High-End Audio, high performance, highest level of the aesthetics? These three should all go hand in hand without any second thought. Especially at present times when our niche industry is morphing into a newer, better self. Like I’ve been mentioning a lot lately high-end audio already raised to the luxury plane and market rules changed dramatically in past few years. There are higher, more profound rules at play and without real understanding of these mechanics many are failing to succeed with their stories and ventures.
Any company willing to advance and stay active needs to push the right set of attributes. Along with the performance, looks matters a lot. High-end audio products are becoming a lifestyle items enjoyed by more and more family members. As such, more strict demands for captive feeling must employ highest lifestyle orientation and more user friendly design.
MEET THE BLOCK AMPLIFIER
G LAB Design Fidelity team realized all the points highlighted above at the first stages of creating and designing the BLOCK amplifier. For them this project was not just quick, furious monetary urge for creating another, regular integrated tube amplifier. They wanted to bring to life a fresh, beautifully designed object that will make any living room and listening space more friendly and involving. BLOCK speaks for its self. The result is a sensible juxtaposition of art and technology.
The Block amplifier creation is intimately connected with G LAB Design Fidelity passion for beauty. Not the consuming one, but the real beauty in terms of design and sound. They knew, that creating an amplifier that only looks good was not good enough. And vice versa. It had to sound great as well. After long time of R & D and especially after a long time of experimenting with electronic part of the amplifier, they’ve managed to isolate everything related to the power supply from the main board.
This elevated the results and something of stand out DNA was created. They optimized the circuit structure for the shortest possible signal paths with the clear goal of “straight wire” and the pureness of the performance.
THE BRAND, THE STORY
G LAB Design Fidelity high-end audio company is based in Poland. They are exploring, designing and manufacturing both pro and high-end audio products with the clear goal of highest possible quality and craftsmanship.
G LAB Design Fidelity operates with a diversely broadminded approach, respective and friendly team spirit selectively embracing the expert people from different industries, that can contribute to their brand and product development/finalizing.
From the first design cues G LAB Design Fidelity team had a vivid projection of their clear business identity. Their orientation follows the paths of exquisite, boutique high-end watch and haute couture, “the niche of the niche” ventures, where every step is strictly controlled, planned and refined down to the smallest details. The young, creative and fresh spirits surrounds this creative brand at each step of operations. Its great for a change to see people in a creative stages having fun and bringing the actual product to materialization. This is the exact summary of brand mood, that I’ve could transcribe from my corespondency with Michał Chmielecki and Dionizy Konieczny.
Epicenter of operations is G LAB Design Fidelity, an ELZAB production environment. This Polish factory from Zabrze, was established in 1969 and they have been developing electronics and mechanics for over forty years with factory origin dating back to August 1969. Their portfolio includes early 70's machines, later personal computers in the 80’s and non the last cash registers at more present times. This company long standing experiences and expertise allowed them to not only hands on plan and test, but also control each step of manufacturing.
G LAB Design Fidelity radiates with an interesting aura. They managed to capture that timeless feeling of the real industrial cultural heritage impact where each product becomes a story of its own. Packed with passion and respect to the past and everyone presently involved with the project.
G LAB Design Fidelity The BLOCK integrated tube amplifier is company statement and a vivid projection of how expertly blend sublime 21st century design with the pristine High Fidelity sound. They managed to expertly mix the audio and design language into a product, that can stand on its own, including both sonic and aesthetic aspects.
BLOCK was designed by a young, creative and versatile designer Mateusz Główka, Academy of Fine Arts graduate. He, just like a whole new generation of music enthusiasts, rediscovered tube amplifiers, but wanted something more - individualism, simplicity, and design perfection in a modern package. His concept for this amplifier came from a need to redesign a proven 20th century product into an outstanding 21st century gem.
ELZAB’s experienced team of specialists hand-built each and BLOCK amplifier. Creative selectiveness of finest components and painstaking attention to every detail resolved in the objective simplicity. Einstein famous quite is often used and overused. “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” BLOCK articulates with the language of simplicity empowered by the right choices being made. End result clearly speaks for itself.
