The Italian company Audionemesis has a special place in my heart. For the first time I saw their products, and the man responsible for them, at the High End Show 2005 in Munchen (report HERE). And the human aspect is probably most important here: similar to other best companies I know, the final product is a reflection of the personality of the man that created it. In this case this is Fabio Camorani – a fascinating representative of the audio world. His first fascination were tube speakers and tube amplifiers, for which he created the company Audionautes. Under this name he proposes quite expensive products, that due to their idiosyncrasy are aimed at a small group of potencial users. And probably the idea of widening the circle of “men of good will”, enjoying music (Mr Fabio is also a distributor of XRCDs and LPs) convinced Fabio to create a new company. This are still devices built following a unique concept (the interview with Mr Camorani, where he sheds some light on the ideas behind them HERE), but due to their almost classic enclosures (however this is also not the full truth) easier to accept. As one of the obstetricians of Audionemesis, at least in Poland (what a modesty... but there is no need to be shy either), I am an admirer of this brand. From the D/A converter DC-1, first commercially available product of this company (test HERE; presentation of a system including it HERE) some time has passed, then probably preparation of a good, inexpensive product in Europe is not easy, and most problems are created by subcontractors. That is the reason we can have a close look at the next product, in some twisted way being an opposite to the DC-1 (not in Fabio's head, but in ours). Because this is analog.
About that what we are to expect, we asked the source, Fabio:
Many of these declaration we have heard from other manufacturers. Probably all of them boast a short signal path, good elements and similar. With the realization of those declarations can be different, but in the case of Audionemesis one can have confidence, that it is really like it was described – the DC-1 showed that Fabio can be trusted.
Fabio mentions the Denon DL-103. Interesting, but during the test of the PM-1 this cartridge was mounted on one of the turntables in my system. I tried this combination. The sound was extremely smooth, saturated and just good – frankly speaking its characteristic was similar to that what I heard from the DC-1. A problem is the very low level of signal – I had to turn the volume almost fully up on the Leben CS-300 amplifier (test HERE), as with the DC-1, which has a low output level itself, it was sufficient to put is halfway, to have the Harpia Acoustics Marcus speakers (I recommend it warmly! Test HERE) create a very high sound level in my listening room (about 28 m²). I think that in practical applications the marriage of the PM-1 with the DL-103 cannot be fully accepted. It is not about the sound, although the low dynamics can be noticed, but more about habits – turning the volume knob to the maximum we do not feel very comfortable... This test allowed us to verify the most important declared feature of Fabio's preamplifier – low noise floor. It is incredible how little noise this device has! Even with the volume at maximum the amplifier has the noise comparable with other preamps at 1/3 the way. Such low noise levels were not even presented by the battery powered Pathos InTheGroove MkII, I tested for Audio some time ago. Even the Jasmine (tested in this edition of HFOL) LP 4.0, also battery powered, has higher background noise level (it is not about the noise of the device itself, but about the fact, that when diminished it unveils the depth of the recordings), although it masters it very good.
In the tonal way the PM-1 is incredibly close to the DC-1, it is the same school, maybe not of the sound but of aesthetics. In the best products, meaning those prepared with the heart and mind in conjunction, the sound can not be easily split in that what we present in tests as separate things: timbre, tonal balance, dynamics, way of articulation, sound stage and similar. In devices that are a finished unity, a complete proposition, those aspects, their analysis, are secondary, inferior to the main thing: sound aesthetics. As I listened only to two of Fabio's products, so it is hard to pass final verdicts. But, as I know both of them very well, at least I think I do very well, because I spent much time with them, and because both are tailored in the same way, so I can tell something about them. First of all in the sound is some kind of peace. It is not a slow-down, no softening, or leveling of dynamics, because this is enormous, but by throwing away the disturbing elements , something that is always between us and the music. The same thing, but on another level, was in the sound of my new digital reference (OK, one of two-three best CD players I heard in my system – this is much safer...), the split Jadis JD1 MkII/JS1 Mk III (test HERE), from which my Prime Ancient Audio seems to be more detailed, showing those fine things better, but is unable to glue everything together in such an impressive way the Jadis can. It is similar with the PM-1: the comparison with the Manley Steelhead (test HERE) unveils its shortcomings (this IS an inexpensive device), but shows also the amount of music that flows through it.
