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Review: Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

Review: Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One - what a beautiful, honest and inspiring musical products these amplifiers have become.

Review: Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One: Due to the steady increase in the quality of transistors, especially in the last ten years, it seems that products that still use tubes have really had their day. Not so strange in itself when we know that the history of this often moodily glowing glass flask already started in 1904(!) with the invention of the electron tube by the British Ambrose. So what should we do with such an old-fashioned invention in a time of energy conservation, flexibility and a brake on space use? I would prefer to only parry all this with large written ‘OH’s’ and ‘AH’s’. But since you probably won’t be satisfied with that, I would like to introduce you with the necessary reverence and undisguised pleasure to a relatively affordable tube pre and power amp combination.

While the weather outside feels wet and shivery, you can’t notice it at all inside. For, almost hypnotized, two black sculptures in piano lacquer with silver Cyclops eyes stare at me. In between are two large Teutonic objects, also in high-gloss black, with a small series of simply beautifully warmly glowing objects in their interior. The front is decorated with large written letters ‘Elysium’ and in the audio rack behind it I see, in addition to a series of analog and digital state-of-the-art sources, two similar black devices. Only the name ‘Lara’ is mentioned here. Of course I recognize these black loudspeakers as the ‘Stage’ models of the German Zellaton and at the same time suspect that these two oversized ‘side tables’ are a couple of huge power amplifiers. But why these extreme dimensions?! Questions that I will receive an answer to later on by Marco de Wilde of importer Music2 and Harry van Dalen of Rhapsody. But before that, during a long demo, I am brought to such a high musical atmosphere as I have seldom been able to experience even in this top store! By the way, don’t just think of the well-known auditory delights such as beautifully layered dynamic contrasts, countless timbres and a 3D spatial image in which you can turn a truck. New, what I observe during this preview of this ‘Birth of a Legend’ show goes much further. It is disconnecting your ‘audiophile’ perceptions and then completely surrendering to a deep relaxation and enormous increase in serotonin – also known as the happiness hormone.

Less outline – more music -Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

Although I run the risk that you will find this all very vague, I would like to state in advance that I am not at all like that. I’m also someone of factual knowledge and normal is crazy enough, but I can’t ignore the fact that bizarre things happen during this demo. Although I think I know Zellaton well in terms of brand and models, this is a ‘next level’ view. Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t locate sound coming from speakers with the best will in the world. All the music presented is therefore much more like an authentic performance as can be experienced live in a good hall and there is never the slightest form of stress or another artifact that can distract the attention. But even more strange is that there seems to be no definition or rather outline in the musical event at all?! I will try to explain what I mean by saying that certainly in 95 of the 100 serious audio systems the musical matter is actually clearly defined above average. To call it ‘etched’ is going too far, but it is a kind of artifact that can compensate for the lack of visual information in a hi-fi set. In a real concert you see when someone is playing, while in classical music the conductor even clearly points to the instruments that have to play the next moment. With an audio set you don’t have that aspect and then different (manipulated) types of distortion provide an extra accent line. I will try to explain what I mean by saying that certainly in 95 of the 100 serious audio systems the musical matter is actually clearly defined above average. To call it ‘etched’ is going too far, but it is a kind of artifact that can compensate for the lack of visual information in a hi-fi set. In a real concert you see when someone is playing, while in classical music the conductor even clearly points to the instruments that have to play the next moment. With an audio set you don’t have that aspect and then different (manipulated) types of distortion provide an extra accent line. I will try to explain what I mean by saying that certainly in 95 of the 100 serious audio systems the musical matter is actually clearly defined above average. To call it ‘etched’ is going too far, but it is a kind of artifact that can compensate for the lack of visual information in a hi-fi set. In a real concert you see when someone is playing, while in classical music the conductor even clearly points to the instruments that have to play the next moment. With an audio set you don’t have that aspect and then different (manipulated) types of distortion provide an extra accent line. To call it ‘etched’ is going too far, but it is a kind of artifact that can compensate for the lack of visual information in a hi-fi set. In a real concert you see when someone is playing, while in classical music the conductor even clearly points to the instruments that have to play the next moment. With an audio set you don’t have that aspect and then different (manipulated) types of distortion provide an extra accent line. To call it ‘etched’ is going too far, but it is a kind of artifact that can compensate for the lack of visual information in a hi-fi set. In a real concert you see when someone is playing, while in classical music the conductor even clearly points to the instruments that have to play the next moment. With an audio set you don’t have that aspect and then different (manipulated) types of distortion provide an extra accent line.

