking for. Excellent for any type of well recorded music but really shines with blues, jazz or vocal music. Really good layout of the external connections. Initially it looks odd but actually having all the inputs/outputs at the top makes connecting and disconnecting speakers or sources very easy and it looks uniquely good, too.

A.W. March 2021

Reviewing the 6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Valve Amplifier Kit:

I have never attempted a valve amp before, being a relative novice, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results I obtained from this kit. I ordered the amplifier with the top plate, and a pair of valves initially.

The kit arrived promptly via a private currier service; it was well packaged using mostly recyclable materials, and the parts were all clearly labelled for identification. Components are of high quality, as are the circuit boards, and have been sourced in the UK where possible. The transformers are well made and sourced in the UK too via Primary Windings, along with the case that I opted for (enclosure “B”).

Construction is in a modular form; you simply download the instruction manual from the website and populate the boards accordingly. All the modules were a good fit for the top plate, the bonus here is that you can install, and hook up the boards without having to fiddle around with rear sockets, everything plugs into the top of the unit; this makes testing easier too.

Early listening is promising, very detailed and smooth presentation that lends itself to a fatigue free musical experience with a wide variety of material. Volume levels were adequate for my listening room, running a pair of open baffle speakers at 86 db sensitivity (90 and above would be better I think). Tonal balance was pleasing, and separation between instruments was good and presented in a relatively large soundstage, which gave very precise placement of musicians within.

Technical support was very responsive, and dealt with any queries in a quick and informative manner; nothing was too much trouble for them.

Long term, I would be looking to bi-amplify the speakers, and would probably opt to remove the Alps Blue potentiometer too, and use a stepped attenuator via a passive pre-amplifier, as this seems to yield slightly more neutral results.

But overall, I am very happy with the end product, and would recommend to anyone wanting an introduction to valve amp construction.

GG – Feb 2021

Reviewing Classique – Phono Valve Preamp Amplifier With Passive RIAA Using 12AX7 / 12AU7 – DIY Kit

I recently received my classic valve amp from Indra, and firstly I would say that the customer service from Caledonian Audio is first class, Indra is absolutely brilliant guy, nothing to much trouble.
Anyway , so how is the amplifier ?
Well it is simply Devine, I have a Linn LP12, Lingo 1, Ittok LVll, Ortofon 2M Bronze, feeding into an Auralic Vega G2 streaming pre/ DAC, directly into active ATC SCm 40 Speakers. Previously I had an Arcam rphono prior to my classic valve amp.
The difference to me is NOT small but night and day, gone is the hard character of music on vinyl, replaced by a very smooth, truly natural sounding, character.I am very very impressed by this unit, I have never played as much vinyl in years, as my digital always sounded better.
This valve preamp is really well made from high quality parts, and I am sure will last a long time.
BUT – for me it’s all about the sound quality, I have had several solid state phono amps over the years including, Arcam/Linn/Naim and this unit beats the lot of them.
The amp has tremendous insight into the music, I can hear every bass note, very clearly, and boy that bass — really deep gut renching at times. The sound is also fast and rhythmic not sugar coated in anyway.
You could do far far worse than get in touch with Indra at Caledonian and have a demo .
Finally the price of this unit is a real steal !, well worth the money, it’s a no brainer really, I’m sure you will enjoy the unit.
No risk no negatives for me !!!
Walnut Enclosures for both ECL82/6BM8 Classique and Phono Classique.

User B – on 6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Integrated All Valve Amplifier Kit

This is an excellent kit.
Very customisable and excellent Layout and instructions
Would upgrade fixing screws etc as lends itself to steam punk approach , if into aesthetics as well as sound. If I built it again would think of spraying alloy base plate a cool colour , it scratches easily – I brushed mine , wire wool and half an hour or so – make sure brush in same direction.
Altered C4 to 220uf as way too bass with the supplied 330uf here but that could well be personal opinion or my ears !
Valves Svetalana Winged C v good in this amp for me but easy to swap out and experiment
Mains Transformer runs warm but fine even in this hot weather and have left it on for a couple of days – note Amp needs to burn in sound improves a lot after 48 hrs as with all hi-fi.
Do not be off put by apparent low output , with sensitive ie circa 90db speakers it goes very load amazing and stays very clear – definitely an amp that brings out all the detail in recordings – and happy bi-amping a pair of Kef Unipoints/Coda’s or Eltax Mini Monitors.
One hint – don’t reverse the alloy top plate as I did (to get iec socket on left side nearest plug) unless you are prepared to get some shorter standoffs – PCB’s arent quite symmetrical it all still fits if you move the PCB’s up close to the alloy plate.
If you do this suggest you check out clearances etc before you solder up the valve bases.

