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Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX Amp & TBC-Zero EX Preamp (TAS 213)

Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX Amp & TBC-Zero EX Preamp (TAS 213)

Over the last few years I’ve reviewed some truly great solid-state amplifiers and preamplifiers from MBL, BAlabo, and Soulution and heard a goodly number of other top contenders from Spectral, Boulder, Krell, Burmester, Pass Labs, DartZeel, and (at this past CES) newbies Constellation and D’Agostino. Come now the TBP-Zero EX 350W monoblock power amplifier and TBC-Zero EX linestage preamplifier from award-winning Japanese designer Naoto Kurosawa, and, while I can’t (and don’t) say that these Technical Brain components leave their distinguished solid-state competition in the dust, they have certainly set new standards of transparency, neutrality, and resolution chez Valin. Indeed, when they’re driving the ultra-transparent, ultra-high-resolution Magico Q5 loudspeakers, I have yet to hear electronics that are more faithful to sources or more lifelike when those sources are top-notch.

When those sources aren’t top-notch…well, that may be the rub for some of you, as neither Technical Brain nor Magico “prettifies” instrumental or vocal timbres or intensifies dynamic excitement by adding emphasis to the mid-to-upper bass and lower midrange. This is not to say that the TB gear is “cold” or “thin” or “sterile” or “analytical,” which are the charges usually leveled against products that don’t warm up timbres or goose up the power range. What it does mean is that the Technical Brain amps and preamp aren’t “there” in the way that most amps and preamps, solid-state and tube, typically are. Whether you will fully approve of this disappearing act is a question we will come to.

Obviously, the TB electronics achieve their transparency, neutrality, and resolution by lowering distortions. However, almost all of the new-gen solid-state components that I’ve reviewed and auditioned do this same trick. (The Soulution gear, in particular, raised the bar on neutrality, transparency, and resolution by lowering THD to unparalleled levels via an ingenious high-speed, high-negative-feedback circuit.) What makes the TB gear stand out, audibly, from this very select group is that, in addition to reducing THD and TIM, it also appears to be breaking a stranglehold on the free and lifelike delivery of musical energy that makes other transistor amplifiers, even other great ones, sound just the slightest bit mechanized, veiled, and overly constrained by comparison. Kurosawa has achieved this feat by finding a way to eliminate the emitter resistors that regulate the quiescent current running through output transistors in solid-state amps and preamps.

I’m told by those who know that the elimination of emitter resistors is a genuine innovation in solid-state design. Since I’m not an engineer, I’ve asked Naoto Kurosawa to explain what he’s done (and also to describe the other salient features of his circuits). Here is what he wrote me in an e-mail:

“The core concept behind the TB amplifiers and preamps is the elimination of all factors that detract from the realistic reproduction of music. In particular, my challenge was how to get an amplifier to respond precisely to the very moment sound begins. This is when all the energy and emotion of music and musician is released at once. To reproduce this tremendous outpouring of energy requires absolute power—pulse-like, exceptionally high in current. The situation is similar to that of an F1 car at start-up; the race car needs an exceptionally high-torque engine and the ability to rev that engine up to 20,000 rpm or higher nearly immediately and without friction. In other words, the most important thing at start-up for both an amplifier and a F1 car is exceptional and near-instantaneous energy and power delivery.

“In solid-state audio, it is emitter resistors that prevent the injection of this energy from the amplifier into the speakers. In order to protect an amplifier from thermal runaway, emitter resistors restrain the flow of current by using negative feedback, while compensating for the differences in operating current between power transistors. Since the early years of transistor amplifiers, their use has amounted to a necessary evil.

“The most important technological innovation in Technical Brain circuits is the elimination of these emitter resistors and the development of a bias-current control-circuit without time delay (patented in Japan) that has made their elimination possible.

“We have also gotten rid of the electrical contacts that cause sound modulation or spread. Among a number of electrical contacts found in amplifiers, the elimination of high-current relays used in the speaker protection and power-supply unit are a key to higher fidelity.