Serbian Kondo

The reason I go to such lengths to get this across to you is that these mysterious amplifiers don’t use this consciously or unconsciously implemented trick at all?! Because not only the musical message is complete from the first second, but also the hair-rising bizarre feeling that people, their environment and instruments are actually materialized 1:1 right in front of you! The amplifiers that manage to deliver this quite unique feat to my ears are (almost) the top models of the Serbian Trafomatic brand, which is completely unknown to me. A truly special electronics manufacturer from the former Eastern Bloc and a brand where chief designer and owner Sasa Cokic is also referred to in select circles as the ‘Serbian Kondo’ from the Balkans (after the legendary Japanese audio designer Hiroyasu Kondo).

Transformomatic – Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

The history of this company, which started in the mid-nineties, is without a doubt special and above all wonderfully different. One of the reasons for this is that Serbia, Trafomatic’s home base, was part of Yugoslavia until 2003. A country which around 1990 still consisted of six different republics and today of six autonomous countries. Sasa Cokic and his company already started manufacturing transformers for defense applications in the Eastern Bloc period. Less well known is that a real critical audio scene has arisen within this Eastern bloc. This resulted in completely unknown brands that almost always had electron tubes as a basis. These ‘hidden’ brands from the west sometimes turned out to be of such high quality that they even ran simultaneously with the best known to us! Some examples of hidden brands that are also known here today are KR Audio and NAT Audio, but the list is of course much longer. Due to the enormous knowledge of transformers, the enormous fanaticism to go for the maximum achievable and above all the high degree of consistency, Sasa Cokic is today mentioned in the same breath as Hiroyasu Kondo, the legendary designer of Audio Note and later the Kondo tube amps. The transformers are also still manufactured today for countless other critical applications and that, coupled with a high degree of out-of-the-box technical knowledge, eventually led to the Trafomatic brand. Due to the enormous knowledge of transformers, the enormous fanaticism to go for the maximum achievable and above all the high degree of consistency, Sasa Cokic is today mentioned in the same breath as Hiroyasu Kondo, the legendary designer of Audio Note and later the Kondo tube amps. The transformers are also still manufactured today for countless other critical applications and that, coupled with a high degree of out-of-the-box technical knowledge, eventually led to the Trafomatic brand. Due to the enormous knowledge of transformers, the enormous fanaticism to go for the maximum achievable and above all the high degree of consistency, Sasa Cokic is today mentioned in the same breath as Hiroyasu Kondo, the legendary designer of Audio Note and later the Kondo tube amps. The transformers are also still manufactured today for countless other critical applications and that, coupled with a high degree of out-of-the-box technical knowledge, eventually led to the Trafomatic brand.

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

Evolution Line One Preamp

The Trafomatic amplifier program thus also appears to be based entirely on modern tube technology and is remarkably extensive. There are four preamplifiers, five headphone/phono preamplifiers, no less than ten(!) power amplifiers and seven integrated amplifiers! Because of the Rhapsody demo of the extremely expensive and huge Elysium mono power amplifiers of € 120,000

per pair, I had the typical high-end image of very high quality at very high prices. But what about the test products delivered to me? The moment they are placed in full glory on my Finite Pagode Master Reference rack, I am especially silent at first. Wow, what a beautiful and different thing to say. The Evolution Line One preamplifier comes standard in a very nice deep matte black color that feels pleasantly rubbery. Although the sizes (45 cm wide, 10.5 cm high and 32 cm deep) are classically oriented, the round design and appearance are anything but. Phew, this is really beautiful and absolutely stylish. On the front an inlaid blank aluminum panel with therefore only two profiled rotary controls for volume and source selection. A logo, type name and red LED indication complete this picture on the front. The left side contains a tilt switch to switch the device on/off, while the rear shows a lot more extensive and features no less than five switchable RCA inputs, a tape out, sub out and line output. Positively deviating are toggle switches for ground, the amplification factor (22 or 25 dB)

and an extra ground wire connection. The well-known Euro power cord connection rounds off the picture. The Evolution Line One stands nicely wide on its four self-made feet and the housing appears remarkably robust and massive. Closer inspection reveals that this not only appears to be so, but actually is. Because all Trafomatic housings are made of MDF, which is accurately formed with a CNC machine into the typical housing with round corners.

