E Q U I P M E N T R E P O R T


We audio writers have our niches. Mikey loves analog, Artie

likes to play with horn speakers and assorted oddball British

kit, and I really enjoy reviewing affordable speakers. There’s

something exciting about hearing the fruits of the labors

of a creative designer who’s applied his talents to meet a

stringent price point and created a speaker that can entice

into our hobby the financially challenged music lover.

But I have another passion: expensive tube gear. I so enjoyed my time reviewing

the Audio Research Reference 110 amplifier that I bought the review sample (see

my review in the August 2007 issue), and when ARC’s William Z. Johnson insisted

that I listen to the Reference 110 together with ARC’s Reference 3 line stage, I got

a kick out of comparing the Ref 3 with my own reference line stage, the Audio

Valve Eclipse.

Although I was stunned by the refined level of musical realism of the Reference

3 ($10,000), I was also surprised that the Eclipse ($4200) held its own, despite being

less than half the ARC’s price. In fact, I was so surprised that, when the ARC

went back home to Minnesota, I was quite happy to keep on listening to the Audio

Valve. Still, I was scratching my head: If the Eclipse is this good, what would a cost-noobject

line stage from Audio Valve’s Helmut Becker sound like?

Turned out I’d be given an opportunity to find out. I later received a call from

Audio Valve’s US distributor, Ray Lombardi of Ray of Sound, who told me that AV

had designed a “statement” line-stage preamplifier, the Conductor, which would

cost $13,995 in the US. Would I be interested in hearing it?

Audio Valve

Conductor

robert j. reina line preamplifier Tubed line

preamplifier with separate power supply and remote control of

volume and source selection.

Tube complement: four 6922, four 6N6P/6H30.

Inputs: 6 pairs, independently configurable for

balanced or single-ended operation.

Outputs: 4 pairs (2 XLR, 2 RCA),

one Tape Out pair (RCA). Input

impedance: 47k ohms. Output

impedance: 300 ohms. Bandwidth:

5Hz–200kHz. Gain: 14dB.

DIMENSIONS

Amplifier: 20" (508mm) W by 5.5" (140mm) H by 14.8" (380mm) D.

Power supply: 20" (508mm) W by 3.1" (80mm) H by 14.8" (380mm) D.

Combined weight: 55 lbs (25kg).

SERIAL NUMBER OF UNIT


$13,995. Approximate

number of dealers: 12.


Audio Valve,

Umbachsweg 70, 34 123 Kassel,

Germany. Tel: (49) 0561-701-3360,

(49) 0160-910-77376. US distributor:

Ray of Sound, 390 Cheerful Court,

Simi Valley, CA 93065.

Tel./Fax: (805) 522-0989.

Web: www.rayofsound.com.

Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier and power supply

www.Stereophile.com, July 2009 3



Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier

As I dashed off a quick e-mail to John

Atkinson—“Please? Please!? Please?!?”—

my hands were trembling.

The design is fascinating

A conversation with Heike Becker,

Helmut’s wife, revealed the Conductor’s

origins. It seems that Audio Valve’s German

dealers and overseas distributors were

clamoring for a line-stage preamp that

could be paired with AV’s top-of-the-line

Baldur 300 and Challenger 400 monoblock

amplifiers. Designer Becker began

with a clean sheet of paper and three requirements:

The new preamp needed to

be a completely balanced design with fully

symmetrical circuitry, to have an outboard

power supply with massive storage, and to

be completely dual-mono, even down to

the power supply. Becker then proceeded

to make the finest preamp he could.

The Conductor operates in full class-

A with no feedback. Its balanced preamplification

circuit, which provides 14dB

of gain to all line inputs, uses four 6922

tubes to amplify each phase of each

channel, followed by a powered ALPS

potentiometer, followed by four 6N6P

(6H30) tubes in the second amplification

stage. There are two outputs and six

line-level inputs, each of which can be

balanced or single-ended. The elegant

but minimalist remote control enables

switching of all but one of the inputs, as

well as volume, mute, and power. One

nice feature is that a microprocessor remembers

the volume setting for each

input, to minimize the risk of blasts

of high-volume blasts when switching

among sources with various output

levels. There’s also a usage meter, calibrated

in hours, accessible only via the

front panel.

