We’re all familiar with the law of diminishing returns and we all have our own perception of where the line can be drawn; the line beyond which ever-increasing amounts of cash do not readily translate to significant gains in performance. Where we place that line is an individual choice based around things like disposable income and the level of insanity our significant others are willing to tolerate.
Up until a week ago, and in the specific case of preamps/linestages, my personal line was drawn somewhere around the $11-12K mark. It wasn’t something I’d consciously given a lot of thought to, but having owned and heard quite a variety of linestages over the years, I’d come to the conclusion that my recently acquired Thor TA 1000 MKII ($11K when last produced) was at or around that line, where spending more wouldn’t really buy me performance upgrades commensurate with money spent.
Boy was I wrong.
I can’t honestly say that Allnic Audio gear has ever been on my radar. Sure, I’ve seen their stuff floating around the web, but I’ve never really cared for their aesthetic approach and never really scouted the brand beyond scanning the occasional review. Then a friend happened upon their L-3000 Linestage and gave a ‘glowing’ report of its performance (‘scuse the tubes pun). That should never be enough on its own to prompt a purchase, and it wasn’t, but when I looked a little more closely at the brand I started to like more and more of what I saw.
First of all, I noted the fact that a certain gentleman by the name of Albert Porter is a dealer/distributor for the Allnic Audio brand here in the USA. I know Albert through his past involvement with the audio forums and know his reputation for cherry-picking the best of the best when it comes to audio gear. I then read up on some of the technical aspects of Allnic gear, and that caused a stir in my loins. I noted with interest the use of ‘Direct Heated Triodes’ in some of their designs and that, to quote from their website: “Allnic’s Mr. Kang Su Park has spent a lifetime studying and designing circuits and transformers for use of DHTs in audio reproduction.”
It seems that Mr. Kang Su Park has successfully designed a circuit, valve, and transformer combination that delivers an extremely pure square wave, more so than anything seen prior from any DHT valve amplification circuit. While there are other designs on the market that use DHT, it isn’t common for DHT to be used at all stages of the circuit from the signal input to output.
OK, that’s interesting enough at a technical level, but what does that do for the sound?
Reading around it became apparent that users of Allnic’s DHT based preamplifiers were either few in numbers or they were too busy listening to music to engage in forum chatter. From the very few snippets of feedback that I picked up, the L5000 DHT from Allnic Audio was said to sound: “just different…sonically pure…neutral…different”.
Well that wasn’t really enough of a testimonial to make me go out of my way to purchase one of these units, but then while the idea was still floating around inside my brain somewhere, an L-5000 DHT appeared in the classifieds with the factory recommended V-Cap upgrade, so I bought it.
I’m not intending this as a full and formal review of the Allnic L-5000 DHT, since it has only been in my system now for around five days.
What I will say, unequivocally, is that it sounds so, so much better than my previous reference preamp, the Thor TA 1000 MKII, and so much better than any other preamp that I’ve ever had close encounters with. Sure, it is more expensive than my Thor, and by quite a margin, but its improvement in performance isn’t just incremental, it’s in a whole other league.
The first thing that struck me, and I mean that in a literal sense, was the bass. I’ve used the Thor preamp for a while with a variety of power amps both tubed and solid-state, and I have a Conrad Johnson CT5 that gets a run-out once in a while too, but the bottom end of the Allnic is simply incredible by comparison.
Hooked into my Thor TPA-60w monoblocks, the sound suddenly gained the weight and authority of a high-powered solid state driven system, yet with all the virtues of tubes still intact.
From the bass on up the Allnic L-5000 DHT has a purity of tone and effortless delivery that I’ve never heard from any preamp before. It doesn’t sound like a tube preamp, nor does it sound like solid-state. It is just so natural, pure, involving and musical, that it seems to transcend the notion of applying any label like ‘tube amp warmth’ or ‘solid-state clarity’ – it just breathes out music in its purest and most unfettered form.
I can’t say how the V-Cap upgrade has lifted the performance of this unit as I’ve never heard the L5000 DHT in stock form. But since it’s a modification actually recommended by Allnic owner and lead designer Mr. K.S. Park, I suspect it is a worthwhile investment for any other L5000 DHT owners out there.
Any review has to touch on things like imaging, soundstage, dynamics etc, otherwise, it isn’t worth a bean to an audiophile, right? Well for now I just can’t stop listening to music for long enough to get into any of that. This preamp sounds like the real thing should sound, more so than any other preamp in my experience. Let that suffice for now.
Aesthetically its looks have grown on me and ergonomically it’s as good as it gets. The preamp is built like a tank. The remote control is a chunky solid aluminum affair and provides access to what you need. I haven’t discovered any operational quirks as of yet and doubt that I will.
I’ll update this review when I’ve had more time with the unit.
EQUIPMENT USED IN THIS REVIEW INCLUDED:
- Origin Live Resolution Turntable
- Origin Live Illustrious Tonearm with silver wire harness upgrade
- ZYX Ultimate 100/Z
- Zesto Andros 1.2 phono preamp
- Thor TA1000 MKII preamp
- Thor TPA 60 Monoblocks
- Aerial 7b Loudspeakers
- Aerial SW-12 Subs (x 3)
- Cables included Harmonic Technology Pro-Silway III RCA, Bogdan Audio Toto RCA’s, Tara Labs Master Speaker Cables, Anti-Cables 2.1 speaker cables, various isolation accessories etc etc.
LISTENING NOTES – ARCHIVE
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