Audia Flight

Beautiful Mid / High-End amplifiers etc out of Italy
"Our products come from the synergy between sophisticated and original design, Italian style."

Founded in 1996 by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini, Audia Flight designs and manufactures in Italy the finest high quality home audio components. All Audia Flight products are entirely handcrafted at our facility located in the town of Civitavecchia, near the Mediterranean Sea and just over 70 kilometers from Rome.

Beginning with the fundamental belief that a component should not alter the electronic signal, Massimiliano and Andrea spent two years (1994-1996) on research and development that would soon form the basis for their company and all of its subsequent components. Their extensive research indicated that the traditional voltage feedback approach to circuit design, with its inability to handle high speed transients and complex loads, would tend to alter the electronic signal and thus introduce inaccuracies. So they set about designing a circuit around the lesser known current feedback approach. They soon discovered that their new approach to current feedback circuit design would allow for both higher speed responses and better load control, and thus produce a more accurate signal. And so, by incorporating their Audia Flight current feedback design approach Massimiliano and Andrea were able to finally achieve their goal that an component should not alter the incoming signal and Audia Flight was born!

In 1997 Audia Flight brought to market the first version of our Flight 100 power amplifier. With its unique heatsink design and remarkable performance, the Flight 100 was well-received by the audiophile press and consumers. Soon thereafter 

Audia Flight introduced our Flight Pre and Flight 50 power amplifier to similar acclaim. The Flight Pre especially turned heads with its sophisticated multiple section cabinet design. The Flight Pre also featured another Audia Flight hallmark: a constant impedance volume attenuator for accurate frequency response at all volumes. 

2001 saw the introduction of Audia Flight’s first integrated amplifier, aptly named the Flight One. The Flight One incorporated many of the designs found in our Flight Pre, Flight 50, and Flight 100 amplifiers in order to achieve Audia Flight sonic excellence in a single component. And, with the consumer electronics market trending at the time toward 5.1 multichannel home theaters and audio, the Flight One featured an input specifically for multichannel processors, as well as an ideal three channel amplifier mate called the Flight 3.100.

Beginning with our first product the Audia Flight mission has been very clear: 
Our products shall result from the synergy of sophisticated, original circuit design and Italian style. 
Our creations, one could say, are a summary of the Italian culture: art and handicraft. Art, as the way that it conveys emotions and, handicraft, such as the ability to create beautiful objects. The sound, the “soul” of our products, then, is a mirror of our culture not only with its high tech research, but also of our culture and lives in Italy as well.

Today the result of this Italian synergy is a family of Audia Flight products that includes our tried and true Classic Series, our Three S Series, our new high value FLS series, and our flagship Strumento Series. While the sum of all of our experience at Audia Flight goes into each and every product we make, our flagship Strumento represents many years of research and development leading to a perfected circuit design and a perfected casework.
.......... Massimiliano Marzi & Anrea Nardin - Founders

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Featured

AF 04 AI FL3S
NZ$ 4,250.00 (incl. GST)
Over 20 years of experience designing cutting edge, high performance audio equipment has gone into our Audia Flight Three S Integrated Amplifier. 
OPTIONAL EXTRAS:DAC MODULE - 4/192 USB @ RRP $600(DAC - USB 24bit 192KHz DAC - becomes Input 6...
EXTENDED REVIEW: I have to admit some ignorance to the Audia Flight brand. Sure I’d heard of them,...
This device allows user to „see” music from a new perspective, to hear it like it sounds in concert...
AF 06 AI FLS10
NZ$ 14,995.00 (incl. GST)
F L S 10 Stereo, full balanced integrated amplifier The FLS10 is the perfect choice for a hi-end integrated amplifier. Heart of FLS10 is the FLS4 power amplifier. In effect the power amplifier...
AF 07 PA FLS1
NZ$ 9,995.00 (incl. GST)
Audia Flight initially announced the FLS1 concept about three years ago but then spent three years more before finally introducing the FLS1. It was crucial for Audia Flight team the experience made...
AF 08 AP FLS4
NZ$ 12,995.00 (incl. GST)
FLS4 WON THE BEST PRODUCT 2016 in Poland - we are honorated and so happy to know High Fidelity has rewarded our FLS4 stereo power amplifier as Best Product 2016. FL-S SERIES:
The FLS4 is a new stereo amplifier, entirely symmetrical, unrivaled in speed, capacity and mastery...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Ask somehow happened that in recent times increasingly explores the Italian market...

All Products

Integrated amplifiers

AF 04 AI FL3S
NZ$ 4,250.00 ea (incl. GST)
Over 20 years of experience designing cutting edge, high performance audio equipment has gone into our Audia Flight Three S Integrated Amplifier. 
OPTIONAL EXTRAS:DAC MODULE - 4/192 USB @ RRP $600(DAC - USB 24bit 192KHz DAC - becomes Input 6...
EXTENDED REVIEW: I have to admit some ignorance to the Audia Flight brand. Sure I’d heard of them,...
This device allows user to „see” music from a new perspective, to hear it like it sounds in concert...
Integrated amplifiers
AF 05 AI FL3 DAC
NZ$ 600.00 ea (incl. GST)
The optional DAC module proves to be a very handy performer. It's not quite as good as a mega buck high end separate DAC, and it’s not meant to, but at only US$580 (excl sales tax) I challenge anyone...
Integrated amplifiers
AF 05 AI FL3 PH
NZ$ 600.00 ea (incl. GST)
The phono stage module (optional) was also put to the test and I can verify that this is a very handy option and a worthy inclusion to the amplifier. It's very neutral sounding, without any rough...
Integrated amplifiers
AF 06 AI FLS10
NZ$ 14,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
F L S 10 Stereo, full balanced integrated amplifier The FLS10 is the perfect choice for a hi-end integrated amplifier. Heart of FLS10 is the FLS4 power amplifier. In effect the power amplifier...
Integrated amplifiers
AF 06 AI FLS10D
Price on application
NEW PRODUCT - DUE FOR RELEASE APRIL 2017
Integrated amplifiers
AF 06 AI FLS10P
Price on application
NEW PRODUCT - DUE FOR RELEASE 2017
Integrated amplifiers

Preamplifiers & Line-stages

AF 07 PA FLS1
NZ$ 9,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Audia Flight initially announced the FLS1 concept about three years ago but then spent three years more before finally introducing the FLS1. It was crucial for Audia Flight team the experience made...
AF 16 PA STR NO1
Price on application
THE STRUMENTO SERIES
EXTENDED REVIEW: Volare Italia. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Maserati, Prada, Versace, Giorgio...

Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

AF 08 AP FLS4
NZ$ 12,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
FLS4 WON THE BEST PRODUCT 2016 in Poland - we are honorated and so happy to know High Fidelity has rewarded our FLS4 stereo power amplifier as Best Product 2016. FL-S SERIES:
The FLS4 is a new stereo amplifier, entirely symmetrical, unrivaled in speed, capacity and mastery...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Ask somehow happened that in recent times increasingly explores the Italian market...
AF 18 AP STR NO4
Price on application
THE STRUMENTO SERIES
EXTENDED REVIEW: Although the Italian audio company Audia has been in business since the last...

Phono Stages

AF 11 PH FL PHON
NZ$ 7,500.00 ea (incl. GST)
Power supplyAs to have good performance as required a very well made power supply. On our phono preamp the power supplier is separate from the preamp chassis. A 50VA toroidal transformer supply the...
EXTENDED REVIEW: I first spotted Audia Flight's exquisite-looking two-box phono preamplifier ($6100...
Phono Stages

Reviews

You will never feel short changed as far as sound quality goes. It’s easily the best integrated amplifier I’ve heard in my system.
Mark Gusew

REVIEW SUMMARY: It’s obvious to me that the FL3S is an incredibly well made component, where every detail has been carefully thought out for the discriminating high-end audio enthusiast. The FL3S is entirely made in Italy and it certainly feels European with its luxury sound quality and solid engineering. If the THREE series is only the entry level as far as the Audia Flight range goes, I would really love to hear the top tier units!

I’m quite comfortable to suggest that they should be able to drive almost anything that you have to connect to them. If you want any particular additional flavour to your sound, finding a suitable speaker with that taste would be way to go, knowing that the amplifier has very little of its own flavour to add to the overall sound.

EXTENDED REVIEW: I have to admit some ignorance to the Audia Flight brand. Sure I’d heard of them, but I really didn’t know a lot about the brand and their products. And I hadn’t had the pleasure of hearing any of them, until this review product came along. Boy, have I been missing out! The item being reviewed is the new model Flight Three S (FL3S for short) Integrated Amplifier. The retail price is $4,990. Audia Flight has been making the Flight Three for some 6 years now and the new Three S provides an upgrade in the evolutionary path of the product. It will replace the outgoing Flight Three.

The Flight Three S belongs to the entry level THREE series of components, designed for audiophiles with budgetary constraints. The CLASSIC is the middle tier, with STRUMENTO being the company’s state of the art for pre and power amplifiers.

Audia Flight is a high-end audio manufacturer based in Civitavecchia Italy, a sea port on the Tyrrhenian Sea, about 80 kilometres west-north-west of Rome, across the Mignone river. The company was founded in 1996 by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini, both men having backgrounds in the electronics industry. Their stated goal was to design and build components that neither altered the audio signal nor slowed down it's transmission. From 1994-1996, working together they both designed a new circuit using current rather than voltage feedback, allowing for a high speed response and easy load control, even if the load is reactive. The first year of retail production occurred in 1997 when they released the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier. Their product policy is: "Our products come from the synergy between sophisticated and original design, Italian style." Capish?

Looking at the FL3S, it is a lovely masterpiece of Italian craftsmanship, with the thick front panel, volume knob and the remote control crafted from solid aluminium. The unit that I received has a silver front face, but a black one is also available. The front panel is dominated by a large blue display within a curved cut out and is flanked underneath with a row of switches. To the right is the very large volume knob, some 63mm in diameter and is very pleasant to use. The remote control is also a welcome departure from the cheap and cheerful plastic units, all too often used.  

The input selector allows the user to choose among four unbalanced and one balanced inputs, featuring sealed relays in an inert atmosphere and with gold plated terminations. A by-pass feature, selectable by remote control, allows the user to turn the FL3S into a power amplifier through a specified input. You may include the amplifier in a multi-channel system as the amplifier for front speakers, while using the same speakers for two channel listening, with stereo sources connected to the amplifier. It also features Record, Monitor and Preamp outputs for additional flexibility. The attractive blue front display lets you know the input choice and the main settings.

It can be purchased with an optional USB 24bit 192KHz DAC board ($580) and an optional MC / MM phono board ($620). These two options were fitted to my review unit. There is also a headphone output on the front face fitted as standard. There is one set of multi way speaker binding posts. All the connectors are high quality. You really get the feeling that every small detail in the design and manufacture of the amplifier are done to very high standards.

Internally the AC input and filtration is on the left hand side with a large potted 600VA toroidal transformer dominating the available space. The right side has a full size circuit board with a sophisticated preamp section, dual mono design and current feedback. There are 8 individual power supplies feeding the various parts of the circuit. The logic control has its own separate toroidal transformer and is independent from the analogue section and is connected by photo-couplers. An ALPS blue potentiometer is used. The output devices and heatsink are located in the centre, naturally separating the power supply and preamp sections. The power output is rated at 2 x 100w @ 8 ohms, or 160 w @ 4 Ohms. I found that it ran quite cool to the touch above the vented casework, even after running it all day long. At 16.5Kg it is a substantial unit that feels very well built, you could say built to last and with very high level of workmanship.

LISTENING

Upon switching the unit on, a series of relays click and ‘AUDIA FLIGHT FL3S’ shown in the front display panel, before it completes the self-test cycle and displays the selected input. This is a unit that requires at least 100 playing hours to really settle in, which is entirely normal for any quality product. Initially the sound was disjointed with a midrange that didn’t match the rest of the frequency spectrum. But slowly and surely the sound of the FL3S grew more unified and natural.

Once run-in and ready for review, what I heard brought a huge smile to my face; this is one nice amplifier. Tonally, it has real harmony from top to bottom, with no dips and peaks that I could hear, something very rare for an integrated amplifier, let alone a pre-power combo. There is a wonderful sense of extension in the top octaves and it sounds linear all the way up. And down too, with the bottom octaves sounding realistic, not over emphasised, but not shy either. It is just right. The quoted frequency response is 1Hz - 450KHz, a very wide range indeed and I have no reason to suspect otherwise. The midrange was smooth and natural and did nothing to draw attention to itself. In fact naturalness is a prominent attribute of this amplifier. It simply allows music, including voices and instruments to sound realistic, with a draw-you-in quality to it.

Listening to Ricky Kej & Wouter Kellerman Grammy Award winning album “Winds of Samsara”, whilst typing up the review in the background was an absolute delight. The music as both evocative and relaxing, with the piano and flute instruments sounding very natural indeed. The decay and air around both the instruments in “Grace” (a song written and played by Australia’s Fiona Joy) was almost palpable with accurate micro dynamics and emotional sensitivity from the Audia Flight amplifier.

To move it up a little, I picked a favourite (of many) Kraftwerk track from the live “Minimum – Maximum” album, “Numbers” a track with a wide frequency and dynamic range. The bass is strong, powerful and intense, while the fast attack in the mid-treble area is incredibly good, with no smearing, just clean and dynamic. The live audience of the concert is portrayed evenly and has good spatial information. Even at volume settings that made me feel guilty, the FL3S just kept on delivering, without drama or stress and with very little dynamic compression. Boris Blank's “Electrified” is a terrifically dynamic track with punch and kick to spare. Or try Knife Party “Power Glove”. As the words go “Now you’re playing with power”. The amp just keeps playing unfazed with really fast tight bass, not overly prominent, but in proportion to the rest of the track. This amp certainly does not sound like someone has left the old fashioned ‘loudness’ button switched on, but neither is it anaemic in the bass, it’s just a very good balance and…it’s fast.

