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Audio Analogue - Monsummano Terme - Italy

[Audio Analogue logo]
[Italian version]

Company: Audio Analogue
Street address: Via Francesca Nord 144 - 51015 - Monsummano Terme (PT) - Italy
Tel. + 39 (0)572-954513 - Fax +39 (0)572-958099
E-mail: info@audioanalogue.com

Have you ever visited Tuscany? If not, you're surely missing one of the most attractive and exciting regions of Italy!
Besides the World-famous Florence and Pisa there are so many nice places to visit that anyone travelling in Italy should spend -at least- one whole week in Tuscany.
Well, while you are there :-) don't forget to pay a visit to Audio Analogue, the World-renowned HiFi Company, famous for its budget-oriented amplifiers (Puccini and Puccini SE).
OK, you're not going to visit Italy in the near future...no problem, we've done that for you :-)

Could I miss this special event? Audio Analogue was going to introduce some brand new HiFi components to the Italian HiFi press...so, with my faithful Yashica around my neck and a bag of CD's I was going to discover it all!
Together with Suono's HiFi reviewer & friend Roberto Rocchi I reached the first meeting place and there he was: the bitstream-guy (more about this later :-) ) Marco Manunta, digital guru at North Star (do you remember the North Star Model 3 24/96 DAC?) and brand new engineer and designer at Audio Analogue.
Yes, the old team (Paoletti & Pratticò) has left and Manunta and Rampino now are the responsibles for the new Audio Analogue components and sound, together with C. Bertini and....Jimmy :-)
Once reached the meeting place (dealer Oasi Audio, Via XX Settembre, S. Giuliano Terme) we soon have discovered we were...er...late. Everyone was already there, I mean, the colleagues of the HiFi press: G.M. Binari, editor of FdS, E. Mancianti, editor of Stereo and M. Benedetti, reviewer at Audioreview (no, not the web zine).
Hence, while the Italian "standard" HiFi press was all there even the "on-line" part had his front-man: me :-)

[Italian press]

Just to give you an idea of how HiFi reviwers look like in real life...here's a cool "team picture" in front of the Audio Analogue plants in Monsummano Terme.
From left to right: R. Rocchi (Suono), E. Mancianti (Stereo & FdS), G. M. Binari (FdS), L. Cadeddu (TNT-Audio), M. Benedetti (Audioreview).
For some strange reason, among the 30 or so pictures I took with my camera this one wasn't available. So I contacted Gianfranco Binari (FdS) to see if he could lend me one of his pictures. Few days later this picture was laying on my desktop....thanks Gianfranco!

The event, as said before, was of the NOT-TO-MISS kind. Audio Analogue was showing the new Maestro series. What is this Maestro series, please tell us all!!! Well, the usual Audio Analogue components will be still available for all the lovers of good sound at a nice price...for anyone willing something "more" here comes the Maestro series!
First of all, immediately released and available, let me introduce you the new Audio Analogue Maestro CD player. Don't fret, it will not replace the Paganini CD player, which is here to stay, the Maestro is a whole different beast, though aesthetically it stringly reminds the cheaper Paganini: it is an integrated CD player with a 24/96 digital section which is also capable to work as a stand-alone DAC.
YES!!! A digital input is available so that you can hook up any digital source (DAT, CD transport, DVD...) and let the inboard 24/96 DAC do the job for you. A fantastic option that lets you compare EASILY an external CD transport to the inboard modified-Sony transport of the Maestro.
A look at the power supply section reveals the extreme care the new designers have put into the Maestro: three toroidal transformers and four big caps that could find their place even into a 50 watts integrated amp!
Every little aspect of the layout has been taken into account: the result is a very neat and sano design.
Price? In Italy it will available for 2,000 US $. Colors? Plain ubiquitous silver and anodized black (the one I prefer). See the pictures below and the tech specs table for more infos and details.