This massive and solid wooden outer shell is not only particularly suitable for realizing the intended shape, but also ensures that resonances do not stand a chance. On the inside, metal walls provide the necessary electrical shielding. Just when I almost think that this sober preamplifier has to be operated manually, it turns out that this package also comes with a very nice remote control. It is again a stylish gem entirely in the same style and color (each Trafomatic can be supplied in any desired color at an additional cost). Also with this remote control, the smoothly stylized housing is again covered with the rubbery material from DuPont, while the aluminum top plate only has two large chrome push buttons.

subcutaneous

One of the basic characteristics of every Trafomatic product is that the construction takes place according to the principle of using a minimum of active parts with passive components of top quality and that the entire subcutaneous construction is completely hard wired. This has also been extensively implemented with the 10 kg heavy Evolution Line One pre-stage connected in single ended (class A). Partly because of this, a long development time has been preceded in order to achieve the ultimate goal, during which many circuit variants have been reviewed. Past experience has taught the design team that only an uncompromising design will pay off in the long run. In the final selection, the well-known ECC88 double triode was ultimately chosen, one per channel. Not only because of its high reliability, but also because of the fact that this tube itself adds little to the reproduction. To achieve a minimum output impedance, the second triode is connected within the same tube as a cathode follower. Trafomatic typically, special care is taken in the proprietary design of a powerful power supply. Diode rectification followed by a CLC filter and high quality electrolytic capacitors ensures extremely low output ripple from the anode supply. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole. To achieve a minimum output impedance, the second triode is connected within the same tube as a cathode follower. Trafomatic typically, special care is taken in the proprietary design of a powerful power supply. Diode rectification followed by a CLC filter and high quality electrolytic capacitors ensures extremely low output ripple from the anode supply. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole. To achieve a minimum output impedance, the second triode is connected within the same tube as a cathode follower. Trafomatic typically, special care is taken in the proprietary design of a powerful power supply. Diode rectification followed by a CLC filter and high quality electrolytic capacitors ensures extremely low output ripple from the anode supply. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole. Trafomatic typically, special care is taken in the proprietary design of a powerful power supply. Diode rectification followed by a CLC filter and high quality electrolytic capacitors ensures extremely low output ripple from the anode supply. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole. Trafomatic typically, special care is taken in the proprietary design of a powerful power supply. Diode rectification followed by a CLC filter and high quality electrolytic capacitors ensures extremely low output ripple from the anode supply. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole. The well-known ECL82, which is an indirectly heated tube, serves as a stabilization (tube) for the anode voltage of the ECC88. A high-quality toroidal transformer improves the power supply even further, ultimately allowing a particularly high-quality preamplifier on my rack as a whole.

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution

The great thing about purchasing an amplifier combination from a single brand is that the devices are often optimized for each other. That is certainly the case with this Trafomatic combination, in which the design of both devices also complements each other very nicely. The name Trafomatic Elegance Evolution does not appear to have been chosen randomly. Because this tube power amplifier based on KT88/6550 power tubes is really a picture. The dimensions are the same as the Evolution Line One preamplifier except for an increased height of 19.5 cm, with a width of 45 cm and depth of 32 cm. Of course, the weight is a lot heavier due to the three cast-in transformers placed on the back of the housing at 22 kilos. The outer ones are output transformers, while the middle ones represent the actual power supply. The Trafomatic Elegance Evolution is the most powerful amplifier in the Evolution series and is constructed as a push-pull design using four KT88 power tubes. The output power is 50 Watts per channel. That doesn’t seem like much, but certainly in the Trafomatic setup with a robust power supply, it is more than sufficient for most loudspeakers. Even models with a lower sensitivity still go surprisingly well. As far as I’m concerned, this Serbian manufacturer rightly considers single ended tube amplifiers still the absolute top. That is why a lot of experiments were done with negative feedback during the design phase (necessary in push-pull designs to be able to control the deformation). In the end, he eventually arrived at a value of -6 dB for this power amplifier. The well-designed power supply uses a 300 VA toroidal transformer of its own manufacture. The output transformers are based on a dual C-core configuration, using super-fast Solen capacitors throughout the circuit.

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

fixed bias

Unlike several other brands, Trafomatic still consciously adheres to a fixed bias setting for the power tubes for all its models. The big disadvantage of auto bias solutions is that they not only correct when there is no music signal, but also when there is. This causes an audible loss of quality, including a certain reduction in dynamic contrasts. In order to be able to exercise sufficient control, there is a removable panel on the right side of the Trafomatic Elegance Evolution power amplifier with the option of giving each tube the correct bias value. This can be done very easily with a multimeter where the intended value is stated on the panel and should take place with a well-warmed amplifier. After that, the values ​​only need to be checked every now and then.

The rear of this power amplifier is remarkably richly equipped, just like its preamp brother. You should think of an extra earth connection, speaker terminals for both four and eight Ohm speakers and inputs for both single ended and balanced use. A euro mains plug entrance with built-in fuse holder and again that beautiful rubbery DuPont finish with an immaculate high level of finish, certainly together make for a really dazzlingly beautiful amplifier combination.