As mentioned in the introduction, Audia Flight's stated goal was to design and build components that neither altered the audio signal nor slowed down its transmission. I think that they have largely succeeded on both those objectives with the FL3S, as that is exactly how it sounds. Many conventional architecture amplifiers slow down the transmission, while some new switching type amps tend to exaggerate or speed up the transmission. The FL3S gets it right and as a result music is relaxing to the ear and sounds natural and comfortable, enabling long listening sessions that are fatigue free. That quality made me want to listen to well recorded, natural sounding tracks as they sounded so darn good. Played loudly or softly it sounded great. Playing Aaron Diehl's album The Bespoke Man’s Narrative” quite softly is another good example, it’s engaging thanks to its great sense of accurate speed and timing.  

I noticed that male voices sounded particularly well reproduced with strength and vitality. Listen to the Three Tenors and you would swear that Italian operatic tracks were made to be played back on this amplifier. Perhaps when voicing the FL3S at the factory, this may have been part of the reference track repertoire. “Turandot / Act 3: Nessun dorma!” sung by Luciano Pavarotti is accurately portrayed with power and feeling. I also appreciated the subtle vibrato of his voice that was conveyed naturally. The orchestra and strings are delightful reproduced through the FL3S. Jonny Cash singing “Hurt” sounds superb, with all his natural graveliness and emotional anguish of the soul handsomely transported into my listening room.

I connected the amplifier to a couple of different speakers including the smallish stand mounted Rogers S5/9 65th Anniversary Edition monitors (review coming) and the monster Brodmann JB205 loudspeakers. The amp has no difficulty driving the somewhat fussy Brodmann’s and the balance is absolutely spot on. They are ruthlessly accurate and revealing, yet the FL3S were a very good pairing with them, high praise indeed, due to the fact that they are so neutral. So I’m quite comfortable to suggest that they should be able to drive almost anything that you have to connect to them. If you want any particular additional flavour to your sound, finding a suitable speaker with that taste would be way to go, knowing that the amplifier has very little of its own flavour to add to the overall sound.

Even connected to my 2 channel AV system with the speakers sitting alongside my flat panel TV, I didn't feel the need to exaggerate the bass with a sub woofer, as an almost full range system sounds more lifelike and less fatiguing. But who am I kidding, there is nothing lifelike on TV. That aside, the FL3S gave all my movies and shows a great sense of space and air, with very clear dialog and plenty of detail. It's very powerful and easily handles everything I want to hear. But really the FL3S is too good to put on an AV system, it screams for something more worthy. At least with the flexible inputs and outputs it can be handily used in that way if required.

The optional DAC module proves to be a very handy performer. It's not quite as good as a mega buck high end separate DAC, and it’s not meant to, but at only $580 I challenge anyone to find something better at that price. I found it to be very usable and convenient, having it built in and selectable via the remote control, is just convenient.

The phono stage module (optional) was also put to the test and I can verify that this is a very handy option and a worthy inclusion to the amplifier. It's very neutral sounding, without any rough edges or character of its own, very much in keeping with the overall package by Audia Flight. It just gets out of the way of the music and allows LP’s to sound glorious and room filling. Incidentally, a small Philips screwdriver is included in the packaging to enable access to the small cover at the rear of the amp, which allows access to the hidden dip switches to set the board to your particular cartridge, MM or MC, loading etc. It’s a nice touch and adds to the luxury feel.

I also briefly tried the 6.35 mm (1/4”) front headphone socket and found it very useful and musical in a similar manner to the speaker output. It has no difficulty driving my low impedance (32 Ohm) headphones to realistic levels. I’m really enjoying the overall flexibility of the FL3S, it seems like everything that I need is there and works exactly as it should. 

CONCLUSION     

It’s obvious to me that the FL3S is an incredibly well made component, where every detail has been carefully thought out for the discriminating high-end audio enthusiast. The FL3S is entirely made in Italy and it certainly feels European with its luxury sound quality and solid engineering. If the THREE series is only the entry level as far as the Audia Flight range goes, I would really love to hear the top tier units!

I like the simplicity of a single amplifier unit but have often found that there are some fairly serious audible compromises compared to a pre and power combination ... until now. Forget your Japanese integrated multi-channel AV amplifiers, this is on a totally higher plane than them. Comfortably, this is an audiophile quality amplifier of the highest order, with attributes of something that is a lot dearer. At $4,990 RRP plus options it is not exactly cheap, but I do believe that it is extremely good value, along with loads of flexibility. If you consider the cost of purchasing alternative separate pre and power amplifiers, a DAC and a phono stage, including all the quality connecting cables and power cords, along with the resulting mess that creates for a single reliable self-contained unit, then yes, it’s extremely good value.

You will never feel short changed as far as sound quality goes. It’s easily the best integrated amplifier I’ve heard in my system.

PRO’S - Powerful, Natural and a clean revealing sound, Good value, Flexibility, Quality, Made in Italy

CON’S - Cost (not significant) , I can’t think of anything else.

…….Mark Gusew

The Flight Two was capable of bringing this track alive in my room: individual plucks of strings, keystrokes of the piano, - it was all there, just as it should be, stable on the soundstage....
Randall Smith

REVIEW SUMMARY: It’s always great to discover a new audio component that brings you closer to your music, and that’s how I feel about the Audia Flight Two. Before its arrival, I’d never heard of Audia Flight. Now, after several months with the Two, I know what I was missing: It brought music alive in my room in a way that moved me. And that’s perhaps the highest compliment I can pay it. The Audia Flight Two is a great performer at a fair price, and one that I could enjoy listening to for a long, long time.

Flight AudiaAfter five years of reviewing, I’m still surprised at how often I hear of a new audio company: constantly. But in this day and age, when new companies pop up daily, it’s nice to learn of a company that has been producing quality audio gear for almost 15 years.

Audia Flight is headquartered in Civitavecchia, on the coast of central Italy, not far from Rome, and was founded in 1996 by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini. Both men had backgrounds in the professional electronics industry, and their goal was to design and build components that neither altered the audio signal nor slowed its transmission. From their work was born, in 1997, the company’s first success: the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier. Audia Flight products have been distributed in the US since 2005.

Two

The Audia Flight Two ($5700 USD) is a moderately powerful integrated amplifier that outputs a claimed 100Wpc into 8 ohms or 180Wpc into 4 ohms. It weighs a stout 41.8 pounds, the bulk of that weight on the left side, where the power supply is. The low-profile chassis stands only 4.5” tall; the rest of the box is a squarish 16.5” by 17.3". The faceplate is brushed aluminum, while the top and side panels are formed from a single continuous piece of aluminum painted a textured black. On the left side of the top surface are a number of 2.33”-long slots for ventilation. They’re needed -- throughout the review period, the Two emitted a lot of heat. Even when idling, it was quite warm to the touch.

On the rear of the Two are six pairs of inputs: one balanced XLR; four single-ended RCA, labeled 1, 2, 3, 4; and a fifth pair of RCAs, labeled Monitor. There are also two pairs of single-ended RCA outputs: one set, Pre, can be connected to a power amplifier so that the Two can be used as a preamp only; the other set, Rec, sends the signal to a recording device, whose output can then be fed back into the Two’s Monitor input. Also on the rear are an IEC power inlet and two pairs of binding posts, the latter placed close together on the panel’s right. Banana plugs will work best here; the spades of my Analysis Plus speaker cables proved challenging to affix without turning the cables upside down. No real problem there, though it’s a bit of an eyesore: the cables stick up in the air. The silver-colored sheath of the provided power cord makes it look more like a good aftermarket cord than the standard cords most companies provide.

On the front panel is a small display indicating the volume setting and which input is selected. Below this are six buttons: On, Input, Monitor, Balance, Set (for the setup menu), and Mute. To the right of these is a large rotary knob for adjusting the volume and navigating the setup menu. Also provided is a simple but weighty remote control whose eight buttons perform the same functions as those on the faceplate, with a finish to match.

The setup menu can be used to adjust the gain, in 12 steps of 1dB each, to match different sources’ output levels. Also adjustable is the phase of different source components, and the inputs can be edited: you can change the readout of, say, Input 1 to the source component’s name connected to Input 1. Finally, there’s a feature that’s a must for me: Bypass. With this I can connect my home-theater receiver to the Two to use only the latter’s power-amp section while bypassing its preamp section. The volume is then controlled by the receiver.

The Two has two 100W RMS high-bias amplifiers and a pair of large 520VA toroidal transformers, the latter accounting for much of the unit’s considerable mass. Having two transformers, in this case, means that the Two is a dual-mono design. The Two has a claimed signal/noise ratio of 95dB and a slew rate of greater than 180V/μs. According to Wikipedia, “the slew rate represents the maximum rate of change of a signal at any point in a circuit. Limitations in slew rate capability can give rise to nonlinear effects in electronic amplifiers.” Audia feels that having a high slew rate gives the Two greater transient capability.

Performance

For this review, the Audia Flight Two powered my pair of Rockport Technologies Mira speakers. My digital source is an Apple iMac running Amarra 2.1 and iTunes, which sends a digital signal to my Weiss DAC2 digital-to-analog converter. All cables are Analysis Plus. The system is set up in a dedicated listening room treated with acoustical products from Real Traps.

After a couple of weeks of breaking in the Audia, I decided to break my ears in with a little Tower of Power. I’m a fan of this R&B, soul, and funk band from San Francisco, whose first album was released in 1970. Direct Plus (CD, Sheffield Labs 10074) is a 1997 reissue of Direct (1988), which was recorded live in the studio, and “Fanfare/You Know It” displays much of what makes the band great: a brilliant brass section playing with other great musicians in a cohesive sound that has lots of drive and great flow. The track opens with the producer arranging the brass section for the opening of the song. Each horn had its own space on the soundstage, and the depths of the voices were reproduced and laid out within the space in very realistic proportions. At reference volume levels, the extreme highs of the horns can push the limits of a tweeter and, more important, of the listener.

My Miras can handle such extremes without losing their composure, and I found the Audia Flight equally capable. While the Two sounded mostly neutral to my ears, it was a bit warmer than dead neutral. Its ability to map a soundstage was razor sharp, its retrieval of minute detail very good. The pace of “Fanfare/You Know It,” from the drive of the bass to the dynamics of the highs to the in-your-face brass section, remained intact and properly reproduced. 

The next track was a new addition to my library. I’m a big Ray LaMontagne fan, and his new album with his new band is quite enjoyable. The lyrics of the title track of God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise (CD, RCA 65086) appear to be a letter written a century ago, by a logger to his love back home. The song opens with eerie steel guitar and several prominent drumstrokes that dance across the soundstage. It’s those drumstrokes that draw my attention -- each explodes within the recording space, and the engineers have captured plenty of ambient cues. The Two properly reproduced not only the weight and impact of each stroke, but its presence in the recording venue as well. It’s often the little things in recordings that end up meaning the most to us; the Audia Flight Two was capable of retrieving such details.

Lately, it seems that every one of my reviews mentions a Neil Young track, and this one is from Live at Massey Hall 1971 (CD, Reprise 43328), a great live recording. Young precedes his solo performance of “Ohio” by tuning his guitar, a sound I knew well throughout my teens -- hearing friends tune their guitars, over and over, imprinted those sounds in my brain, and hearing Young do the same, reproduced by a great audio system, brought those memories rushing back to me. In fact, the warmth of the Audia Flight Two made Young’s guitar sound far more real than it does through the Simaudio 600i. The pitch of each note, the way the sound changes as the string is tightened or loosened -- it all felt quite right. And the Two’s touch of warmth helped smooth the harshness of the upper register of Young’s voice. The Simaudio sounds a bit sibilant in comparison.

Flight Audia

The Two’s ability to retrieve and lay out a soundstage was one of its strong suits, even if it couldn't quite match the extraordinary 600i. One track that offers a challenge in this regard, with many different instruments playing simultaneously, is “I’m Trying to Break Your Heart,” from Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (CD, Nonesuch 79669), the album that brought Wilco into the mainstream and inspired a number of critics to label them America’s next great band. The track opens with a drum kit imaged directly at the center of the soundstage, and the sounds of an out-of-phase keyboard ringing everywhere in the room; meanwhile the sound of a bell drifts in and out, until two acoustic guitars enter, one in each channel. The unusual sounds at first seem mismatched, but come together into a cohesive whole that is ultimately soothing and melodic. This track was made for a great hi-fi audio system, and in its recording and in its reproduction, transparency is the key. With pinpoint imaging, and a proper amount of space and air around each instrument, the right audio system can re-create something more than a simple song. The Audia Flight Two was capable of bringing this track alive in my room: individual plucks of strings, keystrokes of the piano, and unintended sounds within the recording space -- it was all there, just as it should be, stable on the soundstage, with razor-sharp leading edges.

Finally, I found the Audia Flight Two to be as gutsy in the bass as any other integrated I’ve had in my system. A fun track for testing the quickness and stability of an integrated’s power is Jack Johnson’s “The 3 R’s,” from the Curious George soundtrack (CD, Brushfire R 718348), which puts a big drum kit in your listening room. The punch of the kick drum was very tight through the Two, providing great impact. My Rockport Miras, with an impedance of 4 ohms, are capable of playing down into the low 30Hz region in my room; while the Two wasn’t the most powerful amplifier I’ve used with the Miras (those would be power amps from such companies as Coda and Classé), the sound never seemed to run out of steam in the lowest octave. The Two exerted great control over the Rockports, particularly in the bass.

