A Visit With Wilson Audio's John Giolas

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Solid-state preamplifiers
A Visit With Wilson Audio's John Giolas

To visit John Giolas at his home in Salt Lake city, as I did this past weekend with my son Oscar, is to enter a somewhat vertiginous world of numerous children as well as their pets, which include several dogs, cats, and, not least, a guinea pig. Giolas, who is national sales manager at Wilson Audio, also has a new feline audio addition to his household, which is to say that he boasts a spanking new Convergent Audio Technology Ultimate stereo amplifier and Legend preamplifier. The last time I had heard the CAT amplifiers was a mono Ultimate pair at Mike Grellman’s home outside San Francisco, where they were coupled to a pair of Rockport Altair loudspeakers.

How did the latest brainchild of Ken Stevens, the owner of Convergent Audio Technology, sound? Quite stupefying. The amp, as you can see from the accompanying pictures, is a real beaut: it’s handmade and uses KT-120 tubes, which have come on strong for their plate dissipation rating of 60 watts, which is considerably heftier than the venerable 6550. Word is that the KT-150 will be the next new kid on the block.

Convergent always runs its amps in triode mode for maximum tonal purity. But there’s nothing edentate about this amp. Quite the contrary. It had no problem at all driving the superb Wilson Alexias. Giolas played me a number of CDs and on several cuts the impact of the drums was concussive. It sounded like a detonator was going off in his living room. The sheer push—the drive—of the amp was phenomenal. The other thing I noticed was the alacrity of the notes—they emerged from a truly deep black space. This, as the Brits say, is serious kit. It’s always fascinating to hear different gear, and I’m grateful to Giolas, who is a very discerning listener, for allowing me to get a glimpse of the sonically ravishing world of CAT.

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