Publisher Profile

Emia Remote Autoformer Review

By: |

Living with the Remote Autoformer

I have been living with the silver version of the Remote Autoformer in my reference system since November of 2013. I had not reviewed it because the one I had was not a production model and David wanted me to wait until I had the copper production unit to compare it to before I wrote a formal review. Well, things happened in both David’s and my life, and it just seemed never to happen. So, finally this summer the copper one arrived, and now I can share with you about these two wonderful autoformer-based linestages.

The first LP I used to compare these two was Melody Gardot’s My One and Only Thrill. It turns out this was a very good choice to hear the difference between the two. With the copper Emia, the sound was big, full and her voice was warm and emotional. The bass was big with great tone and power. The music flowed very well, and the overall sound was very emotionally involving.

By contrast, the silver Emia was a little more refined. The sound of her voice was slightly more articulate and sweeter. The bass sounded a little more defined and the top-end had a little more sparkle. There was a slight difference in how the two handled the leading edge of instruments; the copper seemed to slightly dull these. If your system tends toward sounding the least bit etched, this would be a good thing; anyway, the effect is very slight.

While I’ve had the silver Emia in my reference system, I have used it with the Wavac EC300B, the Pass Labs XA30.8, the Pass Labs XA60.8, Audion Silver Night 300B Special Edition Stereo Amplifier, Margules Audio U280-SC 25th Anniversary Stereo Tube Amplifier, and the Electra-Fidelity A3-500 300B monoblock amplifiers. I had no problem using the silver Emia with any of these amplifiers in my system.

The Emia doesn’t sound like any other passive linestage I have ever heard. It sounds powerful, full bodied and very organic. At the same time, it has all the purity I have come to expect from a passive; it is quick, nimble and lets you hear so much of the music. In many ways, it takes the best sound of something like an Audio Note or Shindo preamp and combines it with the very best of an acrtive preamp like the Pass Labs Xs preamp.

Both the copper and silver Emia Remote Autoformers are all about texture, harmonics, how the decay sounds, how the music blooms, and how much like real music they allow your system to sound and feel when played. I found my system simply sounded magical with the Emias. The sound is neither dark nor bright. Instead, it can be either depending on the recording.

Maybe the best thing I can say about it is that it lets me enjoy the music more than I have with any other linestage in my system. The music has wonderful, big tone. The music is full of color and richness without sounding overly warm or the least bit slow.

In my review of the Music First Baby Reference Preamp I compared it to the Emia and said, “The Emia is quicker, has more finesse, delicacy and is smoother sounding. They are both better than any active line stage I have heard. I could live with either one and be happy for the long term.” I should also add that the Emia has better musical flow from note to note making it easier to stay involved with the musical experience.

The Emia simply is faster, fuller, has more texture than any tube, transistor or passive preamp I have used. It helps my system to play music like music sounds. Guitars were right in the room; you can easily tell the difference in one guitar from another. Likewise, play a piano recording and they let you enjoy the emotions of the performance. The Emias allowed my system to sound very open, sweet, and just plain pretty; musical performances were portrayed in a very sensual, and emotional way that draws me into the emotions of the performance.

When listening to Starker play Kodaly I could hear this performance with all of its emotion. The cello was warm and beautiful with a great sense of breath and space around and within it. The sound of his cello had real warmth and life without a hint of bass hangover. The emotions that come through as the bow is slowly pulled across the strings is beautifully portrayed. You can hear the layers and textures of the tones of the strings as easy as you can hear the differences they each make as the bow passes over them.

When listening to Ella and Louis perform “Isn’t This a Lovely Day,” I could hear the beauty and lushness of Ella and the deep, powerful sound of Satchmo. The voices are very prominent, and the horn has the perfect combination of lushness and bite. The overall experience was as good as I have ever experienced when listening to this cut.

With the Soundsmith Strain Gauge and the DS-W1 optical cartridge, I found they both sounded best using the Emia than with an active linestage, tube or transistor. When reviewing the DS-W1, I used the Emia as the line stage when comparing the optical to the strain gauge. I could more easily hear the difference with the Emia than with an active preamp.

The combination of the DS-W1 and the Emia was amazing playing strings over my Teresonic speakers. The combination play bowed strings with the power of real life. The way the DS-W1 and Emia allowed me to hear the fingering, and the bowing of standup basses and cellos with a very sweet, never the least bit bright or strident sound. Massed strings were full bodied and extended while never being abrasive. Strings were able to sound both powerful and relaxed.

Switching to the string play of bluegrass music I love the way I could hear the speed of a fiddle but at the same time hear its sweetness. Norman Blake’s more aggressive style of fiddle playing came across with all the aggressive musical emotion but without the sound being aggressive. Stéphane Grappelli plays with Norman Blake on “Sauerkraut and Solar Energy,” the sound of the violin was sweet and extended easily into its upper registries without ever seeming bright or strident. His very intense and emotional playing on this piece came through just as it should on this piece. Part of this is the way the Emia allows the pace and timing of the system to be simply amazing.

On Rob Wasserman’s Duets LP, I ended up listening to the entire LP instead of just side two as I usually do when reviewing. The only time I had ever heard Warnes’ voice sound as natural as it does on “Ballard of the Runaway Horse” was when I heard her live at Yoshi’s. I should add that is also true of Bentyne and Rickie Lee Jones.



One always has to consider whether or not a passive line stage will work in his or her particular  system. In most digital systems and with many phono stages, it will. If your system will work with a passive line stage, then I don’t know of any line stage at any price that can be the equal of either Emia Remote Autoformers.

Further, the Emia Remote Autoformer is so close in performance to a direct connection ,(as is the Coincident Statement), I believe it’s highly unlikely that anything can ever be substantially superior. Why? There is almost no “room” left for any improvement. Maybe the silver version of the Emia is slightly superior to the copper version I heard. Maybe there are other models out there that are also slightly superior, and maybe there are even models which have the same basic performance and sell for less money, but I am not aware of any of them at this time. The Emia is simply magnificent when it comes to making music, and the silver one has been my reference for nearly three years now. By the way, if you don’t require a remote all this great sound is available for even less.


Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden

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 :