Comparison

Flight AudiaAt US$8000, the Simaudio Moon Evolution 600i costs US$2300 more than the Audia Flight Two, but it did provide a great comparison. Many think the 600i is one of the best integrateds on the scene today -- in fact, Philip Beaudette felt it the best integrated he’d ever heard.

What do you give up by spending $2300 less on the Audia Flight TWO ? In terms of sound, the two integrateds were more alike than different. Both sounded basically neutral, the Audia Flight being slightly warmer in the highs. The Simaudio provided the wider soundstage, but was a bit more sibilant in the highs. The 600i also revealed more ambient detail, a subtle difference that was nonetheless apparent with the right recording -- for instance, the decay of each drumstroke in the Ray LaMontagne song lasted a bit longer with the 600i than with the Two. And both models provided adequate power to my Rockport Miras. In the end, I found the differences less apparent when I switched from the 600i to the Two than when I switched from the Two to the 600i. I concluded that spending $2300 more for the Simaudio Moon Evolution 600i will indeed buy you little more, but I’m not sure it will be worth $2,300.

Conclusion

It’s always great to discover a new audio component that brings you closer to your music, and that’s how I feel about the Audia Flight Two. Before its arrival, I’d never heard of Audia Flight. Now, after several months with the Two, I know what I was missing: It brought music alive in my room in a way that moved me. And that’s perhaps the highest compliment I can pay it. The Audia Flight Two is a great performer at a fair price, and one that I could enjoy listening to for a long, long time.

. . . Randall Smith
randalls@soundstagenetwork.com

Associated Equipment
Speakers -- Rockport Technologies Mira
Integrated amplifier -- Simaudio Moon Evolution 600i
Sources -- Apple iMac, Weiss DAC2, Amarra 2.1, iTunes music player
Speaker cables -- Analysis Plus Silver Oval
Interconnects -- Analysis Plus Silver Oval-In
Power conditioner -- Blue Circle BC6000

With the Flight PRE, Audia demonstrated the pinnacle in solid-state pre-amplification design......for me, the Audia Flight PRE redefines the performance level for others to follow.
Constantine Soo

REVIEW SUMMARY: Constructed with attenuation cells and relays for maintaining constant impedance, with the ability to preserve the same frequency response at any attenuation value, the Audia Flight PRE was a precision device of a most spectacular order. It possessed a spectral uniformity of such delicacy as to be highly conducive towards tonal differentiation.

Though of solid-state birthright, the Audia Flight PRE’s exceeding resolution and bandwidth propagated a sonic presentation that was the antithesis of yesterday’s solid-state preamplifiers. In manifesting powerful showcases of dynamics, delicate texturing and extended spectral reproduction, it traverses alongside the $10,000 Audio Note M5, complete with a level of resolution I’ve yet to experience from another solid-state preamplifier.

In addition, it did not constitute the minutest in sonic contamination or deviation. In fact, as proven by its coupling to the $24k Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B tube amplifier, the Audia Flight PRE’s fundamental lack of coloration and distortion illuminated its brilliance, as to be the one solid-state preamplifier exceedingly conducive in driving the SET amplifier. Then, its regal spectral composure and dynamic prowess, when driving the matching, $11k Audia Flight 100, was of statutory achievement – amazing and breathtaking in action.

Finally, the Audia Flight’s fundamental absence of electronic coloration in musical recreation makes it a fitting solid-state candidate in service of the 47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport and Audio Note DAC5 Special.

Not all audiophile will recognize the Audia Flight PRE’s subtle and enduring virtues amidst other instantly gratifying solid-state preamplifiers; but I am confident that the PRE will move the discriminating Dagogo readers employing top amplifications with competent front-ends, as solid-state designs capable of such refinement and strength are rare. For me, the Audia Flight PRE redefines the performance level for others to follow.

EXTENDED REVIEW: the high-end audio is a hobby of variety and objectivity. In each of the industry’s primary product categories, there are polarities in approach and technology – such as the RIAA-based phonograph and the 16-bit/44.1kHz-based digital playback systems, MOSFET and tube-based amplifications, and finally, cone and planar loudspeaker technologies – that the proponents for each consider indispensable and superior. Yet, there is one component type that everyone has contemplated getting rid of one way or the other, and it is the preamplifier.

Transistor or tube, line preamplifiers have always occupied a bittersweet spot in everyone’s heart, considering its property for either making or breaking a system from the level of synergy created. To many audiophiles, brackets of price range represent a safe route for matching components: budget components dominate the sub-$2,000 range, while high-performance ones reside in the $9k+; and any higher would be considered exotic by many.

Audiophiles contemplating the purchase of either $2,000 or $50,000 line preamplifiers have an easier time than those of us considering a $7k one, for the polarity in prices provides clarity and guideline in respective buyers’ decision-making process, at the same time represent an approximate indicator for system matching; while a $7,000 line preamplifier falls into a somewhat grayish area.

If one has a $10,000 power amplifier of commendable performance, then a $20,000 preamp of competent caliber may continue to compliment the power amplifier’s inherent strength. However, a $7k preamplifier would likely accentuate the relative weakness of a $3,000 power amplifier that was designed to a budget, and then the audiophile with the $10k+ power amplifier would tend to doubt if a $7k preamplifier is adequate for his system. If you are the Dagogo reader contemplating a $7k preamplifier purchase, this review may accelerate your heartbeat.

For the Audia Flight PRE has a multitude of virtuous qualities that remain elusive among many of today’s sub-$10k contenders in active solid-state preamplification. From a design viewpoint, the PRE is a two-box design implemented into a single chassis, in which upper and lower sections are provisioned and horizontally partitioned. Per Audia Flight, the single-chassis design is to eliminate variables involved in connecting multiple chassis.

The PRE is one of a kind in being given three 10,000 Gauss toroidal transformers mounted upside down at the lower half of the chassis into the centrally positioned circuit board. Among the toroidals, two are rated at 50VA each for stereophonic reproduction, and one at 30VA for control logics. The upper section is consisted strictly of the main audio board.

To generate a 50V output for each channel, the dual-mono transformers are flanked by four “Ultra Fast Recovery” diodes and eight 3,300μF, 63V ROE-EYS series filtering capacitors. In addition, to ensure the integrity of each channel’s signal during internal propagation between circuitry sections, four dual discrete stages are provided, amounting to an unheard of total of 18 discrete stages for each channel.

With such vigor, the PRE is then class A-biased and regulated by Audia’s current-feedback technique. Contrary to the widely adopted voltage feedback technique, which yields lower levels of input noise and low frequencies distortion, current feedback provides unlimited slew rate and wide bandwidth.

Audia’s implementation of the current feedback culminated supposedly in a high-current, low-noise output stage. Combined with what is perhaps Audia’s most remarkable feature – a metal film resistors- and metal film relays-laden impedance-constant attenuator that Audia claims to be able to preserve frequency responses at all attenuation level, hence solving the impedance fluctuating, frequency skewing and propagation damping characteristics of conventional attenuator – the PRE is supposedly capable of such gain range as 127dB, plus a bandwidth of such magnitude that it would overpower standard attenuators anyway.

The PRE chassis is machined out of aluminum via Numerical Control (NC) units and laser machines. NC micro millers further crafted the front panel out of a 25mm thick aluminum ingot. Chassis-width damping plates are inserted under the top cover, as well as between the two boards. To root out possible interference, the logic control circuitry is encased in metal and positioned behind the front panel.

Fully equipped and intended to be used as a reference preamplifier, the PRE is adorned with four RCA and two XLR inputs, along with one RCA Record output, one RCA Main output and one XLR Main output. The inputs are provisioned near the center of the rear panel, whereas the outputs are grouped at the farthest left and right.

The PRE’s front panel sports dainty, tidy lines, with beautifully subtle curves. Embedded into this tastefully crafted front panel are, from left to center right, ON/OFF, INPUT, REC, DIM, BAL and MUTE. On the right is a large dial for setting of each aforementioned control, in addition to being the attenuator. At upper center left is the large display, the brightness of which can be trimmed or defeated altogether via the remote.

An aluminum, milled remote control mimics all functions on the PRE’s front panel, except for REC: the record monitor. A SET button on the remote further enables customization of input gains and input characterization. Despite repeated attempts and examinations on my part, the PRE would not reconfigure its operational mode into the “Single-Ended Triode” kind. Blast!

Finally, the PRE is to be left in the blinking, standby mode when not in active use, in which the amplification stages remain powered, and the attenuation at minus-117.5db. Once powered on, the attenuation adjusts itself instantly, with the display jumping from -117.5dB to the former level prior to the shutdown.

Input gain can be adjusted plus and minus 6dB to facilitate uniform volume, and each input can be custom named with a maximum of 13 characters. Display brightness can be dimmed through 5 levels, including my favorite one, display off.

The Sound

To gauge the finesse of the Audia Flight PRE, DACs from both solid-state and tube camps were mobilized, including my longstanding champion of DACs, the $30k tubed Audio Note DAC5 Special, and the best solid-state DAC I’ve heard to date, the $5,700, 32bit/384kHz Accustic Arts DAC I Mk3. Primary amplification was via Audia’s own $11k Flight 100, a 32-IGBT-equipped current-feedback design of superlative finesse, which I reviewed in October, 2005. 47 Lab’s PiTracer helmed the tracing of pits from CDs.

The Flight 100’s high-power, high-current capacity facilitated auditioning via a variety of loudspeaker, thus the 89dB/4Ω, $12k GamuT L5, the 95dB/8Ω, $20k Audio Note AN-E SEC Silver and the 93dB/8Ω, $26k Acapella La Campanella were the primary speakers rotated for this review.

Audio Note’s Sogon digital cable, interconnects and SPx silver speaker cables handled the delicate task of signal transmission, with the 27-strand Vx linking the preamplifier to the power amplifier. 4 of Harmonix Reimyo’s X-DC Studio Master 350 Wattagate power cables supported the DACs 24/7, while powering the amplifications.

Although the PRE provides level adjustments of individual inputs, my use of only one Audio Note Sogon digital cable inadvertently involved frequent unplugging and plugging of the cable from the Audio Note and Accustic Arts DACs, hence rendering input customization irrelevant.

Many audiophiles prefer tube preamps for the nonexistent tonal artificiality and graininess that solid-state preamps are known to impart, especially in reproducing vocals. Atop a platform of its companion Flight 100 amplifier and GamuT’s L5 loudspeaker, the PRE’s manifestation of tenor Toby Spence’s “Vallon Sonore” [O echoing vale] from the Berlioz opera Les Troyens [The Trojans] (LSO 0010 CD) via the solid-state DAC yielded a pristine and yet smooth vocal that though not of the $30k Audio Note DAC5 Special’s caliber, was nevertheless the most remarkable and reverberating of solid-state DACs.

CDs produced prior to the common high-bit remastering of late, such as my favorites from Deutsche Grammophon and Philips, consistently demonstrated less refined tonal balance with pronounced top-end carelessness via the PRE – a sharp contrast to the absence of such inherent information as rendered by lesser amplification designs. Accordingly, sonics from archaic CDs processed with comparatively primitive standards were consistently found wanting in the presence of the PRE.

Also noteworthy was the PRE’s highly differentiating disposition on dimensionality, whether it was of jazz or orchestral music, as it revealed the GamuT L5’s soundstaging prowess as the most differing from what the Acapella La Campanella could single-handedly achieve. During a separate session with one Audio Note M8 preamp ($31,750), the GamuT’s soundstage expansiveness and 3-dimensionality was contrasted most explicitly by the Acapella’s full-range rendition of instrument tonality. To hear a $7k solid-state preamp being able to trail in the same direction was most riveting.

On dynamics, the PRE’s handling of the signal from the solid-state Accustic Arts DAC was also to be applauded for its ability to track the scales of dynamics most diligently.

The Italian preamplifier’s reenactment of Anne Weerapass singing the Cole Porter classic, “Night & Day” (Out Of Nowhere, Jazznote 170702-02-2), delicately preserved the sound engineer’s intent in the highly dynamic, resolving and yet well-balanced vocalization amidst the jazz band in the background. Transistor preamplifiers I owned in the past tended to smudge the differentiation between fore- and background.

I have also yet to find a sub-US$10k solid-state preamplifier with comparable spectral uniformity than the PRE.

The Audia Flight not only preserved the DAC 1 Mk3’s presentations in meticulous tonal balance when driving the matching Flight 100, it never obscured the $24k Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B SET stereo amplifier’s spectacular resolution and tonal balance neither.

Per PRE, the Harmonix Reimyo SET was able to display its standard compliment of sonic feat through the $26k Acapella La Campanella horn speakers, demonstrating a full suite of tonal vibrancy with no sonic detriment that lesser solid-state preamplifiers would have impeded upon. Resultantly, the German horn speakers produced the most effectuating spectral uniformity, with integrated spectral liquidity and tonal lucidity so resplendent as to redefine what today’s horn speakers could accomplish.

In comparison to the now-defunct Reference Line’s top preamplification offering, the Preeminence Two passive preamplifier, the PRE established itself as the first solid-sate active preamp in my system conceding to zero percent of loss in resolving power, at the same time summarily eclipsing the Reference Line in dynamic vigor and soundstaging, along with superior consistency in tonal shading at all relevant volumes.