“It is also important to note that electrical contacts gradually oxidize and sulphurize over time, and as a result, contact resistance becomes non-linear. This change occurs very slowly, so it often goes unnoticed, although it certainly deteriorates the sonic presentation. People sometimes recognize this type of deterioration as a phenomenon in which bass is not reproduced accurately at lower volumes but comes ‘back to normal’ once the volume is set at a higher level. If there are no electrical contacts, there is no need to worry about these inevitable losses.

“Lastly, all TB electronics are DC amplifiers (direct current is amplified, and there is no phase rotation or group-delay). A colorless, unconstrained, stable sound results from this coherence in design.”

Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX Amp & TBC-Zero EX Preamp (TAS 213)All of Kurosawa’s product—amps, preamps, and (his soon-to-be-reviewed) phonostages make use of these core technologies. All are ultra-wide bandwidths, zero-feedback, non-servo, DC-coupled designs; all use fully balanced topologies with no mechanical/electrical contacts such as relays and line fuses; all are built with meticulous attention paid to the arrangement of wires and components to ensure the shortest signal paths and the highest shielding from vibration; all use massive, low-flux-density, flat-coil, hand-wound, EI-core power transformers (no toroidal transformers here); and all eliminate the dreaded emitter resistor.


Sidebar: Naoto Kurosawa and Technical Brain

Although his company is new to us in the States, Naoto Kurosawa has been in the ultra-high-end audio business for better than three decades—first as an ace repairman for imported high-end U.S. gear and, since 2005, as the author of the innovative Technical Brain “Zero” Series of electronics.

One visit to Kurosawa’s store in the picturesque Japanese town of Kawagoe—which (thanks to Tangram Audio) I was lucky enough to make a couple of years ago—will tell you all you need to know about this cultured, gracious, greatly gifted man. Half gourmet-coffee emporium, half high-end listening room (filled with little gems from Audio Past, including a mint pair of Apogee Duettas and a pristine set of William Z. Johnson’s pre-ARC Peploe amplifiers), Naoto’s Technical Brain shop is a place designed for relaxed and civilized listening. Here you can sip coffee or eat one of Naoto’s fabulous curries, and then step into his large, Canadian-timber-lined listening room to hear TB electronics hooked up to a panoply of superb speakers. It was in this room that I first auditioned the TBP-Zero amps and TBC-Zero preamp (then in their “v2” versions)—and immediately realized I was listening to something extraordinary.

At the time I had never heard of Kurosawa or his company. But I soon discovered that, in Japan at least, I was scarcely alone in my admiration for his products. Technical Brain amps and preamps have won more Grand Prix awards (given out by the prestigious Japanese audio magazine Stereo Sound) than those of any other small ultra-high-end Japanese manufacturer. (Indeed, Kurosawa won yet another Grand Prix this past year for the new EX Series electronics that I am reviewing here.) When Pioneer introduced its TAD Reference loudspeaker, it was Technical Brain electronics that were used to source and power it in Japan. When Alon Wolf introduced the Magico M5, it was Technical Brain electronics that were used at the debut. Morel showed its revised and improved Fat Ladies with Technical Brain (quite successfully) at this year’s CES. My point is that, while Technical Brain may be new to the U.S. market, the man and the company have sterling reputations.

I’ve had the privilege of being the first to review a number of ultra-high-end products from previously little-known companies from around the world. As was (and is) the case with Soulution and BAlabo, Technical Brain is among the worthiest of such contenders. Don’t let the company’s odd name put you off. Like the great Japanese filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, Naoto Kurosawa is perhaps the most classically Japanese of ultra-high-end manufacturers—his beautiful and beautifully made products embody the very Japanese aesthetic of grace, simplicity, balance, and subtlety in the way they look and, above all, in the way they sound. JV

While I have no way of validating Kurosawa’s claims for his circuit innovations via testing and measurement, it is a demonstrable fact that his products sound precisely the way Technical Brain’s motto says they do: “Exceptionally high in transparency, exceptionally low in coloration.” (And I would add: “Exceptionally realistic.”)

