Publisher Profile

Emia Remote Autoformer Review

By: |

What if I told you the best linestage I have ever heard in my system wasn’t the $28,000 tube preamp I loved for so long or the incredible $38,000 transistor unit that I recently had in the house” If you have to have an active linestage, these two units are the best I have heard. If you can get by with a passive unit that is so plain looking that it’s almost invisible, then I can tell you the best linestage I have ever had in the house is the silver version of Emia Remote Autoformer. Truth is it’s not even close in my system.

Jeffrey Jackson and Dave Slagle created EMIA to fulfill the need for affordable high-end audio components using clever design and quality parts. On the Emia website it says, “Emia represents a way of thinking or a concept if you will, rather than a specific product. Our unique way of thinking blends the knowledge and experience of Jackson of Experience Music and Slagle of Intact Audio with the goal of integrating the subjective and the objective to further both the art and science of musical reproduction. While so many people today are simply trying to copy and bring a vintage technology to market, we strive to understand the underlying concepts and apply them to contemporary sound reproduction through the introduction of new designs.”

Jeffrey and Dave have chosen to use unassuming chassis design that puts the bling on the inside as Dave Slagle is fond of saying. Everything they make is hand-made in their workshops. Emia is not even close to being a mainstream high-end audio company. You have to place an order and most often wait for the product, but I promise you it is worth the wait.



According to David, Emia’s goal in circuit design is to think outside the box and look at everything from vintage Western Electric parts to modern circuit boards. One of their primary design principles is their belief in using the best part for the job, and that they say, they couldn’t care less if that part is vintage, modern, inexpensive or expensive.

The Remote Autoformer provides control from +7dB to -53dB in 1 dB steps. You also get something I will no longer live without, the ability to balance the system between the left and right channels in 1 dB increments. It has three inputs and two outputs.

In a conversation with me, David jokingly said resistive attenuators were “so last century.” He feels that real systems use inductive volume controls and points out that they were good enough for Western Electric, and they are still the best. He maintains that he uses an inductive volume control that measures really well, is easy to install, and provides sufficiently fine volume steps. He said, “It makes much more technical sense to use an auto transformer for this application. Since there’s no need to isolate the primary and secondary windings, and both windings may be grounded, it is perfectly fine to combine the primary and secondary into a single winding. That’s exactly what McIntosh has been doing for decades with their output transformer based solid-state amplifiers.

When I asked him how the Emia units are different from other autoformers he has made before, he answered, “All of the autoformers I make have essentially the same character. The only thing that differs between them is the attenuation taper and switching methodology. This unit uses higher quality relays and a processor to accomplish a switching arrangement that provides -54dB to 0dB in 1dB steps. Beyond 0dB the unit seamless transitions to up to an additional +7dB of gain also in 1dB steps. The unit also allows remote input selection between the three inputs. Balance control is also done by remote in 1dB increments by automatically bumping one channel up or down by one step at a time, so no additional circuit is required.”

He then added, “To me, the two biggest features of this unit is the ability for remote balance control and the transition to gain only when needed. Other units allow a single 6dB switch that changes the entire character of the sound.” Speaking for myself, I find balance control a necessary function in order to get the ultimate enjoyment out of my system. So, I agree that the ability to fine tune the balance is really nice.

13 Responses to Emia Remote Autoformer Review

  1. Mike says:

    Thank you Jack. I knew that eventually you would get around to doing this review. I have been patiently waiting. I hope you are feeling and doing well.

  2. Campo007 says:

    Fantastic review. I use the Slagle autoformers in my system too. They sound exactly how you described.

  3. David Freud says:

    Where can one buy or audition the Emia Remote Autoformer?

  4. Jack Roberts says:

    Thanks for the kind reply, I hope all is well with you.

  5. Paul Bergmann says:

    I’m interested as I have an Old MAC, and Apt and a CJ preamp and this sound interesting and I have read great reviews!

  6. Byron Kelley says:

    Jack. . . this review has been especially helpful as my system includes a SoundSmith SG, a 300B SET Coincident Frank amplifier and the Spatial Audio Lumina speakers. I have been using a very high quality active preamp, but would like to move to a passive preamp. I know your are familiar with both the SG and the Lumina’s. With my equipment set up do you see the Emia silver as having an advantage over the copper unit. Your thoughts appreciated.

    Jack. . .one more quick question. When using your SG220 with the Emia are you using the fixed or variable output on the SG? Thanks.Byron

  7. Joe says:

    $3600 is overly expensive for a passive preamp even if it’s based on an autoformer. I bought a pair of used Dave Slagle autoformers off Audiogon for $280 and the difference between a non-inductive passive preamp from Goldpoint was subtle to the point I wouldn’t even bother. If you need isolation a wide bandwidth input transformer is 1/10th the price of what Slagle charges for an autoformer and can provide gain if needed.

  8. Ron says:

    I was curious after reading some of the engineering/diy forums and came across this review. I would love to experiment with autoformers but the price people like Dave Slagle and others are charging are nuts. It’s a coiled copper wire and a switch. $900 is excessive. I’ll wind my own. I only need about 6 or 7 positions to tell if these make a difference in sound quality. $4,000 for this Emia passive is lunacy. I guess these are priced for the Audiophile market. Any rational engineer would likely know better.

    • Bruce Bosler says:

      The value is in how it performs, not the cost of the raw material. If the review is correct that this is the best there is, doesn’t that make it worth the most? If so it is a true bargain. If so easy to do for so much less where are the less expensive units? Surely somebody would be selling them… I want to buy one.

      Well, I actually do have a Bent audio unit with Slagleformers that is very similar to the Emia unit and wholeheartedly agree with the review. After many years and much experimentation the path to the truth is a low power amp, high efficiency speakers (horns) , and an inductive volume control.

  9. Jeffrey W. Jackson says:

    hello Ron,

    we completely agree with you!  we are both DIY to the our very cores… dave started by hand winding autoformers twenty years ago… he just had to know how they sounded.. so, by all means, go for it! but we think the $100 bare autoformer he sells is well worth saving your time… non-magnetic frames and hardware, 80% Nickel cores, and fourteen octave bandwidth…. box one up!  and for those that can’t or do not want to, we offer the remote version in a chassis… remote balance from the listening seat is quite nice… and the remote unit also provides gain, 1dB steps, etc… we like it… very functional…


  10. I wonder how this compares to the Townshend Allegri Reference with is also an autoformer at twice the price. This is a highly recommended unit versus my intended purchase of an EAR 912 as a line stage. It has even double the settings at .5 db per step.

  11. James Romeyn says:

    Yesterday I asked Emia and posted at a public review, but am impatient and decided to ask here.

    How does the source Zo (output impedance, DAC, phono, etc.) correlate mathematically to the autoformer’s Zo (output imp?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Popups Powered By :