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  • Audion Black Shadow

    I got some new used amps. These are an original model that were upgraded close to the II current version.
    Some initial impressions. Fast, great high end extension. Fully fleshed out midrange, fast bass. Well rounded and full bass.


    More about bass as this is where I hear the real difference. Black Shadow SET Seems to have a fast bass. It’s quick to start and builds to a well rounded bloom. KT PP on the other hand is not as fast off the line. It’s not quite as full. But it’s more solid. It has a harder foundation. The KT PP builds to a more solid punch and control. The BS SET on the other hand might start a tad quicker to the note, but it does not grab with as much authority. It does not have quite the thrust and punch. It has more richness/harmony.

    The soundstage stands out. Wider and taller. The speakers hid more. Less attention is paid to the drivers. I have not added as much as I should here. Maybe intentionally. Soundstage is so very affected by your room and how well you set up your speakers. Let me just say, it’s about the best I remember hearing in my system. If I spent more time with my speakers which are far from optimum with all the other stuff I have been into, they would soundstage much different. But I can say the foundation these amps are coming from is excellent.
    1. This is where everyone talks about SET magic. Tonally its damb good. With Diana Krall on digital, Mojo Audio equipment, to the greatest extent so far I hear a Gibson ES335 played through a Roland JC120. The instruments and vocals are very clean and full of body. But not too much. Some may say its bloom and feel a KT PP is more linear and even. That may be the case. The SET owner will need to like an enveloping rich sound. A more relaxed fat body.

    On Pink Marti Get Happy vinyl with the STST Motus II/Hana/Allnic the violins on Yo te Quiero Siempre are to die for. Generally this is a nice piece of vinyl. Not the best. It sounds quite nice. There is a little more to it now. It seems to have fluidity to it. More so than what I noticed with the KT PP amp.

    Another point related to midrange. Clarity is unreal. These are revealing amps in the midrange right up through a very extended top end. Even with all the body, the clarity is superb. It’s not fatiguing. It’s very revealing. This is to a detriment with not as good a vinyl. Any surface noise is exposed. Surface noise on one of my favorite Classical albums that is from the 70 was immediately apparent. Much more so than with the KT PP.

    Volume Control. These amps are version 1 original. They have silver wiring with copper transformers. The Power Supply was upgraded with better caps. The grounding was improved upon. Additional shielding was applied to the transformers. In all, they were predecessors to the updated Version II. These are not 100% of the version II, but they are close. Anyhow, volume control. All these Amps have a pot on the front. You can have an upgraded Alps installed. I don’t know why you would use a pot. Maybe because they can be used as a single source integrated amp. The volume goes from 0 to explosive wide open. But, no matter how you slice it, a Pot is not a great device to pass a signal through. If using a preamp with these amps such as I am, the first modification I would make would be to get rid of the pot and have a ladder installed with maybe 4 excellent resistors. It will show its happy spot real fast. Too low and it’s a little flat. To high and it gets overdriven and bright. I figure 4 points of attenuation would allow for a very quiet play, 2 for perfect mid volume play and another for wide open cranking the tune.

    Cranking the Tunes. KT PP have the advantage. The grip and control of the PP stands out. Its not that the SET at maybe high 80, low 90s db are clipping or compressing. More the KT PP have overhead and grip of the drivers. They control my PAP Trio 15 Horn (2 x 15” woofers and a horn mid/high) much better. But contol is not everything. KT PP doesn’t have as much of that body I talked about earlier. They are more muscular and slim. Like a hard bodied sports woman. The SET is more a beautiful 30 year old with fresh rounded curves. It’s hard to not stop and stare.