[Maestro silver]
[Maestro black]
Audio Analogue Maestro tech specs
Analog output level: 2Vrms
Analog output impedance:< 40 Ohm
Analog output stage: Solid state, selected FET differential input
Analog filter:2nd order Butterworth
Frequency response: 0Hz-20kHz ± 0.1 dB (CD); 0Hz-48kHz ± 0.1 dB (external source)
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.001% @ 1 kHz / - 10dB
Noise: -135dB
Channel separation @ 1kHz: R --> L > 100dB; L --> R > 100dB
Digital output level: 0.5Vp-p @ 75 Ohm (S/PDIF standard)
Digital input sensitivity: 0.5Vp-p (S/PDIF standard)
Digital input impedance: 75 Ohm (S/PDIF standard)
Jitter rejection: 30dB @ 48kHz fs
Digital conversion: 24 bit, 8x oversampling and multibit delta-sigma
Power supply: 115VAC / 230VAC 50/60Hz
Max. power consumption: 20VA
Cabinet size: 445mm (L) x 333mm (P) x 90mm (A)
Weight:10 Kg (21 lbs.)

[Audio Analogue Maestro]

Here at your left you can look at the gorgeous inside of the Maestro CD player.
Summarizing, the Maestro is a sophisticated CD player with a 24/96 DAC section that can work as a stand-alone inboard DAC, which you can use to convert ANY digital signal up to the (next?) DVD-Audio 24/96 standard.
We hope to get a Maestro anytime soon for an accurate listening test here on TNT-Audio. Even better, we'd like to compare it to the Paganini CD player.
Another product is on its way, too: a Maestro dual-mono integrated amplifier which should deliver 100 watts per channel and have some interesting feature like computer controlled functions (volume, inputs etc.).
Stay tuned with your TNT-Audio for more infos about these products from Audio Analogue.

[Manunta & Maestro]

Here it is, the Maestro, together with one of its parents, Marco Manunta, the bitstream-guy. Marco is a pure enthusiast, the way he speaks about his designs and products is comparable to a continuos STREAM of...bits...er...words. Hence the nickname "bitstream-guy" :-)
By no means we could stop him while he was describing all the features of the Maestro. So, being the Maestro quite heavy, we have forced him to keep it "in position" (for pictures, a nice excuse) for a long time...HiFi reviewers can be cruel.
G. Rampino, the other designer of the Maestro, has then answered some technical question once Marco was exhausted :-) (Just kidding, eh!)

Audio Analogue and Oasi Audio (HiFi dealer, owned by C. Bertini) had prepared two HiFi systems to make us listen to the new AA products. The main system consisted of a Maestro CD player feeding its precious signal to a prototype Stargate preamp (read below...) and a pair of Audio Analogue Donizetti power amps which were driving a pair of B&W 802 Nautilus 'speakers via monstruous snake-like Kimber cables.
Tell us more about Stargate! Well, besides the new Maestro series, this was the second "breaking news" of this factory tour...

Stargate is born!


Now that Audio Analogue has been re-organized, commercially and technically, with two new designers (Manunta & Rampino) it was time for a New adventure in HiFi: a whole new Company devoted solely to no-compromise hi-end audio.
Introducing you to Stargate, the new name of Italian hi-end audio! Yes, Stargate products will be designed and built with NO budget restrictions of any kind, aiming just to perfection.
By now just few prototypes are available: a DVD-Audio (or SACD) transport, a preamp and some power amp of which you can see here a "stolen" secret shot.
So, audiophiles who have started to enjoy Music via Audio Analogue products will now have the possibility to enter the real hi-end world thanks to Stargate (just that...a Gate for the Stars of Hi-End audio) products, designed and built in Italy with just quality in mind.
There will be NO intersection with the standard budget-oriented Audio Analogue series nor with the more expensive Maestro series....the price (and quality) tag of the Stargate products will be into a league of its own.
We've only been able to listen to the Stargate prototype preamp, though it was impossible to detect how good it was....given the poor acoustics of the main listening room. No acoustic treatment was available (no furniture, either! Just seats...) so the room was too much "bright" and the B&W Nautilus 'speakers found it hard to play as they can.
The secondary smaller listening room was no better, despite some wood acoustic-tuning panels. There was a strong resonance in the mid-bass that made listening to the smaller set-up almost impossible (Maestro CD player, Puccini amplifier, B&W 805 Nautilus 'speakers).
On the other hand I wasn't there to make any critical listening since I believe tests should be done ONLY with well-known set-up and rooms. At home.
There were other reasons to be there, besides listening to the new gear from Audio Analogue: for example we've had an interesting (and HOT!) discussion about the future of HiFi Audio, especially on the "battle of formats".
The two designers at Audio Analogue certainly hope the DVD-Audio will eventually win his battle against SACD but nobody's really sure today. As you may know, it all depends on how the recording Companies will decide...as usual. We have just to wait and see.
Then I've moved the discussion on the situation of the HiFi market in Italy. This is, believe me, a very HOT and explosive issue. While almost everyone swears the interest in HiFi is decreasing quickly...there are signals that prove this is wrong. Healthy and lively HiFi Companies (Sonus Faber, Audio Analogue and others) find it hard to satisfy all the requests from customers.
This proves my assumption: do something of good quality, with a good quality/price ratio and the market will react positively. Do something crazily over-priced o bad-sounding and your Company is doomed. There are no second chances in this world and no points for second or third place. And how many wannabe's are out there!
Audio Analogue is a very good example: a small YOUNG Company that has quickly earned worldwide popularity thanks to few cleverly-priced products (mainly, thanks to the Puccini and the Puccini SE integrated amps).

