Review: Audionet PAM G2 – ” Made in Germany “
The Berlin-based Audionet after many years without representation in our country returns from the hand of the company of Barcelona origin Sumun Audio . It is thanks to the Madrid-based Audio Elite that the Audionet PAM G2 phono preamplifier, component object of this analysis, has ended up under my belt. Indicate that the gestation of this article coincides with the recent decision to rename Audio Elite, being its new name Audiogallery , which according to its owner, Jorge Sánchez, is more adapted to the new times, coinciding with a significant improvement of the facilities and the incorporation of new internationally renowned firms.
Audionet-Idektron has been linked to Thomass Gessler since its inception. Which at the beginning of the 80’s began to work for a consulting company of new technologies. His main projects were linked to artificial intelligence and surface mount technology, at that time a completely new way of joining components to electronic circuit boards. Thomas had a natural talent for analyzing the benefits of emerging technologies and in 1990 he began working as a manager of a company established at the Ruhr University in Bochum (near Düsseldorf) to analyze their possibilities for commercialization. Having access to the technological capabilities of the university and full of new ideas and concepts in analog amplification, as well as digital signal processing, Thomas and his team were also lovers and passionate about good music. The rest is history: developing its own electronic audio components thanks to the acquisition of the university’s electronics department.
Over the next two years, they created their first creature, the Digital Loudspeaker Controller. The DLC actively corrected for phase and frequency deficiencies in a loudspeaker. Unfortunately it was a commercial failure as the market was not yet ready for such a proposal.
Around the same time, Gessler agreed to bid for a competition to develop the four-way external active crossover for B & W’s new flagship loudspeaker project, the Nautilus. Not only did Thomas’s group win that contest, they continued to produce those crossovers until a few years ago.
It was thus when in 1994 after the recent successes achieved and having generated sufficient economic lung, Thomas Gessler and his team decided to found Audionet, with current headquarters in Berlin, and whose ranks have included such illustrious figures as Robert Hagemann (Dynaudio, KEF and Burmester ), Jan Geschke (Dali and Dynaudio) and renowned industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger (Apple and Sony).
After an economic downturn in 2018, Dr. Stefan Schwehr, a person related to the automotive industry and its technological developments, has taken the lead at the corporate level by proposing a new impulse and ideas, although the figure of Thomas Gessler remains and has not remained unrelated, since he continues as an export manager and international ambassador of the firm.
Audionet is one of the brands with the best reputation in Germany that, in each visit that Hifilive makes to the cradle of the Hiend in the Bavarian capital, the Munich Hifi Show organized by the Hiend Society, we realize not only the omnipresence of the firm by all the pavilions always accompanied by the best international brands, also by its inestimable fame achieved on the basis of excellent designs, quality in the products used and seriousness and rigor in its manufacture.
Made in Germany and a symbol of the highest quality and know-how, without a doubt.
Audionet: The Family
The Audionet portfolio is varied and complete, consisting of sources (Planck, and ART G3), network components (DNP, DNA I and DNC), integrated amplifiers (HUMBOLDT, WATT, SAM G2 and SAM 20SE), preamplifiers (STERN, PRE G2, PRE I G3 and PAM G2), power stages (HEISENBERG, MAX, AMP and AMP IV2), external power supplies (AMPERE, EPX, EPC and EPS G2) and network cables. Additionally, Audionet has a series of APPs such as CARMA (Computer Aided RooM Analyzer) or RCP (Remote Control Point) for controlling music systems based on UPnP servers.
Observing its website it is easy to appreciate the German rigor in terms of the description of its components, not having any qualms about highlighting of each and every one of them the qualities and qualities both interior and exterior. The fact is that you can rarely see true audiophile-grade details in audiophile marks, an absolute incoherence.
Thus, in his case we see sensitivity in the use of rhodium fuses, last generation SMD components, capacitors with specific treatments for dissipation and vibration, imposing shielded and oversized power supplies, banks of endless electrolytic capacitors, specific treatments of power supply. ground, electronic electrical phase analysis, etc …
Audionet has a series of key technologies, developed in-house and implanted in different components with great success, such as ULA (Ultra Linear Amplifier) technology with the aim of taking loudspeaker performance to maximum limits, Aligned Resonance Technology (ART) used in its CD players, the Double-Precision-Bassmanager and Parametric Equalizer to process the signal and perform proper bass management using 48-bit resolution at all sample rates or the legendary Audionet amplification operations (OP), capable of reaching 1Ghz bandwidth.