With first-rate sources, Technical Brain components come closer than other amps or preamps, solid-state or tube, that I’ve heard to delivering the transients, timbres, and decays of instruments as they are typically heard in life—without emphasizing transients and scanting harmonics and decays (as solid-state was once wont to do) or exaggerating harmonics and decays and slightly blunting transients (as tubes were once wont to do). The Technical Brain gear—and this is a genuine first in my experience with solid-state—gives you what amounts to the best of both transistors and tubes with few or none of the downsides of either gain strategy. As a result, instruments and vocalists sound substantially more lifelike, more natural in timbre and texture, more freed-up and wide-ranging in dynamics (with unparalleled speed and subtlety of attack), more clearly focused in space and accurately reproduced in time, more completely “there.” 

Take a recording like Fritz Geissler’s Kammersinfonie on an excellent Nova LP. The second part of this chamber symphony for small orchestra and voice is built around catchy three- and four-note motifs that are first sounded, concertante-like, by individual instruments, then by small groups of instruments, and subsequently by the entire ensemble. Rhythm, tone color, and antiphony—rather than melody or counterpoint—are the keys to an appreciation of this quirky piece, which, like a lot of twentieth-century East German music, seems to swing blithely between jaunty Brechtian irony and genuine post-war melancholy.

Because many instruments are playing in the same pitch range, particularly in the upper bass and lower mids, the Kammersinfonie is a good test of whether your amplification and preamplification are capable of accurately preserving the transients, timbres, and decays of instruments that, on stereo systems, tend to be hard to clearly make out. Was that a plucked contrabass or a timp or both softly sounding the three-beat motif at the back right of the stage? Was that an oboe or an English horn or both playing the four-beat sequence at stage center? Is there a tuba in the mix? A contrabassoon? Both? Neither?

With Technical Brain electronics, you won’t have to guess about these things. The timbres of instruments like oboes and English horns, contrabasses and timps (or, for that matter, Fender bass and kickdrum), contrabassoons and bass clarinets, even played in unison at virtually the same pitches and dynamic levels, are more distinct—and more lifelike—than I’ve heard them sound through other sets of electronics.


Sidebar: The TBP-Zero Reliability Question

As some of you may already know, the original and the v2 versions of the Technical Brain TBP-Zero monoblock amps had a reliability issue here in the U.S. What you may not know is that (according to U.S. importer Frank Dickens of Silent Source Audio) this problem was limited to three pairs of amps—two purchased in Japan and one loaned for evaluation. Though brought to the U.S., none were sold through distribution to U.S. customers. (Only amps with the redesigned export power supply—for which, see below—are offered for sale in the U.S.) No version of the amps has ever malfunctioned in Japan, and the TBC Zero linestage and TEQ-Zero phonostage have worked flawlessly in every country in which they’ve been sold.

To be fair to Technical Brain, it was not the input or the output stage of these three pairs of not-for-export TBP-Zeros that apparently had “issues”; it was their power supplies—and even at that, only a single part in those supplies. Although tested with a voltage generator set to the U.S. standard of 110V/60Hz as a matter of course, the TBP-Zero was designed for and intended to be sold exclusively in the Japanese market, with parts spec’d for the clean, non-spikey, 100V/50Hz current of the Japanese electrical grid. Unfortunately, when these amps were brought to the States, they faced the often-wild, real-world voltage swings of the U.S. grid (rather than a clean, precise, non-fluctuating, machine-generated 110V). Over here, very high inrush-current at turn-on caused the amps’ underrated-for-the-U.S rectifiers to fail. These rectifier failures took out a single FET in the power supply, also underspec’d for U.S. current. The TBP-Zeros’ protection circuit immediately did its job—shutting off the juice so that no other components in the amps were ever damaged—but because of the part failure, the protection circuit continued to see a short circuit on turn-on and the amps could not be restarted until the FET was replaced.

Once diagnosed, the problem was easily fixed—and that fix is now standard in all TBP-Zero “EX” Series amps sold in the U.S., such as the ones I am reviewing here. The power supply was completely redesigned with new overspec’d-for-U.S.-current components (four pairs of identical Shottky diodes that replace the underspec’d FET). Apparently this was all it took, because in the nine or so months that I and several others (including several manufacturers) have been using the new TBP-Zero EX amps, none of us has had any problems on turn-on, turn-off, or during play.