Preparations – Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

As I like to work, I am not aware of the pricing of these tube amplifiers prior to this test. But because I know that the huge Trafomatic Elysium mono power amplifiers should not frighten you for € 120,000 per pair, I have a certain idea that the test products probably won’t be really affordable either. A direction to which the beautiful appearance, the beautiful use of materials and solid construction also contribute immediately. In fact, these basic data are so strongly represented that I can’t believe my ears when I finally hear that the total price of this set only just passes the € 6,000! As I return to the Evolution combination with a much more critical eye the next moment, I may be even more surprised. Because the finish appearance and use of materials are ten out of ten. But what about the sound itself? To find out, I use these amps on three pairs of speakers over a period of two weeks. The beautiful Dynaudio Heritage Specials kick off. This is followed by the mighty and special Graham 5/5 BBC monitors and finally to conclude with the reference Contemporary C’s by Mastermind Rick Paap. Cables are a combination of Siltech, AudioQuest, Nirvana, MIT, Kemp Elektroniks, Essential Audio Tools and Grimm that varies per test component. As sources I use a Grimm MU1 music player with Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC, as well as the Aqua La Diva CD drive with Formula xHD DAC and of course my extremely reliable and proven North Star Design 192 MK II CD drive with Extremo DAC. But what about the sound itself? To find out, I use these amps on three pairs of speakers over a period of two weeks. The beautiful Dynaudio Heritage Specials kick off. This is followed by the mighty and special Graham 5/5 BBC monitors and finally to conclude with the reference Contemporary C’s by Mastermind Rick Paap. Cables are a combination of Siltech, AudioQuest, Nirvana, MIT, Kemp Elektroniks, Essential Audio Tools and Grimm that varies per test component. As sources I use a Grimm MU1 music player with Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC, as well as the Aqua La Diva CD drive with Formula xHD DAC and of course my extremely reliable and proven North Star Design 192 MK II CD drive with Extremo DAC. But what about the sound itself? To find out, I use these amps on three pairs of speakers over a period of two weeks. The beautiful Dynaudio Heritage Specials kick off. This is followed by the mighty and special Graham 5/5 BBC monitors and finally to conclude with the reference Contemporary C’s by Mastermind Rick Paap. Cables are a combination of Siltech, AudioQuest, Nirvana, MIT, Kemp Elektroniks, Essential Audio Tools and Grimm that varies per test component. As sources I use a Grimm MU1 music player with Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC, as well as the Aqua La Diva CD drive with Formula xHD DAC and of course my extremely reliable and proven North Star Design 192 MK II CD drive with Extremo DAC.

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

Listen 1

Actually, the very first aspect that I pay attention to with every amplifier or product, is the extent to which a kind of unique sound is added to the music. Certainly with tube products that are popularly seen as warm and pleasant, it is lurking around the corner to quickly designate the reproduction as soft and euphonically colored. But not with this Transformomatic duo! The balance is even so ideally natural that it resembles top-class transistor brothers in that area, but with the ‘musical soul’ that is so typical for tubes. A very high degree of relaxation in combination with an above-average catchiness is immediately noticeable and that is something I rarely hear in this price range. This in collaboration with a resolution that deliberately stays just below the ‘technical listening limit’, ensures that you quickly feel at home with these amplifiers. An album to highlight this aptly is Cover Girl by the now 65-year-old American folk singer Shawn Colvin. Especially with the live songs she scores very well and with integrity I choose Killing The Blues for this test. Accompanied only by her own guitar and prayer in beautiful hall acoustics, the musical message certainly comes through with these Trafomatic amplifiers. The information density is high, but never too high, so that the musical message can be lost. As is typical for the tube, all notes are really ‘together’ acoustically, just like live. In other words, you experience the natural interaction between Shawn and her instrument very strongly. It is a fact that later also takes the lead in all other music and greatly increases musical enjoyment. Stavroz with The Ginning is of a completely different order. Especially in the song The Finishing, organic keyboard sounds are followed by a deep pulsating beat that finally culminates in a small party with a sultry tenor saxophone in the lead. Very nice and especially pleasant is that the Trafomatic Elegance Evolution power amplifier shows a lot of grip and definition in the low without coming across as ‘transistor dry’. The pallet tends more towards somewhat light-hearted and frivolous than towards heavy, thoughtful and static. Very nice and especially pleasant is that the Evolution Elegance power amplifier shows a lot of grip and definition in the low without coming across as ‘transistor dry’. The pallet tends more towards somewhat light-hearted and frivolous than towards heavy, thoughtful and static. Very nice and especially pleasant is that the Trafomatic Elegance Evolution power amplifier shows a lot of grip and definition in the low without coming across as ‘transistor dry’. The pallet tends more towards somewhat light-hearted and frivolous than towards heavy, thoughtful and static.

