Emotive Audio Sira LE – Listening Impressions
I’ve owned a couple of preamps that I would consider to be stand-out, or clearly special when compared to the rest. The Allnic Audio L-5000 DHT was one such preamp / linestage. the Emotive Audio Epifania another. And now I can safely say that the Emotive Audio Sira LE has every right to hang in the same company as the aforementioned, and given its far more modest price tag, that’s really quite something.
If you’ve read any of my reviews or insights you’ll know that I’m a believer in making comparisons when talking about gear. Not everyone likes this approach, but for me, a comparison is essential for context, and without it, comments float in their own space without providing the reader with a point of reference. The problem with comparison making is that one does not always have a sufficiently large database of product experiences from which to draw, so it leaves one open to criticism when apples are seemingly compared with oranges. You get my drift. Hopefully.
The Allnic Audio L-5000 DHT I owned for a while was an upgraded unit, with a retail price close to $30,000, when the cost of the upgrades was factored in. I’ve never heard a preamp costing anywhere close to $30K that I would consider good value, at that price. Given that the primary goal of a good linestage is to get itself out of the way of the music, and contribute nothing other than switching and volume control, then shelling out 30 big ones for something you actually prefer not to hear, seems nonsensical. However, I didn’t and wouldn’t pay that for a preamp, as I source most of my gear on the used marketplaces, so the Allnic Audio L-5000 DHT was exceptional value for me, at the price I paid.
Likewise, the Emotive Audio Epifania had a MSRP of $17000, when it was last in production. Again, that’s too steep a price to pay for something that should leave no trace of itself in the end product. But again, courtesy of the used markets, I can say that my Epifania is of exceptional value and an excellent choice for my reference system.
In the interest of more context, I can rattle off a couple of units I’ve had my hands on over the years that left me feeling a lot more blase about their status and contribution to the sound of my system. The Supratek Chardonnay was one such animal. Resplendent in its livery of chrome and hardwood, it did little of note to enhance the sonic prowess of whatever system I was using it in at the time I owned it. Similarly, an Aetshetix Calypso, while pretty decent sounding, didn’t cross the line into the category of ‘exceptional’.
THE SIRA LE
At the heart of the Sira LEs audio circuits are its 5687 twin-triode voltage amplifier and the 6186 cathode follower tubes. The manufacturer’s claim is that these tube circuits are designed in such a way as to operate in a much more linear manner than in conventional circuits, yielding real improvement in sound quality by “allowing the music to come through more freely.”
There’s something a little simplistic about the last line in the previous paragraph, but damn if it doesn’t just sum up what that Sira LE is all about. The music does emerge with an unimpeded flow about it, you only recognize that fact when you compare it to other lesser linestages where that ‘ease of presentation’ is absent or less apparent. The Allnic L-5000 DHT has it, the Supratek Chardonnay did not. The SST Ambrosia had it, the Krell HRC did not. Yes, this isn’t a quality or virtue of tube-only designs, it crosses over to solid-state too. You hear it in an instant on densely recorded music, be it classical or classic rock. I just picked up the 180 gram Genesis – Foxtrot album, and on ‘Supper’s Ready’, the closing stages of the piece can become compressed and homogenized, but with the Sira LE at the helm, the clarity and space around Gabriel’s voice is retained and his vocal sits atop a tapestry of instrumentation where everything simply flows from the speakers in a pure and natural way. It’s difficult to describe but you’ll recognize it when you hear it.
“With the Sira-LE we’ve taken the already excellent Sira linestage preamplifier a step further with refinements to the volume control circuit and the addition of beautiful chassis artwork.”
I doubt those are the only changes to set the SE aside from the non-SE version. The manufacturer’s website description continues with:
As with the Sira, the Sira-LE is an all vacuum tube design. We’ve incorporated vacuum tube-type circuitry for the power supply’s rectification, voltage regulation and high impedance current sources. This approach has proven to be the ultimate for providing musical-sounding support circuits for the Sira-LE’s audio tubes.
