These days audiophiles and music lovers are trying hard to find the balance between the investment and proper level of musical enjoyment. It's not easy anymore to balance the price/ performance ratio as many of the high end gear went sky high with pricing and global crisis affected many of audiophile and music lovers incomes.
Clones Audio was always striving to bring heck a lot of musicality packed into the little black mighty boxes and all of the three components under the review again proven, how proper design, know how and non the less voicing can ensure blissful moments even at reasonable pricing. Matt aka Funjoe lifelong experiences and love for music vividly reflects in his products.
THE HIDDEN UPDATES
Most of the people might not recognize the hidden updates to the new products updates. All new chassis of the CLONES just updated line are already implementing the all redesigned internal structure and materials. Enclosures are of the high importance and priority with the sound tuning of the CLONES components. They are of much better finishing, newly acquired materials few fresh approaches that are introducing generally much better performance. Just to give a clue, newly materials cost double of the price of previous machines.
CLONES AP2 PREAMPLIFIER
After a good year of the production of the original AP1 preamplifier many of the CLONES clients asked Matt to bring the AP1 with the remote control. This led to extended R & D and all new prototype was born. Funjoe wanted to completely redesign the preamplifier and bring the sound performance to much higher level. He wanted to avoid the AD815 as the main building block, but sticking with the Opamps in the heart of the operations.
Reaching the point of when everything was ready for a production, and unsettling mind wanted to explore it further. He wanted to make it more special and bring the actual performance to even higher level. The simplification of the signal path was needed for creating better sounding and performing new model. After few months of the trial and error resulted in a completely new AP2 preamplifier. Funjoe entirely abandoned the design of the previous version as he wanted to create something stand out that will again enthuse the people like in the past with the introduction any new product coming from the company.
AP2 preamplifier is the three stage design. Each section of the power supply is addressed individually! The MCU is deliberately placed at the front panel with the display module connected with the shielded data cable. This helped in reducing the noise from the MCU. The most challenging pursue with the AP2 was fitting everything into the already tiny enclosure. Now, there are two transformer inside of the AP2. The blue one supply power to the MCU/control section and the digital power supply for the PGA2320. The other one is dedicated solely for the Opamps only. I cannot recall easily any other preamplifier with such structure and built logic in this price range and far above.
CLONES 25IR INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
With all the experiences and knowledge gained from the AP2 preamplifier the all new 25IR encompassed a lot of what was learned. There were many ways of involving the preamplifier sections with 25IR. Preamplifier stage is the first circuit which addresses the incoming gain and cannot be taken with low profile importance.
It is easy to make it operating, but its not easy to make it sound good. CLONES 25IR also spots an individual power supply for the preamplifier section, like with AP2. It shares the MCU design of the AP2 and this of course made everything packed even more closely together. 25IR preamplifier as default is always in active mode to ensure the the best performance.
Matt decided not to do any new DAC after SHEVA. Cost and labor hour was quite high of the SHEVA, but when he shared the information of ditching it with his dealers, they asked him to find the way to keep this in product line. ASHER was then planned as the replacement of the SHEVA wit the lower price and tuned down performance. The foundation of the ASHER DAC is in fact almost same as with the SHEVA but with the new layout using the onboard transformer with multiple taps. Plan was to save the time with the production. In a pursue of taking a bit of performance from SHEVA Matt created made something better! Basically the concept is the same and uses ESS9018, but with everything are redesigned. New ultra low-noise regulator module was chosen for the digital part, huge regulator for the Opamps and completely new output filter. At the end, newly digital isolator for the USB part was added.
ASHER DAC follows the traditional CLONES point to point soldering to keep the renowned company sonic DNA.
And not to forget. All new CLONES units can be controlled with the same remote!
I’m very found on Matt endeavors for brining the highest performance with down to earth pricing. Thats why its was needed to elaborate at least basically about his hard work and time spend in the paragraphs above. Its clear that he wants to continually impress people with the added value of performance with the newly introduced products and keep the attention of the high—end industry and non the less of the competition. Its not easy these day to keep up the pace with the fast forward pace of new almost daily product introductions and global impact of the audio manufacturing in all parts of the world.
Funjoe dedication and passion was instantly recognizable through the first few songs played. New, next generation products revealed even more intrinsic values of price/performance ratio. All three new products are pushing the sound reproduction much further, to a higher, more involving level of musical listening enjoyment.
As I’ve written in my previous reviews of CLONES Audio products, there are something special about their sound outcome. There might be similar designed products on the market, but non of them come close to the musical flow of the CLONES. Matt really did his homework profoundly and it shows on each turn.
These days I cannot really stand the BS associated with many new products. Even from renowned brands. My hectic if not frantic schedule is always practically bombarded with vast gear incomings. Day in, day out. People are sending their prototypes, half finished or production level products constantly and I’m rarely excited. Many times, these electronics are just traveling back without any official write up due to the mediocre or even lower ability of the sound reproduction. These days you really need to push things to the max to ensure my attention. Not because of some sort of personal ego trip, luxury urging, but as in abundance of product offerings on the market, a dedicated component must deserve their place at any given price range.
Its never an easy task to get the “voicing” part of the high end audio components right. For many this falls into a voodoo realms. Large and even smaller companies and ventures are hiring people who have a little or no clue regarding the high-end audio needed attributes being a cornerstone of playback. This all resulted in a magnitude of amplifiers, preamplifiers and DAC’s sounding completely bland and un-involving. I really respect and appreciate the level of Matt involvement and time spent with his creations. AP2, Asher and 25IR follows the established path of the CLONES DNA, resolving in a well controlled and guided sound performance, closely following the most important attributes of the musical realism.
Its not easy to capture the mood, timing and pace at this level of pricing, but CLONES are delivering it. You’ll be surprised how these machine relate to the music. They in the David vs Goliath league, a true giant killers and darn good value for the money.
This is first part installment. In the second part I’ll be focusing on the music performance and and how all there new CLONES products are relating with the music.
Stay tuned for more soon…