It's puzzling at first. The circuit of this Chinese-made Passion integrated amplifier is identical to that of the much cheaper I10. It's got four 12AU7 tubes, with a first stage pair driving a phase inverter, with an active buffer between them, and then a pair of EL34 output tubes in Ultralinear mode. It's a good recipe, but the recipe calls for the same ingredients.
Of course the quality of the ingredients matters, but we have already said the I10 uses good quality parts, so why bother with a model that costs half again as much?
Well, look again.
Sure, the chassis is chromed (so is that of the much cheaper Antique Audio Lab), but check the transformers. The power transformer looks larger (it isn't), but it's actually the output transformer that's bigger. The iron cores of small output transformers tend to saturate (and distort). A number of other tweaks have been done as well. Each little improvement cost the manufacturer something, and the result is a price that is half again as high.
A glance at the front panel reveals one more modification: a tape switch. Yes, there are four extra sets of jacks for a tape machine, something the other Chinese amplifiers lack.
Can the extra money actually be heard? Yes it can.
We began with the Bruckner Scherzo, and noticed one thing right off: the image! In the soft introduction, we could hear the sound of the strings and woodwinds resonating from the walls. Where the other two amplifiers had been somewhat light, this one had plenty of weight behind the orchestra. Oh, it was nowhere near what our reference amplifier can do, but it was highly satisfactory.
(For the rest of this very interesting review, see the print issue of UHF)
PARTIAL TEXT: The Microgroove Laundry, Antique Sound Lab AQ1003, Passion I-11, Rogue 88, Jadis Orchestra Reference, Linar 250, Four Headphone Amps, Filters and Cables
FULL TEXT: Watching DVD on a Computer, Passion Kit I-10 Amplifier, State of the Art
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