Of course as with the DC-1, the foundation of the sound is the dense and saturated midrange. With every cartridge i connected to it, so with Dynavector, Micro Benz, Sumiko, Rega, Ortofon (those were mostly MC HO cartridges, but there were also some MM...), despite evident differences in the sound characteristics, showed the midrange in full glory – full, saturated, dense. Maybe that is the reason that sometimes it seemed, that the sound is a bit warmed. The same happens with first listenings to the DC-1. Because the voice of David Roth, from the splendid production Pearl Diver (Stockfisch, SFR SFR 357.8031.1, Direct Metal Master 180g LP) was big, just in front of us, and his guitar was shown in a slightly warm way. Comparison with the ultra precise Manley showed, that it is the way this disc was recorded. The same happened also with other discs, among others Mari – Mari Nakamoto (Three Blind Mice/Cisco, TBM-3005-45, Limited Edition 45rpm, 180g 2LP, #0080). In reality, PM-1 can sound really precise and detailed, as the disc of Madeleine Peyroux - Careless Love (Rounder/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 1-284, Special Limited Edition [promo copy] 180g LP) was not warmed. Partially for this impression, the way space between instruments, musicians, etc, is filled. It is filled with fluid – this is good, that is the way air is shown, air that commonly does not exist in digital devices, but this fluid is a bit more dense than in the Manley, it adheres more to the instruments, not giving them the ultimate freedom. This is not an accusation, but a description, as this sounds unexpectedly attractive. The treble is clear and precise, although the effect of the fluid exists here even more. The dynamics are superb – here the incredible darkness of the background allows guitar riffs to jump out of inexistance, as a rabbit from a hat, from nowhere and hang just in front of us. This is not taken from context, as we have the mentioned “air” that anchors the sound in real space.
And actually the only limitation of the PM-1 is the lack of the MC section. I know, I know, this is a inexpensive preamplifier and with all beefed-up MC HO cartridges (and there are more and more of those around) it will sound superb. Its abilities are outstanding enough, that I think, that adding a transformer input for the MC is inevitable, as inevitable then is the price rise. One of the possibilities is to add an external transformer to this unit. Audio-Technica has recently launched beautifully workmanshipped, promising combo: transformer AT5000T and AT33ANV cartridge. And this is the same quality level as the PM-1. There is a chance that this combination would sound incredibly well. Unfortunately, Audio-Technica is primarily a manufacturer of professional studio gear, and for the distributor, something like cartridges, and especially so expensive ones, is just a margin. So he does not carry them in his portfolio. But maybe, if you write the Polish representative of the distributor (it is the company Konsbud-Audio, mail: email@example.com) with a request to test this system in the magazine “HIGH Fidelity OnLine”, then maybe something will happen... Please try that.
The gramophone preamplifier PM-1 has the same form as the DC-1 – it is a small, quite deep box, with a front panel half as wide as traditional devices. The front, like in other Audionemesis devices is made from a thick acrylic plate, painted black and with a blue back lit Audionemesis logo, and white lit device description. The power switch is located on the bottom, near to the front panel. On the back only good quality input and output RCAs and two banks of DIP switches are visible (the same were in the TP 305 Edgar preamplifier; test HERE), that probably serve their function well, but are not the easiest to manipulate. If we do not fight with different cartridges, and we change them only from time to time, we should manage that. The power cable is detachable. Some information about the insides were given by Mr Fabio in the beginning of the test. We have to stick to that, as I was not able to unscrew the enclosure. I do not have pictures of the circuitry. Usually in that case I stand down from testing. But do not get angry at me that I decided to publish this test, based on my experience with DC-1 and that I trust Fabio – this is not a man that does not keep word...
|© Copyright HIGH Fidelity 2007, Created by B|