The story of the Zion mono comes back to a personal desire. As ampsandsound has grown, our focus has increasingly shifted to personal audio. I am a 2ch tube guy, through and through. I wanted something I could be truly proud of... if you could build one thing to show how far you've come and how hard you'd push to get there type.
The design challenge that brought about the Soulo monos was to create bespoke amps while utilizing the manufacturing techniques we've grown into. The Suolo are mono amps, built on turrets, teaching us that we could use other methods successfully.
As much as I love their tone, 1 watt just wasn't enough power for my Cornscalas or Zu's; I need more! I wanted modest power, quiet operation, and more importantly, bandwidth. As we learned with our headphone amps, big and wide bandwidth transformers translated into more immersive soundscapes and help to extend the performance of the headphone or speakers they are connected to.
We had built a pair of the Citation II's again as a design experiment. We turned them into monoblocks and using turrets as HK did 60 years ago. The Citation II's used hand fabricated chassis, which would be impossible in a production sense. The Cit V became our inspiration as 6l6gc's are my favorite tune tonally. We employed sophisticated circuits & paired with over Spec'd transformers. The Zion's necessitated a hand fabricated prototype chassis. We then partnered with a CNC metal fab house to translate our prototype into a repeatable process. The chassis is designed to bear my 300lbs weight without flex and more importantly give enough space to not crowd the artistry within. With 1/8" steel plate, we got our foundation. We again employed turrets and point to point wiring. There is no silicone, ICs or regulators. This is a Classic design, decidedly prosaic. The Zions are built in a way few modern amplifiers employ. This is not due to intrinsic inferiority, but rather it is impossible to rush and is incredibly expensive to produce. Some of the most familiar tube amps ever produced utilize this method, including; McIntosh, HK, Leek, Quad, & Western Electric. These amplifiers demand to be played and built to last a lifetime.
They are very closely based on the Harmon Kardon Citation V.
These are monoblock versions of the Citation V with tube rectification.
The amps are wired with turret board and point to point, just like the originals.
Chassis work is the area that consumed development. We wanted the most rigid, robust chassis we could produce. As a result, the whole chassis is 12 gauge cold rolled steel. The amps include two mid braces. These not only allow for mounting of components but mechanically tie the top to the bottom plate. The chassis is rigid enough to be stood on without bending or deflection. The transformer's covers are of the same material and have a rib-plate to increase rigidity and allow for ease of mounting. All metalwork is powder-coated. Chassis and covers excluding parts are approx 25lbs per amp.
Transformers are one of the most special aspects of the amps.
We include input transformers for XLR to RCA conversion.
All transformers are 200% over spec'd. Filaments are spec'd at 8amps, and output transformers are rated for 60 watts.
The bench report is fantastic, 42 watts RMS
Noise is 2mV
Ultra-wide bandwidth; 4hz to 99khz @ 1 watt
10hz to 50hz @ 10 watts
These amps are built in the same manner the original HK Citations were manufactured. They are over spec'd in every manner and intended to last a lifetime. Just like the originals, they are quiet, true to source, and have incredible frequency extension. They feel much more powerful than their output in large measure to their low-frequency extension. The sonic signature is true to source with mid-range warmth. They convey all detail present to the source input.
These are 17x13 chassis and shipping in 2 large Pelican style cases.
Power and Noise specs are dependent on tube selection.
Additional colors are possible as a special order... please call or email for details.
All ampsandsound amps are handmade in Southern California with custom hand-wound output transformers and U.S. sourced parts.
Our amps are hand made by a small team with quality being our first priority.
It is little secret that I am a tube fan, and ampsandsound is one of my favorite tube amp companies (Why? We’ll get to that later.). The only thing that kept this from being my opening review for HiFiAudio.Guru was the question of speakers. Our original choice of speaker did not pan out, they simply did not respond, at all (and for that I am thankful). So when Justin Weber (founder of ampsandsound) suggested that we use the system that he planned to display at T.H.E. (The Home Entertainment) Show 2020 this June in Long Beach, CA, I jumped at the chance, enter Fritz Speakers (after the writing of this review T.H.E. Show 2020 was rescheduled, though no new dates have been announced at this time). While I had not personally heard Fritz Speakers, I trusted Justin’s ear, especially when it comes to his own amps. While Cardas and VPI had always been part of the plan for this review, I initially intended for this to be an analog-only review but the amp and speakers arrived about a week before the turntable, so I used the Earmen TR-Amp as a DAC/Preamp to burn the system in. The last addition to this system came thanks to Frank Iacone’s coverage of CanJam NYC 2020 where I noticed for the first time the Schiit SYS passive preamp. My original intent was to use the headphone amp in the VPI as preamp, but this introduced cabling issues as I discovered the volume control did not affect the RCA outputs so the introduction of the $50 SYS into the system was the least expensive solution without actually compromising the sound of the system.