Mr A.P. of England – September 2020

It’s all about the music.

A review of the Caledonian audio phono preamp.

Classique – Phono Valve Preamp Amplifier With Passive RIAA Using 12AX7 / 12AU7 – DIY Kit
Classique – Phono Valve Preamp Amplifier With Passive RIAA Using 12AX7 / 12AU7 – DIY Kit

the world really is your oyster

I think the best way to appreciate this preamp is to start by appreciating the detailed work that’s gone into the design, all of which is unfortunately hidden under the unassuming alloy top plate, which is the standard fare.

It’s important to remember though that this is a diy kit,( though I’m sure Caledonian Audio may be persuadable to do custom builds) and the world really is your oyster regarding build options and choices  : powder coating, brass and mahogany anyone ?.

Having built the Caledonia Audio amplifier, which was both an easy build, had meticulously planned pcbs and short signal paths (and vastly exceeded my expectations in sound quality incidentally) I was expecting a similar high quality and design here and was not disappointed.

This preamp has 2 British sourced substantial power supply transformers , one for the valve heaters and another for the high tension side of the circuit. The benefit here is a complete avoidance of any cross talk or hum and allows each circuit to have its own discrete optimised power supply.

There’s a lot going on under that top plate that most people may never see, though you will undoubtedly all hear the benefits of this approach.

A final benefit of this uncompromising design approach, which it shares with the amplifier is that this piece of kit is eminently serviceable when the time comes, (which looking at the components used and quality should be in many years time) – it uses sensible real sized easily obtainable components and any competent electronics repair technician will be at home here if and when that time comes.

The humble preamp is probably a very underrated component in the hifi chain, but for us Vinyl lovers it’s one of the most important links – it has to take the minute oscillations of a stylus rushing through a rotating grove that is transferring enormous amounts of data at a very low output voltage and amplify this up and equalise it (records don’t record all parts of the audio signal equally due to various technical and physical design constraints of the recording process, which we aren’t going into here – this review is long enough already..)

The perception of  music is complex, emotional and subjective

So now after a lot of words eulogising with design and physical attributes, just how does it sound ? which ultimately is what it’s all about.

The perception of  music is complex, emotional and subjective ,there is no definitive standard but if it sounds right then it usually is – our brains and ears are very good at telling us what we like even if we can’t pin it down.

And my impression of what we have here is that it’s very good indeed, outstandingly so.

If I  had to sum it up in a few words I would say: timing, image, projection, depth, spaciousness ,soundstage, detail and plucking.

I realise plucking is an odd description, but its usage here is apt , listening to records through this preamp  you do really hear both subtle and distinct definitions of every note and instrument and their position in the mix.

you could spend a lot of time listening and rediscovering details and musicality you never knew your records had

Every facet and nuance of the music from the bass line to vocals is handled deftly, they start and stop with clarity and definition and you can literally hear and experience the movement of fingers on keys and fretboards as the notes are played , or plucked as I chose to call it.

This preamp is sonically fast, precise, analytical  but never sterile, clinical or cold, it’s warm and affirmative without bringing a veil of warm indistinct mushiness to the listening experience – listening isn’t fatiguing it just sounds “right”, in fact you could spend a lot of time listening and rediscovering details and musicality you never knew your records had, – something my other half has already pointed out that I have spent rather too much time doing already when I have jobs to do – although she did comment that “I have to agree it does sound nice”.

I can attest that’s high praise indeed, so we must be onto something here if she likes it.

Soundstage is the widest I have heard, it extends beyond the speakers, both vertically and  to the left and right. There isn’t just a single focussed sweetspot the music extends way beyond the speakers it’s quite holographic and uncanny to hear.

it extracts more detail presence and timing from the music and records

I can only compare it to my normal preamps : A Nad 3020 phono stage, using the Nad in preamp mode, (the original 3020 , not the new one, lets get that clear) and a Pro-ject  phono box.

All I can say is it’s far better than both of these, and I was very happy with the sound of these previous to having listened to this one – it extracts more detail presence and timing from the music and records that I’m already very familiar with.

I used a variety of records, which I’ll try and remember to list by title at least at the end, both originals and new 180gm re-releases on 3 Decks: Sony PS-LX2 (Direct Drive), Pro-ject Debut and Dual 505 – a deserved legend, it’s just so simple and well engineered it will live forever am sure.. anyhow back to the review.