Understandably, when a component gets a reputation for iffy behavior, consumers tend to steer clear (and journalists tend to dismiss it out of hand). But though you may not hear about these things in print or on-line, many high-powered amps and preamps from both new and well-established companies have had “problems,” including parts and/or tube failures. These things tend to get swept under the rug, lest the public gets wind of them. In Technical Brain’s case, there was no one in the U.S. to do the sweeping, since TB wasn’t then being imported.

In my opinion, it would be a pity if a product as beautifully built, as sonically exemplary, and now as bulletproof as the TBP-Zero EX were handicapped in the U.S. marketplace because of a bad rap that no longer applies. I should note, as well, that the EX Series amps are now fully warrantied in the U.S. In the unlikely event of a problem they will be serviced by Technical Brain-trained personnel here in the U.S. JV

Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX Amp & TBC-Zero EX Preamp (TAS 213)When transients, harmonics, and decays “line up” this accurately in time, instruments also seem to “line up” more accurately in acoustic space. They are imaged more clearly, as if the mechanisms by which they make music have been brought into sharper focus. Played solo, they don’t have that slight overhang or blur of phasiness that tends to make them sound a little like the heavily outlined drawings in comic books look—generic and simplified in texture. Played alongside other instruments, they don’t completely meld into a “group sound,” even in the toughest of tests—massed wind passages and densely scored bass-range tuttis. Instead, instruments maintain their “places” in space and their presence in ensembles and their timbres in the midst of other timbres at similar pitches and intensities with standard-setting clarity and realism.

With Technical Brain gear, you can almost “see” music being made as clearly as you can hear it—see how all those buttons and keys and bows and strings and mouthpieces and sticks are being manipulated by performers to make music, and hear how the timbres and dynamics that result from the way each instrument is being played both blend with and add their own unique voices to the ensemble. And you hear this with none of the barebones “analytical” quality that solid-state used to have. Everything sounds more there, but everything also sound more fully like itself. It is a truly amazing bit of audiophile legerdemain.

While a good deal of credit for this exceptionally high resolution and reduced smearing in my present stereo system goes to the Magico Q5 and Maggie 3.7 loudspeakers, themselves models of transparency and low coloration, there is no doubt that the TB gear is simply a whiz at clarifying ensembles of instruments that other amps and preamps, even other great amps and preamps, tend to stir into a kind of simmering sonic stew—a bubbling broth with a chunk of bassoon here and a burble of timp there and a glimmer of doublebass bobbing to the surface now and then. With the TB gear you get the entire recipe, not the stew.

Unsurprisingly, TB’s exceptional clarity and realism apply as fully to performance details as they do to tone colors and dynamics. For example, one of the chief delights of EMI’s great recording of Schnittke’s Violin Sonata No. 2 “Quasi una sonata”—that witty contest between tonality and atonality carried on by Gidon Kremer’s violin and Andrei Gavrilov’s grand piano—is the way each instrument is made to show off every trick in its arsenal. Kremer’s technique here is astonishing, as he trots out sharp collés, martelés that are almost as heavily hammered as Gavrilov’s sforzandos on the piano, pizzicatos of every variety (including pizzicatos with glissandos and “Bartók” pizzicatos), harmonics, double-stops, triple-stops, jetés and ricochets and sautillés and spiccatos and every “off the string” bowstroke imaginable—all played at dynamics that range from whisper-soft to shriekingly loud. Once again because of the unusual way TB gear clarifies transients, timbres, and decays, Kremer’s violin and the bravura way he is playing it are reproduced with an in-the-room-with-you realism that is simply breathtaking. Here is the kind of transient response that can quite literally make you jump out of your chair on plucked or sforzando notes, but it is a speed that is accompanied by some of the most lifelike harmonics and decays I’ve yet heard from solid-state or tubes. Here is music presented in a way that will move you as well as wow you—that will let you in on the astonishing artistry as well as the incredible sound (and, in this instance, on the way Schnittke’s piece makes clever use of both).


Sidebar: Form and Function

In keeping with Naoto Kurosawa’s very Japanese aesthetic of leaving extraneous things out, all Technical Brain products are models of elegant simplicity. The amps have an on/off switch on their bottom right near the front panel. Once it is switched on a single tiny LED (actually a tiny switch) on the front panel begins to blink; press this lighted button and the two thin blue-lit bars flanking the LED come on and the central light stops blinking and turns green. You’re now ready to play music. Press the LED again and the amp goes back into standby.

