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Einstein Audio The Light In The Dark Amplifier Review

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Comparison: LITD vs. VAC Phi 200

I had a marvelous alternative to The Light In The Dark in the VAC Phi 200 Amplifier (review in progress). Similar to the Einstein, the VAC is a tube amp and in the same ballpark at 100wpc. The Einstein retails for $11,900, while the VAC retails for $10,000. They both are exquisitely built and exude a high level of visual as well as auditory appeal. Both mated well with the Ayon CD-5 and its internal tube preamplifier. I have assembled some of the most enchanting systems with both of these amps, so a comparison here is not meant to diminish one beneath the other, but rather discuss the nature of each so that someone searching for the appropriate amp can make an informed selection. Simply put, they are the two finest amplifiers I have had the pleasure of using. They are both Class A, extremely high quality amplifiers and neither one suffered a knock-out blow from the other. Whereas both were superior to other quality products such as my Pathos Classic One MkIII integrateds in Mono mode, the Jeff Rowland 501 monos, Moscode 402Au or Cambridge Audio Azur 840W, they stood together as top quality options. I will highlight the virtues of the Einstein amp here, as the VAC will receive its due treatment in a separate review.

There were some significant differences, the most notable being in the areas of detail and macro-dynamics, imaging and tonality. While the Phi 200 has plenty, The Light In The Dark has a more obvious clarity, primarily due to a less emphasized bottom-end, while the Phi 200 has prodigious bass in the lower region, more impressive even than most solid-state amps I have used. Consequently, the VAC sounds weightier while The Light In The Dark is lighter on its feet. One might draw a comparison as like the difference between a dynamic speaker and a planar. Typically a planar will not be able to reach as low frequencies, nor produce bass as powerfully as a larger dynamic speaker. The light membrane driver of the planar is considered “faster” and it sounds that way. The cone driver of the dynamic speaker is deemed more forceful, but slower, and able to produce more dynamic power in deeper frequencies. They both are capable of a powerful experience, but the one is considered “faster” than the other.

During the review, I relied upon the Kingsound King and the Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers. The most “fair” comparison between the two amps was with the Focus SE, as the Phi 200 was known to be voiced using the King at the factory with emphasis in design placed on powering less efficient speakers. However, I found The Light In The Dark to be capable of dispensing a large dose of panel speaker magic. The Einstein truly came into its own with a less difficult speaker to drive, such as the Focus SE. I suggest that prospective owners seek higher efficiency speakers, but audition the Einstein with magnetic planar or electrostatic speakers. A clue to the efficacy of this kind of matching with easy-to-drive speakers can be seen at shows where Einstein amps are typically paired with horn speakers from Acapella.

My experience with the Einstein is that it is a “fast” amplifier, reminding me of the blisteringly fast transients and tautness of several Class D amps I have used. With a bit less bass presence the ear is allowed to wander toward the top frequencies, much as by use of lighter colors toward the top of a painting, an artist can draw the eyes upward. With such delicacy in the treble one is not bothered at all to let their mind linger on it. There have been amps which I have to work very hard to tone down the treble as it is not an asset, but rather a liability – not so with The Light In The Dark. I found that my ear could wander the entire range from top to bottom frequencies without getting “stuck” at one level from an overemphasis at some point of the spectrum. This was very important to me, as I naturally assess the sound of a component and if I find it drawing my attention to a certain “zone” of frequency emphasis, I fixate on it and have hard time forgetting about it. When an amp is well balanced, I wander the frequency spectrum of the music and can appreciate it all without getting “stuck” on an area of overemphasis. The fact that I could relax and forget about a patch of overemphasis to correct indicated to me that I was hearing a superior design.

Inisde the Einstein Audio The Light In The Dark Amplifier

Superb Imaging

The Einstein’s ability to coalesce the image created by the two separate transducers into one is remarkable. In terms of tightness and palpability of the phantom/center image, I find it unequalled in all the amplifiers I have used. Similarly, its seamless extension of the soundstage to its outer edges is exemplary. Whenever I had to move the Einstein for some work with a different amp, immediately the focus of the center image was lost to some degree. When the Einstein was in use, a life-size acoustic projection of the artist’s physical location, nearly holographic to the mind, was never in doubt. Whenever other amps were introduced, location of the artist became fuzzier, more nebulous.

This precision of imaging was enthralling when listening to duets and quartets. I enjoy the fun, quirky antics of the Manhattan Transfer, especially “Soul Food to Go” and “Twilight Zone”. While most amps properly put all four singers onstage, some struggle to neatly locate them in proper relation to each other. With The Light In The Dark, that is not a problem. The Phi 200 was nearly as good, just a hair wider and singers dialed in to within a foot, versus the Einstein’s on the spot location. In some cases, such clean delineation of the singers, or players in an instrumental group, can be undesirable when it begins to isolate them such that they sound like a collection of individuals. However, the Einstein’s microdynamics are so good that as each artist’s voice disperses, one hears the clues to their positioning at the recording venue as well as the proper physical space between them; a subtle reinforcement of the collective.

With great lightness and focus, the Einstein is intimate without sounding forced. It can be as tonally neutral in the execution of these properties as one wishes; adjustments to tonality can be achieved with cable selection, and the Einstein will respond very agreeably allowing you to hear nuances in that regard.

Wham, Thud & Thump

In trying to convey a sense of the amount of “weight” or bottom-end bass presence of this amp, let’s consider three bouncing balls, each with its own properties. One is made of very dense rubber, thick and heavy. The next is of medium density and larger, with less total mass. The last ball is quite a bit lighter, with a high degree of thinness and low density. If one were to drop each ball to the ground a different event would result. The heaviest would produce what might be described as a “Wham”, the intermediate a “Thud”, and the lightest one a “Thump”.

With a bit of imagination, one might be able to place each amp in one’s experience into one of the three bass categories. For instance, the powerful but less refined Dussun V8i which I reviewed a while back was like a “Wham” kind of amp in the bottom-end. Compared to the Einstein, it would have more presence and less precision. On the opposite end of the spectrum, though it has a higher wattage, the Jeff Rowland 501 Monos are leaner and produce bass as a “Thump”.

The Light In The Dark, then, comes in as the median “Thumper”. In keeping with the expectation I had from its description, the bottom-end did not upstage the treble, nor obscure the midrange. This was much appreciated when listening to live recordings such as VH-1’s “Storytellers”. On this disc, John Mellencamp does a bizarre rendition of his “Jack and Diane”, breaking from cougar form to interject rap of all things! Whereas one hears the crowd attempting to sing along at the beginning of the piece, one hears from the crowd nothing but awkward silence during the out-of-character rapping by Mellencamp. The Light In The Dark ushers you into the first few rows to feel the uncertainty of the crowd as John stumbles over himself to spit the words out without stumbling.

When I had first heard this song through my Pathos amps I thought, “What a peculiar diversion!” However, when heard more clearly, more emphatically, through the Einstein I could detect the overreaching on Mellencamp’s part, and felt an upwelling sense of, “Wow, did he botch that!” It’s enlightening to be able to grasp the mood of the crowd and the “judgement” being used by the artist in a live recording; the Einstein allows for both to be readily perceived.

One Response to Einstein Audio The Light In The Dark Amplifier Review

  1. Jón says:

    Hello can i used First Sound for Einstein?

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