Below we present the review of our vacuum tube integrated amplifier Egg-Shell Classic 9WLT. The original article was published on the Polish site “Stereo & Colorful – Underground“.
The original text (in Polish) with pictures,
written by Ludwik Hegel can be found here:
Vacuum tube integrated audio amplifier
Egg-Shell Classic 9WLT
in set with Bodnar Audio Hornton 2 floorstanding speakers
At the beginning of the June this year an audio Retailer Audio-ON turned to me asking, whether I wouldn’t like to get familiar with latest versions of columns based on fullrange loudspeakers from Bodnar Audio named Hornton. I answered: “of course, yes!” however in relation to the fact as they are columns of high-effective nature addressed for valve amplifiers with low wattage output, unfortunately at that time I just had no valve amp to test it. So I asked, whether Audio-ON wouldn’t have some interesting for lending. The representative of the Audio-On answered that he was just waiting for one, amplifier is Egg-Shell Classic 9 WLT. And should reach in two – three weeks. As a result of it, we arranged to get together the following set: Speakers – Bodnar Audio Hornton and the valve amplifier Egg-Shell Classic 9 WLT. We established date of the dispatch of appliances for the end of June, beginning of the July. After all the set reached me in the first week of the July – units arrived from the Audio-ON from Czechowice-Dziedzice, whereas amplifier straight from the producer – Encore7 company from Bielsko-Biała. Today, after three weeks of listening sessions, I am publishing the test.
I would like to add that it isn’t my first contact neither with Bodnar Audio Speakers, neither with the amplifier Egg-Shell. Because over three years ago I have tested and reviewed Bodnar loudspeakers audio Sandglass Fantasy, and two years ago – amplifier Egg-Shell Prestige 9 WST (read here). Both constructions are produced in Poland and those are without no doubt exceptional pieces of gear. But to the thing.
Nuance & Texture – amplifier
Comparing with bigger brothers from Encore Seven family, the Classic 9 WLT model seems small. Nevertheless, if you watch carefully, Classic 9 WLT is Prestige 9 WST but slimmer, as well you won’t see fancy metal casing with the glass front (I can’t tell, what structural differences applied to the components inside). The system of tubes is also analogical. They are identical like in more expensive Prestige 9 WST:
Tubes type EL34 (power penthode):
- EL34 Svetlana
- EL34 B Tung-Sol
Tubes type EF86 (low-power penthode):
- EF806S JJ Gold
- EF806S JJ
- EF86 Electro-Harmonix
Tubes ECC83 (double triode):
- 12AX7 Electro-Harmonix Gold
- 12AX7 Electro-Harmonix
- 5751 Electro-Harmonix Gold
- ECC83S JJ Gold
Tubes 5AR4 (double diode rectifier):
- 5AR4 Sovtek (one in Classic 9WLT, two in Prestige 9WST)
In the test model the following valves were installed: 2 x EL34 Electro-Harmonix, 1 x GZ34 JJ, 2 x EF86 Electro-Harmonix and 2 x 12AX7 Electro-Harmonix.
Classic 9 WLT is built, as you can say by it’s name – classically. It is a flat and rather smallish casing made of steel, polished metal sheet, on it valves are set upright. Two EL34 Electo-Harmonix lamps are installed at the angle of 45 degree, V shape. It is characteristic to the structure of Egg-Shell products. At the top casings on the right side a large round potentiometer stands out – it’s painted red. Whereas in the back of the upper lid three transformers were installed – lids are coated with same nice aggressive red paint as on potentiometer. The way it looks is very intriguing and interesting. The front of the casing is quite modest – on the left there is knob used as selector of sources and three red diodes (marked with digits 1, 2 and 3) pointing position of the selector. That’s all.
At the back the amplifier we can found three pairs of speaker terminals high grade ones – separate for speakers impedance 4 and 8 Ohm. There are three pairs of RCA level connections and the IEC power outlet are found. Two fuses were put on the back panel. Egg-Shell is based on four legs of hard black material.
Amplifier Egg-Shell Classic 9 WLT costs 6.800 PLN in Poland (1.890 EUR), whereas Bodnar Hornton speakers 4.990 PLN, so a set is about 12.000 PLN (3.400 EUR). Nevertheless already after first listening session it is possible to state that the above set is rising to the level of the real high end. And that impression of being very close to something exceptional. I am trying not to use rapturous words excessively in reviews, but this time I cannot stop myself – the above set is playing fabulously! Phenomenally! I’m truly touched. The tone is characterized by a very great spatial dimension from perfectly wide and precise stereo imaging. There is appropriate breath, there is a momentum, there is a tangibility of the sound. The substance of sound is strong and distinct, to feel and hear every note, the colour of instruments is clean and deep, the music is swimming sophisticated and lightly – such a style is typical for Hi-End Hi Fi.