“I was constructing the electronics for BLOCK to check my intuitive feeling that it is possible to reach the best sound quality using the simplest of tools, disregarding anything that is non-essential. It was important to me to get clear sound when listening at low volume. What had occurred to me was that the sound quality is best and the amplier works most linear at the whole range of volume when the signal goes the shortest way possible, when there is no tone adjustment, the lamps are paired properly and when we use our massive custom speaker amplifiers."
“BLOCK was a great challenge for me. It was the first project that was so advanced and fully functional at the same time. It brought me the opportunity to make a name for myself in the world of design. My dream was to see my product on the shelf and due to the Polish entrepreneurship of a few people my dream will come true.”
G LAB Design team really took their product seriously. From the packaging, manual, and the amplifier itself. Everything “screams” quality with remarkable attention to the details.
This is how every high-end product should be packed and presented. Manual is a greatly designed and understandable and clearly reminds me off Nagra dedication to the details.
A lot was already said about BLOCK outlooks. Still.. The iconic design is refreshing and bold statement looking back to the past of Art Deco best attributes molded into a 21st century contemporary objectified output. BLOCK simplicity is monumental with its appearance and gives a unique lifestyle seal, that translates into the pureness and refined amplifier looks.
Its a well matured and expertly shaped product with the translucent sound.
SOUND AND PERFORMANCE
I’ve took the time and made efforts to pair The BLOCK integrated amplifier with variety of the speakers. Two of them was high-efficient ones and rest served the role of dynamic speakers representatives.
It was evidently clear… G LAB Design Fidelity The BLOCK integrated is not typically old school tube amplifier. As with everything connected to this product sound was as important as the shaping. Making the right turns transferred their initial idea into the machine that matters.
There is no saturated fashioning often related with the tube based designs. Transparency and the absence of coloration creates a palpable sound performance, that is positively surprising. These days you can find vast array of tube integrated amplifiers exploring the given possibilities of tubes, but many simply cannot astray from the over sweetness. Its a design choice! One really needs to do their homework and also dedicate a grand listening time in creating something that would stand out of the expectivness.
BLOCK creates an open sounding experience, that never loose a focus or close connection of the music being sourced. In gaining and creating the audio performance close match of correct timbral imprint shows the proper path. In achieving this, there is no quick solutions or mediocre efforts. Where other stopped caring the G LAB Design Fidelity pursued the initial idea further.
Taking out the usual arsenal of familiar test records and playing first few songs through the BLOCK revealed very quickly where the G LAB Design Fidelity headed with the sound orientation. Muddy Watters’ Folk Singer is always a great start to explore the dynamic impact and no brainer for critical testing. BLOCK managed to recompose the raw energy of Muddy Watters very proficiently. The same spot on correctness accounted for the recreation of the both atmosphere and sense of acoustical space.
Donald Fagen and Steely Dan established themselves for both great music and sound long time ago. Snowbound is one of my favorite Donald Fagen songs and its also a great test track to explore any system and component for the focus on the bass, as well as rhythm and pace. BLOCK never lost its orientation and well versed within the expertly produced and great sounding song and album. For amp of such topology this was not expected.
Carl Craig Sandstorms explores the beautiful universe of minimal techno music. With his recognizing drive Carl’s EP is sublime and captivating musical creation. Karlheinz Stockhausen alike. As always, great care was taken for the sound and mastering of the album. Detroit techno is very different from anything else and as such demand different set of rules when it comes to critical judging. BLOCK kept the pace untouched, established firm ground base and locked to the “metro” rhythm at once.