The TBC-Zero preamp is almost as Spartan as the amps. It too has an on/off switch on its bottom for power-up/standby. A large stepped-resistor volume knob on the right of the front panel controls level; a source-selector knob on the left allows you to choose from among four inputs. The volume knob doubles as a mute control- just press it to drop the volume and press it again to return to whatever level was previously set. There is no balance control.

Both the amp and preamp are designed to work in fully balanced mode. The one set of inputs on the amps is balanced only. The four sets of inputs and two pairs of outputs on the preamp are both balanced and RCA, with the balanced ones preferred. There are no remote controls for either unit, so you’re just going to have to walk over to the preamp to change levels or sources. JV

It should be plain that the Technical Brain amps and preamp are among the most neutral electronics I’ve heard. While not what I would call inherently “rich” sounding (unless the recording is unusually rich, like, say, Madeleine Peyroux doing her beguiling Billie Holiday imitation on Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” from MoFi’s superb reissue of Careless Love), neither are they lean. To my ear, they aren’t much of anything in their own right; like the Q5s, they tend to sound as fat or as thin, as liquid or as dry, as lovely or as unlovely at the recordings themselves are. While never punishingly hard or unforgivingly lean, they aren’t as gemütlich as their chief rivals, the warmer Soulution electronics or the darker, more purely gorgeous BAlabos, though they are, IMO, somewhat more colorless and transparent to sources than either.

Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX Amp & TBC-Zero EX Preamp (TAS 213)Speaking of transparency to sources, like the Soulution 710/720 combo (but perhaps a bit more so), these TB electronics will tell you things about the engineering of new and favorite discs that you may not want to know. When you can not only hear that a singer’s voice—like that of Ms. Peyroux on the aforementioned Leonard Cohen number—has been potted in from a different venue, but can also clearly hear the ambience of that venue, like a little spot of different space and time in the midst of a multilayered backdrop of the different spaces and times in which the accompanying instruments were recorded, you get a veritable acoustic palimpsest—as clear a record of what was done throughout the recording, engineering, and mastering of this cut as stereo electronics can presently bring you.

Since, in most moods, I am fundamentally a fidelity-to-mastertapes kind of listener, I find this kind of brook-clear transparency and resolution not just admirable but addictive. However, I’m also very aware that other listeners—probably the majority of readers of this magazine—prefer a more bespoke presentation, something that is sweeter and richer, that makes less-than-ideal recordings (and ideal ones, too) consistently more “beautiful” sounding. If the recording merits it, the Technical Brain electronics will make instruments and vocalists sound more realistic than other electronics I’ve heard, but they won’t make sow’s ears into silk purses as some amps do.

Downsides? Well, I just mentioned what will be the major one for certain listeners—their honesty. The TB components are not going to be the amps and preamps for many “as you like it” listeners, and their utter impartiality may also limit their appeal for some “absolute sound” types (although I think the majority of “absolute sound” listeners will positively swoon over them with first-rate source material). Another potential downside for some will be that the Technical Brain combo lacks a bit of the three-dimensionality of tube electronics—particularly of the magical ARC Reference 40 linestage, Reference 2 phonostage, and 610T monoblock amps. Though the TB amps and preamps have all of the resolution and delicacy of detail (at low levels) of the very best tubes (in fact, they have more) and separate instruments in the foreground, midground, and background more distinctly than the ARC trio does, they don’t have quite the ARCs’ depth of image, that bas-relief solidity that is so beguiling and realistic. This isn’t to say that Technical Brain images are “flat” or dimensionless; they aren’t. But when it comes to suggesting a third dimension, I would tend to give the palm in solid-state to Soulution ahead of Technical Brain. Soundstaging will be a wash between TB, BAlabo, and Soulution; all three are vast in stage width and depth and height (if the recording permits), and all three easily match ARC tube gear in these regards. (To hear the TB components reproduce a really wall-to-wall soundstage densely peopled by instruments—such as the LSO on the Denon recording of Janácek’s thrilling Sinfonietta—is to hear something that comes closer to the scale, texture, and majesty of a full orchestra going full out than hi-fi usually gets.)