The separate power supply provides

100,000μF of capacitance for the filament

circuits, and an additional 10,000μF

for the anode circuits. The large toroidal

transformer is shielded from static

and magnetic effects and supplies eight

separate conductor paths: four each for

the filaments and anode circuits. The

power supply also includes polypropylene

capacitors as RF blockers, as well as

eight low-resistance voltage regulators to

I primarily used Stereophile’s loaner sample of the

top-of-the-line Audio Precision SYS2722 system (see

the January 2008 “As We See It” and www.ap.com)

to examine the Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier’s

measured performance.

Using the preamplifier’s impossible-to-read display

and following the instructions in the manual, I set up

the first pair of line-level inputs for “XLR” operation

and the second for “cinch” (ie, RCA). The maximum

gain for full balanced operation (ie, XLR to XLR) was

19.3dB for the left channel, 18.8dB for the right, both

figures significantly higher than the specified 14dB. For

unbalanced operation (RCA–RCA), the maximum gain

was closer to specification at 13.2dB left and 12.8dB

right. There is no balance control, so I must assume

the channel imbalance may well have been to tube

problems—according to the front-panel display, the

Conductor had had 109 hours of use, and the right

channel consistently measured less well than the left.

Unless stated otherwise, my comments refer to the

better-performing left channel, which I assume is more

representative of the Conductor’s ultimate performance.

Though it was slightly lower than the specified 47k

ohms, the Conductor’s unbalanced input impedance was

fairly high, at 41k ohms at low and middle frequencies,

dropping slightly to 31k ohms at 20kHz. The balanced

figures were twice the unbalanced figures, as expected.

The balanced output impedance was very low at high and

middle frequencies, at close to 100 ohms. However, it did

rise to 2900 ohms at 20Hz, presumably due to the finite

size of the output coupling capacitors. The unbalanced output

impedance was significantly higher than the balanced,

at 1600 ohms at 1kHz. However, while this figure did rise

at the frequency extremes, it was only to 1800 ohms or

so, meaning that the response will not be affected when

driving an amplifier with a low input impedance.

Although not marked as such and not mentioned in

the skimpy manual, the RCA jacks that appear to be Input

7 are actually the Tape Output jacks. (While the RCAs

are accompanied by XLRs, these are the wrong gender

for outputs.) The Tape Out RCAs pass through the input

signal at unity gain for unbalanced inputs, –6dB for balanced

inputs, and are not affected by the volume control.

The source impedance is a low 84 ohms across the

audioband, implying that they are actively buffered.

The Audio Valve’s increase in balanced output impedance

at low frequencies is not unusual for tubed designs, but it

meant that the frequency response rolled off prematurely

in the bass when the preamplifier was tested into the very

low 600 ohms impedance (fig.1, bottom pair of traces


Fig.1 A udio Valve Conductor, balanced frequency response at 1V into

100k ohms (top two traces) and 600 ohms (bottom two traces)

with volume control set to unity gain (left channel blue, right red).

(1dB/vertical div.)


www.Stereophile.com, July 2009 5

Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier

remove ripple from the filament circuit

and supply clean voltage.

All capacitors in preamp and power

supply are proprietary designs made exclusively

for Audio Valve. The units communicate

via two umbilicals terminated with

printer-style connectors. Although the

preamp is designed to sit atop the power

supply, Audio Valve and Ray of Sound

will provide umbilicals of any length for

those who want to separate them.

As the Conductor operates in class-

A, which usually generates a lot of heat,

Becker suggests that neither power

supply nor preamp be placed on a thick

carpet, and that the top of the preamp

be given adequate ventilation. The units

are each 20" wide, which will be too

wide for many component racks.

I admire Helmut Becker for designing

the best model he could with no concession

to any expectations his customers

might have had of how a preamp should

look. Stacked atop its outboard power

supply, the Conductor is unusually large

and heavy—far more so than my ARC

Reference 110 power amp. The preamp’s

physical appearance is striking, impressive,

and eccentric. I think it’s gorgeous, though

not every visiting audiophile agreed.

Available in light gray with silver accents

or black with gold accents, it sports a

central window through which the tubes

and circuit boards are visible. The volume

pot is to the right; to the left, a color TFT

screen displays various types of input,

volume, and other data. The Conductor

doesn’t look mass-produced but handmade—

the product of a brilliant, wealthy,

mad scientist who has spared no expense.

My only complaint about the Conductor’s

physical layout is that the display

(about as large as a cell-phone’s)

wasn’t easily read by this bifocals wearer

unless I stood right in front of the prebelow

1kHz). As long as the Conductor is used with power

amplifiers having an input impedance of 30k ohms or more,

its bass extension will be fine. At the other end of the

spectrum, fig.1 indicates that the Conductor’s frequency

response extends very high, being just 1dB down at 150kHz.

