Audion is a name in Audio that many people have heard of, though most haven’t heard their amps. The company was established in 1987 by David Chessell and Erik Anderson. The concept for Audion in those early days was to allow people to get an insight into audiophile high end without sacrificing their home or bank balance. During their vital early years from 1987 – 1990, Europe saw the release of two different audio triode amplifiers – the first of this kind from a western manufacturer. They were designed by Erik and produced under the direction of David. Before long, there developed a trend throughout the western world for triode amplifiers. In 1999, Graeme Holland took over the company and has been designing and improving their products for the last 16 years.
The new Audion Silver Night Special Edition 300B power amplifier is the 6th incarnation of this legendary amp. It has the same military grade aluminum uni-chassis as the previous version. The Silver Night Special Edition gets a new, cleaner look, with highlight features designed by the commercial designer Marko Schregardus and a completely new circuit by Audion’s cheif designer Graeme Holland. The front panel and top box are a champagne gold color, with a nice tactile knob. The top plate has a new mirror finish that both highlights and accentuates the tubes. It is truly beautiful with the amp is turned on.
On the inside, there are quite a few changes from the previous version of this amplifier. Audion has used new 3-watt flameproof power resistors. They worked hard keeping the wiring especially neat and flowing at different levels to keep hum and noise as low as possible. The entire signal path is wired with pure silver using Audion Blue Silver wire to an Alps Blue Velvet pot.
They also have used extra heavy duty, high amperage binding posts that are heavily gold plated. Audion says that high amperage binding posts ensures a quality connection between the speakers and the internal wiring of the amplifier. This keeps the connector from degrading the final output of the amplifier.
Another improvement is the custom-wound audio output transformers. Audion went a step further in the design process to improve the already very good output transformers. The new ones are made in house and are a result of over 3 years of research. They use a very high purity copper conductor, M6 grade silicon steel, and a slightly different dielectric internal substrate giving an extremely high bandwidth (typically <10Hz to >30Khz).
How Did My System Sound with the Audion Silver Night Special Editions 300B Amp?
Simply put, better than any 300B amp at this price has any right to. I have to admit my expectations were quite high because of the legacy of Audion products. That said, because I have spent most of the last ten years listening to a $29,000 Wavac EC300B, you can understand why I might have a few concerns about how pleased I would be listening to a 300B amp at approximately 1/6th the price. Keep in mind building a really good SET is an expensive proposition to start with.
What surprised me about this Audion amp was the special way it portrayed music in a very relaxed and liquid way, but not in one that was overly warm. Powered by the Audion Silver Night, there was plenty of detail and lots of life to the sound of my system. I found the sound in my listening and reviewing sessions almost effortless and great fun with this amp. It has plenty of that magical 300B bloom which allows music to come alive giving you an impressive emotional musical experience. It played music in my system with beautiful harmonics and texture. One of the things I love about good 300B amps is the magical way they play voices, and the Audion Silver Night does this really well on both male and female vocals.
This Audion is one of the best 300B amps I have heard at retrieving and portraying detail. I never noticed any loss of detail from this 300B amp, which can be a problem with 300B amps in this price range and even considerably above this price. The best thing is that the great detail and information come alive while still sounding like a 300B amp. The music flows very naturally in the midrange. I was very impressed with how much information about the music I could hear with the Audion amp in my system.
The sound of the Audion Silver Night Special Edition is very easy and fun to listen to. It never sounds like it’s trying to impress, it never sounds strained, best of all it’s very rhythmic and involving. It’s not as lightning fast as the Wavac EC300B, nor does it have the punch of the Wavac. Still, it is a very dynamic amp that can also play soft, whispering, and gentle music when it’s called for. It plays very beautifully at low volumes, and it has good scale. It also has beautiful bloom in the midrange, although in absolute terms, it doesn’t have the scale or the bloom of the Wavac.
The Audion Silver Night has an amazing way of just letting you relax and listen to music. Again it has that magical 300B way with voices that sometimes is almost scary realistic sounding. Voices not only sounded clear but had very good weight and mass to them. It made me feel as if there was a person singing and not just a voice floating in air. This is a very important trait to me. If a system can’t do this, it is much harder for me to listen with the same intensity and to become as emotionally involved. Emotional involvement is what the 300B experience is all about, and the Audion Silver Night Special Edition is no exception, in fact, it is better than most sub $10,000 300Bs in this area. This was true for voices, strings, and horns, which all sounded clean and with real body and weight. This makes the music sound very exciting. The micro-dynamics are very good but not as good as you can get from 300B amps that cost three or four times as much.
