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01.06.16
EAR Yoshino 834 integrated amp

After over 30 years of excellence designing, the legendary Tim de Paravicini does not yet seem to tire of amusing himself. The latest digression of this eclectic high-end guru can be found in one of his most recent creations: the EAR-Yoshino 834 integrated amplifier.

 

The black metal grids, which protect the double set of tubes mounted on the surface in two parallel lines, are designed to imitate the roof of London’s King Cross Station. As a matter of fact, the absence of the usual cages mounted on most tube amps gives this electronic device a very captivating line. Also the chromatic play of the livery is dynamic and lively: it is based on the contrast between the shiny brass faceplate and transformer cases and the black, also glossy, chassis with the golden inserts of knobs and terminals. The structure is very compact and equilateral, not enormous, but sturdy with its 20 kg declared by the manufacturers. When hit, it resounds like sheet, but is robust. The classification 834 is nothing else but a numerical acronym meaning that the amp is equipped with 8 EL34 final tubes. Instead, our sample was supplied with 8 alternative 6L6 tubes that, in push-pull configuration, deliver a power of as much as 50 watts. A couple of ECC83 and one of ECC85 preamp/driver completes the battery. The circuits are pure Class A, so the heat produced is considerable and the appliance needs a location with a fair amount of space for convection above and around it. Transformers are self-produced on the premises. Very good are the input RCA’s, with a useful tape out, and an optional phono input. So are the speaker-dedicated terminals, vertically positioned on the top just behind the output transformers. The double positive pole allows the connection by selecting the load between 4 and 8 ohms. The use of the amp is very simple because it does not need any bias adjustment. So: switch on, select source, volume, and go!

 

There is a curious thing to think about. At the same time as the 834, another model was produced: the 834T, the solid-state version of the integrated amp that, like the valve type, uses output transformers coupled MOSFET’s. Actually, it is the same as the former, except for the power that reaches 100 watts. In origin, it had been designed as a hybrid with a triode input stage. Then the project has been changed using a couple of MOSFET’s instead of tubes, almost as if the components were deemed equivalent, with the double advantage, for the transistors, of managing to reach more speedily the right operating temperature and offering more ease of coupling. I tried to figure out the reason of this twin project, but I could not reach any satisfying conclusion. Notwithstanding his eccentric nature, I think that de Paravicini is firmly convinced that there is no difference between tube and solid-state modes, provided that the circuit concept is the same. Listening will be revealing.

 

The connection of the EAR, both as integrated and power amp, to my system has been easy. Of course, being coupled to my Audio Tekne 8301 MKIII, gives it an edge on all parameters. I am not at all surprised. This transformer preamp behaves like a King Midas, everything it touches is turned to gold. The sonic beginning is seismic. I never heard a tube amp, also high-power, sound so vigorously. And not only that. It also shows an extremely commanding bass control and this is a feature that is notoriously unusual in thermionic electronic components. Third sensation: it is very fast. So much that it actually instils the doubt that there is a transistor battery of some kind cleverly hidden in some meander of the circuit. Back to low frequencies, one of 834’s points of excellence, they display a powerful fibre and a slam that shakes the room. The reproduction of the bass, I mean the instrument, is lively and very solid. The body and the tone colour of the strings in nylon instead of metal, the scenic dimension of the instruments, with bass drums and timpani, which coherently tend to occupy the bottom end of the sound planes, can clearly be defined. Unfortunately, the qualities described are not complemented with adequate extension and depth. In order to realise that is a tube amplifier that is playing, you need to focus your listening on the mid-high frequencies. The exuberance, then, quietens down and lets the gentler side of music emerge. The voices – sweet and mellow: Nora Jones, hoarse and abraded by excesses: Tom Waits or high-pitched and powerful: Meredith Monk – free themselves maintaining the personality intact of the chests they belong to. The micro and macro dynamics – very good – allow to clearly distinguish, in piano tracks, the work of the right hand from that of the left one. Winds play warm and harmonically rich and real. A baritone sax is always well distinct from a soprano sax, as well as a bass clarinet from an oboe or a trumpet from a flugelhorn. One does not notice sound trickeries but a realistic physical presence, both human and instrumental, instead. Coming up to the treble plan, listening does not detect harshness or hisses, also in the case of some instruments – the violin among others – notoriously difficult and imposing also when played live. The whole turns out to be well-levelled in terms of warmth and softness and music flows and does not create a sensation of weariness.

 

My listening sessions with EAR Yoshino have all lasted over two hours producing in me a constant lively sensation of pleasure. But, at the same time, I was more and more realising that something was missing, a notion of incompleteness that hit my sensorial reflections sooner than my critical ones. Or maybe I was expecting from this machine something it was not able to satisfy, maybe because of the very idea that was at the base of its conception. It lacks the energy which makes you ascend to the emotionality, to the deep feeling, and to the certainty that the music has entered body and spirit so that the room – to quote a famous Italian singer-songwriter – has got no walls anymore…


The 834 is an amplifier that is very well made and that plays wonderfully, but I think I can retain it an exercise of style as well as a triumph of Mannerism. This device neither adds to nor detracts from Tim de Paravicini’s glory by whom, as an absolute reference of the art we love, we can expect something more, an idea, a hint that are stimulating for someone who, like me, has been listening to records for over 40 years. The less expert will start asking a daisy: tubes yes, tubes no, transistors yes, transistors no …

 

 

Official technical specifications

Power output: 50W/channel

Frequency response: 30Hz-15kHz

Total harmonic distortion: 1%

Bandwidth: 15Hz - 40kHz at less than 3% THD

Distortion: <1% at every level 10mW-50W
Damping factor: 12
Signal to noise ratio: 85dB
Input sensitivity: 200mV
Input impedance: 47kohms
Power consumption: 200 watts total
Weight: 20kg
Dimensions: 405x150x405mm (WxHxD)
Tubes: 2 ECC83, 2 ECC85, 8 6L6/EL34


Official Italian dealer: to Il Tempio Esoterico website
Official current price in Italy: 6,600.00 EUR
Associated equipment: to Giuseppe "MinGius" Trotto’s system

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