    Well, is it a perfect amp. No. But then again I have not found a perfect amp yet. Fortunately for me, I probably play music more around the 70 to 80 db range. I have been told I have my volume around where engineers listen in the mixing room. Because of this, I don’t really get to that point where you start to notice the KT PP amp is pulling ahead with its overhead and ease of control. If I always played pretty loud, I would probably go looking for something that has as much body as I can find with power. My gut says this will be a 3 to 5 year amp for me. I will probably have someone measure the happy spots on my potentiometer and replace them with either one resistor or maybe a ladder with 4 or so steps.

    Not e, these impressions are with a couple Russian input and driver tubes with Psvane premium select cryogenic grade 845 tubes. They also come with 4 sets of Shuguang 845. The Shunguang are all different varietals to choose from. It will be interesting to see how these shape the sound over time. I also have some amazing Telefunkin E88CC tubes in my stash. Tubes are going to shape the sound. I was even provided a thorough review of how each 845 affects the overall playback. A good way to start with moving in directions that I may want to explore.

    Rex
    PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
    Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

  • #2
    So who modified your amps before you bought them?
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

    Comment


    • Kingrex
      Kingrex commented
      Editing a comment
      I would have to go digging to find who modded these, prior to my owning them. I'm not a supper name memory guy. Its buried somewhere in 50 or 60 pages of forum chatter and private messaging. The person is know well enough to be bragged about, and I believe he is somehow related to Audion and their design. Could be wrong on that point. I was told these modds later were the foundation for the II version.

      I like these amps will probably have the pot changed to a set of resistors. Maybe I will contact Emmanuel with First Sound. His preamp which I own and love are based upon a stepped ladder with resistors. He know how to make a good one.

  • #3
    OK, I just pulled the Edicron 6922 that it came with. I replaced it with my Telefunken E88cc that cost $360 each now. Hands down, tubes play a big part with these amps. I am now playing 3 DB louder on my stepped ladder attenuator and its absolutely glorious. I was stopping 3 db lower with the Edicron because it was topping out for me. Starting to hit the point just under where you go, ok, that too loud. I'm 3 db higher now and could go up, but why. Its dam good right where it is.

    Editing these to say, these amps are just crushing it now with the Telefunken in. Just flat out a new amp. Way more everything in a good way. I'm easily 6db higher than I was listening to it prior and its just out of this world. I'm playing my vinyl. "A Tribute to Duke" Concord Jazz Inc. 1977 USA
    PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
    Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

    Comment


    • #4
      I have been playing my BS for a week. Bouncing through tubes. Trying to get the amps to click. I'm close. These amps are very input tube sensitive. They told me a set of my Telefunken e88cca are going bad. My preamp told me the same. The amps enforced it. I put a new Upscale set in. Much more quiet and clean. They actually reveal any tube. Power and driver. You hear them all.

      Actually you hear everything. They are source sensitive. My phono plays more relaxed and easy. The digital is a little on the hard side. Digital is not letting me turn it up without a little edginess with it. The vinyl is easier to crank and enjoy.

      I actually think I am more aware of my speaker crossover now. The BS amps are more revealing of anything in front or behind them than others I have had.

      They voice different than PP amps. I actually miss some of whst PP has to offer. PP has more guts, umph, shove. You feel PP drive the music more. A sense of power. The SET seems more a smooth ride. The SET has great resolution. They have a speed that makes tones natural and real. But they lack a little something. Its different. But the same can be said of PP. PP has it's own sonics, but they lack something too. I wish I had the $ to try the First Sound Blade. I bet that amp would fall nicely between the two topology. Jazdocs system always stands out in my mind as a very complete sound.
      PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
      Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

      Comment


      • #5
        I got my Ampsandsound Casablanca back from 3rd party repairs. Holly Cow. Dead quiet. I can put my head in the horn or woofers most any time of day and its pretty darn black. But, this thread is not about those amps and those troubles. Its about the Black Shadows. The reason I bring it up is it gives me a reference to what a ppkt88/77, el34 amp of say $4500 sounds like compared to a SET of about $7500. The kt88 is very quiet. The BS have some noise. They run way more hot. Hot as in you hear the amplification in tubes. You have to be extremely selective of premium non microphonic tubes. Tap the top of either the input or driver and you are rewarded with resounding TWANGBRAWWWW out the speaker. There is a lot of amplification going on in there. Tap the top of the input or driver on the Casablanca and nothing is heard via the speaker. Even though the BS does not have any sort of disturbing hum heard at the listening chair. You are acutely aware you are listening to a tube amp. This is not all bad. Those tubes are in a very good circuit and create a high level of magic. But they are definitely there. If your a SS fan or like a smooth ultra quiet playback, this amp will bother you. You will sense the tubes.