As the preface of the PAM G2 instruction manual cites well, the devices made by Audionet are not marketing products, they are authentic products, carefully designed by a group of engineers and conceived for the delight of the most connoisseurs.
Unboxing and installation
Thoroughly packed in double oversized cardboard box and presented together with gloves, a standard network cable and an additional green / yellow ground cable, a complete instruction manual in English and wrapped in polyethylene foam the PAM G2 once it is presented It is reminiscent of the aesthetics of the high-flying components of the 90s. It is clear that the aesthetic design does not escape in groundbreaking schemes or in the use of esoteric materials, Audionet opts for clean finishes, with the use of plates of good thickness of brushed anodized aluminum on the front panel and cover and on the varnished steel chassis, in order to avoid resonances and obtain a solid shielding. It is also offered in two finishes, black or gray, being able to choose the color of the front LEDs, blue or red. In fact,
This “machine”, as they like to call all its components in Audionet, has a weight of almost 10 kilos, the capacity to handle both MM and MC capsules and can hold up to two inputs for all those who have two capsules. Its price is € 5,695.
In the case that concerns us, it is the black finish, with blue LEDs and only one of the inputs; the second entry is optional and involves an extra cost of € 2,195.
The blue LEDs on the front panel will indicate the selected input once it is turned on and also during the ignition process if it is connected in electrical phase, an extremely curious detail and that, together with the inclusion of a specific ground wire, it is clear that I suggests the importance Audionet places on details.
You cannot access the settings from the front, being only from the back, which is somewhat uncomfortable, although in the case of having two available inputs, the settings are specific to each one, so it will not be necessary to get up continuously. Additionally and upon express request (it is necessary to make a modification in the PAM G2) it is still possible to include the EPC (External Precission Controller) in order to be able to make all the aforementioned adjustments from a remote control, comfortably from the sofa.
The settings are varied and more than enough, being able to select:
- Gain: 38 dB, 48 dB, 58 dB, 68 dB
- Capacitance: 100 pF, 200 pF, 320 pF, 420 pF
- Impedance: 100 Ohm, 150 Ohm, 470 Ohm, 1 kOhm, 23 kOhm, 47 kOhm, 69 kOhm
Regarding the available connections, note that they are all gold-plated, the inputs being through RCA connectors from WBT and the outputs selectable between RCA from WBT and XLR from Neutrik. Additionally there is a 7-pin socket with a threaded connector for connecting any of the external power supplies offered by Audionet. As you can read later, in our case we were able to upgrade by connecting the EPX source.
It is curious, although it is true that more and more high-end brands take note of this detail, which includes the possibility of incorporating a specific ground cable that includes the previous one (in addition to the ground that the network cable has) the which connects from a rear ground hook directly to a socket. Personally, I have never used a cable of this type and it is undoubtedly necessary to extract the full potential of this preamplifier.
As the Hifilive unconditional you will already know the connection was made to a Clearaudio base with a Kuzma arm wired with Nordost. I skipped the network cable proposed by Audionet and arranged for a top model from Neotech, the NEP 1001 courtesy of Audiogallery. Finally, I made the connections to the line preamplifier with my usual MIT.
Since I did not know the degree of running-in that the device has, I left it on for a few days and in use. When you turn it on, after the aforementioned phase check, the internal red lights that can be seen between the upper ventilation grills, ventilation that I recommend taking into account because the previous one, having the output stage in class A, gets quite hot. For the usual standards of this type of component, 20cm is recommended in the instruction manual.
The assembly is quite simple and in my case I only had the opportunity to test it with the MC Lyra Kleos SL capsule that offers a very low output, 0.25mV which had no problem amplifying it correctly in its maximum gain position, minimum of capacitance (although this value is more critical in MM) and 100ohms / 150ohms of load, values which after several tests were recommended for my system.