Summary

With the Flight PRE, Audia demonstrated the pinnacle in solid-state preamplification design.

Constructed with attenuation cells and relays for maintaining constant impedance, with the ability to preserve the same frequency response at any attenuation value, the Audia Flight PRE was a precision device of a most spectacular order. It possessed a spectral uniformity of such delicacy as to be highly conducive towards tonal differentiation.

Though of solid-state birthright, the Audia Flight PRE’s exceeding resolution and bandwidth propagated a sonic presentation that was the antithesis of yesterday’s solid-state preamplifiers. In manifesting powerful showcases of dynamics, delicate texturing and extended spectral reproduction, it traverses alongside the US$10,000 Audio Note M5, complete with a level of resolution I’ve yet to experience from another solid-state preamplifier.

In addition, it did not constitute the minutest in sonic contamination or deviation. In fact, as proven by its coupling to the $24k Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 300B tube amplifier, the Audia Flight PRE’s fundamental lack of coloration and distortion illuminated its brilliance, as to be the one solid-state preamplifier exceedingly conducive in driving the SET amplifier. Then, its regal spectral composure and dynamic prowess, when driving the matching, $11k Audia Flight 100, was of statutory achievement – amazing and breathtaking in action.

Finally, the Audia Flight’s fundamental absence of electronic coloration in musical recreation makes it a fitting solid-state candidate in service of the 47 Laboratory 4704 PiTracer CD transport and Audio Note DAC5 Special.

Not all audiophile will recognize the Audia Flight PRE’s subtle and enduring virtues amidst other instantly gratifying solid-state preamplifiers; but I am confident that the PRE will move the discriminating Dagogo readers employing top amplifications with competent front-ends, as solid-state designs capable of such refinement and strength are rare. For me, the Audia Flight PRE redefines the performance level for others to follow.

....... Constantine Soo

Rest assured that these components are truly superb sonic performers built to spectacular standards on par with the very best.
Edgar Kramer

REVIEW SUMMARY: Female and male vocals were outstandingly real and present via this talented pairing. Lifelike—there is that word again—was often used in my audition notes. And layered too. The combo cast a massive soundstage with extremely accurate placement of full-bodied images that reached well behind the speaker plane especially with the Wilson Audio Alexia having been dialed in to the max via their comprehensive aspherical propagation delay system. Not only did the speakers vanish but via the Strumenti they threw an all-engulfing soundfield I simply wallowed in or was swallowed up by.

Rest assured that these components are truly superb sonic performers built to spectacular standards on par with the very best. In fact I’ve reviewed some very heavy hitters well above $50K for our domestic print magazines and the Strumento N° 4 in particular would not be embarrassed by any in terms of either musical merit or construction quality.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Volare Italia. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Maserati, Prada, Versace, Giorgio Armani... these are brands which are aspirational, which are most desired around the world and which generate the very highest pride of ownership. The common thread there obviously is that they all come from that Latin boot-shaped country. In the world of audio this Italian design flair combined with technical excellence has translated to equally desirable brands such as Chario, Diapason, Eventus, Pathos, Rosso Fiorentino, Unison Research (and its loudspeaker cousin Opera) and most notably Sonus faber. Whilst a large percentage of these are speaker manufacturers where the most stylistic panache can be let loose, a relatively new electronics player is now making a mark in the upper echelons of the high-end arena. Enter Audia Flight with three electronics ranges; the entry point ‘Three‘ Series, the mid-level ‘Classic’ series and the subjects of this review, the preamp/power amp combo from the stellar high-end ‘Strumento’ Series.

Fasten your seat belts!...

The Strumento N°.1 preamplifier is immaculately assembled and sports a massive rotary volume knob on the right side of the fascia’s gently curving display window. Below that is a row of five chromed metal buttons for switching input, balance, power, (menu) set and mute. That’s all. The rear panel is a whole ‘nutha story resplendent with all manner of audio connectivity. There are two XLR and high-quality WBT NextGen RCA inputs (switchable) and three additional balanced-only inputs. Outputs include two XLR pairs and one RCA with a fixed ‘record out’ on RCA. There are two removable latch spaces for optional DAC and phono modules. 

The Strumento N° 1’s gain operates across a range of -90dB to +10dB with a step resolution of 0.5dB. Frequency response within 1w RMS and -3dB parameters is 1Hz-1MHz with a high S/N ratio of 105dB. Input impedance is 15kΩ balanced or unbalanced whilst the output impedance is a nicely low 5Ω. The included remote control is beautifully styled, milled from solid aluminium and features small round metal buttons that make a somewhat intrusive clicking sound when pressed.

Equally impressive specifications are quoted for the Strumento N° 4 stereo amplifier. This is an absolute beast weighing in at 90kg. I don’t tend to gauge amplifiers by the kilo but this is one heavy mutha with the promise of overkill power supply componentry and transformers. Adding to the weight is extraordinarily solid aluminium case work which in a nice touch extends over the extensive heatsinking to cover what in other designs are chin-slicing edges. Audia Flight quotes output power of 200/400/800 watts into 8/4/2Ω respectively. Inputs are switchable RCA (again WBT NextGen) and XLR while the speaker binding posts are the WBT clear plastic-shrouded type. The Herculean power supply features a mammoth 3KVA principal transformer, two additional 150VA toroids for the gain stage and yet a further 15VA for the logic board. Capacitor banks are substantial at 200.000µF for the output stage and 42.000µF for the voltage gain stage. Circuit gain is 29dB while the frequency response (1w RMS at -3dB) is given as a very wide 0.3Hz to 1MHz. Input impedance is somewhat low at 7.5kΩ meaning it’s just as well the matching preamp has such low output impedance. The amp requires a 20-amp IEC power lead. A generic one is provided but I used a Shunyata.

The two units come in well-designed wooden crates that dismantle around the components via tool-free metal clip fasteners to leave them sitting only on the base for easy lifting. Not that lifting nearly 90kg is ever easy. Heavy internal foam protects the components from uncaring couriers so overall Audia Flight has catered appropriately for freight around the world. Quality leather-bound instruction manuals are included.

I asked owners Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini about some of the ideas behind the Strumento components. There were some language barriers commendably surpassed by Marzi and Nardini with the aid of Australian distributor Absolute Hi End’s affable Boris Granovsky which led to succinctness.

I first asked if all circuit and technical aspects of the Strumento pre/power combo were designed in-house and what output devices were preferred for the Strumento N° 4 amplifier. "Yes, all parts were designed in-house and we use bipolar Semi ON transistors."

I then enquired as to the volume control’s design. "The volume control is a constant impedance design. The Achilles heel of many preamplifiers is represented by the volume control since usually it introduces variable impedance as a function of attenuation value (that is, the position of the potentiometer). The result is that frequency response, slew rate and even the internal impedance coupling among different stages are not fixed but a function of volume. This is a problem which affects above all the usual potentiometers. Using instead integrated attenuators—ICs dedicated to volume control or D/A converters—solves the problem of variable impedance but not that of frequency or absolute velocity response.

"For this reason Audia Flight developed a constant impedance attenuator realized with discrete components (low-noise metal-film resistors) which provides a gain range as high as 127dB with constant steps of 0.5dB. The result obtained probably overcomes the wall of standard performance limitations since Audia Flight offers an extremely extended frequency response (3Hz-1MHz –3dB) and high >250V/µs slew rate across the entire gain range (-90 to +10dB)."

The aluminium casework is of extraordinary quality. Where was that done? "Like with all our components, the case is 100% made in Italy. One company makes the CNC chassis for us, another does the anodizing."

What were the main attributes aimed for with each component? "I think the best component of our flagship Strumento series is the sum of our vast experience. Our design has been perfected over many years. We spent hundreds of hours listening and making the right choices. The sound, the 'soul' of our products is a mirror of our culture not only for the high-end but our life too. If I have to identify some parts I am not able to do so because I think it is a synergy of all parts. It is like a chorus. Each has its own contribution." 

Just on the point about the Strumento chassis it must be emphasized that the assembly quality, machining and finish are absolutely first class. Most of the chassis joinery is free of fasteners and of seamless integration while the aluminium is of the highest grade and flawlessly anodized. These are components that have the look and feel of true high-end products in the literal sense of the expression.

In full flight.

Fire up the preamp and you may get startled by the volume control logic system as it returns to the previously-set level prior to turn off. The multiple relays click away in an orchestral show that is actually quite enjoyable to witness and hear – the same process in reverse occurs when powering off as the relays count down to zero prior to powering down... click, click, click. Fun.

Relay shenanigans aside, the sound from the first few bars impressed with its fullness and authority. The beautifully captured live violin and piano from the Audiofon label’s Sonatas by Mozart, Prokofiev, Beethoven, Brahms and Blochas played by Pavel and Lazar Berman just flooded the listening room with an all-enveloping soundscape. The violin was sweet and detailed, full of bow and string nuance but with the instrument’s resonance rendered in full. So was the enormity of the piano in its entire majesty across the keys left to right. This was truly engaging and gorgeous solid-state amplification at its best. Much like the best valve systems this transistor combo provided a sense of corporeal reality to instruments and voices that was very lifelike.

I recently attended one of the most unforgettable live performances I’ve ever enjoyed. The Jenolan Caves—a massive network of stalagmite- and stalactite-rich labyrinthine caves a short drive from my new home in the upper Blue Mountains—-was the unlikely venue for the world-renowned local Paganini Duo and a performance of Gypsy music from Romania, Russia and Hungary. Deep inside a natural amphitheater considered internationally as having the best acoustics in the world, the duo played some of the most heart-wrenching soulful music I have ever heard. After the performance I had the pleasure of chatting on a number of musical and other subjects with violinist Gustaw J. Szelski and guitarist/cellist Georg Mertens-Moussa. I of course purchased the duo’s Blue Mountains Gypsies CD on the spot duly autographed by both musicians. 

Upon returning home that night I fired up the system and promptly gave the CD a whirl. A flood of recently acquired unforgettable sensations came flooding straight back. This recording was made in a studio but with the performance captured live and while the acoustic environment was wildly different, the Strumento combo provided a live and energetic rendition of the violin and guitar which sounded remarkably like it had back in that glorious cavern. 

The Strumenti components provide a very delicate rendition of detail with excellent microdynamic shading and precise separation of instrumental layers. On Curandero’s Aras the intricacies of the various instruments and vocal sound effects can confuse some components and make tracks like "Segue" sound congested and closed in. But here I was hearing an extremely well-resolved mix with very accurate timbral information and an openness and spatial freedom that were quite enthralling.

I frequently use the Yim Hok-Man Master of Chinese Percussion album to determine a component’s ability to convey realistic dynamic expression and low-end control. Here I discovered how the N° 4 is stunningly dynamic, exerts uncompromising control of the bass registers, is extended and refined in its top end (there’s quite a bit of cymbal and bell content here, not just crazy powerful drums) whilst providing a tonal truth that rivals the best valve designs. The preamp was equally adept at presenting beautiful textural timbre and all other fundamental sonic qualities required of a preamp at this price. However I felt that it could not match the excellence of the amplifier nor my other preamp references in one area: that of dynamic intensity. The Strumento N° 1 marginally tapered the fortissimo slams, it subtly abridged the dynamic chasms between pianissimo and fortissimo. That is the only area where it scores four rather than the five stars it merits in all other aspects.

Female and male vocals were outstandingly real and present via this talented pairing. Lifelike—there is that word again—was often used in my audition notes. And layered too. The combo cast a massive soundstage with extremely accurate placement of full-bodied images that reached well behind the speaker plane especially with the Wilson Audio Alexia having been dialed in to the max via their comprehensive aspherical propagation delay system. Not only did the speakers vanish but via the Strumenti they threw an all-engulfing soundfield I simply wallowed in or was swallowed up by.

As much as the amplifier in particular was able to slam hard which made it more than suitable for heavier musical genres such as hard rock, I’d have to say that it was also among the most refined, tonally sophisticated, nuanced and texture-rich solid state amplifiers I’ve ever had the pleasure of auditioning. And the same would go for the preamp lest you’re after ceiling-lifting dynamic contrasts.

Conclusion. 

Yes there’s an increasing number of companies releasing electronics and speaker systems which reach towards stratospheric price points even above the aforementioned $50K mark. Heck, just off the top of my head as I write I can think of around ten! The Strumento N° 1 and No 4 are around a quarter and third of that. Could the Strumenti be poster boys/gals for the 'diminishing returns' maxime? Perhaps. That after all is an individual’s call.

Rest assured that these components are truly superb sonic performers built to spectacular standards on par with the very best. In fact I’ve reviewed some very heavy hitters well above $50K for our domestic print magazines and the Strumento N° 4 in particular would not be embarrassed by any in terms of either musical merit or construction quality. Here at the Kramer’s ‘Mountain Retreat’ they will be missed. Forza Italia!

.......Edgar Kramer

Quality of packing:Solid wooden crates with foam-lined internals. 
Reusability of packing: Indefinite.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Easy task with fasteners not requiring tools. 
Condition of component received: As new.
Completeness of delivery: All as should be.
Quality of owner's manual: Nicely presented leather-bound manuals with useful information within.
Website comments: Well designed website with adequate product information. 
Warranty: 12 months. 

