pl | en

Integrated amplifier



Price (in Poland): 10 500 PLN | remote – 1 650 PLN

Bielsko-Biała | Polska


Provided for test by: ENCORE SEVEN

e have been long waiting for a time, when products of Polish audio manufacturers would achieve a level of quality and performance that would allow them to compete on a the same level with leading manufacturers from around the world. This time has finally arrived. It is not just about the sound, because in this respect Polish products could successfully compete even before. It is about a PRODUCT. Namely: an audio device (loudspeakers, accessories, etc.), offering high quality performance combined with an attractive, tasteful visual design, precise workmanship, made of premium materials and supplied with appropriately prepared documentation – by the latter I mean a website with good photographs, manuals, brochures and folders. Encore Seven (or. Encore 7), the owner of the Egg Shell brand does that as if they have been doing it for years. And they are good, really good at it.

Their amplifiers are grouped in three lines, of which the Egg Shell B & G is the smallest - as it contains one amplifier, dedicated for musicians, to work as, so called, "head" for guitar amplifiers. It might be the smallest amplifier in a lineup but it was company's first product. The next line is called Egg-Shell Classic, at the moment it features one integrated amplifier, 9WLT. The most important line is called Prestige which actually decides about brand's "identity", ie. about its peculiarities and recognition.

Amplifiers and preamplifiers, which we find in this line, have a distinctive design. Based on oval shapes and V-shape power tubes placement is not only quite characteristic (but with no frills), but also nice for the eye, proportionate and it simply makes sense. The company calls the chassis design "Woodwind". Through the glass on the front side one can see tubes and their glow that is further highlighted by highly polished stainless steel sheet. The top panel is secured using magnets so if one likes to watch glowing tubes up close, it is very easy to remove this panel.

Manufacturer developed quite smart and unique controls for this amp. It features a large, very convenient to use wheel, that reminded me a bit of old McIntosh tuners. Also instead of the traditional remote control they offer a "magic ball" – to change volume level one just rolls the ball on the table. They use a gyro sensor in the ball, coupled to a radio transmitter to allow that - the controller is able to operate within 25 m range from the amplifier (with a clear line of sight).

The Egg-Shell devices are highly "customizable." One can order a particular color of the casing, one of several color of the glass on the front panel, also a chosen graphics can be applied to it, shape of the holes in top panel can also be changed, and some graphics can be applied also there. Also the ball control unit is offered in one of many different colors, it can also be made of wood.


Model under review is an integrated amplifier delivering 9 W per channel. This "mighty" output is a result of using a single EL34 pentode per channel, operating in Class A in single-ended triode mode. This is one of the simplest circuits, but also one capable of delivering highest quality sound. Also input and driver stage features tube, even power supply is. The 9W output suggests using this amp with high sensitivity speakers. In this test, in addition to Harbeth M40.1, I also used the Acuhorn 15 and Avatar Holophony Audio Model Two.

Mk 2 in its name says that this is a new generation of the 9WST amplifier. Compared to previous version it offers a higher quality make and finish, and features higher quality components:
- Much better quality of gloss finish (manufacturer decided to replace a subcontractor with another one, and although costs have gone up, the quality has as well); MK2 version are additionally available in other finishes upon request - matte, pearl, metallic,
- Better, tighter fitting of chassis elements, improved cooling (vents)
- Different solution for the top cover – front is now more rigid and the back is closed,
- Improved rigidity of the bottom of the chassis,
- Different finish of the back panel.

- Different volume control wheel is made of a different material, and it is also placed in a different, more accurate and more reliable way on a potentiometer,
- All the amplifiers are now compatible with the spherical remote control Prestige RCX (Mk1 version featured no remote control) - a motorized ALPS potentiometer is used,
- Better quality speaker terminals and RCA jacks from CMC,
- Power transformer uses core with thinner fins, also transformers are now better separated from chassis' vibrations,
- Some improvements in the audio circuits,
- Instead of two tubes now only one is used in power supply (simplification of the system),
- There is an additional power LED indicator.