        To be fair, the BS that I bought are 19 years old. The Importer True Audiophile out of Portland says there have been quite a few upgrades to the amps over the years. True Audiophile is very proud and supportive of the upgrades as they have been a strong voice in what improvements could be done and brought these suggestions to Audion. One of the big upgrades is to the power supply. This upgrade was founded by Bob Hovland, a good friend of the team at True Audiophile. This amp was one of the first amps to be experimented on and has the upgrade installed. I gather there are other upgrades to some of the mechanical support structure inside the amp. I also sit on very old capacitors that may need addressing. I was having whistling issues and a local tech found a blown cap leaking goo that was powering the input tube. The input cable in my amp is getting oxidized at the terminations. Additionally this amp has a pretty inexpensive Alps Blue Pot. And the input signal caps are only ok. These issue are going to be addressed when I get my BS in the mail and send them to True Audiophile to be inspected and upgrades addressed. There is also the question of having the higher bandwidth silver core output transformers installed. Its really, how far do I want to go.

        Having said all that, in short, the BS kick the pants off the Casablanca as far as performance goes. In particular I am talking about recreating a true and natural you are there live violin, piano, clarinet etc playback. I have really gotten into my vinyl with the introduction of the STST Motus II turntable. This is a game changer piece in my system. When I put on a great record such as "Rosie Sings Bing", "Dream with Dean", Vox "List Piano Concerto", "McCoy Tyner Reaching Fourth and Nights of Ballads and Blues", Original Masters "Grateful Dead", Crossroads "Beethoven Archduke Trio", any of these records push that envelope of as close to in your room as I have gotten from my system. The BS is bar far the best amp I have had in my system in regards to pealing back all the veiling, smoothing, clouding of tone. It really gets out of the way and lets what's in the groove pour fourth. But, put on a low quality record or digital file and the amps will tell you. The whole system I have built will. But vice to the verse, put a nice one on and its amazingly rewarding. It really makes you stop and listen. It's wow, how beautiful.

        Here are some comments from a Black Shadow owner on what he hears. I think it sums the amps up pretty well:
        Audion Black Shadow 845 SET monoblock. Here's your big bottle triode, put to use in an exquisite-sounding circuit with great transformers yielding Audion's trademark fast, transparent triode sound. No slow, lazy, thickly euphonic, old school sound from the Black Shadow. I have to believe Audion named this amp after the vaunted, and classic, once-fastest-motorcyle-in-the-world, the famed Vincent Black Shadow. Because it sounds like what that bike was. Muscular, fast, agile, strong. This is a three tubes amp with solid state diodes rectification. Input is 6922/CCa, driver is 5687/6900, power tube is 845 big-ass triode. Bass is deep, impactful, very substantial. More bass discipline than you get from 300B SET, less than what you get from tetrode or pentode push-pull. Bass texture is beguiling and organic. Midrange has all the SET seduction and organic wholeness you always heard about. Top end is harmonically complete but the profile varies between 845 tube choices. 24 watts and sound bigger. Dynamically vigorous with soft clipping if you get that far. You hear subtle compression at extreme SPL before rising distortion gradually rolls in. Really beautiful. The Black Shadow is quiet through speakers. Ear to driver you can hear a little hiss. Mine don't hum at any significance in my installation. Mechanical hum from the transformers is more audible in late night listening than anything from the speakers but it doesn't take much level to make you forget it's there. Placement can mitigate this.


