In all aspects of our life’s were witnessing few rare gems, that are usually hidden to casual observer. High end time keeping, gurman food and haute couture hides quite few exquisite rarities usually missing the casual observer. Real connoisseurs have their ways of finding such unique life’s finest highlights and enjoy them immensely and without a big pomp.
Extreme and exotic high-end audio is no different. Perhaps even more intriguing, specialised and unique in its nature. Most demanding listeners and audiophiles are very fond off a few selected companies and products. These selected audio creations reproduce the music quite differently and with their own musical DNA.
JAPANESE TUBE HERITAGE SOUND?
Western world embraced few legendary Japanese tube audio that are still holding their throne strongly. Kondo Audio Note Japan, Shindo, Mactone are among most recognised and prominent for sure. What they all have common along the the legendary designation is specific tube warm sound. Many western companies followed this sound orientation route and you can instantly recognise the sweet, mellow and warmish touch imprint. Of course each on their own, but leit motif of softly saturated feeling is shared across them all. This might suit the certain taste and specific demand of the listener/customer or even completing system. Yet, it doesn’t resolve in ultimate pureness of reproduction as its often advertised or pushed forward.
21st century ultimate high-end tube audio sound elevated to a different level where the natural sound imprint takes its place and pace first and foremost. Here Mr. Imai and his Audio Tekne tube creations takes a unique spot. Audio Tekne doesn’t follow typical Japanese school of thought. It brings refreshingly pristine and natural sound reproduction unheard so far.
I’ve tried to decipher this specific sound enigma for quite sometime. Only after talking to Imai San at the Poland high-end audio show in person everything seems to come to the logical conclusion and understanding. Mr. Kiyaoki Imai is following his own path from the beginning. His life was heavily influenced by live music and it still is his only real reference for voicing/designing amplifiers and trained ear can spot this natural sound instantly. Mr. Imai managed to create a unique sound scape with his tube gear correlating much closer to the live acoustic music, then any other tube or valve gear I’ve heard so far.
Comparing with Kondo Audio Note Japan, Shindo and other representatives of Japanese school of sound Audio Tekne tube products embodies different set of rules, values and reference points. Mr. Imai seems to create a different tube scope demands and succeeding in designing integrated amplifier, that reacts to the music very differently. Audio Tekne TFM-9412 integrated amplifier is taking listener to the core of the music with the lightens and recognised natural sound imprint.
MEET TFM-9412 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
I’m a fan of 300B and owned more then 25 different amplifiers in the past. Even dedicated 300B mono blocks headphone amplifiers for legendary AKG K1000. I know… Crazy at least. Calculating all the money spend on different version of 300B tubes and amplifiers would buy me a very decent BMW :). No regrets at all. I wouldn’t be where I’m today without takin this path. Joyful, costly and educative! All in all my point is, that I’m no rookie with 300B amplifiers and my criteria might be more demanding.
Audio Tekne TFM-9412 integrated amplifier is DHSET amplifier, that implements super-permalloy transformers. In Mr. Imai view transformers with super permalloy core excelled and perform way beyond compared to the typical transformers.
Mr. Kiyaoki Imai didn’t want to make any compromise with integrated amplifier and wanted to combined the strength of both sole preamplifier and power amplifier under one chases. It took him years to refine this approach, fine tune circuits and implements high quality power supplies in order to obtain the same performance as separate state of the art power amplifier and preamplifier. He didn’t want to compromise and results more then impressive. I’ve heard Audio Tekne flagship system with dedicated monoblock power amplifiers and preamplifier. While TFM-9412 is not on the same level it gets you dangerously very close, but without typical benefits of the system with dedicated components.
Audio Tekne TFM-9412 integrated amplifier interestingly and intriguingly implements push-pull topology. Two 5Z3 tubes acts as rectifiers with boule 6463 and 5687 servers as driver tubes. Two 300Bs per channel produce merely 8 watts at the output. Yes, power is not doubled like usually. This is why TFM-9412 brings impressive resolution and power at such low power. This also translate to the unexpected transparency and open natural sound charter making TFM-9412 the representative of a different breed.
Coming back to non typical design choices. Mr. Imai doesn’t believe, that single-ended topology can bring the ultimate sound reproduction. To taking thing even more radical; he strongly opinionated how traditional single ended approach is not practical at all and doesn’t relate closely to the way music sounds originally.
For sounding the way it does Audio Tekne “hides” few genuine choices; non-losing winding ratio type attenuation as with reference stand alone preamplifier, large super permalloy core transformer, fixed bias and Class A1 push pull circuit design at all stages. This all combine translates into minute signal improvements, significant reduction of frequency coherence losses and keeping the inherited signal characteristic unchanged.