It should be enough to state that I am going to buy the Audia Strumento N° 1,.. later on I might buy the Strumento No4 amp too...
René van Es \Freelance audio journalist for Hifi.nl and Music Emotion

REVIEW SUMMARY: My mouth fell open, stayed open all the way, till side one came to an end. All good properties suddenly shine even more. Playing a record can only be compared to listening to studio masters in high sampling rates. This Strumento N° 1 is an open window to the music for every detail available in the recording. It just flows and flows. I could listen for hours and hours without any stress or getting tired. I invited some friends over on several evenings, the three of them well known for golden ears, used to deal with high end equipment and often to be found on life performances, either for jazz of classical music. Just to make sure my ears and mind did not betray me. The one who only loves tubes admitted this was a solid state setup comparable with only the best tube amps. Another one got (almost) permanent goose bumps. Number three stated that this Strumento N° 1 was by far the best preamp he ever heard. In my humble opinion they are completely right. This Strumento N° 1 is amazing.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Although the Italian audio company Audia has been in business since the last century, it took till 2011 that I had the opportunity to listen to one of their class A power amps, the Audia Flight 50. It was just what I was looking for at the time and I bought one to use in my main system. This year (2012) I met the Audia guys on the High End Show in Munich to take a look at their top range named Strumento, consisting of just one power amp and a separate preamplifier. With a little help of the Benelux distributor Durob we soon agreed to review the pair. Unfortunately I live in an apartment on the third floor, without an elevator, and to bring up a 90 kilo Strumento Nr.4 over seven stairs promised a mission impossible. We therefore agreed to use my own Flight 50 in combination with the Strumento N° 1 preamp, with additional an Audia Flight CD One M player and some Yter balanced interlinks. Unfamiliar with Audia preamps and very happy with my own beloved tube line stage, I was in for a surprise as soon as I switched on the Strumento.

The Strumento series from Audia consists of just these two products, a pre- and a power amplifier. The N° 1 is a sculpture in two colors aluminum and has the unusual size of 45 cm wide, 45 cm deep and 12 cm height. With a weight of 28 kilos. Only five buttons are to be found on the front together with a large (multifunctional) volume control. A dimmable display shows the menu options, the chosen input or the volume setting. Turned off, a blue LED will light up the listening room. The back side is far more crowded with all its inputs and outputs. The first two inputs are configurable for either XLR (balanced) connection or RCA (unbalanced) use. Three additional inputs are XLR only. A RCA tape-out is provided. The signal output consists of a single pair RCA’s as well as two sets of balanced XLR’s. This leaves only the mains power input, the mains switch and RJ connectors to communicate with other Audia devices. What is inside the box remains a bit of a secret. I know the preamp has a power supply with 60.000 uF buffer capacity, which is more than a lot of power amplifiers have on board. A total of eight power circuits are used. Special audio transformers, copper bars, print boards with extra copper and ultra-fast rectifiers are inside. The volume control is setup with resistors and relays, to make sure the signal path is short, even more important the output impedance of the volume control always has the same value. Relay clicking is audible when changing the volume, but only mechanical and never through the loudspeakers. The amplifier circuit is fully balanced from input to output, with reasonable chosen gain (-90/+10 dB) to be able to use very different power amps. Input switching is also by relay of course. After a couple of hours use the complete chassis warms up, more than any other preamp I know that has no tubes inside. No wonder since the Strumento is using a maximum of 50 Watt from your mains. Some additional information, like a bandwidth over 1,5MHz, a gain resolution of 0.5 dB, frequency response is (-3dB) 1 Hz up to 1 MHz and S/N Ratio of 105 dB. The input impedance is 10pF over 15 kOhm balanced or unbalanced, the output impedance is only 5 Ohm.

It took a short moment to configure the inputs for RCA, set the balance to zero-zero, etcetera. Input gain setting is possible in case one or more sources sound either too soft or to loud. The Strumento N° 1 replaced my hand build tube preamp and formed a combination with the Audia Flight 50 over Yter balanced interlinks. The preamp is powered through Kemp Elektroniks filters. Besides a Magnum Dynalab tuner three different sources where available. The Audia Flight CD One M as a stand-alone player, or digitally connected to a NAS with the use a Logitech Touch digital output. The second source uses the same NAS and Touch, now connected to an Esoteric D-07 D/A converter. In both cases a second pair of Yter cables is brought in. Last but not least a Transrotor record player with SME5009 arm and Transfiguration Axia cartridge spins records, connected to a hand build, tube based, phono preamp. The loudspeakers are a pair of PMC fact.8 transmission lines, wired by Crystal Cable speaker cable. I am very familiar with this system, which is in daily use.

Any amplifier needs time to warm up, so do both the Audia’s, before serious listening starts and maximum performance is reached. Since I wanted to hear what the Strumento does, I used my Esoteric first. It hit me hard as soon as music played. After two weeks I am still not used to the incredible upgrade the Strumento N° 1 is capable of in my system. It is just three weeks ago I told some friends I would never get rid of my tube preamp, now all I want is the Strumento. First of all, no matter what kind of music I play, the impression is always the same. Which means in any music even the smallest details are presented with ease. Not in a technical or clinical way, they are part of the music that flows into the listening room. This flowing is neither romantic, colored nor laid back. It is fast, to the point, pure and natural. Voices and midrange are spread out wide, in the correct proportions. No singer has a mouth like a crocodile or compares to a mouse. Tonally I could not wish for more neutrality. The volume control does not affect the sound, loud or even extremely soft, your attention is always attracted to the music. A FLAC rip of the Blu-ray of Adele Live At The Royal Albert Hall brought tears to my eyes as soon as the audience joins her singing. It was amazingly easy to beam myself into the public and join them. To time travel to the London hall. A Chinese singer with the name of Luo HaiYing, singing in her own language on Supernatural Yala, has musicians behind her with traditional Chinese instruments. The impact of the large drums is immense. The rumbling was never clearer with each strike apart from the previous or next one. Bass is one of the strengths of the Strumento N° 1. It goes very, very deep, well detailed and with impact. It will not overblow or drive your neighbors into madness. It is just there, solid enough to get air into motion. A plucked bass is presented with ease, bass drum hits you in the stomach, fast and powerful. The higher tones won’t upset you in any way. They are light in tone, like the triangle that is present on Legende by Giovanni Angeleri, the (SA)CD contains some of the most famous pieces for violin and orchestra by Sarasate, Paganini, Bazzini and Wieniawski. Or like in the tambourine, with every bell separated from the other. This is by far the best presentation of detail, speed and musicality combined, compared to any other preamp that ever made it into my system. Did I mention the soundstage the Strumento is able to recreate? Just close your eyes and you will never be able to pinpoint the loudspeakers. The stereo stage is width, deep and has enough height. Recreating depth is not that easy in my room, the Strumento simply overrules physics and makes a habit of fooling your brains.

The smooth operation of the top loader door on the CD One M CD player is a delight to be seen. Like everything else in the Audia products it is pure luxury and made for life. Compared to the Esoteric D/A converter, the Audia Flight CD One M sounds just different used as a DAC over S/PDIF. Not better, not worse. It has a bit more speed and better timing, on the other hand the sound is a little more upfront. These differences are highlighted because I upsample the digital information in the Esoteric to DSD format before decoding. While the CD One M sticks with PCM encoding. As a stand-alone player it sounds a bit more shut in, a little more precise and lacking the small additional hardness streaming always seems to suffer from. There is no denying the family relations between Audia products. The CD player, the preamp and the power amplifier reinforce each other’s properties. This was heard with the pre-power, even more when the CD player is added. Although the Flight 50 is not an amplifier with a balanced circuit, it does have XLR inputs. Comparing XLR to RCA shows all benefits that XLR brings, from DAC or player all the way into the power amp, over RCA. The Yter cables seem a match made in heaven as well. So, what we have is a chain bringing out the best digital sound in my system up till now due to the Strumento N° 1.

What is left as a source is the record player, waiting for the grand finale. I lowered the Axia diamond into the groove of the Eva Cassidy record Songbird and that was it. My mouth fell open, stayed open all the way, till side one came to an end. All good properties suddenly shine even more. Playing a record can only be compared to listening to studio masters in high sampling rates. This Strumento N° 1 is an open window to the music for every detail available in the recording. It just flows and flows. I could listen for hours and hours without any stress or getting tired. I invited some friends over on several evenings, the three of them well known for golden ears, used to deal with high end equipment and often to be found on life performances, either for jazz of classical music. Just to make sure my ears and mind did not betray me. The one who only loves tubes admitted this was a solid state setup comparable with only the best tube amps. Another one got (almost) permanent goose bumps. Number three stated that this Strumento N° 1 was by far the best preamp he ever heard. In my humble opinion they are completely right. This Strumento N° 1 is amazing.

It is useless to repeat all the compliments made above. To repeat how well each Audia component blends with the other. CD player, preamplifier and power amplifier. It should be enough to state that I am going to buy the Audia Strumento N° 1, although it will cost me 12.000 Euro’s. I have reviewed even more expensive stuff, of course also a lot of more cheaper audio, this Strumento N° 1 comes into my small list of most wanted products. To get the money for this Italian beauty I have three options: sell my wife to the highest bidder, sell my car or sell my second audio system. I made my choice, anyone for second hand audio equipment? Because I want that Strumento N° 1. Later on I might need even more cash, as soon as we figure out how to get the Audia Strumento No.4 upstairs. If you are in the market for a special preamp, drop in with your dealer and ask him to play a little music through this device. If the setting is right it might just as well grab your attention as it did mine. Enjoy the disappearance of any loudspeaker in use. Music or singing is just there, existing in front of you. Don’t open your eyes to lose the magic, all you have to do is enjoy the true high fidelity reproduction of whatever is on your records and CD’s.

Note: The above review will be published in Dutch in the December issue Of Music Emotion

.......René van Es \Freelance audio journalist for Hifi.nl and Music Emotion

mark me impressed, very impressed indeed with a unit that draws on all the usual strengths of transistors without any of their weaknesses…..clearly a must-listen for anybody looking for a premium phono preamplifier...
Frederic Beudot

REVIEW SUMMARY: Moving to its musical performance, I sense that even the most blasé will pay attention to the way the FL treats music in a unique combination of boldness and finesse that I usually associate only with the very best electronics in any category. It’s a sense that nothing can faze this component out of absolute silence of operation, transparency and refinement of tone to give an impression of rare elegance.

EXTENDED REVIEW: This review will be first in a series of at least four, possibly more and similar in spirit to what I did a few months ago exploring preamplifiers. Each component will have its own feature review as this is not intended as a shootout of phono preamps but obviously parallels and contrasts will be drawn and hopefully, exceptional value shall surface. Throughout this series I will keep the front end of Acoustic Solid Classic Wood turntable, WTB211 tone arm and Denon DL103 / Grado Reference Sonata 1 constant to minimise variables. Although I did audition the Audia Flight at length associated with the superb NAT Symmetrical preamplifier, the Serbian has since returned to the distributor so the preamplifier of choice for this series will be the solid-state Esoteric C03.

One difference to the preamplifier review series will be the price range of phono stages considered here. The preamplifiers all belonged to the upper crust in terms of price and performance whereas the phono preamplifiers will be a more diverse crew starting with the $1500 tubed SQ-PH-1t from Sound Quest all the way to the $6100 solid-state Audia Flight with a few stops in between (Esoteric E03, NAT Signature Phono and ASR Mini-Basis Exclusive have already enlisted, a few more are considering jumping in). You can expect that the pricier models will be asked to show what they have to offer for the requested premium; and if the opportunity arises, I’ll also try and expand the price range at either end.

First to have the honours of the spotlight is the Italian Audia Flight Flight Phono, a superbly constructed two-box affair that has elevated silence of operation to an art. Being first though is not necessarily an advantage. I currently lack similarly priced references to make final conclusions on the Audia Flight’s performance. Hence this review will start off as an extended introduction, final conclusions to be added once I had a chance to compare the FL Phono to the Esoteric E03, ASR Mini-Basis Exclusive and NAT Signature phono.

Audia Flight has been enjoying a growing reputation in Europe over the past few years with the implementation of their current feedback technology as also employed in the FL Phono. Some of Audia’s early designs met a split verdict where the warmer but slower sound was not to everybody’s liking. In recent years however, the new versions of their CD players, preamplifiers, integrated and class-A amplifiers have been unanimously praised.

Starting from the outside, the FL phono is an impressively well-built unit and I particularly like the fact that the main unit is narrower than normal to allow the external power supply to sit next to it on a regular shelf. The front face is literally carved from thick billet aluminium for classic, sober and elegant looks. The blue logo on the front is reasonably unobtrusive but some listeners will miss the ability to dim or completely turn it off when listening at night.

Speaking of the power supply now, as in every well conceived piece of equipment it is overbuilt and provides separate toroidal transformers for the analog stages and logic circuits. The analog circuits especially are fed from a 50VA transformer orders of magnitude over-sized for the task but guarantying unhindered dynamics while playing a critical role in the silence of operation the FL Phono excels at.

Staying with the external features for a moment longer, the FL Phono offers two separate inputs which can be ordered as two MM boards, two MCs or, as did my review unit, be fitted with one each. Two very minor critiques - the phono boards do not offer the possibility of balanced connection (folks considering spending over $6000 on a phono stage are more likely to run tone arms and pickups wired for balanced operation); and the access opening to the wealth of loading options is located in the back of the main unit, making adjustments to the small jumpers’ positions not particularly convenient especially on a crowded rack. When one pays that kind of coin and a manufacturer goes through the trouble of offering so many adjustments, nothing is more frustrating than being prevented from enjoying said flexibility due to poor accessibility (the E03 enables changes from a rotary switch on the front panel, the latest McIntosh preamps actually offer the possibility to change loading from the remote and ditto the Abbingdon Music Research – it’s something to ponder for an eventual MkII version of the FL Phono).