However, this graph was taken with the volume control set

to unity gain and an input of 1V at 1kHz; with the volume

control set to its maximum and the input voltage set to give

the same 1V output, the bandwidth decreased somewhat,

to –1dB at 80kHz. There was an insignificant change in

output at 20kHz and below, however, so the dependence

of the preamplifier’s bandwidth on its volume-control

setting should be irrelevant to its sound quality.

The Conductor’s channel separation with the volume

control at its maximum was good rather than great,

at 80dB at 1kHz. This decreased to 67dB at 20kHz,

most likely due to capacitive coupling somewhere in the

circuit, probably at the volume control. The Audio Valve

preamp was also very quiet. With its input short-circuited

but its volume control set to its maximum, the unweighted,

wideband signal/noise ratio was a fine 86.8dB ref. 1V

output, increasing to 95.5dB when A-weighted.

Fig.2 shows how the percentage of THD+noise in the

preamplifier’s output changes with the output level of

a 1kHz tone into 100k ohms (bottom trace) and 600

ohms. The amplifier doesn’t clip (defined as 1% THD+N)

until a very high voltage, even into the demanding 600

ohm load, where it delivers 11V. And while the actual

distortion with 600 ohms can be seen to begin rising out

of the noise floor above 300mV output, it remains below

0.1% at all practical levels the Conductor will need to

output with real-world power amplifiers. Into 100k ohms,

the distortion doesn’t climb above the noise until 1V

output, and is just 0.005% at its minimum.

While performing this last measurement, I noticed

something unusual: I could change the shape of the

traces in the graph by adjusting the volume control. Fig.2

was taken with the volume control at its maximum. But if

I backed off the volume control and increased the input

level to give the same output voltage, I got higher minimum

distortion. This suggests that something is adding

distortion upstream from the Conductor’s output stage. I

therefore measured the distortion in the preamp’s output

at 1V output, increasing the input voltage but each time

backing off the volume control to keep the output level

constant. The results are shown in fig.3. The percentage of

distortion increases in a linear manner with input voltage,

and the preamp clips when the input voltage is 2.6V and

measurements, continued



www.Stereophile.com, July 2009 7


Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier

amp and bent over to peer at it. Other

than seeing which input is engaged and

looking at the bargraph that shows the

selected volume, it’s not critical to be

able to read the display, but it would be

nice if it were a bit larger.

The turn-on procedure has four steps.

Flipping on a switch on the preamp section’s

rear panel puts it into Sleep mode:

Conductor” appears in red on the power

supply, while the word remains dark

on the preamp itself. Hitting the On/Off

button on the remote, one of the toggle

switches on the front panel, or the center

of the display puts the preamp in Mute

mode. On both power supply and preamp,

Conductor” then turns from red

to dark blue. The display shows a picture

of a tube and a thermometer that

changes from black to red to yellow as

the filaments heat up. When the thermometer

reaches 75%, the tubes’ plate

voltage of the tubes is applied. When

the thermometer reaches 100%, the preamp

switches itself to Operate mode and

the screen displays the input selected. It

sounds complicated, but it’s simple, and

cool to watch.

The Conductor operated flawlessly

during its tenure here, as I would have

expected: my Audio Valve Eclipse has

proved to be the most reliable piece of

audio electronics I’ve ever owned.

The hearing is believing

As I fired up the Conductor for

the first time, I had a thought.

Given this preamp’s lofty price, it

would be nice to be able to say that it

was completely uncolored, and had no

sonic shortcomings whatsoever.

A few days of listening later,

it had become clear that, without

equivocation, I could say

just that. Three months of listening

later, having found no flaws

whatsoever in the Conductor’s

sound, I thought I’d focus on

what it did unusually well.

If you read my Follow-Up on the

Audio Valve Eclipse preamp in the June

2008 issue—see www.stereophile.com/

tubepreamps/807av—you might recall

that I was very impressed with its quick,

uncolored, kick-slamming, solid-state–like

bass performance. The Conductor shared

that trait in the bottom end, but seemed

capable of even more. I have known every

the volume control is set to –8.3dB, a not unusual setting.

And even at 2V, the standard output for a CD player, the

THD+N reading is 0.58%. If our sample of the Conductor

was not broken—and I have no other reason to suspect

that it was (I did reseat all the tubes before starting the

measurements)—it looks as if the input stage ahead of

the volume control is overloading prematurely.