Although columns have installed only one 145 mm fullrange driver in each loudspeaker and the little power of the amplifier 2 x 9 Watt, sound provided by them is picked up as strong and full bodied, fast and rapid flowing, saturated tone that fills every edge, strong bass and very much extended, without no indications of loosening, or of wailing. Low tones aren’t escaping from front loudspeakers, and from back holes of transmission lines – they are blowing up with lows at full blast, the blast is realistic! You can feel it not only hear it. What’s essential, the described set isn’t allocated only play major of audiophile albums with ease and when you turn the potentiometer of the amplifier up, sound is becoming very strong – spectacular as on live concert hall (and that’s not just some confabulation of person these words!). Speakers and the amplifier they just want to be played loudly, and even at very high volume levels sound is equally balanced.
Sopranos and saxes are well separated out of the spectrum of mids and lows and are clear and selective. The amount of sharp details in hights and mids is just perfect. It seems that every detail is heard, every nuance. However the mids are thick and juicy, but transparent and communicative. Easily combining the musicality and the great resolution, the energy is matched with tone refinement and the sound heat wave with details.
When Manu Katche on the “Neighbourhood” (ECM – 2005) he is passing the wire brushes over the plate of percussion, you feel this move and sound – a metal sheet is heard, as good as shivering metal. When Tomasz Stańko is playing (on the same album) on the trumpet it is possible to feel both power and fire, but also whistle of air and resonances of the steel goblet, and dirt tones specific sound from our Champion. The double bass of Michał Kurkiewicz has a mellow tone, strings firmly vibrating – are heard individually their sound is going very low, it’s athletic – huge, pulsating with the rhythm and nicely humming. Low tones aren’t having a tendency of exaggerated rising there self, they are proportional, though abundant. However the alto saxophone played by Jan Garbarek is singing like a woman with voice of an angel – colourfully and subtle. He is unfolding a pallet of colours, but also the tone commitment and the finesse. Musical beauty.
I am setting the record The Rolling Stones “Sticky Fingers” (vinyl re-edition of 2015 yr of primal material from 1971), It’s raw, typically rock style. The voice of Jagger sounds clearly and firmly, very tangibly, but also smoothly – with perceptible living emotions. Next team splendidly “positioned himself” in my listening room – I don’t want to write, that it’s holographic, because the described album doesn’t belong to perfectly carried out, but it is possible to point the depth of the stage, explicit localization of individual musicians along with precise acoustic surroundings.
Bodnar speakers have no problems in order to get optimal way to draw the gradation of individual plans, as well as edges, supplemented additionally with the energy on a macro and micro scale. Indeed, The Rolling Stones instruments don’t have such generous contours and tone depths like during the listening of the Manu Katche album, however we can blame possible differences in the realization of these both recordings, but not the described set, because the set “is making miracles” in order to change worse material into fulfilled material, to obtain the maximum of the positive tone out of it, and not to accent gaps.
The conclusion can be only one – valve amplifier Egg-Shell Classic 9 WLT and Bodnar speakers Hornton is a set which will be taken sound much closer to gates of the real high end, because his sound is exceptionally euphonious and engaging, colourful and permeated – royal and beautiful. It is a synergetic duet by which no music lover will pass indifferently. The above set entirely convinced me and enthralled – magical playing. I can highly recommend this set with the pure heart.
Amplifiers: H160 Hegel (test here), Burson Timekeeper (test here), Taga Harmony HTA-700B (test here) and Egg-Shell Classic 9 WTL
Speakers: Bodnar audio Hornton, Wigg Art Enzo, Xavian Neox 2, Vienna Acoustics Mozart of Rip-offs, Sapphire 25 Pylon, Zingali Bookshelf Zero, Zingali Client Nano + Sub, the audio Guru Junior, Taga Harmony Platinium they and Studio 16 Canto Two HertzDigital
Sources: player CD Fidelity A1 Musical CD-pro, Pioneer U-05 – Sec. and NuForce Air DAC
Computers: MacBook Apple the Pro and the Satellite S75 Toshiba
Record players: Clearaudio Emotion with Goldring Legacy filler and Goldring 1042.
Phono preamplifiers: iFi Phono and Ri-Audio PH-1
Tuners: Rotel RT-1080, T-550 Yamaha and Sansui TU-5900
Cassette recorder: Nakamichi Cassette tape deck 1
Minisystems: Pioneer P1 – K and Cayin MM-3
Receivers: RHA MA750, Final audio Design the V Adagio (test here), Final audio Design of Pandas
translated by: Rafał (limerickhifibits.ie)