        I agree with what is said here. These are nice amps. Definitely not for everyone. If you are a tube lover and want the most pure live you are there sound, these amps are the best I have had in my setup. Do they have some limitations. At this time, yes. I hope the upgrades I'm sending them for will help. Especially with how microphonic the run. But hey, that may just be the nature of the beast. I hear SET are beautiful to listen too, but they are hard to make quiet. I sort of sense what that means. If all the nosie was shut down in them, would the magic still be there?????????
        PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
        Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

        Comment


        • #6
          sounds like your're on your way to Audi Nirvana (pun intended!). The Motus looks like real deal, and to think you almost gave up in vinyl.
          Simon Yorke S10 | MSL Eminent GL | Channel D Lino C 2.0 | Allnic T-1500 Mk II | Muse Model Two | Innuous ZEN Mini Mk II + LPS | Avantgarde Uno Fino XD

          "One of the great challenges of this world: Knowing enough about a subject to think you are right, but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

          Comment


          • #7
            I get the Black Shadows back from repair pretty soon. They had some serious grounding issues. The preamps tubes were going microphonic. 4 sets of NOS Telefunken. It turns out, again, I got a bit of a turd. Someone wired part of the circuit incorrect. There were wires literally broken in half and not connected to anything. I assume this was part of the extreme grounding issues. There was also the one cap in the power supply to the signal that was melting goo into the amp.

            While the amps were in for repairs which was say $700 to ship the amps and $300 to repair the obvious issues, I opted for upgrades. Before I go into that, it surprises me how sellers on Whatsbest can say they tested an amp before shipping it and it was all working correct, yet there are broken wires and a massive ground short. I hate people who lie to make a couple bucks. I can't do that. Buy something from me and I tell you all the warts. Its not worth the money to destroy the trust. It appears way to many people disagree with my philosophy on life.

            Anyhow, upgrades. This amp had the Blue Pot changed to a stepped ladder attenuator. The amp is completely recapped. The signal caps are now a much higher quality. The 845 tube socket is solid billet aluminum. The signal and driver tube sockets are upgraded from the standard ceramic. And, my signal and driver tube sockets are on a proprietary isolation mount. I don't think any other Black Shadow in the USA has the isolation mounts mine has. Some of the internal wiring has been changed.

            Outside of those upgrades, the transformers, chassis etc were fine in the amp. I'm pretty excited to get these amps back. There really was something special in the sound signature.
            PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
            Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

            Comment


            • #8
              You bought those amps from someone on WBF? Did you send them back to the UK for repair? Do you have pictures of all the internal damage?
              Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

              Comment


              • Rob
                Rob commented
                Editing a comment
                Audion relocated from the UK to France some time ago.

              • mep
                mep commented
                Editing a comment
                I read an older review of these amps and it showed UK. This is not a company that I follow.

              • MylesBAstor
                MylesBAstor commented
                Editing a comment
                Ray Lombardi/Ray of Sound in CA used to bring Audion into the US. Don’t think he’s around anymore. (He also used to distribute Audio Valve from Germany in the US.)

            • #9
              True Audiophile is the importer. They are out of Portland OR. Amazing customer support. They are helping with all the work. Unfortunately due to Covid, the Portland tech no longer take work. I had to send them across country to their east coast tech.

              This is the cap. I don't have pictures of the other issues. I do have the 2 x humx the seller sent me after I complained about the ground issues.
              PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Audion Black Shadow monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI Paramount preamp,
              Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, STST Motus II TT, Vertere SG1 arm, Hanna ML, Allnic H1201 Phono pre, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, LPS to Modem Router and Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cabling throughout network, Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire.10 awg dedicated branch circuits to amps bolted to power cords. Significant upgrades to 120 volt main power panel. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects. ADDPower Symphony and Electraclear.

              Comment

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