Listen 2

Where the limits of these clever designs eventually come into view, is when I consciously open the gates of the ‘audio heaven’ even further and I immediately start comparing with the ‘über’ Trafomatic models. The latter includes the Lara preamplifier and EOS, Pandora and even Glenn (named after the Dutch importer’s wife) mono power amplifiers. Honestly? No, but it is very enlightening because it provides insight into the design choices that designer Sasa Cokic and his team have had to make for this price range. Because although of course the more expensive Trafomatics present go a lot further on the ideal musical path, it is also wonderful and above all very clever to hear how many similarities there are between these models. In addition, a Lara prestage naturally has more color and tonal saturation in a larger expanding stereo image. The EOS power amplifier also has more power and scale with its larger power supply and KT120 power tubes. The fantastic Pandora and Glenn appear to be able to surpass even that. But in the end, the core of all this comparison turns out to be in the amazingly good scaling of all properties in a completely credible way. For me, this means that when you have to go back to the affordable Evolution models at the end, it takes little effort and you can also enjoy these loafers to the fullest. A fact that few brands succeed in and commands a lot of respect from me. The EOS power amplifier also has more power and scale with its larger power supply and KT120 power tubes. The fantastic Pandora and Glenn appear to be able to surpass even that. But in the end, the core of all this comparison turns out to be in the amazingly good scaling of all properties in a completely credible way. For me, this means that when you have to go back to the affordable Evolution models at the end, it takes little effort and you can also enjoy these loafers to the fullest. A fact that few brands succeed in and commands a lot of respect from me. The EOS power amplifier also has more power and scale with its larger power supply and KT120 power tubes. The fantastic Pandora and Glenn appear to be able to surpass even that. But in the end, the core of all this comparison turns out to be in the amazingly good scaling of all properties in a completely credible way. For me, this means that when you have to go back to the affordable Evolution models at the end, it takes little effort and you can also enjoy these loafers to the fullest. A fact that few brands succeed in and commands a lot of respect from me. But in the end, the core of all this comparison turns out to be in the amazingly good scaling of all properties in a completely credible way. For me, this means that when you have to go back to the affordable Evolution models at the end, it takes little effort and you can also enjoy these loafers to the fullest. A fact that few brands succeed in and commands a lot of respect from me. But in the end, the core of all this comparison turns out to be in the amazingly good scaling of all properties in a completely credible way. For me, this means that when you have to go back to the affordable Evolution models at the end, it takes little effort and you can also enjoy these loafers to the fullest. A fact that few brands succeed in and commands a lot of respect from me.

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One : Conclusion

Wow, what a beautiful, honest and inspiring musical products these Trafomatic Elegance Evolution One pre- and Trafomatic Elegance Evolution power amplifiers have become. Without wanting to do any other brand short, this duo (Review: Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One) really belongs to the top in its price range and even well above it. Because for an amount that you can normally only buy an excellent integrated amplifier for, this time there is a pre and power amplifier of real star allure in front of me. This ‘Star Quality’ already starts with what I consider to be a very successful visual appearance, and then steadily continues with well-chosen dimensions, a very nice sense of quality, above-average beautiful use of materials, very extensive (analog) connection options and finally the exceptionally good sound quality. This one is so well chosen that I think that just about every music lover will be able to embrace these two products in their arms and heart. The power of 2 x 50 Watt appears to be more than sufficient in daily practice to be able to drive speakers with a somewhat lower efficiency and as icing on the cake, the character hardly changes whether you play very softly or very loudly. So take advantage of it because you never know how long this kind of cost-effective windfall will last once the spotlight is on it. The power of 2 x 50 Watt appears to be more than sufficient in daily practice to be able to drive speakers with a somewhat lower efficiency and as icing on the cake, the character hardly changes whether you play very softly or very loudly. So take advantage of it because you never know how long this kind of cost-effective windfall will last once the spotlight is on it. The power of 2 x 50 Watt appears to be more than sufficient in daily practice to be able to drive speakers with a somewhat lower efficiency and as icing on the cake, the character hardly changes whether you play very softly or very loudly. So take advantage of it because you never know how long this kind of cost-effective windfall will last once the spotlight is on it.

Prices of Trafomatic Elegance Evolution & Evolution Line One

Trafomatic Elegance Evolution € 3,699
Trafomatic Evolution Line One € 2,599

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