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21st Century Tube Technology - Revised
by Ernie Fisher

Allnic_T-2000Ever since I took a look and listen to the entry-level Allnic preamplifier, my perspective changed from a casual to a formal interest. It wasn’t because of the unit’s retro look — which I like — it was because it sounded good and offered superb build and parts quality. Allnic Audio is likely named for its use of a pure nickel alloy core in its transformers. It is a family-owned business located in South Korea headed by Kang Su Park. I understand that the family’s participation in the manufacturing process is the basis to guarantee a product that goes beyond standard quality control procedures and include carefully chosen parts, testing these components within the sphere of circuitries and wiring and assembling them meticulously by hand.

My original intention was to review the T-2000 separately, but I changed my mind because the L-3000 preamplifier arrived shortly after the integrated amplifier and I used both for this evaluation as well as for the reviews of the Genesis power amp and the Focal loudspeakers.

I first operated the T-2000 as an integrated amplifier, although it can be used as a stand-alone stereo power amp, or part of a bi-amplified system. The unit provides in and outputs to accommodate either application. Additionally, it can be operated in pentode and triode modes, controllable via a front-mounted toggle switch while the amp is on. I connected my CD playback system directly to the unit and began listening, switching between pentode and triode modes frequently.

To evaluate the L-3000 preamplifier’s performance with different amplifier designs, I used it with the Genesis Reference Amplifier, the Bryston 7B SST Squared, the BelCanto monoblocks and its sibling the T-2000.

The Sound
Allnic_T-2000First impressions are usually pretty good indicators of what’s to come and my first reflections were that the amp sounded engaging, pleasant and musical. Switching between the triode and pentode modes resulted in slight changes whereby in triode operation, the T-2000 sounded somewhat softer at frequency extremes but firmer with better resolution in the pentode mode. However, the amplifier’s primary sonic signature remained unchanged, which brings me to the important part of the evaluation. As indicated earlier, the T-2000’s overall sound quality is that of a powerful, but well tempered instrument, always calm and in control of the music’s enormous dynamic changes and frequency swings. Mellifluous, blossoming top frequencies blend effortlessly with the entire midrange band and continue smoothly into the bass regions. I liked what I heard, but missed the touch of detail, the decisive focus and image on the sound stage — resolution. I connected my Dolan preamplifier and, now with the T-2000 in the bypass mode, listened again. Wow, with the preamplifier in the setup, the amplifier provided the sonic element described above but now with resolution across the entire frequency reach, really actually finishing what was earlier unfinished. With the preamplifier in the system, the gain control on the amplifier isn’t bypassed thereby allowing functional remote access to volume and mute.

For the next listening test, I inserted the Allnic L-3000 preamp in a system with the Genesis 5.3 loudspeakers. With the T-2000/L-3000 arrangement driving the midrange and high frequency drivers, the overall sound wasn’t just great, I was magnificent. The speakers’ ribbons, designed to handle high frequencies, took on vivacity and verve, though well controlled and smooth as a baby’s. The entire midrange segment (from 160Hz to about 1300Hz) became vibrant, almost animated for it showed clearly the spaces where instruments and voices are located on the sound stage. Loads of air, great detail and focus, amazingly real rendering of tonal shades and a harmonious balance of it all made listening an encounter with music to behold.

Allnic_L-3000I connected the L-3000 preamp (a fully balanced design) in the balanced mode to the earlier reviewed Genesis power amplifier (also fully balanced) and, again, became more enthralled and more engaged with the music than in any other earlier listening tests. This pointed directly to the L-3000’s presence in the Genesis amplifier/speaker set-up and I couldn’t wait to hear another system combination. For the next audition, I got down on my knees behind my stand, connected the preamp in a system with the Genesis 5.3 speakers driven by the Bryston 7B SST Squared monoblocks. At first I used the single-ended connection (with RCA termination), but later changed it to the balanced mode (with XLR) as the Brystons are also fully balanced designs. My knees were aching, but my ears were pleased as I listened to the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s 5th. I have listened to this CD (a JVC with Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago symphony) for many years, but I have never heard it as utterly real as it was in this system. I heard more; more staging, more resolution, more tonal blossoming, sweeter highs and greater musical fiber across the important midrange; and I clearly perceived the system’s control over the signal’s dynamics. Beethoven’s 5th shocks for its fortissimo punches and fascinates for its sensitive pianissimo passages; and this system — thanks to the L-3000 — performed in accordance with the nature of the signal, as it never had with any other preamplifier I had used in the past three years. The balanced configuration provided that certain something that completed and brought about the best possible sound. A pair of BelCanto monoblocks came in time for another interesting audition. I connected the L-3000 when the amps had first arrived and gave it a quick listen. It was good, but I waited for about one week for the main auditioning sessions. The BelCanto/Allnic combination worked very well. The L-3000 faithfully relayed the speed of the amps, showed that they can sound wonderfully smooth at top frequencies, clear and airy in the mids and provide great bass with a surprising melodic element. For more of this, I will have to steer you to the soon-to-come review of the BelCanto Amps. The L-3000 worked well in all systems, though if I had to pick one over another I would likely choose the Genesis amp/Allnic pre system. Second place goes to Bryston/Allnic connected in balanced mode. Third place has to be the Allnic/Allnic combo, not because it was merely good, but because of the added charm and sweetness provided by the tube design. The BelCanto/Allnic combo was perhaps the one that showed top accuracy, great resolution across the audible frequency reach, excellent detail and enough harmonic elements to hear into the music on a multi-dimensional sound stage. The musicality element of this combination wasn’t as pleasing as the all Allnic system, but it did offer better resolution.

