BESPOKE AUDIO passive preamplifier

MJ10.12.2019

Preamplifiers

This passive preamplifier is unprecedented. The level of customer care that is out into conceiving every single unit is amazing and throws you back in time, when shoes were made by shoemakers rather than chosen from a full shelves in supermarkets. And it is the most transparent volume control that I have ever experienced in my listening room.

Function and form

98%
Ease of use
99%
Sound
100%
Appearance

The Bespoke Audio preamplifier is fully customizable, inside to outside. I urge you to visit the Configurator tool at the Bespoke Audio’s website – you’ll certainly find pleasure in personalizing the unit to your taste. One can choose the finish of the case, color of the metal trims and lid, the style of numerals or pictograms on the source selector trim, configuration of up to 2 inputs and up to 6 outputs, and finally the metallurgy of the wires that are used for internal connections.

If, for some reason, you are looking for something totally exclusive, from all transparent to all leather case, the Bespoke Audio will make you a quotation.

Bass management

Weight
90
Slam
92
Articulation
98

Forget about “On stock” or “This is our portfolio”. The unit is only made to order and the customer is informed about every step of its manufacturing. And, in fact, it is just ONE product, not a range.

The preamplifier is delivered in a flight case with heavy padding, it may be well dropped from an aircraft to your doorstep and no damage will be done to it. Set up is super-easy: no power cord, just input and output connections and there you go.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
98
Air
92
Transparency
99

With all my honesty, I do not really know what to write about. All preamps that I tested in my system always made a sonic appearance, for good or for bad, in most cases combination of both. The Bespoke Audio passive device was completely absent from the sound. In fact, in my own set up of a digital source with variable output injected directly to a power amplifier, the Bespoke preamplifier was more absent than adding an extra length of interconnects.

Thus I could hear the flavor of overtones scenting in the air, the tautness of the drum skin, or fingers clamping on a guitar’s neck. The tonal quality was colourful yet perhaps a bit less vivid, more studio dryness than gold-dusting. What seemed as a leaner presentation that lacked substance proved to be blessing to spatial separation, subtle dynamic contrasts and ease-on-ears.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
98
Dynamics
90
Temporal resolution
95

This is not to say that the Bespoke Audio is the ideal solution for every application.

First, there may be a matching problem between a source and a power stage. Bespoke Audio builds preamplifiers using hand-wound multi-tapped and shielded attenuation transformers so this can be solved by letting them design your unit to match the gain parameters to your system.

Second, for turntables you will still need a phono stage.

Third, some power amps will need an active preamplifier to sound their best.

Fourth, you may not want the transparency as it can damask other, sometimes very costly, problems in your playback system.

And fifth, the Bespoke Audio’s unforced ‘pull’ way of presentation may be not good for those who are used to ‘push’ sound of modern systems.

Spatial resolution

Holography
99
Soundstage width
99
Soundstage depth
99

To enhance listener’s comfort the Bespoke Audio provides (at a surcharge) an Apple remote controller that pairs with a transmitter connected to the unit. This way of operation may be convenient but I found it affecting the utter transparency. I assume it happened not because of a bit more complexity of the electrical layout of the preamp, rather by the fact that a small DC transformer has to be plugged in to the wall or power conditioner, which is enough to degrade the sound (applies not only to the Bespoke Audio). Other than that this passive preamplifier is a purist’s final destination.

Price as reviewed:330 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

HI-FI studio TYKON, Ostrava, tel. +420 723 449 894

Associated components

  • Sources: Accuphase DP-720, SPL Q2048 Mastering Equalizer, emmLabs TX2 + DA2 transport and D/A converter
  • Amplifiers: TAD-M2500 MkII, Luxman C-900, Bespoke Audio, Audia Flight Strumento No.4 power amplifier
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Audioquest Redwood, Audioquest Wild, Ansuz C2, Tellurium Q Ultra Silver, Tellurium Q Silver Diamond, Vovox Sonorus XL, Nordost Valhalla V2, emmLabs, Acrolink S1400MkIII
  • Loudspeakers:  TAD Evolution One E1, Estelon X Diamond
  • Power conditioning: Shunyata Research Denali, Nordost Valhalla, Ansuz Mainz C2, Pangea AC-9SEMKII, Roth Audio Orfeo + Roth Audio prototypes, Synergistic Research Atmosphere Level 2, Synergstic Research Euphoria Level 3, Synergistic Research Tranquility Basik, AudioQuest Hurricane, Acrolink P4030MK2 Anniversary

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