The instruction manual is quite complete and informs you adequately about not only the correct configuration of the preamp depending on what type of capsule is used (low mc, medium mc, high mc, mm …), it also proposes a series of very useful tips and recommendations interesting
Within its technical specifications, I would highlight the 2-stage RIAA active equalization, the absence of operational or capacitors in the signal path maintaining its purity and fidelity, the inclusion of a 100 VA shielded toroidal transformer, well accompanied in terms of filtered by 40,000 µF of Elna capacitors and the use of a class A output stage. There are more than 60 capacitors carefully placed like a battalion on the plate as well as a diversity of SMD components that, as you already know, their secret is their reduced susceptibility to interference high frequency they have. The 12 mosfet controllers that regulate and smooth the supply voltage are seated on an aluminum rail to guarantee an identical operating temperature for all of them. Definitely,
Sound: “SCIENTIFIC MAGIC”
Once the PAM G2 was adjusted to its optimal values and having spent about two weeks familiarizing myself with it, I proceeded to carry out the first serious listening. As soon as you turn it on, as always, the phase check occurs to indicate that the network cable is connected in correct polarity.
Reviewing my notes on the serious auditions to which I submitted the device, what is repeated the most are the following adjectives: tonal balance, naturalness, fluidity and relaxation. And is that the PAM G2 does not have any type of identity traditionally related to solid state components. Sounds with full and smooth textures, tonal neutrality that makes it all-rounder and a warmth very similar to that found in phono preamps that include vacuum tubes; but with the fluidity, speed and resolution most associated with transistors. All in one?
The scene he proposes has a much larger dimension than usual, a large window of music and details in front of me. The sensation of size is usually more palpable thanks to two possibilities, on the one hand, the restitution of the mid / bass and bass frequencies and, on the other, the treatment of microinformation, which if well resolved is capable of providing transparency in sound planes. and therefore redound in greater depth. Size with three-dimensionality, let’s go for it!
Without being the most dynamic phono preamp I have heard at the macro level, I can assure you that at the micro level it has a high dose of dynamics capable of rivaling any other high-end unit on the market. The Lyra Kleos SL is in its sauce because as you already know it is like all Jonathan Carr designs: fast and cheerful, this PAM G2 being capable of solving in a fast and efficient way, but at the same time relaxed and complete, all the sounds it generates.
Thus, in the wonderful interpretation of Cherubini’s Requiem conducted by Igor Markevitch in 1963 (DG. Orchestra and choirs of the Czech Philharmonic) I was able to see how the stage volume of choirs and orchestra overwhelms and causes a sensation of breadth and depth to date unpublished in my system.
As I mentioned, the low end has a very capable articulation that makes the rig sound much looser, with a similar feel to that obtained when connecting an amplifier with more power and control to the boxes. As I appreciated in the chords of the double bass played by Eugene Wright of the famous Take Five of the Time Out album by a The Dave Brubeck Quartet (Columbia, 1959) in a state of glory.
With more intimate albums such as the mythical Ella & Louis (WaxTime Records. 1956) the presence and meatiness of their voices, their rhythm and even their vibration is felt inside the chest, gentlemen this is an enjoyment.
Piano concertos are usually the most complex pieces to project by an audio system, on the one hand due to the complexity involved in the correct restitution of an orchestra and on the other the resolution to which the team is subjected through the piano notes, with their nuances, attacks, color palette and always evident intention of the pianist and author of the work. Thus, in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 performed by Friedrich Gulda (DG. Directed by Claudio Abbado) it is evident not only the correct differentiation of the notes and instruments in the orchestra, but also the precision with which the piano notes are restored. that at no time are stuck, maintaining the rhythm and the sonic expression throughout the melody, there is no rush there is no precision.
Perhaps and possibly due to the low output of my capsule the previous one is not as silent as others that I have been able to evaluate at home in the same price range, I have no doubt that with an absolute black background glory would have been achieved, but It is also true that not many people are in favor of working with such low output capsules, so it will be necessary to analyze this point.
Smooth and precise in the upper part, natural and expressive in the middle and round and articulate in the lower part, it could be a very good summary of what this phono preamp is capable of.
Audionet PAM G2 EPX power supply upgrade
More or less after a month and when I was already clear about the sound that this exceptional phono preamp provided, Audiogallery provided me with an external power supply to be able to take its sound to the highest levels, in this case the model called EPX.
But before the sonic analysis, let’s remember the different possibilities offered by Audionet in terms of connecting external power supplies for the Audionet PAM G2.