Bass, on the other hand, may be an issue for some, although I’m not one of them. The ARC 610T and the Soulution 700 have inherently “bigger” bass than the Technical Brain gear, which is as tight, uncolored, and well resolved as I’ve heard. Big bass can undoubtedly ramp up the excitement on some music, but which would you rather have: a dollop of spurious energy that adds more “slam” to the presentation while also slightly blurring the pitches, harmonics, and dynamics of individual bass instruments, or the clear ability to distinguish the sharp report of a tom from the pulse of a bass guitar on a cut like “Mr. Sandman” from Emmylou Harris’ Evangeline [Warner]? How you answer that question will determine how you feel about TB bass. I love it.

Though this is not necessarily a downside, I do need to mention an option that makes a big difference in the sound of TB gear, and that is the type of power cord you use with it. The American distributor of Technical Brain, Silent Source Audio, will supply the amplifiers and preamplifiers with either TB’s own power cords or Silent Source’s cords (or with an IEC outlet for your own cords). I strongly recommend that you stick with Naoto Kurosawa’s power cords. The others that I’ve tried—from Synergistic, Tara Labs, and Silent Source itself—are not as neutral, transparent, or as finely detailed as his (and all my observations in this review are based on using Kurosawa’s power cords).

It will come as no surprise that the Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX monoblock amps and TBC-Zero EX linestage are my new solid-state references. They are almost the exact electronic equivalents of the Magico Q5 loudspeakers (with which they mate up superbly well– though I’ve also heard Technical Brain sound extraordinary with Magneplanar 1.7s and 3.7s, Nola Baby Grand References, and Morel Fat Ladies). The highest-resolution, highest-speed, lowest-coloration solid-state electronics I’ve yet reviewed, they eliminate the slight reduction, blunting, and blurring of energy that emitter-resistors apparently cause, increasing the realism of truly well-recorded instruments and vocalists by reproducing their transients, timbres, and decays wth greater fidelity. They earn my highest recommendation.


<style type=”text/css”>@font-face {&amp;#13; font-family: “Times New Roman”;&amp;#13; }@font-face {&amp;#13; font-family: “Interstate-Bold”;&amp;#13; }@font-face {&amp;#13; font-family: “Garamond”;&amp;#13; }@font-face {&amp;#13; font-family: “Cambria”;&amp;#13; }@font-face {&amp;#13; font-family: “Interstate-Light”;&amp;#13; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }p.ERBodyText, li.ERBodyText, div.ERBodyText { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; text-align: justify; text-indent: 9pt; line-height: 10pt; font-size: 9.5pt; font-family: Garamond; color: black; }span.SpecsCategory { font-size: 8pt; color: rgb(236, 31, 36); letter-spacing: -0.3pt; }span.InterstateBold { font-size: 8.5pt; font-weight: bold; }div.Section1 { page: Section1;</style>TBP-Zero EX monoblock amplifiers
Type: Zero feedback, fully balanced, solid-state monoblock power amplifier
Rated output power: 350W/8 ohms; 700W/4 ohms; 1400W/2 ohms
Frequency response: DC to 800kHz (+/-0.2dB at 1W)
Input terminal: Cannon 3P connector
Input impedance: 3.6k (balanced); 1.8k (unbalanced)
Input sensitivity: 1.76V RMS
Gain: 29.8dB
Damping factor: 550
Approx. Distortion: 0.02% max., 8 ohms at rated power from 20Hz to 20kHz
Size: 13.62″ x 9.84″ x 23.62″
Weight: 143.3 lbs. each
Price: $69,995/pair, black-brushed finish; $67,995/pair, silver-matte

TBC-Zero EX linestage preamplifier
Zero feedback, fully balanced, linestage preamplifier
Maximum output power: 10V RMS
Frequency response: DC to 2MHz (-3dB)
Amplifier: FET and bipolar transistors
Input terminal: Four Cannon 3P connector (balanced); four RCA (unbalanced)
Input impedance: 2.4 to  12.4k ohms (balanced and unbalanced
Output impedance: 5 ohms, balanced; 2.5 ohms, unbalanced
Gain: 12dB
Distortion: 0.02% max. from 20Hz to 20kHz at 5V RMS
Size: 13.62″ x 7.87″ x 16.73″
Weight: 44.1 lbs.
Price: $37,995, black-brushed finish; $35,995, silver-matte

