Competition for American manufacturers from Asia keeps getting stiffer. Japan has been a longtime contender. Now Korea is getting in the act, not just with the Hyundai and LG, but also in the audio sphere. Who knew?
Now I do. The gregarious David Beetles, the Canadian distributor of Allnic and head of Hammertoneaudio, recently sent me the new Allnic H-4000 preamplifier and L-3000 phono stage to sample. It turned out be a fascinating experience.
These two products are the creations of one Kang Su Park, formerly of the firm Silvaweld. Now Park has returned to the audio wars with a vengeance. His new company offers a battery of products of tremendous value and performance. What sets his creations apart from most others is his return to an old technology: a reliance on hand wound inter-stage transformers, which are driven by military stock tubes. Park’s reliance on transformers means that there are no capacitors or resistors in the signal path. The result is an extremely quiet and pure sound.
The L-3000, which lists for $10,900 is the most flexible phono stage I’ve encountered. It offers four inputs, multiple gain settings up to 72db, and a variety of loading options. Both gain and loading are adjustable via a clearly marked knob towards the rear of the unit. It also has a button for inverting phase. Nice touch. The fit and finish of the units, as you’ll see from the photos, is impeccable.
The killer of the two units is the phono stage. It’s the quietest and most transparent one that I’ve encountered, including solid state. There is simply no noise, unless you have bat hearing. The L-3000 sounds very smooth and detailed. The treble is extremely airy and filigreed. The most unique feature is that each note sounds as though it has its own power supply. No instrument overshadows another. Coupling the phono stage with the Allnic preamplifier, which has five inputs, brings another level of resolution and transparency. The sound is simply immaculate. Once again, the lack of a noise floor is quite beguiling. You’ll hear the needle rustling in the groove between tracks, and no more. This is transparency to the source, that’s for sure.
Indeed, the Allnics, in their own way, make it sound as though less is more. No grit, no hash, no buzz, no nothing. The preamp doesn’t quite seem to have the dynamics of some of the big tubed preamplifiers. Is that because it’s transformed-coupled? I’m not sure. But it boasts a liquidity and precision as well as black backgrounds that I’m not sure is exceeded by any other unit. What I found most exciting about Allnic is that Mr. Park has discovered a way to update old technology and make it sound as modern and pristine as anything out there. These are very special pieces. If you can get the chance to demo one, you won’t regret it.