Rounding up the presentation, I should also mention that the FL Phono offers both balanced and unbalanced outputs. Audia Flight recommends the use of balanced connections especially for longer cable runs. I think I heard a faint difference between both connection types, XLR being just slightly more transparent - perhaps. I doubt I could reliably tell them apart in a blind test. As befitting this level of equipment, all connectors are high quality, gold plated and chassis-mounted and the metallic footers also include rubber dampers for better vibration attenuation (although as often I found, inserting six Isolpads under the gear’s footers brought a small but audible improvement in focus and transient precision)

Moving inside, the FL Phono uses different input boards for MM and MC cartridges as mentioned earlier. Those offer 44dB and 64dB of gain respectively and capacitive / resistive loading options. For those who get a kick out of such details, the input stage for MC cartridges uses Audia Flight’s current feedback design while the MM circuit utilises a differential transistor circuit. Both input stages are then followed by a completely passive RIAA equalisation and IEC subsonic filter (20Hz cut-off, activated with a switch on the front panel) to finish with Audia’s latest current-feedback output module so poetically dubbed MCF NG1 and allowing balanced connection as well as a +10dB gain boost for cartridges with extremely low output.

The front panel also provides a switch to sum left and right channels when listening to mono recordings using a stereo pickup as most of us do. In case of an all Audia Flight system it is also possible to link the various components through RJ45 connectors and run the FL Phono as master or slave in the chain. As also mentioned earlier, the MC board provides for any loading one may theoretically desire. Ten predetermined loading values can be selected by moving jumpers in various configurations (choices are between nine values ranging from 7 ohm to 980 ohm, removing all jumpers offers 47kOhm) but in case none of these float your boat, Audia Flight also provides for the possibility of inserting any 0.25A-type resistor of your choice to fine-tune cartridge loading. This gives enough options to keep you in audiophile hell—sorry heaven—for years but I can see that for some very esoteric cartridges, this capability may come in handy. For most of us, the generous preset loading options are all we shall ever need.

Similarly the capacitive loading of MM cartridges can be completely customised but the FL phono also provides twelve pre-set options between 47 and 600pf. It’s again hard to imagine that anybody would need more options but Audia Flight anticipates even the most obsessive amongst us. I like this attention to detail - reasonable simplicity for those who want flexibility without pain, complete and absolute customisation for those seeking customised matches.

One word of caution. When moving jumpers around, the recessed access is narrow and the jumpers are small. Even thin fingers could easily drop one of the jumpers inside the enclosure (the access panel is not separated from the rest of the interior space so if you drop a jumper, it will fall anywhere inside the main chassis) and the use of long-nosed pliers is highly recommended (another reason to think of a more convenient implementation for a next generation).

Moving to its musical performance, I sense that even the most blasé will pay attention to the way the FL treats music in a unique combination of boldness and finesse that I usually associate only with the very best electronics in any category. It’s a sense that nothing can faze this component out of absolute silence of operation, transparency and refinement of tone to give an impression of rare elegance.

Starting with Tarentule – Tarentelle, a collection of medieval gems recreated by Atrium Musicae and recorded by Harmonia Mundi in the seventies, revealed the FL Phono’s superb ability at discerning subtle tonal differences and complex intertwined instrumentation. Each instrumental line acquired a clarity and precision I had not heard from the other phono stages already on hand. Imaging also gained in rigor and the FL phono will be a delight for intensely 'visual' listeners. Tube units like the SQ-PH-1t have a more holistic approach to imaging and staging but the solid-state FL phono is truly stunning at delineating musicians in a very wide and deep stage. The beauty of vinyl is that this precise imaging never turns excessive or sharp like it can with digital at times. It’s the best of both worlds where the analog medium brings a feeling of density while the Audia Flight organises the information in a finely chiseled picture without ever getting close to over-sharpening the edges.

Another area of excellence this LP revealed was the finesse and extension of the FL Phono’s treble. I was actually surprised by how much information the Denon DL103 was capable of retrieving. It exceeded what I’d heard it before but once properly loaded (I preferred a 980-ohm loading), the resolution in the upper octaves seemed unlimited. Coupled with the ribbon tweeters of the Zu Essence and Genesis 7.1f, this yielded a treble presentation that was both shimmering yet without a single undue sharp angle. I am not an unconditional defender of vinyl but the Esoteric X03SE won’t produce such a natural sounding treble even from SACD (the Esoteric D05 came close though).

Moving on to massive orchestral ensembles such as Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphonydirected by Leornard Bernstein showed that whatever reluctance in macro-dynamics may have been attributed to older Audio Flight designs was not to be heard with the FL phono. Orchestral mayhem surged, drums thundered and horns blasted with unrestricted reserve. You could easily point to the fact that 97dB speakers fronted by 360 watts of the finest class-D amplification available today may have had something to do with unconstrained dynamic swings but in reality, neither the SQ-PH-1t nor the Clearaudio Nano could match the sense of effortless scale provided by the Audia Flight.

Yet the Audia Flight is not just another brute capable of massive current swings but nothing else. On simpler fare like Beethoven’s Spring Sonata for Piano and Violin, I was mesmerised by the complexity and detail revealed in Sir Yehudi Menuhin’s interpretation. In the past I always found the violin on this disc to be a little screechy, harsh and bereft of Menuhin’s magical touch but the FL phono proved that everything was there; I simply never had a chance to hear it before. When played back properly, this recording actually conveys the impression of the violinist standing and the piano being slightly lower and to the left – I know this was my brain tricking me but what a nice height illusion it was.

I listened to a lot of vocal music through the FL Phono because that’s typically where I can fault a solid-state unit compared to tubes. Spending hours with Johnny Cash, U2 or Mozart’s Magic Flute revealed no such weakness. It is true that compared to the tubed SQ-PH-1t, the Audia Flight does not project voices in the same fashion and does not showcase them but the FL phono is also more honest and less coloured. A very critical point to me was the fact that the FL phono does not sound dry or recessed in the midrange—on the contrary, it offers a rich sound, not dark or constrained whatsoever— but lets through the harmonic complexity of the original recording while maintaining density. It is not that obvious of a trick as inferior electronics typically trade tonal density to increase retention of small nuances. The FL phono delivers both without strain. 

On U2’s No Line on the Horizon, while the compressed songs did not get resurrected, the decently recorded ones were truly revealed. Poor discs remain poor through the FL phono and good ones get better. I’ve come to the conclusion that this piece plays no tricks, no tailored response curve, no artificial emphasis, just delivers superb imaging and staging coupled with utmost silence and its associated transparency - not forgetting tone density and excellent dynamics.

Most of my listening was conducted with the Denon DL103 and MC board but very similar conclusions could be drawn using the Grado Reference Sonata 1 and MM inputs. The overall gestalt was warmer and slower with the Grado than Denon but is a result of the cartridge voicing, not phono pre. Actually, the FL phono managed to inject quite a bit of additional energy and jump factor into the Sonata 1 over what I am used to from the Clearaudio Nano.

It was fairly obvious on the Gorillaz’ Demon Days which can sound bloated and slow through the Grado unless properly matched. Through the FL phono, the over-ripe upper bass got back under control revealing the music hidden beneath it. True, the combination did not reach the same slam and speed as the DL103 when used with the same phono stage but it really seemed that the skewed spectrum had been straightened out. I still prefer the Denon for its transparency and dynamics but the FL phono addressed one of my reservervations with the Grado by offering an alternate though more ‘doctored’ view of the recorded music.

At this juncture a number of readers are already thinking "this is no review but an infomercial" but in truth, I can’t find where to fault the FL phono or even detect a hint of weakness. The only thing it will not do is colour the signal. If you are looking for tube roundness and selective emphasis, you won’t get it from the Audia Flight. Everything else it will deliver in spades including rich and realistic tonal hues without bleaching, exaggerated edges or other items you might associate with solid state.

As to whether the FL phono surpasses similarly priced competitors or can justify a significant premium over an ASR Mini Basis Exclusive for instance remains to be seen over the coming months. Based on absolute performance, the FL phono is a superb preamplifier that makes vinyl playback absolutely delightful. My gut tells me that throughout this series of tests, the Audia Flight will remain at the top of the heap because perfectly well-pressed vinyl played back through it manages to edge out the best SACDs in my collection. And interestingly, the total cost of table, arm, cartridge and phono pre used in this review adds up to about the same as the Esoteric X03-SE for a very similar level of excellence.

As stated at the onset, I will reserve conclusion of this review for a later day but up to this point, mark me impressed,very impressed indeed with a unit that draws on all the usual strengths of transistors without any of their weaknesses. In light of the rest of the audiophile market, its price although high is definitely not stratospheric and from what I can judge, more than justified by performance and built quality. To be continued at a later date to provide better context but clearly a must-listen for anybody looking for a premium phono preamplifier...

This epilogue reports on my concluding impressions after I'd completed the 6th instalment of this review series.

....Frederic Beudot

the Audia Flight Phono is a superbly made product that produces superb sound—and is superb value. I could live happily ever after with this pleasant surprise from Italy.
Michael Fremer

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Phono produced maximum musical excitement with all musical genres, and with both MM and MC cartridges. Its harmonic presentation and delivery of musical flow probably won't satisfy die-hard tube fanatics in search of that "golden glow," but if you're okay with solid-state—and I am—the Audia Flight Phono is a set-it-and-forget-it product that you happily will forget is contributing to the musical presentation. It just gets out of the way and lets the notes roll.

EXTENDED REVIEW: I first spotted Audia Flight's exquisite-looking two-box phono preamplifier ($6100) at last year's Hi-End show in Munich, and now that Musical Sounds is importing Audia Flight gear, a review of the Phono seemed a good idea. I know nothing about Audia Flight or the designer, or what Italian audiophiles think of them, but the more time I spent with the versatile, exquisitely built Phono, the more I liked everything about it.

The Phono's good looks speak for themselves. Note the sculpted faceplate accent that integrates the main box with the power supply—a nice touch. And speaking of touch, the satiny finish of the thick front panel is as pleasing to the fingers as to the eyes.

The Phono's insides are even more impressive. The power-supply box contains a dedicated 50VA toroidal transformer for the amplification stages. A second 15VA toroidal transformer supplies the relays and logic controls for the front-panel pushbutton selections stored in memory. Opto-isolators communicate the pushbutton choices without electrical connections.

The main unit is a modular, current-feedback preamplifier with passive RIAA equalization using 1%-tolerance polypropylene and polystyrene capacitors. Two inputs (one moving-magnet, one moving-coil) are provided as standard, but customers can order different confifgurations. The MM module produces 40dB of gain. The MC module offers 64dB gain without the use of transformers. A second gain/output stage, this one based on a proprietary module, lets you add another 10dB if necessary, for a total of 74dB gain (MC). This second gain stage, powered by an onboard, low-noise, MOSFET-based power supply, also offers a balanced XLR output via a separate module.

Resistive and capacitive loading are accomplished via gold-plated jumpers (supplied) inserted into sockets located very close to the input stage. To access these, you remove a small plate on the chassis rear. There are four sets of sockets, one for each channel of each of the maximum of two modules. If you're a fetishist, you can also insert custom resistor values in another set of sockets. The jumper system offers 16 logically chosen values between 60 ohms and 47k ohms, which was more than enough for me. Accessing the jumper sockets is inconvenient—unless you have easy access to your rack's rear, you'll have to turn the Phono around to insert or remove jumpers.

Using the Audia Flight Phono

The front-panel pushbuttons are On/Off, input module choice, +10dB, Mono, and an IEC-based subsonic filter. You can have both inputs connected simultaneously and switch between them at the push of a button.

Once I had the loading figured out, using the Flight Phono produced nothing but sonic pleasure. But be sure to give the Phono hundreds of hours of playing (not merely powered-up) time before judging its sound. It sounded good out of the box, but not great. That came much later.

How great? The Phono laid it all out on the pitch-blackest backgrounds. It was dead quiet. Those black backgrounds were reminiscent of the Boulder 2008 (at +$30,000) and, to a somewhat lesser degree, my current solid-state reference, Einstein Audio's Turntable's Choice. However, the Flight Phono produced music out of what subjectively sounded like an even blacker backdrop, and probably partly because of that, its soundstage presentation was among the most transparent, deep, and three-dimensional I've heard from any phono stage.

Nor did the Phono's dynamic presentation leave anything to be desired. It beat the Manley Labs Steelhead by a considerable margin, and possibly the Einstein as well, though that was too close to call. If you have problems with transformer-coupled MC stages (I don't), the Phono will take care of them. With up to 74dB of available gain, it can handle cartridges of even the lowest output.

The Flight's overall presentation was free of grain and edge, and as pure and smooth as I've heard from any other great phono preamp. Its bottom end was taut, extended, extremely well defined, and rhythmically proficient. The top end was clean, ultrafast without being bright or edgy, and transients were detailed without sounding clinical. In short, I was reminded not only of the far more expensive Boulder 2008, but also of the pricier Naim Superline with Supercap power supply.

Summing Up

The Phono produced maximum musical excitement with all musical genres, and with both MM and MC cartridges. Its harmonic presentation and delivery of musical flow probably won't satisfy die-hard tube fanatics in search of that "golden glow," but if you're okay with solid-state—and I am—the Audia Flight Phono is a set-it-and-forget-it product that you happily will forget is contributing to the musical presentation. It just gets out of the way and lets the notes roll.

With its good looks, convenient front-panel controls (including Mono and +10dB on demand), and high-tech and equally high build quality, the Audia Flight Phono is a superbly made product that produces superb sound—and, at NZ$7,500 (incl GST), is a superb value. I could live happily ever after with this pleasant surprise from Italy.