Landing to the soulful and mystical potency of the one of my favorite independent artist from Scandinavia going with the wit name Nancy Brick. This album is both sonically and musically pure to the bone. It radiates with that Lynch kind of atmosphere, that unlock the imaginary world to the ones ready of stepping in. I love how female vocal is presented in this duo’s first album and how its recorded. It will at once show the ability of any component in reviving the grandness and energy exchange of this mesmerizing musical material. BLOCK amplifier rendered The Mountain according to the original DNA. Soulful, potent and mystically involving.
Distortions and the absence of them? is one of the albums, that was completely recorded with analog gear and via analog mixer. When all set right, this now legendary Counting Crows album exhibit really special, stand out sound. Play it on the average, mediocre system and you’ll get some of the satisfaction. Step up to more refine player and the real involving factors reveals the sublime nature of this superb album. BLOCK integrated wore no mask in presenting it. Especially with more efficient speakers the “hidden” musical message and liquefied sound came to life intensifingly.
Stepping into the world of classical music always represent a challenge for any high-end audio component. The variety of complexities and density is no easy task to perform. Swinging from the Stravinsky Firebird Suite to the Variations on a theme by Paganini, extremely expertly rendered via János Starker made an lasting impact through the BLOCK. Starker masterful playing puts a grand stress as do full orchestral Stravinsky composition on any component under the scope. Pair G LAB Design Fidelity integrated with a real potent speaker and the transparent nature of this amplifier steps up unmaskingly. Not only connected with the resolving dynamic swings, but with highly involving delicacy through the rendition of demanding passages and crescendos. Quite a challenge and certainly a thumbs up for Polish design team.
When taking things into the realms of subtly nature of staccatos and glissandos things can go very wrong very quickly. Smallest nuances substitutionally creating the uber complex harmonic structure of the music are essential down to the subatomic level. This is the part where either any high-en audio product step into the league of musical capable amplifiers or it fails. There is no mid way, no second chance and undoing. Either it can lock into the constitutionality objective language or it fails miserably. The BLOCK amplifier can ride comprehensive musical wave with a grand glancing into the scoring, leveling on the plane of emerging energy transfer with a sense of authority, dynamic impact and emotional connection. That is quite an embracing coming from my tiger paper writeup!
Make no mistake. The BLOCK integrated amplifier is no all rounder and quick solution. Its a highly specific and well matured product. For the first born its special. BLOCK demands a a proper matching pair of speakers, potent source and synergy of cabling. Only then the BLOCK grandeur nature and dynamic simplicity will be revealed as planned by G LAB Design Fidelity.
As written above, BLOCK can entertain even with dynamic speakers of lover sensitivity to a certain degree. Pairing it with upper range of sensitive speakers enrolls and reveals its true potential.
Any properly design amplifier will level with music and listening involvement at both low and high volume and BLOCK can provide a lot on both modus. It can transfer the needed energy and establish the emotional path even at the low scale listening levels.
Not stepping into the solid state affairs or established tube typical norming BLOCK implements its own sonic path, capturing the essence of transparency and vividness.
G LAB Design Fidelity integrated amplifier offers a rewarding experience with pricing, that can put it in the hands of many music lovers and audiophiles.
G LAB Design Fidelity BLOCK amplifier expertly combines the inspiring, and inspiring contemporary aesthetic with the sound, that is closely related to the emotional bond with the original musical message.
Even at its given price, BLOCK quietly, but boldly stepped into the clan of luxury lifestyle high-end audio products. For the first born product, this is remarkable achievement and welcoming fresh wind breeze (of change) in the high-end audio tube niche market. For such low powered integrated amplifier empowering act is of big difference. Well done G LAB Design Fidelity team…
Text: Matej Isak
Retail price: 5000 Euro (excluding shipment).
power: 2 x 5.5 W
frequency response: 30Hz - 30kHz / -2dB
power consumption: 120W
inputs: 2 x Line, 1 x Phono (MM)
outputs: Speaker Out L/R
tube complement: 2 x E34L, 2 x E88C, 2 x 6N6P
weight: 20 KG
dimensions: 339x288x208 mm (WxDxH) (without tubes)
tel: +48 668 134 951