Both the EPS G2 (Enhanced Power Supply) whose main characteristics are the use of two toroidal transformers of 100VA with 260,000μF of filtering capacity, and the EPC (Enhanced Power Supply Controller) equivalent to the previous one but compatible with remote control informs me Audiogallery that are close to being discontinued with what the options we would currently have would be:
The EPX (Enhanced Power Supply Max) has two 200VA toroidal transformers with 576,000 μF of filtering capacity and its price is € 5,795.
And the Ampere, which has two 300VA toroidal transformers with 576,000 μF of filtering. Undoubtedly a perhaps somewhat excessive option for a phono preamp, its price is € 8,700, but there is no doubt that the search for perfection often involves these excesses.
Focusing on the EPX, recommended by Audionet for the ART G3, the PAM G2, the PRE I G3, the DNP or the DNC, it is connected by a 7-pin umbilical cord with an angled connector to the Audionet PAM G2. Once they are joined, the power supply must be connected to the network, the power input of the phono preamp being canceled. The switching on and off is carried out from the phono preamp, making a synchronization between both components and not losing the electrical phase check that the PAM G2 always performs before being operational.
The connection is somewhat complex given that the 7-pin connector is angled and the connector itself has a somewhat dimensioned size, making it difficult to connect the rear cables of the PAM G2 and leaving the umbilical cable seen from the front, since the Angle of the elbow is obliquely upward.
Once it was properly installed, I begin to do a series of listening sessions, always keeping in mind the sound that I had been enjoying for the last month.
Although we have already talked about the excellent microdynamics and details that the PAM G2 offered alone, with the connection of the EPX a greater punch at the macrodynamic level emerges in equal measure. Overall, the system takes on greater expression and strength, a feeling of greater presence is produced, both in voices and instruments, very possibly due to an improvement in the speed of the transient.
The sound has taken on a greater cleanliness if possible, free of any type of edge, which causes a greater sense of rhythm and rhythm.
The upper part takes greater ease and openness, softer but at the same time cleaner, the same with the lower part that although it seemed impossible that it would improve, it goes up one more notch in quality and allows the bass notes to be followed much more precisely. The separation between notes is much more marked and produces a sensation of pause and relaxation to the sound that makes it addictive.
I can only use a cliché phrase within the world of audio and that is that a veil has been removed from music, everything is clearer, more transparent, more complete, more musical. However, the cost benefit of the inclusion of this power supply should be done with meditation since it is a significant extra cost.
Audionet PAM G2 Conclusion
Rancid ancestry, German origin and faultless history, the Berliner Audionet began in the world of hiend with Thomass Gessler. A restless engineer ahead of his time, thanks to his perseverance he managed to found one of the most prestigious European brands at the beginning of the 90s.
Having the honor of being one of the usual firms, by presence and quality, at the Munich Hifi Show organized by the Hiend Society in the Bavarian capital, the Audionet “machines” (as they are called with pride) whenever I have had the opportunity to listening to them are extremely well accompanied by other components of very high flights, imposing great respect and admiration.
Currently directed by Dr. Stefan Schwehr, the firm has taken a new direction and momentum, as the appearance of the absolute Humboldt integrated amplifier has made clear, a true technological tour de force.
The PAM G2 phono preamp is bombproof built and is compatible with MM / MC cartridges. Having numerous adjustments to seek maximum compatibility, it is capable of amplifying two capsules maintaining independent settings for each one of them and with the naked eye and based on its internal construction it could pass for an amplifier to use given the careful feeding section that integrates with a large 100VA toroidal and 40,000 μF filtering capacity.
With some points that denote care in its design, such as the electrical phase check or the possibility of connecting an additional ground wire, the details of this phono amplifier have surprised me very pleasantly, since they are not usual in its price range. .
In addition, if the power section it integrates is not enough, Audionet offers a series of external power supplies (such as the EPX evaluated in this article) capable of taking this phono preamp to unimaginable levels.
Taking into consideration that it is not the quietest phono preamp that has passed through my hands with my 0.2V capsule, I have to tell you that during the almost four months that I have had it connected to my system it has offered me a smooth and Precise in the upper part, natural and expressive in the middle part and of a very high level in the lower part, with a great amount of richness and nuances, providing an additional quality bonus, improving the feeling of overall power of the team.
If you have one or two high-end capsules, you are a fan of Germanic build quality and you want a sound rich in nuances, dynamic and balanced, the Audionet PAM G2 should be one of the options you should consider.