Allnic_L-3000Just when I thought I had finally finished this essay, the Tenor 175 S stereo amplifier arrived and I connected it to the Allnic L-3000. Having had the preamp in use for a few weeks and with various components, I had become very well acquainted with its sonic personality. However, I was not prepared for the sonic impact, this system combination provided. By introducing the ultra high-end Tenor power amp to the system, its musical value shot up tremendously. Earlier auditions of the Tenor monoblocks had familiarized me with the amp’s sonic character and I expected really good sound. Well, I got it; I recognized the amp’s signature immediately, which can only mean that the L-3000 has a high level of neutrality. In musical terms, the system left nothing incomplete or unfinished and illustrated two points: the preamplifier is well suited for high-end, highly resolving components; and its own sonic signature is not adding or imposing damaging deteriorating elements. The bottom line: I believe that the price/performance ratio is on the button and one gets what one paying for. The somewhat retro look of the Allnic line reminds me of the old days of classic audio designs, making these components visually unique — a delight for audiophile eyes — and a treat for discerning ears.

The longer I listen to evaluate audio components, the harder it is to relax, unless of course, the playback system is emphasizing the musical experience and not the components’ presence. When I feel that the audio gear is the means, but not the focus for the enjoyment of music, I fish out my old recordings, sit back and listen for hours. And that is exactly what happened during the time I worked on this essay. For the auditions I used my Ethera Vitae, the Focal and the Reeve Design Loudspeakers as well as the Genesis 5.2s. With the Bryston, Genesis, Allnic and BelCanto power amplifiers and thus, came up with sixteen system combinations. That’s sixteen multiplied by an average of five hours per system or a total of 80 hours of auditioning. Add to this a few days, when I simply enjoyed listening to my favourite tunes, and I’d say I became intimately familiar with the components’ sonic disposition — solo and in systems. The various sonic attributes gained by randomly connecting the components showed again that system synergy can and will bring about the desired audio effects; and by extension making it possible to come up with sound that best suits the listener. My choices regarding first, second, third and fourth place are what I preferred as another audio enthusiast and, as such, I would be very happy to live with any one of the systems.

*NEW: The Allnic T-2000: A Second Opinion by David McCallum

Allnic Audio Integrated Amplifier Model T-2000 & L-3000 Preamplifier Hammertone Audio
T-2000: ♪♪♪♪
L-3000: ♪♪♪♪
T-2000: $8,900.00
L-3000: $10,9000.00
Dimensions: T-2000
(W x D x H) 430mm x 430mm X 240mm
Weight: 40Kg
Dimensions: L-3000  
(W x D x H) 430mm × 350m) × 173mm
Weight: 17 kg


I’d like to touch upon the tech part in a very casual manner, as my main interest is the components’ sound quality. As the Allnic’s sound is rather high-end, one can take it for granted that the technology behind the sound is not the same as one finds in mass-market electronics. It all begins with careful selection of parts and the skill to utilize them in the engineering and assembling process. Allnic’s design highlights are interesting, though not necessarily unique.

