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Fezz Audio Silver Luna Prestige Tube Amplifier Test

Tube amplifiers have their own charm, and it's not just the mesmerizing glow of the tubes: the very sound of such devices is often radically different from solid-state models and can immerse experienced audiophiles into a trance. The same fact has given rise to many memes about the “warm tube sound”, which even people who are far from the world of high-quality audio are ready to discuss. I propose once again to dive into the topic and speculate about the nature of tube sound, based on a specific example.

The main difference between tube circuitry and transistor circuitry is usually called the predominant harmonics. In a transistor, they are odd, unpleasant to the ear, and in a lamp they are even, sounding more natural and even pleasant. It was the distortion of an overloaded lamp that gave the world the whole palette of electric guitar sounds.

From this point of view, tube amplifiers definitely win: in case of overload, the sound will become more "saturated" and pleasant, and not more obnoxious. But distortion in any form goes against the very idea of ​​high fidelity audio: Hi-Fi is all about minimizing distortion, not intentionally creating it.

The developers of lamp technology say that lamps are superior to transistors in a number of performance characteristics. So, for example, due to the higher gain, the tubes allow you to get the shortest sound path with fewer stages.

At the same time, let's not forget about the weak points: the obligatory interstage feed-through capacitors and output transformers, which can significantly affect the character of the sound and the performance of the amplifier. If you somehow get rid of the negative impact of these bottlenecks, the sound can really meet the requirements of Hi-Fi, not only formally, but also in essence.

However, the lion's share of tubes offered on the market today, to a greater or lesser extent, demonstrates a "warm tube sound" - with pleasant harmonics, "live" timbres coming from nowhere, and other characteristic features such as an early drop in the frequency response at the edges of the range, slowness and a poorly focused stage.

This approach makes the amps genre-defining, capable of captivatingly reproducing about half of the music library, mostly recorded in the tube audio era. And to more modern recordings, the tube lamp gives a characteristic vintage coloring - it emphasizes the middle, softens the top, makes the bass “analog”, adds harmonics, etc.

Why do modern lamps sound the way they do? Because the buyer wants to hear the corresponding retro sound from the retro-style circuitry, or because the lamp cannot sound differently in principle?

Another attempt to understand this issue led me to get acquainted with the Silver Luna Prestige - a very unusual model from Fezz Audio. The company's range includes many absolutely classic amplifiers such as low-power single-ended amps that are quite suitable for true tube adepts, but the Silver Luna Prestige is positioned as the most flexible and versatile amplifier in terms of sound.

The history of Fezz Audio reminds me of the history of another famous tube brand, Octave. Both companies were not originally engaged in amplifiers as a whole, but in the production of transformers - one of the key components of any tube lamp and largely determining its quality.

Fezz Audio's parent company is called Toroidy and supplies its transformers to brands such as Lampizator, Audio Valve and more. However, this is where the Octave analogies end, since Fezz Audio takes a more traditional approach in terms of circuitry, without the introduction of electronic circuits.

Under the hood of the Silver Luna Prestige, there is no electronics other than the circuitry responsible for the operation of the remote control. As, however, there are no High End troubles like surface mounting or thick wires made of precious metals. The components are of high quality, selected in terms of the effect on the sound, but everything is assembled in a completely traditional way - on printed circuit boards.

The amplifier works in class AB1 - this is a well-known variety of class AB, which has been used since the middle of the last century. It differs from the classic AB circuit by the absence of grid currents on the output tubes, which makes it possible to achieve a more lively and expressive sound. In general, the amplifier is a quite familiar-looking push-pool with paired switching of EL34 lamps.

Calling the Silver Luna Prestige model the most flexible and versatile, the developers had in mind some very specific design and configuration features. The specificity of the amplifier circuit is the presence of a tetrode-pentode switch, thanks to which we actually have two modes of operation of the output lamps and two different sound characters. But the surprises from the developers do not end there.

The amplifier pre-stage can use two types of tubes: 12AX7 (ECC83) and 6N2P-EV, and, as you know, the sound of the amplifier changes quite significantly when changing the input tubes. The beauty of Silver Luna Prestige is that matched pairs of both types of lamps are included in the package and the user can choose the preferred option. And because the bias currents are set automatically, the lamps can be changed as often as desired without any problems.

Combining two input tubes and two output tubes gives you four different sounds in one amp. And it looks very attractive. After all, usually in order to change the nature of the sound of the system, you have to change cables or components entirely, but here you don’t even need to buy anything - just change the lamps and switch the toggle switch. Is this not a gift to a true audiophile?

The design of the Silver Luna Prestige amplifier reminded me of the industrial and laboratory equipment of the last century. Curved from sheet metal, rectangular boxes with roughly overlapping front and back panels are complemented by equally simple handles, toggle switches and stickers with logo, technical information, serial number and signature of the person in charge.

All this utility on the verge of naivety does not cause rejection: on the contrary, it looks very touching and comfortable live - it is immediately clear that the developers focused primarily on sound, and the cases are made simply, reliably, and most importantly, it is clear that this is the work of living people who are responsible for their work.

The original color palette finally has itself. There is no officialdom and attempts to get into Hi-Fi trends in it, rather there is a desire to give the user the widest possible choice. In the proposed colors, you can find classic, bright, contrasting, one-color options that will fit into both a fashionable interior and an ordinary rack with Hi-Fi equipment.

In terms of functionality, Silver Luna Prestige is also quite simple. Being a completely analog device with classic circuitry, it has no digital inputs, let alone Bluetooth - there are three conventional stereo inputs and one input for integrating an amplifier into a home theater that bypasses the volume control. Accordingly, on the facade we see a volume knob and a rotary input switch of the same type. Cinema mode includes a toggle switch located on the rear panel.

The remote control is really amazing. Firstly, it has a completely cosmic design with excellent ergonomics, and secondly, the remote control is connected via a radio channel and they do not need to aim at the amplifier. Language does not turn to call it a pleasant trifle. Rather, this is the detail that completely completes the image of the device and makes it very clear how attentive the manufacturer is to really important issues.

Attempts to make friends with modern acoustics with a tube amplifier are far from always successful, and in order to achieve the most balanced and full-fledged sound, one has to be tricky: select speakers with a more forced top, use triphonic or biamping with transistorized bass amplification, screen out many candidates in terms of sensitivity parameters, impedance and power.

In the case of the Silver Luna Prestige, which puts out 35 watts per channel, the problem of choice was not so difficult. The shelf speakers MartinLogan Motion 35XTi and MartinLogan Motion 40i quite successfully sang with him. The list of tricks in the selection turned out to be minimal: MartinLogan acoustics have high sensitivity and low impedance, but at the same time it can hardly be called low-power, and the signature sound signature is rather neutral and certainly not compensatory in relation to the tube lamp - on the contrary, these speakers are able to show all the shortcomings of the amplifier , If there are any.

The success of the choice was immediately confirmed in practice. The acoustics were minimal and affected the sound only to the extent that bookshelf speakers differed from floorstanders. I did not hear any specific sound artifacts demonstrating the inability of the amplifier to cope with them, and the nature of the sound of the system completely depended on the operating mode of the amplifier.

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