(972) 757-6887
Email: silentsourceaudiocables@yahoo.com


JV’s Reference System

Loudspeakers: Magico Q5, TAD CR-1, MartinLogan CLX, Magnepan 1.7, Magnepan 3.7
Linestage preamps: Technical Brain TBC-Zero EX, Audio Research Reference 40
Phonostage preamps: Technical Brain TEQ-Zero EX and TMC-Zero step-up, Audio Research Reference 2
Power amplifiers: Technical Brain TBP-Zero EX, Audio Research Reference 610T, Lamm ML2
Analog source: Walker Audio Black Diamond Mk II record player, Da Vinci AAS Gabriel Mk II turntable with DaVinci Grand Reference Grandezza tonearm
Phono cartridges: Ortofon MC A90, Benz LP S-MR
Digital source: TBD
Cable and interconnect: Synergistic Research Galileo
Power Cords: Synergistic Research Tesla and Galileo
Accessories: Synergistic ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), A/V Room Services Metu panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps, Critical Mass MAXXUM equipment and amp stands, Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Symposium Rollerblocks and Fat Padz, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Synergistic Research Tesla power conditioner, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix SE record cleaner, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses


Addendum from TAS 214:

Those of you who read my review of Naoto Kurosawa’s Technical Brain electronics in Issue 213 already know that I think these Japanese solid-state products are high among the most realistic-sounding in the world (given a first-rate source). My opinion about the exceptional quality of the TB presentation has not changed. Unfortunately, something else has changed that is going to force me to withhold my recommendation of the Technical Brain line (at least, for the time being).

Almost unbelievably, no more than a week or two after my review was printed, Technical Brain and its U.S. distributor Silent Source Audio had a falling out. These things happen, of course. But with no forewarning? On the heels of a rave? Be that as it may, Technical Brain is, once again as of this writing, without a U.S. importer!

Until the company finds new U.S. distribution, I’m going to have to withdraw my recommendation to audition/purchase its products. This is a genuine pity given the superb quality of Technical Brain components, but I can’t in good conscience advise our (well-heeled) readers to consider buying this gear without a distribution/support network standing behind it. As soon as Technical Brain acquires new U.S. distribution, I will let you know and reinstate my recommendation.
Jonathan Valin

Jonathan Valin

By Jonathan Valin

I’ve been a creative writer for most of life. Throughout the 80s and 90s, I wrote eleven novels and many stories—some of which were nominated for (and won) prizes, one of which was made into a not-very-good movie by Paramount, and all of which are still available hardbound and via download on Amazon. At the same time I taught creative writing at a couple of universities and worked brief stints in Hollywood. It looked as if teaching and writing more novels, stories, reviews, and scripts was going to be my life. Then HP called me up out of the blue, and everything changed. I’ve told this story several times, but it’s worth repeating because the second half of my life hinged on it. I’d been an audiophile since I was in my mid-teens, and did all the things a young audiophile did back then, buying what I could afford (mainly on the used market), hanging with audiophile friends almost exclusively, and poring over J. Gordon Holt’s Stereophile and Harry Pearson’s Absolute Sound. Come the early 90s, I took a year and a half off from writing my next novel and, music lover that I was, researched and wrote a book (now out of print) about my favorite classical records on the RCA label. Somehow Harry found out about that book (The RCA Bible), got my phone number (which was unlisted, so to this day I don’t know how he unearthed it), and called. Since I’d been reading him since I was a kid, I was shocked. “I feel like I’m talking to God,” I told him. “No,” said he, in that deep rumbling voice of his, “God is talking to you.” I laughed, of course. But in a way it worked out to be true, since from almost that moment forward I’ve devoted my life to writing about audio and music—first for Harry at TAS, then for Fi (the magazine I founded alongside Wayne Garcia), and in the new millennium at TAS again, when HP hired me back after Fi folded. It’s been an odd and, for the most part, serendipitous career, in which things have simply come my way, like Harry’s phone call, without me planning for them. For better and worse I’ve just gone with them on instinct and my talent to spin words, which is as close to being musical as I come.

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