Volume control might have few more steps, but then we would probably loose the sound luxury of “passive” attenuation. I’m not volume junkie in need of constant gain shift, but some might wish for more. But nothing lost. Audio Tekne LT-9501 line transformer/passive preamplifier might come handy exactly for this demand. I’ve tried it at home an in combination with TFA-9402 one gains fine gain steps reflecting company flagship stand alone preamplifier.
When I listen to the music I’m trying to relax, immerse and enjoy. I’ve managed to find my peace and joy with Robert Koda Takumi K-10 preamplifier specific gain/volume at once and in similar way selective gain choices of TM-9412 works fine for me.
Appearance of is timelessly classical. Grey paint seems to pay respect to the old legends and heritage of tube designs. Its also highly dust effective. On the back there are typical CD,TUNER,TAPE,AV,AUX and speakers inputs and front place in minimalist way shares on/off power switch, rec out switch, volume control knob and five line input selector.
UNDERSTANDING AUDIO TEKNE
“ The real abundant sound of music nature, which is not altered freely, and is not peculiar sound, is a natural sound with little distortion.” Please choose good software (the live recording of the aria, vocal music and opera is safe) to make an audition.” - Kiyaoki Imai
To often in high-end audio systems were are affected by the completely wrong things and unexpected phenomenons. As we’re dealing with highly intuitive sound illusion many tried and are trying to exploit the good old trusty human nature by their mystical and philosophical or even technical stories. Music is highly sublime in its nature and can evoke an endless discussions and interpretations when it come to the high-end audio reproduction.
Original sound is never noisy, distorted and fatiguing by origin. Its pure and unaltered. If at any point of the listening we become tiresome or stressful this is a clear indication of mediocre performing audio system. It is as simple as this. Something is seriously wrong!
True high performing high-end amplifier should be in as much as possible in absence of distortions and odd harmonics being introduced. Imai San for a change talks and elaborate on something, that I’ve been repeating for many years and across of many of my reviews. When we’re talking about the true natural sound transients and dynamic impact there is on half way of doing thing. Audio reproduction must be of the highest grade. Amplifier ensuring such performance is then able to recreate the state of the art level of anchor points that translates into micro reconstruction of primal reference points. These forms a combined complex sum of nano level reverberation and delay nuances that are crucial in creation of grand musical illusion. Especially with live, classical music all these comes apparent and vivid instantly. Yet. This is only a part of multi scale sound reconstruction complexity. Without proper tube amplifier design there will be no correct harmonic structure and the level of listening involvement is quickly drawn to the lowest level. Listening becomes boring and un-involving. This is very great tube designs differentiate from bad ones. Perhaps it better to talk not about bad or good, but correct ones.
Without so called interactive ability of amplifier no sublime energy exchange happens. And so called magic never occur.
“Let’s listen to music, without hearing sound. A musical sound heard in a concert hall is not powerful as we are creating it.” - Kiyaoki Imai
Mr. Imai again address an interesting point I’m always addressing. Pure energy exchange. Very often (almost as a rule) we’re dealing with overblown presentations, that might address some audiophile specific tendency, yet fail to deliver music at it is. If any of those specific audiophile attributes have anything to do with real music is another question. Mostly not. They are just a exhibitions of pompous pin points of certain agenda. Music must some as coherent wholeness.
Full scale, full range high-end audio amplifier should allow for such undisturbed pure energy transfer which translates into the viable musical reproduction. The way it is. Radiant, enticing and soul touching.
Toscanini late legendary recordings was almost reverb less as the settings were designed for live radio broadcast. In these you can hear his effectiveness and directness. As they say in India all needed to be “paka.” These recordings are almost in absence of room reflections and the impact of sound if of different nature like for example 50’s and 60’s classical recording. But both approaches offers very different yet specific look at the energy of live music. Every component under review goes under this process for the audible references.
21st century and tubes!? For Mr. Imai there is no other way then tube way….
I cannot reiterate enough about one of the kind position Audio Tekne hold in the high-end tube segment of audio industry. Its yet to be fully appreciated by the crowd, if ever at all at the full scale. Still. Audio Tekne zesty, puristic and upfront musical presentation is most finely refined and offer distinguished/potent sound reproduction, that is extremely well balanced and most natural in the way it portraits recorded music.