Wow, so dynamically fleet, such clarity of musical lines—we couldn't be further from the Barenboim-induced swampy morass. It could be Kleiber; it could be the heavy-weight vinyl pressing; but most certainly the Flight was a major factor in allowing this
Marshall Nack

SUMMARRY REVIEW: The Audio Flight Phono is a good example of contemporary solid-state design. Yes, it sounds solid-state, but it avoids most of the pitfalls associated with that topology. The top-end has good body with no treble harshness. Its noise level is non-existent, yet gain is quite sufficient for even low output MC cartridges. In truth, it manages to do everything well; the issues present are minor. Two things are outstanding. It has a kicker low-end capable of unfurling massive crescendos—dynamic range is well beyond expectation—and it remains composed while doing so. Second, soundstage clarity is notable. Transparency and dimensionality are heightened. I found it one of the few phono stages that can satisfactorily play the BIG symphonic works

EXTENDED REVIEW: What usually catches my attention are the idiosyncrasies, what makes a product different. So, today I'm auditioning the Audio Flight Phono stage and, truth be told, my attention wasn't engaged. Oh, the Flight was behaving agreeably enough, but other than veering towards the soft and forgiving side, I wasn't finding much to comment on—there wasn't a whole lot in the “idiosyncrasies” department.

I was well into this review, thinking its prospects pretty routine.

Then I read Mike Fremer's brief review in Stereophile magazine. While it didn't tell me much about how the Flight sounds, it did tell me he found it required extended break-in, not just powered on, but with signal passing through it. I had been told my unit (the same one Mikey reviewed) was already broken-in and only needed to be warmed up. So I had given it minimal break-in time—four days powered on and maybe twelve hours with signal.

I immediately went back and clocked another twenty-four hours on my cartridge. Lo and behold, the thing was transformed. No longer soft and forgiving by a long shot—now I understood why its resume is chock full of awards.

But first, I had to settle on wires. The Flight displayed a decided preference for a balanced run of TARA Labs The 0.8 interconnect and The One power cord. With other wires I could hear the product's potential, but it remained latent, locked up and not on display. The Flight wasn't so happy with Kondo Silver, K-S Emotion or Kharma Enigma. I also found a bit of power conditioning suits it fine.

A Musical Interlude

I had just heard Daniel Barenboim conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall doing Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. I'm one of those who left in disbelief after the final curtain call—there must have been four of them plus a standing ovation. The audience loved it as much as I disliked it. Even worse was the review two days later in The New York Times. The senior staff critic kind of backed into complementing the Vienna's outing without actually saying he liked it. I don't understand how Barenboim gets away with such gross distortion and sheer slackness of articulation. Why doesn't anyone take him to task? 

When I got home, I couldn't wait to hear a good reading of the work. You couldn't ask for a better one than Carlos Kleiber and the same Vienna Philharmonic, circa 1976 (DG Japanese pressing). Wow, so dynamically fleet, such clarity of musical lines—we couldn't be further from the Barenboim-induced swampy morass. It could be Kleiber; it could be the heavy-weight vinyl pressing; but most certainly the Flight was a major factor in allowing this to unfold in my living room.

The fusillades from the low strings and tympani had powerful, aggressive attacks, while the upper strings played off them in syncopation. The brass sorties issued forth with slam as impressive as that from the double basses.

This is the Flights strong suit. It is capable of routinely unleashing eye-opening volleys. The quality of these macros is first rate, exhibiting no signs of breakup, and no sense of compression. Frankly, this surprises me. Where is it coming from? I wasn't expecting this caliber of dynamics from a product at this price point.

Next I put on Prokofief's Symphony No. 7, with Walter Weller and the London Symphony Orchestra (London CS 6879). Again, the range from pp to ff has my attention. I notice the clarity of musical lines, the exposed articulation. Dimensionality and soundstaging are highly transparent. This is the Flight's second strong suit: it is very open and clean.

Now that we've touched on the Flight's two major strengths, let's move on down the line. There's no question that the Flight sounds like solid-state. You'll instantly recognize that topology's hallmarks—the benefits, as well as some of the shortfalls. Solid-state designs are usually weak in timbre and body. I've heard many solid-state phono preamps that confuse a clarinet sound with an oboe, for example—the timbre isn't developed enough to make for a positive ID. I didn't have that problem of identification with the Flight. Still, I would like more of both commodities. Bloom is not strong and body is weak in the midrange, but neither is to the point of becoming an issue. 

Honing in on the Flight's unusually sharp focus and much centered sound, you will notice there's not a lot of stuff surrounding that solid center.

It threw a soundstage extending from speaker to speaker, but not laterally beyond them. Images had good size and sharply demarcated borders, if still smaller than realism would dictate. (Most phono stages reduce the scale of the stage and shrink images; the Flight throws a bigger stage than most, but not at the level of the best units.)

This medium-priced phono stage (medium in relation to ones I'm familiar with, like the ASR Basis Exclusive, the Art Audio Vinyl Ref and the Lamm LP2) is a good marker of where we have arrived in contemporary solid-state design.

Oh, and it is very revealing of the source. One thing the Flight doesn't do is play games with euphony; it is largely uncolored and neutral. With its nearly non-existent noise level, if you put on a dirty LP you'll hear all the ticks and pops quite clearly.

Design and Features

The solid-state Flight is fully active (no step-up transformer) with plenty of gain for MC cartridges. I'm using the standard setting at 64dB with my 0.5 mv Shelter Harmony cartridge and there's no noise to speak of.

If you need it, you can engage another 10dB via a front-panel button for a maximum gain of 74dB. Loading is easily adjustable via a bank of plug-in resistors behind a cover plate on the back panel.

The Flight's power supply is in a separate, matching box. The two chassis form an attractive, aesthetically continuous line that belies the price point—it looks more expensive than its $US6100 (excl tax) price. 

It also has a Mono button, which I tried with mono LPs. I can't say I noticed an improvement.

The Flight gets slightly warm after several hours and then stabilizes. It sounds best then. For this reason, I recommend leaving it powered ON all the time.

Conclusion

The Audio Flight Phono is a good example of contemporary solid-state design. Yes, it sounds solid-state, but it avoids most of the pitfalls associated with that topology. The top-end has good body with no treble harshness. Its noise level is non-existent, yet gain is quite sufficient for even low output MC cartridges. In truth, it manages to do everything well; the issues present are minor.

Two things are outstanding. It has a kicker low-end capable of unfurling massive crescendos—dynamic range is well beyond expectation—and it remains composed while doing so. Second, soundstage clarity is notable. Transparency and dimensionality are heightened. I found it one of the few phono stages that can satisfactorily play the BIG symphonic works.

But, like most mid-price solid-state designs, what you won't hear is a lot of bloom. While I had no trouble making positive ID of the various instruments, my toe-tapping foot would have been more active if timbre had been more developed.

All in all, for those of us who like solid-state gear, the Audio Flight Phono is a strong contender at its price point. Once setup, you can forget about it and enjoy.

..........Marshall Nack

For its unique assets, the Audia Flight 100 is present day’s safest investment in solid-state power amplifier.
Constantine Soo

Please Note - this reveiw is of a Mk1 2005 model - since then the FL-100 has been update to new Mk4 version and offers even more refinement & dynamics etc: 

REVIEW SUMMARY: a solid-state amplification worthy of the presence of all loudspeaker systems at my residence, the Italian Audia Flight PRE and 100 was powerful enough to drive the Apogee Duetta Signature to unprecedented finesse, and at the same time possessing virtual SET subtleties to render the Audio Note AN-E SEC Signature most persuasively. It offered an alternate flavor that made a 300B user like me all the happier in this hobby.

Having been a Combak Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 user for over a year, I have found satisfaction in the 300B sound, despite limitation in speaker selection. Hence, I was immensely surprised and gratified to bear witness each time the Italian solid-state amplification drove any of the aforementioned speakers, be it the US$40k Audio Note, or the sub-US$4,000 Celestion. The Flight 100’s supple midrange detailing and superb texturing were simply unheard of in a solid-state design.

The fact that the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier was never ruthlessly assertive and was instead pleasantly subtle in tonal manifestations, and attentive at handling delicate transient swings, worked to assure me that its massive dimensions harbored a refinement commensurate to its asking price.

My first stare at the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier right out of the box was a prolonged one, the same kind many men have had when they first laid eyes on something so physically drawing to themselves that they would think of nothing rational but eternal companionship.

Prologue - I had not reminisced over my earlier days in hi-fi since my encounter with Audio Note’s 300B designs. I used to subscribe to the high-power notion and disregarded tubes as maintenance-ridden and imprecise. To solid-state amplification designers, that remains a statement of absolute truth; but my priority developed since then to the point where I believe even certain truth is not absolute.

Changes in hi-fi fashion at the end of the 20th century depicted a sizeable migration of users from solid-state to tube, and accordingly, from mainstream loudspeakers to high-efficiency types. Now that we’re in 2005, SET designs have managed to occupy a place in hi-fi history no less prominent than what the solid-state’s have accomplished. With both types continuing to progress in design and performance, the solid-state design remains the one that has no need for collaborative efforts on the part of loudspeaker manufacturers, while SETs remain dependent on availability of efficient loudspeaker in order to perform.

Therefore, my preference in loudspeaker also migrated gradually to the more efficient kind over the years. No longer would I purchase powerful amplification just to succumb to choice of speakers requiring considerable output. Instead, I investigated the sound of efficient speakers, like the Audio Note AN-E/D, and experimented with their sound as driven by SETs.

Over the years, although I have continued to own various high-power solid-state designs, they only hastened my return to the SET method. Alas, I have never given up hope on the transistors, and my Apogee Duetta Signature and Celestion SL700 continue to gather dust.

Brief History

Audia Flight was founded by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini in 1996, two men with background in professional electronics industry, and a shared objective in creating original amplification design in the Italian style. The company is located in the central Italian town of Civitavecchia near the Mediterranean, approximately 43.5 miles from Rome.

After founding the company, Marzi and Nardini began research and analysis on areas for improvement in existing amplification design, based on the premise that “a component of an audio chain must not alter the signal,” and insufficient signal speed could cause “low transient stability”.

From a research project that spanned from 1994 to 1996, the duo designed a new circuit that retired the traditional voltage feedback circuitry in their power amplification design. This new design utilized current feedback, generating a “high speed response” that could accommodate reactive speaker impedances simultaneously.

This new topology was introduced in 1997 in the form of the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier, which has gone on to conquering the hearts of the Italian audio publications. AF’s subsequent offerings, such as the preamplifier Flight Pre, and a smaller amplifier, the Flight 50, are also of the current feedback topology and have been received enthusiastically by the Italian reviewing community as well.

In 2005, Audia Flight comes ashore the U.S. by way of its importer, Q-USA. This review explores the marque’s top stereo power amplifier, the 100. A separate review will highlight its companion premium preamplifier, the Flight Pre.

Inside the Audia Flight 100

The Italian company prides itself on the current feedback topology it has developed, citing the design’s superior ability in maintaining several performance parameters, namely extreme trans-impedance linearity, a bandwidth of 0.3Hz to 1MHz, ultra fast and stable signal propagation, and a slew rate higher than 200 V/μS. AF points out that conventional “voltage feedback” designs, also known as the differential design, could only attain transient stability after several cycles of oscillations when hit by a step impulse signal, inadvertently resulting in signal tempering and transient impediment. AF is also of the opinion that use of higher-grade components in the differential design can not correct the inherent flaws.

Hence, located in the center of the unit is the 11lb, modular, dual 700VA, toroidal power supply stage, flanked by two mirrored, modular amplification channels to the sides.

Measuring 3 inches tall and 7 inches in diameter, each toroidal transformer is rated at 10,000 Gauss and its core plate “autoclave resin sealed and dried in oven.” One could expect no less originality from the country that gave us the pizza. Automatic machine tools monitor appropriate wiring tension in the coils, and multi-wire technology produces the main secondary.

Each channel draws from a dedicated, dual-stage power supply for feeding all stages up to the drivers, and providing energy to the power stage respectively. The dual-stage power supplies employ a 17,600μF, 8-high-speed capacitor design of discrete component and NFB design. The supply of the power stage then draws from four very-low ESR capacitors of 47,000 μF each, augmented by a 10 μF polypropylene parallel capacitor. A logic circuit prevents turn-on current surges and monitors operational temperatures.

Once, I accidentally turned on the Flight 100 ahead of the preamplifier when connected to the Audio Note AN-E SEC Signature. Atypical of like instances with other powerful transistor amplifiers in which any speaker’s tweeter would’ve been ruptured in smoke, and without a single decimal of noise, I had not realized my neglect at first and continued my incessant madness upon the miserable PLAY button. Hence, the Flight 100, with the logic intelligence thus bestowed upon it by its creators, has since then worth a few times over its asking price to me.

Remember: people have different luck sometimes, so never tempt your loudspeaker’s fate by trying to reenact my occurence.

Each of the Flight 100’s output channels employs 16 audio-specific, aged and computer-automatically selected Toshiba IGBT’s, capable of delivering a continuous current of 160 Amperes and a 240-Ampere peak current. Transient current loss is further reduced with the provisioning of thin, high-current, 10 mm2 and 5.3mm2 OFC copper bars, as well as circuit boards with a copper layer 0.1mm wide.