This disappointing behavior can also be seen in fig.4,

which plots THD+N against frequency at 1V output into

100k ohms and 600 ohms but with two input levels:

200mV (bottom four traces) and 1.2V (top four traces).

As mentioned earlier, the right channel (red, gray, and

magenta traces) is significantly worse than the left (blue,

cyan, green), but the preamp actually performs quite well

into the very low impedance. Unfortunately, the higher

input level results in more than 10 times the level of THD

in the output compared with the lower input level.

Peculiarly, the distortion of the signal present at the

Tape Out jacks was not affected by the level of the input

signal, other than having an increasing proportion of noise

at the level was reduced. This suggests the Tape Out signal

is taken from before the overload-prone input circuit.

I further investigated this behavior by looking at the

spectra of the Conductor’s output under various conditions.

Fig.5, for example, shows the spectrum of its output

while it drives a 1kHz tone at 2V into 100k ohms, about

the highest level it will be called on to deliver in practice.

The input level was 800mV, which is not unreasonable.

Both the second and third harmonics in the right channel

lie at –60dB (0.1%), and higher harmonics can also be

seen. While some low-frequency, power-supply–related

spikes are evident, these all lie at or below –120dB and

will therefore be irrelevant. (Their levels were not affected

by experimenting with the system grounding.)


www.Stereophile.com, July 2009 9

Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier

component in my reference system for

many years, and it seemed that, with the

Conductor in place, my system was capable

of far deeper bass than I’d ever realized

it was. I don’t necessarily mean some technical

lower-limit extension per se. It just

seemed that with every well-engineered

recording I played that had significant

bass content, every instrument seemed to

have a more authoritative presence below

60Hz that suggested live music.

I listened to John Hassell’s latest album,

Last Night the Moon Came Dropping

Its Clothes in the Street (CD, ECM 2077),

one week after I’d heard the entire CD

performed by Hassell and his group at

Carnegie Hall. This quintet, consisting of

electronically manipulated trumpet, violin,

and bass guitar, as well two musicians

retrieving sampled sounds from laptops,

create delicately atmospheric yet powerful

soundscapes that are both intellectually

challenging and accessible. On “Time

and Place,” the lower register of Peter

Freeman’s bass as it filled Carnegie Hall

created an “air of thunder” more reminiscent

of pipe-organ pedal notes in a

great cathedral. The Conductor perfectly

reproduced this effect from the CD, with

a sound so arresting I held back a bit on

the volume—I was worried about damaging

the woofers of my Alón Circes.

What you might expect from a preamp

with such a massive—some might

say overengineered—power supply is

impressive dynamic range. This was

indeed one of the Conductor’s greatest

strengths, best illustrated by Helmuth

Rilling and the Oregon Bach Festival’s

For comparison, fig.6 was taken with the input level

reduced to 220mV and the volume control adjusted to

give the same 2V output into 100k ohms as before. The

second and third harmonics have now dropped by 10

and 20dB, respectively, in both channels, and while some

higher harmonics can still be seen, these are almost

exclusively in the right channel (red trace).

Confirming that the Conductor’s output stage copes

well with low impedances, fig.7 shows the spectrum of

its output taken under the same circumstances as fig.6:

ie, a low input level. While the levels of the harmonics

have risen with the increased demand for current from

the output stage, they still remain below –60dB.

Finally, fig.8 shows the Audio Valve’s behavior on the

punishing high-frequency intermodulation test under

worst-case conditions: an input level of 2V typical of CD

players, and the volume control set to unity gain. A large

number of intermodulation products are visible, with the

1kHz difference component lying at –54dB (0.2%), and

the higher-order components at 18 and 21kHz at –46dB

(0.5%). Not good.

While the Audio Valve Conductor is an impressivelooking

product, has very low noise, and its output

stage seems capable of driving low impedances without

breaking too much of a sweat, its measured performance

is compromised by its inability to handle high-level

sources in a linear manner. Why wasn’t Bob Reina

bothered by this behavior? I suspect that it is the fact that

the increased distortion comprises the lower harmonics

and that they increase linearly with input level. So with

a CD player having the usual 2V maximum output, with

classical and jazz, the average signal level will stay below

500mV almost all the time, meaning that the Conductor’s

input will not be audibly overloading. It will progressively

overload for the top 12dB of the music’s peaks, but with

the distortion signature consisting of the second and

third harmonics, the perceived effect will be more of a

fattening” of those peaks rather than distortion as such.