Finally, it is obvious looking at the Sira-LE that it is unlike any other audio product available. Each piece is truly a handmade work of art. Our metal chassis are individually designed and acid etched for us by Evy Rogers of Jacob-Rogers art furniture–highly respected metal artists. Each piece is signed and there are no repeated designs. Our standard finish is a bright nickel plate with beautiful Granadillo wood.
Continuing with listening impressions – the Emotive Audio Sira LE doesn’t quite plumb the depths in the same way as its far more expensive stablemate, the Epifania, but using the available second set of pre-outs into a miniDSP bass array setup, it really doesn’t give up much in the LF battles. Similarly, at the top end, the Epifania has a touch more air and sparkle, but the Sira LE has all of the richness and fluidity of its more expensive counterpart. When compared (from memory) with the Allnic L-5000 DHT, the Sira LE lacks a touch of the denseness and richness exhibited by the Allnic, but it really is a touch and nothing more.
Playing the Analogue Productions 200 gram Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt – A Meeting By The River, on the Dr. Feickert Volare turntable / Manley Labs Steelhead / Emotive Audio Sira LE / Thor Audio KT66 monos / Quad ESL 57’s (Cardas Golden Cross), it’s hard not to describe what you’re hearing as anything other than pure magic. It’s as if this system were put together to play this specific recording. I threw down a few quick notes after listening to the title track, and the raw, uncut data read:
- stupid dynamics
- start-stop transients wow
- layering front to back not heard as good as this
- real real real
I can’t think how one might improve on the playback of this particular recording, and if one were to try, the first step certainly wouldn’t be by changing out the preamp.
Certainly, with the vintage Quads in the chain, there’s a limitation on just how hard you can push the system to test for ultimate dynamic ability, but by switching in the Merlin Music TSM Black Magic Edition speakers, there are no such limitations.
I’ve recently been revisiting the voice and music of Joe Cocker, of ‘Mad Dog’s and Englishmen’ fame. The album JOE COCKER – THE LIFE OF A MAN ULTIMATE HITS 1968-2013 is a good place to start for people new to his music, and though some of the tracks are overly compressed and somewhat lifeless, there are a few gems on there. Listening to Joe (RIP) belt out such classics as ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ via the Merlins, the wow and jump factor were stupendously good. This preamp holds nothing at all back and adds very little of anything that I can hear.
On the last point, the Manley Steelhead phonostage I use has a built-in linestage, and it isn’t of the passive variety that tends to deflate dynamic ability when coupled with some power amps. It’s a damn good linestage and perfectly adequate if you can get away with a single line input. But using a good quality preamp like the Emotive Audio Sira LE, there is in fact something added to the signal when compared directly with the Steelhead. That something is a little more presence and a tad more fleshiness. It’s a subtle contribution but it’s worthwhile in the way it gives the music just a touch more of the real-life sauce that we’re always looking for.
Lastly, the Sira LE aesthetic is unlike any other audio product you’ll find, anywhere, I guarantee it. Each unit has a beautiful Granadillo wood plinth and a metal chassis which is individually designed and acid-etched by Evy Rogers of Jacob-Rogers art furniture, a highly respected metal artist. Each bright nickel plate is etched and signed and there are no repeated designs.
Components Used For this review
Origin Live Resolution IV With All Factory Options Including Hybrid Silver Cable / Origin Live Illustrious IV/ ZYX Ultimate 100
Dr. Feickert Analogue Turntable / Jelco 250ST / Hana MH
Allnic Audio H-1202 Phono preamp
Manley Labs Steelhead Phono Preamp
Thor TPA 60 Monoblock KT77
Quad ESL 57 Loudspeakers
Merlin Music TSM BME
ESP The Reference PC’s
Interconnects from Harmonic Technology / Bogden Audio
Speaker Cables – Cardas Golder Cross
Platforms And Isolation from Symposium / Audio Points / Mapleshade Heavy Brass Footers / Custom Platforms and Racks / IsoPad 6 / Springs
PS Audio P10 Power Plant