The L-3000 preamplifier features a single gain stage circuit that uses only one tube in the amplification. Allnic’s aim is to achieve “purer, more detailed, more spacious and more dynamic sound” than the alternative — a multi gain stage design. The important transformer is made with a large pure nickel alloy and it functions here coupled as a line output device. The usual (and cheaper) method is capacitor coupling. This method transmits only voltage, rather than real watts possible with transformer-coupling technology which functions at 90% efficiency, limiting the energy loss to only about 10%. Combined with Allnic’s careful selection of vacuum tubes, the preamp achieves exemplary wide bandwidth and low distortion. The L-3000 has constant 150 ohms output impedance at all frequencies, thus providing signal stability for the power amplifier, especially in the low frequency domain. Allnic designed an ultra high-speed automatic voltage regulator that protects the amplifying tubes from any AC line changes and deals with all current demands.
The unit has an automatic muting system that delays powering up for about 40 seconds to prevent any harmful transients to power amplifier and to loudspeakers while it is warming up. A couple of illuminated analog current meters show the status of L-3000's operation and any failure or any damages in parts will move the needle off the mark. A patented "Absorb GEL tube damper" design prevents vibration or microphonic noise to enter the audible range. There is a simple remote control that allows access to volume, mute, input and standby. It activates a precision analogue attenuator via an oil clutched motor. The main power switch is on the unit’s left while on its rear provides two balanced and three unbalanced inputs and one balanced and on unbalanced output.

The L 3000’s specifications hint at the unit’s quality. The input impedance is 10kΩ; its frequency range is from 20Hz to 20kHz (flat), and from 16Hz to 75kHz (-3dB); voltage gain is +20dB; THD (1kHz) at output of 0.3V is 0.06%; output at 1.0V is 0.15%; S/N ratio is -90dB (CCIR, 1kHz); maximum output is15V RMS (non clipping) ; output Impedance is150Ω constant. Vacuum tubes used are E810F × 2 , 7233 × 2, 6485 × 2 (voltage regulator). The unit’s dimension are 430mm(W) × 350mm(D) × 173mm(H) and it weighs17 kg (about 38 pound).

The T-2000 stereo integrated amplifier is one of Allnic Audio’s two KT120 stereo integrated amplifier models. Like all Allnic Audio products, the T-2000 has Permalloy (iron and nickel alloy) for its transformer cores. Allnic is grateful to Mr. G.W. Elmen of Western Electric for inventing Permalloy for transformer core use. The T-2000 delivers 70 watts/channel in a push-pull, triode/pentode switchable mode. Remote controlled 41 steps silver contact attenuator. The T-2000 employs an in-house made 41 step, silver contact quality attenuator, instead of a commonly used carbon film potentiometer. The attenuator provides complete channel balance and minimum distortion. The T-2000 uses only two stages of driving circuit to achieve +35dB of voltage gain (three or four stages are common in many conventional integrated amplifiers). This results in much lower coloration and increased speed in signal/sound reproduction. The D3a is used in triode mode as the second stage driver tube, with a load of about 5 kohms, and using 20mA of current.

Allnic's "Full Engagement" transformers boast four independent, secondary windings which are always fully connected, never "idled". This means that all secondary windings are always connected to your loudspeakers, regardless of which output switch position you use (4 ohms, 8 ohms or 16 ohms, depending on the factory configuration you have selected). Thus, the transformer output efficiency is unparalleled.

Allnic uses very large output transformers (96 mm) with nickel, mixed with FeSi, cores. This provides for higher inductance with fewer windings than more conventional designs and achieves an extremely wide range of output frequencies. The T-2000 has soft start circuitry that, after sufficient warm-up only, provides the high voltage supply to the plate of each tube. This (protective) design results in prolonged tube life and fewer and less frequent issues with tube performance. In order to provide constant current (bias) monitoring for the power tubes, Allnic uses a separate analogue current meter for each tube. The meters make it easy to see the status of each tube at any time and to respond immediately to any variation in bias, adjustable via the bias control knob for the relevant tube. Switching between triode and pentode operation can be done "on-the-fly" at any time while the amplifier is in use.

T-2000 specifications: Output Power: 70w + 70w (8 Ω load, at 1KHz); distortion is 0.2% at 1KHz, 2.83V; frequency response is from 20Hz - 20KHz flat; S/N Ratio is -80dB (CCIR, 1KHz); damping factor is 7 at 8 ohm load at 1KHz; voltage gain is +35dB; input impedance is 10K ohm (single-ended, unbalanced); input sensitivity is 400mV for rated power. Tubes: KT120 X 4 (power triode) D3a X 4 (2nd stage driver tube – no equivalent) 6485 X 4 (1st stage driver: similar to 6AH6, 6AH6WA, 6AH6S, CV2521). Fuses: AC Mains - 3A / 250V (110W) (two supplied – one is a spare). Tubes - 0.5A, 250V, 20mm glass type
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