Welcome to the Machine
At 17" wide, 5 ½" tall, 16 ½" deep, and weighing some 44 pounds, the PRE G2 (for Generation 2), is an elegant, somewhat Spartan-looking linestage. The 10mm-thick faceplate has a two-line Vacuum Florescent Display in its upper left quadrant that routinely shows which of the five single-ended or the single XLR input is selected (all user-nameable by the way), either the output in relative dB or mute status, and the offset volume. Each of the six inputs is variable by a range of –9dB to +9dB (in 1dB steps), to allow for matching the different output levels of connected sources. Central to the faceplate is the stylized Audionet name, with model, PRE G2, and description, Stereo Preamplifier, etched immediately beneath it. In the lower-right quadrant is a row of rounded buttons, from left to right: mute, set, input, and power; then the IR remote receiver window, with a 1 ¾" round volume knob finishing the lineup.
The back is separated into left and right by a vertical row containing the fuse holder at the top, the mains power rocker switch, the IEC cord socket, an optional grounding post, and two Audionet Link outputs (optional TosLink cables) for remote triggering at the bottom. The top half of each side is occupied by the five single-ended RCA (or Cinch Line as Audionet refers to them) and one single XLR balanced input, with the right channel inputs to the right side, and the left channel inputs to the left. Immediate beneath the left and right inputs are the corresponding left and right outputs, one single-ended, two balanced, one single-ended inverted, and one single-ended “monitor.”
This is one intelligent linestage, with microprocessor control regulating all functionality, from display brightness, to balance adjustment, through auto-start and bypass modes. When touched on, each input can be uniquely named, and different input signal levels corrected; even source signals containing DC components can be compensated for. The PRE G2 even notifies you if your AC mains have incorrect polarization. Other Audionet devices—like the MAX—can be switched on via the Audionet link with the use of optional TosLink optical cables, and all functions can be controlled using the compact RC1 remote.
A dual-mono design using miniaturized Surface Mount Device technology, the PRE G2 is completely DC-coupled, with no capacitors in the signal path. The chassis and circuit are magnetically and capacity-optimized to limit interference and microphonic effects. Volume and balance are regulated by electronically switched precision resistors, ranging from -80 to +10dB relative to the input signal, and all signal carrying and controlling functions are optically separated, helping to immunize input and output circuits from the negative influences of connected equipment.
Cosmetically matching the appearance of the PRE G2, each MAX monoblock amplifier is only 8 ½" wide, 11 ¼" tall, and 19 ¼" deep, weighing in at about 84 pounds. Though not absurdly massive for their size, the MAXes are respectably substantial. This form-factor was selected to optimize inter-stage isolation, and to minimize both power supply disturbances and overall signal path length.
Sporting the same size 2-line VFD as the PRE 2G in the top fifth of its brushed aluminum faceplate, the MAX has a rounded power switch mounted dead center. Again, elegantly minimalist.
The rear of the MAX has all inputs and controls positioned in the upper two- thirds of the left side. Near the top are both the balanced and line inputs. Beneath them are a matched set of speaker binding posts for bi-wiring. It should be noted that these posts are extremely close to each other vertically (+ above and – below) and horizontally. Unless you are using banana plugs, be very careful of your connections here. Below the speaker outputs is the mains rocker switch, the IEC cable socket, and a pair (one in, one out) of TosLink Audionet Link connections.
Though the MAX comes equipped with both RCA and XLR inputs, which are electronically switched over gold-plated precision relays, Bill Parish of GTT Audio, U.S. importer for Audionet, suggested that I use only the single-ended inputs. When we installed the MAXs in my system, Bill filled me in on the reasoning. Audionet, not unlike most other amplifier manufacturers today, uses an operational amplifier on the balanced input. While it may be the best-sounding op-amp available today, it is nonetheless unnecessary additional circuitry, and you can hear it.