Co-owner, logistics, PR

Encore Seven was officially brought to life in 2010. In 2012, the company presented its debut vacuum tube amplifier. It was a push-pull design based on four EL34 power tubes (18W). From the very beginning the external design was similar to that of the current Prestige line. Half a year later, we launched a single-ended amp and decided to produce from this moment on only class A devices, hence the push-pull model was withdrawn. You were the first magazine that reviewed our amplifier (model Prestige 15WS, see HERE, review in Polish) in September 2013.

Our experience with designing of amplifiers, however, is much longer. I run the Encore Seven together with my brother. Andrew is responsible for the engineering and designing part, and, above all, for the audio circuits and ultimately for the sound of our products. I deal with logistics and promoting the brand.

Getting where we are with our amplifiers today started with a hobby. Andrew is a musician and already in 1990ties he build tube amplifiers for his own needs – at the time these were guitar amplifiers. Later he started to build also stereo tube amplifiers, still for his own use. So we can easily say that we have been in tube amplifier's “business” for over 20 years and that what we do today stems from our passion.

The design of our amplifiers is the result of a combination of our ideas and goal with a work of a professional designer. We wanted the amp to have rather low profile - hence the big tubes do not stand upright. We wanted it to be safe and closed, but functional - hence the removable top panel. And at the same time we didn't want to lose the best feature of tube amplifiers, that is, this wonderful glow that tube provide - hence the glass front. We presented these assumptions to a friend, Paweł Hankus, who was a furniture designer. He created the shape of the amplifier's body with distinctive elements to give it a visual “lightness”.

Our activities do not end with the production of our amplifiers. We are actively co-creating Polish Audio Cluster, which is an informal association of ambitious producers associated with hi-fi industry. It was set up basing on an initiative of HiFi Studio shop in Bielsko-Biala, Karol Zieleźnik. Within the cluster we together promote Polish audio, but we also work with each other to offer high quality stereo systems with components made by different brands, but together forming a sonically and visually coherent whole. The first such system has already been presented, and the next one will premiere soon. Encore Seven likes the world of music in a general sense, so from time to time we organize or participate in various music-related projects. The most important projects up to date were: an appointment of an international photographic group MPC (Music Photographers Collective), organization together with Bielska Zadymka Jazzowa and Radio Katowice, of the National Music Photography Contest (, also honoring Terri Lyne Carrington with a statuette from MPC during the 30th jubilee of the Glogow Jazz Meetings, and supporting with excellent photos the Michał Wróblewski City Album, and many others.

Recordings used for the test (a selection)

  • Ed Sheeran, X, Warner Music UK/Warner Music Japan WPCR-15730, CD (2014);
  • Franc Schubert, 4 Impromptus D899 & D935, wyk. Maria João Pires, Deutsche Grammophon/Universal Music Japan UCCG-50095, SHM-CD (1997/2011)
  • John Coltrane, Coltrane. Deluxe Edition, Impulse! 589 567-2, 2 x CD (1962/2002)
  • Maciej Fortuna Trio, Jazz, Fortuna Music FM21, CD (2016)
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller. 25th Anniversary Edition, Epic/Sony Music Japan EICP-963-4, CD+DVD (1982/2008)
  • Niels Thybo, Bo Stief, Lennart Gruvstedt, Super Trio, Sundance/Lasting Impression Music LIM UHD 047 LE, CD (1998/2010)
  • Schubert, Song Cycles, wyk. Nathalie Stutzmann, Inger Södergren, Erato/Warner Classics 4623701, 3 x CD (2014)
  • Serge Gainsbourg, Histoire de melody Nelson, Mercury Records/Universal Music France 277 825 3, „Deluxe Edition” 2 x CD + DVD (1971/2011)
  • Tears For Fears, Songs From The Big Chair, Mercury Records/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-40071, Platinum SHM-CD (1985/2014)
  • The Doors, L.A. Woman, Electra Records/Warner Music Japan WPCR-12721, CD (1971/2007)
Japanese CD editions are available from

Mr. Winston Ma, the owner of a music publishing company First Impression Music (and its affiliates Lasting Impression Music and Golden String) was not only a great producer, publisher and watchful audiophile, but he was also an infinite source of knowledge, trivia and anecdotes. One of them was quoted in the booklet one can find in Niels Thybo, Bo Stief and Lennart Gruvstedt's Super Trio album. Text entitled “I Like Distortions!” in short said that not everything is what it seems.