After the discussions were over, it was time for the second part of the factory tour.

[Audio Analogue staff]

Meet the staff! Here are the guys at Audio Analogue, the commercial staff plus the two engineers (at the right)...plus Jimmy, the audiophile-dog that audiotioned the new products with us.
You may have heard of another famous HiFi designer who uses a cat for his critical listening tests...well, the Audio Analogue crew uses Jimmy and his ultra-sonic ears :-)
Seriously, from left to right: M. Orlando (production resp.), slightly behind, with glasses: S. Blanda (CEO), G. Blanda (marketing manager), C. Bertini (technical manager and Oasi Audio owner), slightly behind, G. Rampino (engineer), M. Manunta (engineer). And Jimmy, somewhere in between.

Inside the factory, it was interesting to see the whole life-cycle of a HiFi product: from spare components (tons of toroidals, pots, caps, naked mainboards) to soldered main boards till the final product ready to be shipped worldwide.
There were many boxes of Puccini's and Paganini's ready to travel all around the world. Among these a large part of 110VA components, meant for the United States market, that has literally fell in love with Audio Analogue.

The soldering work of the boards is made outside the factory, while the final assembling and packaging is done by the Audio Analogue crew itself. I've been able to detect many Paganini faceplates and cabinets, many Puccini SE mainboards and even some Maestro chassis.

[Jimmy, the AA dog]

There was also a small room for final listening tests of the products before being shipped: a Maestro (cool!) black CD player, a Puccini integrated amp and a pair of large Triangle floorstanders delivered a very convincing and exciting sound, thanks to the room acoustics that seemed very good indeed: no resonances, no dreadful reflections....a listening room as it should -always- be.
It was impressive the way the little Puccini (not the SE!) was driving the large Triangle floorstanders. Everything was placed on a GM Audio cool rack.
Here you can see Jimmy that carefully controls and inspects a pile of Maestro's and Puccini's before final assembling. The care Jimmy puts into its job is really impressive :-)

[GM Audio]

Finally let me spend a few words on GM Audio HiFi components. GM Audio is the official Italian distributor for Audio Analogue procucts and, more or less, the staff is the same (the marketing part, at least). GM Audio, besides distributing Audio Analogue and Triangle in Italy, makes some pretty nice HiFi accessories as tables, 'speakers stands, spikes, CD towers etc.
Here you can see M. Orlando (production resp.) near a just soldered GM Audio table: from the picture it is easy to understand how much "finishing" work is needed to get the final version of these beautiful tables...
Just a couple of extra camera shots and we're ready for the third part of the factory tour: an excellent Italian dinner at an exclusive and elegant restaurant in Montecatini :-)

And so it is late night, time to go to bed, trying to re-collect some idea for the reportage...but let me warmly thank the whole Audio Analogue staff for the kind invitation to tour their factory and Marco Manunta for his friendly support and unvaluable help.

For more infos on Audio Analogue (and Stargate) products please stay tuned with TNT-Audio as we should be going to test all the new stuff coming out from their production lines.
In the meanwhile, for any further info and question, please visit their web site at www.audioanalogue.com or contact them by e-mail at info@audioanalogue.com

© Copyright 1999 Lucio Cadeddu - http://www.tnt-audio.com

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