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lundi 1 mai 2017

Townshend Allegri preamplifier

It is a strange animal. It is small. It is very light. It does not have a plug at its back since it is passive. When you are used to big preampli like I am used to, it is strange to handle it and to connect your cables to it.
Let's start with the minus sides.
Knobs feeling is cheap. Movement and feeling is like on a Rega Integrated amplifier. The rca connectors are on the same level. Cheap. If you have special cables be aware you could be not able to connect them to its back since the tight space between the rca connectors.
You also have a strong crosstalk. If you are listening to a cd in the 1 positioin when you go to position 2 you will able to ear it very attenuated but you will ear it anyway.
The mute switch is very useful, at least for me, but it is brutal, it is like you unplug a cable, you have a tack sound in your loudspeakers.
It is extremely sensitive to cables.
Volume control may not allow you to find the attenuation you want, but if you know the values you need Townshend will build one to meet your specifications.

The down sides are many so what about the plus sides?
The Allegri, in absolute term, when used with the right cables, is a stunning device.
Stunnning not in relation to its price but stunning in relation to any price.
The first thing you notice is that it is alive. It is not like a normal passive preamp that tends to suck the power out of the music message. It is not like an active one with an heavy hand on the musical message either. It is agile, but not light, it is fast but not aggressive. And it times very well and for me this is essential. Too many products, while seductive in their music proposition are dead or almost dead in timing regards. They don't swing. They have a kind of dead hand on the sound. 
Preamplifier are strange beasts. I have heard and owned in my hifi life so many and so many I didn't like it is embarassing. They always have something that is better not having. I don't know why; and worst of all when I had found one or two that I liked after a while they were so predictible that the listening became ridiculous. The kind: " ok now there is a piano and forget about it,it  is going to be like a waterfal of notes or perfect now you have the percussion and I am going to hear the drum skin but then unfortunately the singer is going to sing soon after. Or something like: "wow I can hear every insignificant details, every breaths, the colour of the wall paper and the sigarette maker of what Tom Waits is smoking but why I don't hear more about the music, about the timbres, about the musical expression?" Yes, very frustrating. I have found at the end few preamplifiers that I still have but their price is embarassing. At the end I have a summary result of my experience, maybe wrongly but this is what I have in my heart: entry level preamplifier are ok because you need them like you need to put oil in your car; mid level are better but at the same tiime a waste of money since you cannot be satisfied with any of them. Hi end... some are useless, some are just ok, very few are good.
What I am comparing the Allegri to are to the few that are good.
But how come? It is not the Allegri a mid level price product? Yes it is, but it is a passive unit. But it is really the Allegri that good that can be compared to preamplifier costing at least three times more? Yes it is that good. And it is the Allegri that good that can be compared to the best out there regardless of the price? Yes it is that good. So why, if I can spend any kind of money I should buy the mega expensive good ones?  It is a good question and a fascinating result in my personal listening. When you analize the sound of the Allegri in comparison to my two references they are not passive like the Allegri is, the Allegri is more or less on their level. Frequency extension, bass articulation, focalisaton, organic presentation, capacity of distinquishing reverberations and note attack and decays and so on.
And of course the ability to make music alive. My references have something more though. The first thing they have is a misterious one: they let you hear the musician intention. 
I don't want to put in words this since it can be long but when you ear it is clear.
For example you listen for the million time Bob Marley singing Jamming and you don't ear only the nice simple song but you are also made aware of same frases  Marley clearly sings with a mystic attitude like for few seconds he is praying with is heart while singing.
The second one is: the music is more... anchored? This is also very strange. I could make this example: it is like with the Allegri the iinstruments are subject to a lesser gravity strength. With my references I hear the music and instruments and sounds and silences and so on like belonging to the space and time I am at the same time I listen. The Allegri is not in the same planet where I am, where my reality is. It is in a similar planet, a planet that has a little less gravity force like Venus.  The sounds are not ligther with the Allegri for they miss some timbric shading or some frequency extension . It is more like the effect is due to the nature from which the sound comes out that we are talking about. I don't know how to put this in better words and expecially I am wondering from what this effect can come out. But for my ears it doesn't matter. This is what I ear. It is reminescent of the difference between a electrostatic speaker in comparison to a coned one.
One thing to notice. It is very cable sensitive. You can kill it with a wrong cable. So if you decide to buy it have few cables on hand.
One suggestion: it works well with cables that have a simple construction geometry and that are alive sounding. It goes very well with VDH The Integration if you don't want spend too much, and it matches to it much better then cables costiing 5 times more, or if you streach a little more from the same mother company you can get a Fractal. Be careful, it is not a question of wanting spending a fortune on cables, it likes the right one and fortunally the right ones are not terrible expensives.

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