It tells a story of a man who brought above mentioned album with him to a show and asked that it would be played in several systems. The album brought down to their knees all the exhibitors, but it also caused a few burned drivers and crossovers. It was specifically the No. 3 track, Little Suite. This is a short, two-part piece - the beginning is played on the piano and then comes a percussion solo. And it is this solo, extremely dynamic, fast and powerful that caused damage to the speakers that could not cope with dynamic shifts and drums' rich transients.

During the re-mastering process when preparing this material for their own release, the gentlemen of the Five / Four Productions (former Telarc engineers, winners of multiple Grammy Awards) and Mr. Ma found out that a fragment with the drums was distorted. So they carefully lowered the maximum level of the track and changed tone equalization so that the peak impulse was less than 0 dB. And what happened? Everybody preferred the distorted version: "I must say that it was a shock for me to learn, that - for the first time and probably the last time in my life – I also preferred the version with distortion!"

I am quoting this story because knowing that we are dealing with a tube amplifier with very low power (2 x 9 W), based on a single power tube, with a tube rectifier, we think of it as of a "specialized product" (within the audio market, which in itself it is a very narrow segment of the home appliances market). And so we become presumptions, we assume that it will be a nice match for one product, but it won't sound well with another. And often we are not mistaken - an experience is something we can rely on, because we have to rely on something, right? However, this way we put on prejudices corset even though there are still so many things we do not completely understand in audio world. Those who think they already know everything are nothing more but buffoons.

This amplifier does not give up, however, to this reduction. Very soon, actually, after the first album, John Coltrane's Coltrane, I already knew that using this amplifier would not limit the repertoire that I could use to small jazz ensembles, vocal recordings, or soft ambient music. Albums with all these types of music sounded very nice, interesting, and it didn't feel as if the amplifier tried to make them sound nicer than they really were. I based this observation primarily on the method of presentation – there was a proper perspective in the music, the performers stayed behind the line between the speakers. It let instruments breathe and the presentation was not compressed in order to boost up the front of the soundstage to zoom in on instruments in front of me, like guitars, bass etc., as well as the singers.

I like it when the system delivers large scale vocals, when instruments are presented having a distinct, three-dimensional body and when they are shown close to me. When it comes to the top-high-end comes an impressive depth of the stage supports the above mentioned elements, so one does not have to worry about aggressiveness of the presentation. But if some compromise is needed I prefer the more powerful, richer type of presentation. With the Egg Shell amplifier, in which the compromises are obvious and come mainly from a low power output, I heard a different combination of features, which was even more interesting than the one I described above.

The sound was not enclosed in a bubble in front of me. Instruments were breathing, there was a multi-layered sound and I did not hear any limitation of the bass area. With one caveat: I did not push the volume up beyond a comfort zone. When listening at regular volume levels, without “rocking it”, everything was in its place and I didn't hear any distortion. And I listened to tracks such as: Billie Jean from Thriller by Michael Jackson, Riders On The Storm of the L.A. Woman album by The Doors, and finally to the Historie de melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg.

All these tracks included a powerful bass, especially mid- and upper-bass, which prevented music from sounding “thin”. Everything further down the band was not particularly clear, but it was for the better - such a small amplifier could not provide control good enough to keep the lowest notes in check. But what I heard resulted in sound's fullness. Despite the fact that - as I said - the amplifier did not push the sound to the front of the speakers but rather creates the soundstage behind them. It delivered a vivid performance. The scale of dynamics shifts seemed smaller than with more powerful amplifiers. The transitions between the individual sounds were rich and smooth, and that is why this compression - it's something one can not really hear, but rather feel - it was not bothersome.