The top end was another place where the Audion Silver Night Special Edition really bettered my expectations for a 300B amp at this price point. It was open, sweet, and beautiful to listen to. It allowed the music to come to life in a way that sparkled within musical realism. While the top end was nicely extended, it was never analytical or etched in anyway. The sound of violins was so sweet and pretty that it made me want to just keep playing string music.
Soundstage and Imaging aren’t the most important thing to me when listening to music. Truth is sometimes the very things so many audiophiles go nuts about in this area, I find distracting from the music itself. If you go back and read my very first review for Dagogo, of the Shindo Aurieges-L, I talk about this. It is much more important to get the scale, depth, and space right than it is to have pinpoint imaging or hearing a voice or an instrument coming from a foot or two outside the speakers. The reason for this is that when I go to hear live music, which I often do, I seldom hear a soundstage or pinpoint imaging. In fact, as I have mentioned before, live music often sounds more like a good mono recording. I should say that I do not find this to be true with a symphony orchestra, the one place I clearly hear a great soundstage in real life. Still I do expect any good system to let the speakers disappear, and create what I call a coherent soundstage.
The Audion Silver Night Special Edition gave me the kind of soundstage I like in spades. It will let you hear the space around and even within instruments, the textures of the music and the passion of the musicians. It will also let you hear the size of an instrument and the size and swell as a horn gets both louder and larger because the musician keeps putting the horn closer and closer to the mic. I think this is what we should expect a good system to do.
One of my favorite recordings is Starker plays Kodaly. This is one of the most beautiful recordings of a cello I have ever heard. The Audion Silver Night Special Edition played this performance with all of the emotion I have come to expect from this recording on a really great system. It was very involving to listen to. The cello was warm, beautiful, and quick with a sense of breath and space around and within it. It conveyed this warmth and life with very little bass hangover, but not as little as the Wavac EC 300B. It did a good job of letting me experience the sound of his bow being slowly pulled across the strings. I could hear layers and textures of the tones of the strings as I heard the differences they each make as the bow passes over them.
“Ella and Louis” is another one of my favorite LPs. When listening to “Isn’t This a Lovely Day,” the Audion Silver Night Special Edition did a good job of letting me hear the beauty and lushness of Ella and the gravelly power of Satchmo. The voices were very prominent, and the horn seemed a little too polite, but the overall experience was to make me want to listen more. I don’t want to overstate the case, but I sat down to listen to two cuts and ended up listening to the whole album.
Wrapping Things Up
The Audion Silver Night Special Edition gives a very nice balance of warmth and resolution. It has enough dynamics and resolution to sound alive and enough warmth to allow the listener to experience the emotions of the performance. The Audion Silver Night Special Edition is an amp that some would call a music lover’s amp, but it is more than that. It is an amp that lets you experience the soul of the music.
Comment from Gary Alpern of True Audiophile, U.S. Importer and Audion:
Thank you for the wonderful review. Just a few comments for reader benefit:
The Audion 300B Special Edition has a completely new driver section and redesigned output transformers that are the result of years of development. Audion has been making and winding their own audio transformers in house for nearly 8 years to exacting standards. So its no surprise this new design brings the most out of a 300B tube.
At the California Audio Show, where it was debuted, several industry exhibitors were surprised at how linear the new Silver Night Special Edition made the 300B tube.
I asked Audion to make a special driver section exclusively for the U.S. market that was more dynamic and impactful. Thus the U.S. version is different in that respect to the Euro version which has a softer sound.
It was an honor to have the amp compared to one costing six times its price. Its good for readers to know, as tested, the Audion 300B SE was a stock unit with stock JJ 300B tubes. Whereas, the Wavac EC-300B has vintage 300B tubes in it. Better tubes will naturally change the sonic structure of this amp with even greater weight and bloom.
This terrific review gives the reader an idea of how this amp could move to another level with comparable tubes. Audion just believes their models should perform impeccably with stock tubes aside from special NOS varieties so audiophiles get the most for their money in price/performance.
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