Nevertheless, and again assuming that our review sample

was not broken, I was disappointed by this expensive

preamplifier’s measured performance.—John Atkinson

measurements, continued


www.Stereophile.com, July 2009 11


Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier

recording of Krzysztof Penderecki’s

Credo, a blockbuster work for chorus

and orchestra (CD, Hänssler

Classic 09.311). When, in the opening

passage—very difficult to reproduce

accurately—the full-throated

chorus breaks out, there was no

hint of congestion or coagulation,

no trace of distortion. I flinched

when the bass drum kicked me in

the face, and lower-level passages

were equally impressive. When bass

Thomas Quasthoff entered in Credo

in Unum Deum, his holographically

reproduced body appeared midstage,

and it was easy to “see” his vocal

phrasing technique.

The Conductor brought out every

little subtlety in the Santa Fe Chamber

Music Festival performance of

Tomiko Kohjiba’s The Transmigration of

the Soul, from Festival (CD, Stereophile

STPH007-2). In the opening passage,

I could hear clearly when the melodic

lines of soprano Kendra Colton and

flutist Carol Wincenc “de-linked.” I

could also clearly follow the slightly

enhanced downstrokes of cellist Peter

Wyrick’s bowing. From my notes:

pinpoint staging, gobs of space and air,

flawless timpani, shattering dynamics.”

The Conductor’s dynamic range was

so wide that I sometimes had trouble deciding

where to set the volume control.

I began “Mansour’s Gift,” from my jazz

quartet Attention Screen’s Live at Merkin

Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2), at a

level at which I could comfortably follow

every subtle, low-level electronic effect

in bassist Chris Jones’s introduction,

while marveling at the subtle dynamic

envelope of Mark Flynn’s Korean tuk

drum. At this level, however, the crashing

fortissimo in the descending passage

for piano, bass, and drums near the end

of the track was so loud that my wife

demanded I turn the volume down.

That’s not to say that the Conductor

didn’t excel at delicate jazz passages.

Tears Transforming,” from the

Tord Gustavsen Trio’s The Ground (CD,

ECM 1892), enveloped me in a warm,

delicate bath of liquid piano sound. On

Original Faubus Fables,” from Charles

Mingus Presents Charles Mingus (LP, Candid

9005), the Conductor presented

Mingus’s warm bass lines as a clearly

defined bedrock for trumpeter Ted

Curson’s biting, brassy, burnished solo.

I also cued up the great rockabilly

version of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”

from Santo and Johnny’s eponymous

first album (LP, Canadian American

CALP 1001).1 As I noted how tightly

and tunefully the uncredited studio

bassist and drummer churned through

this tune, I was able to study every lick

of Santo Farina’s (then a teenager) masterful

upper-register lap-steel solo, as

the Conductor reproduced every nuance

with pristine splendor.

The Conductor’s upper-register purity

went hand in hand with its rapid and

undistorted transient abilities to make

it a spectacular showcase for percussion

recordings. The wide, deep soundstage

of Charles Wuorinen’s recording of his

Ringing Changes for Percussion Ensemble (LP,

Nonesuch H71263) placed every instrument

in its appropriate space,

each on its own bed of air. The

entrancing low-level pianissimos

leading into “barking and

crashing” presented a similar

challenge in volume control

to what I’d faced when playing

the Attention Screen disc.

I won’t go into detail about

the countless familiar recordings

with which the Conductor’s

resolution of inner detail let me

hear, say, woodwind countermelodies

under a dense orchestral

passage, bassoons doubling

choral baritones, or bass-synth

countermelodies—none of which, at the

risk of using an audiophile cliché, I’d

ever heard before.

And don’t let the Conductor’s name

fool you into thinking it’s only for lovers

of classical and jazz. Playing the title

track of Hole’s Celebrity Skin (CD, Geffen

DGCD-25164) at about 97dB, as I

twitched around the room to the slamming

drum and kick-ass bass lines, I

was still able to clearly follow the lyrics

sung by the backing vocalists over the

din of distorted guitar.

The comparing is revealing

I had no other preamps on hand that

were anywhere near the Conductor’s

price to do a fairer comparison, and it’s

been some time since the Reference 3

was sent back to Audio Research. However,

readers can refer to my comparison

of the ARC and the Audio Valve

Eclipse in my Follow-Up on the latter

in the June 2008 issue.