The device differentiated recordings really well. The greatly produced and remastered Gainsbourg's albums, first of his “concept albums", a very pleasant recording of Ed Sheeran and Songs From The Big Chair by Tears For Fears – all of these recordings had a distinct “personalities”, they differed in color and saturation, range extension and dynamics. And yet, they all had also some common characteristics, such as: lack of aggression, a mellow treble and upper midrange. The amplifier did “tune” them up a bit where it was needed, ie. it did not highlight the compression on Sheeran's album, made a bit colorless Tears For Fears more colorful and emphasized the palpability of a very short, but great album by the author of the Je t'aime ... moi non plus.

It should be said that Egg-Shell somewhat slows the tempo of songs. I've heard it with not so easy to drive Harbeths, but also with the Acuhorn 15 and Avatar Audio Holophony Number Two that were a very easy load. The point is that the attack of the sound is rounded, so that one does not feel an immediacy of the attack. I mean first of all the midrange. Bass, which for a low power amplifier is particularly noteworthy, was quite punchy, rich and dynamic. The already mentioned drums solo on Super Trio was explosive, powerful and dynamic - bravo!

Combining all these features meant that there was no need to choose particular CDs for listening, rejecting those that usually don't sound well with such small amplifiers. Besides the obvious constraints that would not allow stadium rock concerts to reach proper scale, the range of music one can listen to and not hear any compression is impressive. And even if it occurred - a big volume wheel tends to provoke it - it was a mild overdrive, that made music sound... better.

The surprising feature of this device is its versatility. This is a paradox, because its specifications tell a different story and a short listening session can "confirm" it. But let's sit down comfortably, without any hurry, let's ask what we want, and whether it really needs to be threshing, and it will turns out that this an amplifier that delivers a refined sound - because it is well made and features a very short (straight) signal path (Class A single-ended!) - and it allows its user to listen to a wide range of music genres.


Prestige 9WST Mk2 is a refined amplifier. Its designers managed to combine the advantages of a simple design without "cutting corners" where necessary - and even if it was done, I couldn't find any negative side effects. The amplifier is not very selective, so those who like to hear a pin drop - just to mention a fragment of an IMAX theater advertising – with gunfire in the background, will leave disappointed. But for them, there are many, equally pleasant devices available on the market. Egg-Shell is for those who like nice tone, prefer to “watch” music from a greater distance, so natural for acoustic recordings (classical and jazz), but do not want to sacrifice the possibility listening also to a different music.

This is not a one-dimensional amplifier, because apart from jazz and classical music it can play nicely also pop, rock (but not too loud), new romantic, and sophisticated electronics albums, which elude unambiguous classification. You have pair it with a higher than average efficiency and accept the fact that the noise coming from them won't attract the attention of your neighbors. If you realize that, if you accept that, then a beautiful palette of colors, a high dynamics, rich lower midrange and a nice bass will allow us for many hours of enjoying the music without fatigue and irritation, playing one disc after another.

And those who would like to decide on their own which version of the Little Suite they prefer, will find both, the adjusted and uncorrected versions on the Niels Thybo, Bo Stief, Lennart Gruvstedt Super Trio album released by Lasting Impression Music. I would recommend LE version, that is "First Pressings 1000". RED Fingerprint

The Egg Shell amplifiers stand out among other tube amplifiers and preamplifiers by several elements. First of all, by their look. You can clearly see that the chassis has been designed by a talented person who knew what he was doing. The body of the device is compact, focused, and yet the whole has a light, even a little "ethereal" aftertaste. This is caused by the rounded lateral edges, by the high and delicate-looking feet, as well as the front glass, behind which tubes glow nicely supported with numerous reflections from polished metal.

The glass front is not a new idea, because McIntosh has using it since 1960s, and the Italian Unison Research introduced a similar concept several years ago in the P40 amplifier. Despite these similarities Egg-Shell's design is unique, distinguished by a number of small elements. The problem of a protective grid for tube is solved in a very clever way here – one takes of the whole top that is fixed to the chassis using only magnets. The amplifier looks as nicely with a closed and an open top. The vents on the top can take different shapes and customers can even provide a shape that is cut out there, and even ask for a chosen graphics to be applied there. Also, the front panel may be painted in one of three colors, and upon request a chosen photo can be applied there (all additional options cost extra).