The Sony highlights the fact there isn’t a built in subsonic/rumble filter – something the Nad 3020 has, so it betrays its age/design here and rumbles a bit – the other 2 Decks are fine.

But the Sony is still enjoyable – it handles bass lines and speed like a metronome and this preamp happily dishes out all the timing and pace it serves up.

it’s both a stunning execution and interpretation of a classic design and musicality it’s absolutely brilliant

Having lived with this preamp for a few weeks now I can confirm it doesn’t run hot – it happily sits in a reasonably well ventilated wooden rack/stand cupboard housing and after a day the top plate is barely warm to the touch.

To conclude I believe this should be a permanent keeper for your system , it’s both a stunning execution and interpretation of a classic design and musicality it’s absolutely brilliant, it does what it says it will do in spades and quietly gets on with the job of serving up the music ,and what more can you want than that. The fact that considering all these attributes and its build quality that its also rather a bargain is merely icing on the cake.

 

Andrew Phillips

 

Records listened for ref

 

  • Sgt Pepper – my original copy and remastered  180gm
  • Tubular Bells
  • How Blue can you get (Blue Horizon Blues Compilation double)
  • The Who – A Quick One /The Who sell out
  • ZZTop Afterburner
  • Be Bop Deluxe – Sunburst Finish
  • L_Zep In through the out door
  • Fleetwood Mac Rumours
  • Jackson Browne Running on empty
  • Pink Floyd Relics
  • Andrew Lloyd Weber Variations
  • Adge Cutler & The Wurzels – Live from the Royal Oak Nailsea Zummerset (yes really ! do come from Somerset after all and remember these as a child)

And many more but gives a flavour I hope

So a suitably eclectic mix and I found something new on all of them , though I fear my jobs list has suffered as a result and listening may have to be a winter pleasure in the future and that the garden beckons

Mr A.P. of England – August 2020

6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Kit - with a custom made walnut casing (enclosure Model B)
6BM8/ECL82 SE Classique Kit – with a custom made walnut casing (enclosure Model B)

When reviewing the 6BM8/ECA82 SE Classique:

“Clear brilliant presence projection/soundstage separation and balance …”
“Very happy with how it sounds now…”

Very customisable and excellent Layout and instructions.

Would upgrade fixing screws etc as lends itself to steam punk approach , if into aesthetics as well as sound. If I built it again would think of spraying alloy base plate a cool colour , it scratches easily – I brushed mine , wire wool and half an hour or so – make sure brush in same direction.

Altered C4 to 220uf as way too bass with the supplied 330uf here but that could well be personal opinion or my ears !

Valves Svetalana Winged C v good in this amp for me but easy to swap out and experiment.

Mains Transformer runs warm but fine even in this hot weather and have left it on for a couple of days – note Amp needs to burn in sound improves a lot after 48 hrs as with all hi-fi.

Do not be off put by apparent low output…

Do not be off put by apparent low output , with sensitive ie circa 90db speakers it goes very load amazing and stays very clear – definitely an amp that brings out all the detail in recordings – and happy bi-amping a pair of Kef Unipoints/Coda’s or Eltax Mini Monitors.

One hint – don’t reverse the alloy top plate as I did (to get iec socket on left side nearest plug) unless you are prepared to get some shorter standoffs – PCB’s arent quite symmetrical it all still fits if you move the PCB’s up close to the alloy plate.

If you do this suggest you check out clearances etc before you solder up the valve bases.
That’s it really – I cabled with 600v silicone cable, and see through heat shrink helps here !, and I ran some of wiring between PCBs and plate for tidiness – solder it all up and then mount the PCB’s obviously if you copy me here.

I Used Mains Cable for Mains and Earth as important to use std colours here for safety and reference.

Really its all about the sound and that’s truly outstanding , quick analytical and its not fazed by any genre – you just get new insights – have to say it loves Jazz/Blues/Classic Rock and excellent spoken word and music streaming services (best not advertise and start a preferences debate here!).

One to buy, build, enjoy and keep…

One to buy, build, enjoy and keep – recommend the mounting wood base kit if you want it all up and running quick and the single plate is a genius option , having previously built a valve amp on a normal chassis – outlets , inlets at back, volume , mains on front , transformers on top – it all gets very very fiddly and time consuming esp when on tag boards. Very Traditional but these PCB’s in this kit are just so cool and simple (and much shorter signal paths too – HT PSU one especially is a brilliant example of tidiness and logic.