Classical music represents most demanding “tour de force” for any amplifier. With its delicacy Audio Tekne TFM-9412 integrated amplifier reconstruct legendary musical events with complex delicacy and an impact, that lingers impressively for much longer time, that any tube integrated I’ve heard so far.
I’ve witness people being touched by the Audio Tekne. Yet, despite of so called love for ultimate high-end reproduction even people with enough funds looked the other way and fool themselves. For me this is mind boggling and I will never grasp easily this nonsense. High-end audio industry one eyed marketing cyclops created so many false kings and kitten so many products them with vaporous paraphernalia. They are and grand scale superfluous and have imprinted heavily even the minds of many if not most seasoned listeners.
This created unhealthy vacuum where people listen with their eyes, brand projections and not with their own ears. Imagine tasting the best food, experiencing the ride of your life or meeting the most impressive woman and erasing all of your hands on emotional and physical experiences with the so called given norms. Not really sure where to put this on the throne of the human high-end audio progression scale.
There are still people out there being able to appreciate Audio Tekne for what it is. I’m afraid that typical audiophiles won’t make into the Audio Tekne owners club easily. On the other hand people who appreciate the music for what it is and are in the search of truly natural sounding tube amplifier will reckon the real musical value. These people are highly like outside of typical high-end audio labelling camps and as a first and foremost cherish pure music.
As with other stand out things in life Audio Tekne products comes with the certain price point. Yet, at least with Audio Tekne I can lucidly sign my appreciation for Imai San vision and practical application of his sound philosophy.
Japanese culture holds many ways that addresses my inner valuing. In traditional Japanese artisan handcrafting they cherish the path of creation at similar importance as they value the end result. They are proud on their own way of doing things and Kiyaoki Imai follows this route evidently. In my interview with him I’ve noticed few interesting things. He really didn’t care or worry about his domestic so called legendary competition. Mr. Imai personal musical universe follows its own set of rules and this shows practically. Puristic musical force at once materialise within first few notes strikes. Literally audio and music heaven gates are ready for the true disciples of the music presented palpable. Specially those not being enlisted with projected conclusions of what high-end audio production should be, but trust their own ears and respect for the music.
Its simple. Ultimate high-end audio production is only as good as actual sound reproduction is. And this reproduction can only follow one simple rule. Pure and unaltered reconstruction of live, un-amplified, acoustical music as utmost reference. Any so called high-end audio amplifier or product failing in creating illusion of musical events at state of the art performance belongs to hi-fi and not high-end world.
I’ve tried Audio Tekne TFM-9412 stereo integrated amplifier with few different speakers for a constructive conclusions. For the first time Avantgarde Acoustic actually sound tamed and TFM-9412 managed to tame Dous and Trios inherited push forwardness to the pleasant results.
I’ve also fitness fine synergy with dc10audio audio Kabuki speakers as well with Audio Tekne own speakers. Anyone wanting to experience TFM-9412 potency should try to get their own private listening session with these along other speakers.
Audio Tekne TFM-9412 stereo integrated amplifier brings undisputed tone, timbre and colour correctness. Natural sound balance is mighty. Even most demanding crescendos and complex orchestral passages are conveyed with organic and dynamic fullness enriched by the speed not ever found in other 300B designs.
TFM-9412 will drive even low efficient speakers with small scale ensembles and guitar/vocal music to believable extend. Actually its highly impressive at what it achieves at 8 watts.
TFM-9412 is archaic by following the routes and heritage. It even more ardent with the full scale performance ability, that shift typical expected Japanese tube sound to another plane. TFM-9412 seems to morph the benefits of solid state electronics with harmonic correctness of best tube designs.
For what it represent as tube integrated amplifier and how it reciprocate with music I’m wholeheartedly giving Audio Tekne TFM-9412 stereo integrated amplifier Upper Echelon award.
Text: Matej Isak
PRICE: 40.000 EUR
Vacuum Tube Stereo integrated amplifier
Input : CD,TUNER,TAPE,AV,AUX
Max Input Level : CD,TUNER,TAPE,AV,AUX(3V rms)
Outputs : Rec Out (To do ON,OFF)
Power Output : 8W ~2
Harmonic Distortion : Less Than 1.0% / 6W
Frequency Response : 20Hz…20KHz +/- 1dB
Residual Noise : Less Than 1mV 8ohm
ATT : Winding Ratio Type ATT
Power Consumption : 170VA
Power : AC100V 50/60Hz
Dimension : W44.5 x H22.5 x D41.0cm
Weight : 31.0Kg
Natural sound s.r.o.
Bozeny Nemcovej 8
T: 00386 40 800 754
Audio Tekne incorporated Japan