The blackened portion of the front wall features two red indicators - one shows that power is on, the second which input is currently selected. These look like old-fashion bulbs rather than like a modern LEDs, which adds a bit of a vintage charm to the design. At first one might miss two consecutive manipulators – an input selector and volume control. The former is a small knurled knob exactly in the middle of the front panel, which, however, isn't particularly visible masked with black background. The volume is adjusted using a horizontal, large wheel, a small part of which protrudes from the bottom. And again it reminded me of McIntosh, this time with their radio receivers, for example. Model 125. It should be remembered that a few years ago, it was recreated by Marantz in their integrated system Consolette. Here, the wheel is much bigger though. It is indeed quite an elaborate mechanism working with the classic potentiometer.

The rear panel is covered with a polished stainless steel sheet, which looks very elegant. You'll find there three pairs of RCA jacks and two sets of three speaker connectors. In the middle there is an IEC socket. The RCA jacks sourced from American company CMC offer high quality, the gold-plated speaker terminals – with 4 and 8 Ω taps - also look good. There are two more switches, I would like to point out, hidden underneath nest to the right edge of the device. One is the power switch and the second one turns the anode voltage on. The company suggests to use that switch after a while, to let the tubes warm up. This is to extend their lifespan.

The output tubes are mounted in a tilted position. The rectifier, the drivers and tubes in the input stage sit in their socket in the upright positions. Tubes come from several brands - the version we received for testing featured tubes made by the Russian company Electro-Harmonix (input and control EF86EH) and Tung-Sol (output EL34 B) and the Slovak JJ Electronics (Rectifier 5AR4), but the amplifier can be ordered with other tubes:
- EL34 Svetlana (S) | EL34 B Tung-Sol
- EF806S JJ Gold | EF806S JJ | EF86EH Electro-Harmonix
12AX7 EHG Electro-Harmonix Gold | EH 12AX7 Electro-Harmonix | 5751 EHG Electro-Harmonix Gold | ECC83S JJ Gold
- 5AR4 Sovtek | 5AR4 JJ Electronics

The electronic circuit was assembled using the most expensive, but also the best point-to-point method. No PCBs were used. It starts with an attenuator – here it is a rotary Black potentiometer by AlpsThan there is an input (preamp) tube, the EF86 pentode, operating in a triode mode. It is coupled to another tube, ECC83 double triode, which drives the power tube through a Pilkor polypropylene capacitor. Each channel has a separate voltage filtering system.

The remote control, Prestige RCX, with gyroscopic system tracking rotation, has the form of a sphere with a cut-off bottom. Underneath there is a switch and a socket for charging the battery. Communication between the remote and the amplifier is established by radio, we do not have to remember so that the remote is pointed to the device; besides, how would we do it while this is a ball :) The battery allows for 20 hours of operation, the range of the remote reaches 25 meters.

The make and finish of Prestige 9WST Mk2 is really good. It looks good and completely different than other amplifiers available on the market. The unique remote control makes it even more attractive.

Specifications (according to manufacturer)

Class: A (Single-Ended)
Power: 2 x 9W
Frequency response: 30Hz – 20kHz (+/- 3dB)
Output impedance: 4 and 8 Ohm
Inputs: 3 x RCA
Tubes: 2 x EL34, 2 x EF86, 2 x ECC83, 2 x 5AR4
Tube power supply system
Power consumption: 140W (60W in standby)
Weight: 19 kg
Dimensions [cm] (W/L/H): 40/39/19



- Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
- Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
- Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

- Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

- Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
- Power amplifier: Soulution 710
- Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

- Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
- Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
- Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
- Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
- Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
- Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
- Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

- Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
- USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
- LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
- Router: Liksys WAG320N
- NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
System I
- Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
- Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
System II
- Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
- Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

System I
- Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
- Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
- Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
System II
- Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
- Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
- Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
- Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
- Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
- Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
- Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

- FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One