It was fascinating to compare the

Conductor with the Eclipse with a wide

range of recordings. The two preamps,

clearly cut from the same sonic cloth,

both had ultra-low levels of coloration.

However, there was a slight difference in

their midrange perspectives. The Eclipse

seemed a bit more forward, the Conductor

a tad laid-back. With the latter,

it was as if I’d moved 10 rows back in

the orchestra section of a concert hall.

Although one of the Eclipse’s greatest

strengths was its tight, clean, deep, kickass

bass, the Conductor, as mentioned

above, seemed even better in this area.

The high-frequency characteristics of the

two preamps were virtually identical.

One area in which the Conductor bettered

the Eclipse: No matter how densely

modulated the music, the Conductor

never sounded as if it was working hard

to produce its effortless, pristine, crystal-

ASSOCIATED equipment

ANALOG SOURCES VPI TNT IV

turntable, Immedia RPM tonearm,

Koetsu Urushi cartridge; Rega Planar

3 turntable, Syrinx PU-3 tonearm,

Clearaudio Virtuoso Wood cartridge.

DIGITAL SOURCES Lector CDP-7T,

Creek Destiny CD players.

PREAMPLIFICATION Vendetta Research

SCP-2D phono stage, Audio

Valve Eclipse line stage.

POWER AMPLIFIERS Audio Research

Reference 110, Creek Destiny.

LOUDSPEAKERS Alón Circe, Monitor

Audio Silver RS6, Linn Majik 109,

Dynaudio Excite X12.

CABLES Interconnect (all MIT): Magnum,

MI-350 CVTwin Terminator,

CVT Terminator 2. Speaker: MIT CVT

Terminator 2, Acarian Systems Black

Orpheus.

ACCESSORIES Various by ASC,

Bright Star, Simply Physics, Sound

Anchor, VPI.—Robert J. Reina

1 The mono copy of this masterpiece that I purchased

in 1959 was the first item in what has since become a

collection of some 12,000 LPs. I thank Michael Fremer

for finding me a copy of the stereo version about 10

years ago.

Cutline QQQ

www.Stereophile.com, July 2009 13

Audio Valve Conductor preamplifier

clear sound. With some of the more demanding

orchestral works and recordings,

the Eclipse never sounded congealed or

congested, but I sensed it was giving all it

had to ensure a realistic reproduction of

the music. By comparison, the Conductor

always sounded effortless: for all it

cared, it could have been reproducing a

string quartet rather than an orchestra.

These characteristics were directly related

to the preamps’ reproductions of

soundstages. While the Eclipse presented

detailed, pinpoint images on a wide, deep

soundstage, the Conductor’s stage was

even wider and deeper. But the differences

went further than that. There was an openness

to the Conductor’s soundstaging that

I hadn’t heard before from a preamp. Although

the Conductor’s superb presentation

of detail rendered ambience and hall

cues perfectly, I never had the sense that it

was reproducing music that had been recorded

in a confined space, as I felt with the

Eclipse. It was a paradox: The Conductor

sounded so open that it seemed to almost

make the walls of concert halls disappear,

while simultaneously rendering ambience

cues that made it easier to hear those walls.

The Eclipse’s wide dynamic contrasts

were bettered by the Conductor’s. A

case in point: With the Eclipse hooked

up, I cued up Attention Screen’s “Mansour’s

Gift” and began listening at the

same volume level as I had with the

Conductor. But this time, when the cacophonous

fortissimo crash came near

the end of the piece, my wife did not tell

me to turn the volume down. I could

say that, while the Eclipse is capable of

ppp/fff dynamic contrasts, the Conductor

is capable of pppp/ffff.

While this comparison clearly revealed

the superiority of the Conductor

over the Eclipse, it also reaffirmed what

a rare bargain the Eclipse is.


Sadly, the Conductor

is leaving the podium.


Without exception, the Audio Valve

Conductor produced stunning, flawless

sound during the three delightful

months it spent in my house, and exceeded

the performance of my Audio

Valve Eclipse—no easy task. I unhesitatingly

recommend its consideration

to anyone able to spend $13,995 on a

line stage. Unfortunately, I am not a

member of that club, so it’s back to the

Eclipse for me.

I also strongly recommend that, given

the Conductor’s unusual size and appearance,

you see the preamp in the

flesh before buying—and take your significant

other with you. But still—at no

time during the Conductor’s tenure here

did my wife comment on its appearance

or the amount of space it occupied in

our living room.

Well done, Herr Becker, and keep up

the good work! nn