Other delicious innards include 1% tolerance metal film resistors, Philips polystyrene capacitors, Roedenstein polypropylene (except those in the supply stage), electrolytic and tantalium capacitors and Motorola transistors. All PCBs are made with 70 μm wide copper plus 30 μm wide metal layer, for a total width of 100 μm.

Finally, the all-aluminum chassis is laser-cut and milled by the industrial NC (Numerical Control) units, producing an effective heat dissipation surface of 18,000 cubic centimeters. Front panel labeling is also cut by the NC micro milling, followed by a blue-paint filling process, and even the labeling on the rear is also laser-cut, not silkscreened.

Set Up & Auditioning

Speakers of higher efficiencies constitute the pillars of my present reviewing system. Respectively, representing the most extraordinary implementations in horn, two-way and the unique Dual-Concentric™, they are the Acapella La Campanella, Audio Note AN-E SEC Signature and the Tannoy Churchill Wideband. All have proven to be consistently exemplary and reliably non-fatiguing in music reproduction. Hence, they were the first ones being rotated with the Audia Flight Pre and 100 amplification system.

Digital front-end included the 47 Lab PiTracer (2004) and the Audio Note DAC5 Special (2003). Accustic Arts’ DACI Mk3 and Boelen Electronics-modified EAD Ovation Plus DAC also partook of the audition.

Preamplification rotated were the Flight 100’s companion preamplifier, the Flight Pre, and Audio Note’s M5 Phono preamplifier.

Tannoy’s Churchill Wideband had few competition in dynamic scaling and tonal coherency via the Harmonix Reimyo SET. Yet, when driven by the Audia Flight amplification, the 95dB/8Ω, 15-inch Dual-Concentric™ loudspeakers asserted a dynamic prowess never before induced, imparting such rare lucidity and perseverance upon female vocals as to have renewed my experience with music via the horn speaker. I have admired Barbara Streisand’s Eyes of Laura Mars (Barbara Streisand -Greatest Hits Volume 2, Sony/Columbia CK 35679) for two decades since the 80’s, despite its compressed dynamics; but in the most unprecedented manner, it sounded lively and powerful with the Flight 100.

Other favorite female singers of mine were subsequently revisited via the playback system, such as Whitney Houston’s I Always Love You, and Shirley Bassey’s Moonraker. Also much appreciated is Jheena Lodwick’s JVC XRCD24 rendition of Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven (Jheena Lodwick Getting To Know You, JVC Musiclab XRCD24-1012SA). Hers is a much more listenable voice to Clapton’s.

The Churchill Wideband’s more petite sibling, the TD10, also displayed an exercise in dynamic and bottom-end via the Italian amplifier from Hollywood composer John Williams’ Jurassic Park soundtrack (MCA MCAD-10859). Driven by the Audia Flight 100, the $8k, 10-inch Dual-Concentric™, bass-reflex speaker’s performance was expanded to the point where its usual spectral and output capacities had seemingly exceeded what can be bestowed upon any design with 1-inch tweeter and 10-inch woofer in the known universe.

Via the majestically resolving AN-E SEC Signature, I’ve never heard a solid-state amplifier to be as well-controlled and well-endowed as the AF 100. When recreating the 1722 Petro Guarnei violin from the FIM disc, Antonio Vivaldi:The Four Seasons (FIM SACD 052), I found the Audia Flight an equal of tube amplifiers in its portrayal of the priceless violin’s subtleties. The AF gear not only approximated the US$24k Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777’s continuity and liquidity, but the Italian system’s dynamics, texturing and transients are unprecedented.

Then, the sound of the Acapella La Campanella when coupled to the Audia Flight 100 was one I have not encountered in solid-state amplification, one of lukewarm sentimentality, intricate intonation, and expeditious, powerful transients, with a slightly lighter tonal intensity than the PAT-777. As used to the 300B sound as I am, I find the Audia Flight sound of indispensable quality to the making of a high-end system.

The King of Control

What less efficient speakers need is not just any powerful amplifier, but one with sublime control of driver behavior, with absolute power to spare.

It was the other speakers at my household that provided the most blatant testimony of the kind of misuse I had exercised on them with all amplifiers preceding the AF. Genesis VI, Celestion SL700 and Apogee Duetta Signature — all exceeded their past performances when driven by the AF100, and provided the most definitive testimonials on the extent of virtues a transistor amplifier of solid, thorough engineering can offer in pristine, high-output listening.

Take the most inefficient one of the group, the Apogee, for example. At 86dB/4Ω, the Apogee Duetta Signature is unrelenting in withholding its most superfluous against all amplifications. During the days of the McCormack DNA-1 Deluxe, and even with my dual-mono Reference Line Silver Signature, I thought I had experienced the Apogee’s most extended in frequency reenactment and its most vanquished in dynamic manifestations. That is, until it met the Audia Flight 100.

The AF100 made me realized that the Apogee never showed me its richest treasure, never offered me the timbre realism as charged by the Audia Flight; never surrendered its textural delicacy the way the AF induced it to; never sounded so willing and touching when commanded by other amplifiers as with the AF, and never filled the room so consummately with any other amplifiers but the AF.

Likewise for the smallish Celestion SL700, it transcended its Aerolam confinement and expanded its sonic capacity to fill up the room.

Known for its dynamic potential and an Apogee-like amplifier diet, the Celestion revealed a persona befitting the title of the classic of the 90’s in British minimonitor design. For though it had always performed impressively with adequate amplification offering, such as the EL34-based, 125 Wpc Music Reference RM9 II, the Celestion transformed into a fiery beast of unprecedented sonic fullness with a newfound, disproportionate dynamic capacity.

By pairing the Celestion SL700 to the Audia Flight 100, I experienced the unmistakable sound of a full-range speaker from the minimonitor’s 1.25” aluminum dome tweeter and the 6.5”, double-surround Kobex driver. It was not so much a case as the Italian amplifier pushing hard, as the little minimonitor being sufficiently infused with power of the most exquisite degree for the first time in a full exploitation of its potentials.

This amplifier has renewed my passion for the SL700, as well as reaffirming the British minimonitor’s value.

Conclusion

A solid-state amplification worthy of the presence of all loudspeaker systems at my residence, the Italian Audia Flight PRE and 100 was powerful enough to drive the Apogee Duetta Signature to unprecedented finesse, and at the same time possessing virtual SET subtleties to render the Audio Note AN-E SEC Signature most persuasively. It offered an alternate flavor that made a 300B user like me all the happier in this hobby.

Having been a Combak Harmonix Reimyo PAT-777 user for over a year, I have found satisfaction in the 300B sound, despite limitation in speaker selection. Hence, I was immensely surprised and gratified to bear witness each time the Italian solid-state amplification drove any of the aforementioned speakers, be it the US$40k Audio Note, or the sub-US$4,000 Celestion. The Flight 100’s supple midrange detailing and superb texturing were simply unheard of in a solid-state design.

The fact that the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier was never ruthlessly assertive and was instead pleasantly subtle in tonal manifestations, and attentive at handling delicate transient swings, worked to assure me that its massive dimensions harbored a refinement commensurate to its asking price.

My first stare at the Audia Flight 100 power amplifier right out of the box was a prolonged one, the same kind many men have had when they first laid eyes on something so physically drawing to themselves that they would think of nothing rational but eternal companionship.

Simplicity is a foremost consideration in all design audio, and a good number of them, such as 47 Laboratory’s Gaincard integrated amplifier, have met with resounding success. Yet, in many a few designs, even the most vigorous implementation in simplicity failed to distinguish itself.

Therefore, when it comes to circuit design, I believe the morale of the precedents lies in the forbearance of a fixated goal, but to tread mindfully with fore- and hindsight. In this case, the Flight 100 is a painstaking exercise in simplicity amidst a necessary complexity for the attainment of power to which its designers aspired.

The dreadfulness of a sizably intimidating and sonically reckless solid-state amplifier is a prospect that any 300B user, like me, has been seeking to avoid at all costs. But the Audia Flight 100 proved its worth among SETs in driving high-efficiency speakers in my household, at the same time exerted its unmistakable power in vanquishing power-hungry speakers I’ve known very well. For its unique assets, the Audia Flight 100 is present day’s safest investment in solid-state power amplifier.

To want to own the Audia Flight 100 is to tread dangerously close to succumbing to one of the most common human flaws of overspending. Yet, it is mightily difficult to accept the notion of relinquishing ownership.

The only thing I have to declare, is that the rest of the "elite" group of preamplifiers under the Q1 scale, has just received an exceptional partner. Probably the most realistic of all of them ……
AV EXTREME Issue No.43 a Greek hifi-magazine

REVIEW SUMARY: With regards to the frequency spectrum now, things are expressed once again catalytically. The low end is full, clean, quick, like the live sound is heard, and its "transition" to the middle frequencies, I judge it absolutely reference level. The middle frequencies are vividly present, totally informative and almost – there couldn’t be more – analytical, that is why I would characterized them "dangerous" for the uninitiated listeners to the original live sound, and to be more precise, to the sound produced in the Recording Studio.

The upper midrange frequencies of the AUDIA is truly revealing, praising the authenticity and the peculiarity of the original sound. Nothing seems to be "fabricated", false, or needless – anyway the "air" between the performers, and the harmonic richness are present at the correct quantity, or, better still, at the quantity the music passages allow. With regards to the sound stage of the pre-amp, this is projected in a very dynamic, open and specific way. Everything is placed on the loudspeakers, in them, behind them and in general, wherever the recording producer has intended it. As a general characteristic though, please bear in mind the Flight Pre’s "dynamic" approach and the immediacy of its soundstage.

EXTENDED REVIEW: There was a myth, according to which, all Italian high fidelity equipment contained, in large amount, the brio, the emotion and the melodic musicality of our Mediterranean neighbors. And we lived a good life and the Italians an even better. But one morning, here at the AV Extreme, out of nowhere, we were visited by the Italian Krell !!!!!!, excuse me ….., the Flight Pre by AUDIA I wanted to say, which, by overtaking the Italian customary ways, set out to explore the musical truth to its most secret source.

Having the dimensions and the weight of a small power amplifier, the 15 kilo Flight Pre by AUDIA, gives us an immediate idea of what the whole concept is all about. Then the second ace comes out of its sleeve, meaning its exceptional built quality and assembly and in general, the pluralism with regards to the quality of components and fitting, in which everything is, in one word, excellent, and reminds in a large extend the quality encountered in American manufacturers – this is why we made the comment in the beginning about Krell (of course as you have already guessed it is not only the built quality that reminds you of the Krell range, but with regards to the sound of the Flight Pre, we will deal later on this article).

Let’s begin then from the start, and the front panel of this ….monster, where we meet the large display with the bright blue lettering, which at maximum setting, it really is very bright. Fortunately the brightness can be adjusted in 4 levels or disengaged completely, something which we suggest you do. Under the display, there are 6 buttons by which you can select the inputs, the recording mode, the brightness setting, the balance setting, the mute function and the big volume control, which is realized by metal film resistors and low noise relays that allows the volume to move in 0.5 db steps. The Flight Pre also allows you to name each of the 6 inputs with different names according to the source component. Also if you have differentiated the channel balance, then the front panel display always informs you of this in order not to forget to change your listening position or the position of the loudspeakers.

The "tank" from the inside

The approach of AUDIA in designing and constructing the Flight Pre is totally complete, and as the company explains in the detailed instruction manual, the attention and concept have originated from the designing of the exterior, then the power supply and finally the construction of the gain stage of the pre-amp. Starting from the cabinet itself, we can bow to the clever idea of the company to use two independent "floors" at the same cabinet (it reminds the older DAC from Theta Digital Generation V unit), in order to avoid, on one hand, the two-box design cabinet (which would have increased the cost of the unit a lot) and on the other hand, the electromagnetic shielding of the power supply from the sensitive pre-amp circuits. With this type of construction, the goal has been achieved. Furthermore, the material of the cabinet is aluminum (with great thickness in some areas), while the separating section and the top cover have mechanical damping materials for internal and external vibrations. The internal of the cabinet has a special treatment for the elimination of stray electromagnetic fields, while all metal parts are made by CNC machinery and they have also used laser-cutting equipment. It is also very interesting the use of laser for the "letter-engraving" process at the back panel instead of just printing and also the lettering of the front panel using Computer Controlled machinery.

The power supply is implemented with 3 toroids, two for the audio channels at 50VA each, specially made for audio, and also one more at 30VA for the control section of the unit. This section in turn, controls the volume the input selection, the mute, the brightness, the channel balance, the monitoring/recording and the labeling of the inputs, and all of them are housed at the front panel which is electromagnetically shielded, in order not to affect the audio circuits, while the voltage before reaching the circuits, passes through electromagnetic filters and regulated stages.

Coming back to the power toroids, each of them supplies a bridge rectifier that use ultra fast soft recovery diodes, which in turn, supply power to a set of capacitors (for each channel) with total capacitance 26,400mF, that produce a steady supply of +/- 50V at the audio circuits. Furthermore, the voltage that supplies the audio section is regulated by another 4 regulating circuits using discrete components which in turn supply separately each stage, for each channel of the pre-amplifier. In total there are 18 (!!) separate regulated circuits on both channels, just for the power supply of the audio circuit boards.

Lastly, the audio circuits of the preamplifier are using the current amplification concept, biased in class A and are constructed using discreet components only. Each channel consists of 4 stages (isolation stage, gain stage, current mirror stage and finally output stage) and, as we have already mentioned independent supply sections are used (for each channel) while the output stage is not included in the feedback loop.

Finally, with regards to the inputs-outputs, the pre-amp has two sets of balanced inputs (XLR) and four sets of unbalanced inputs (RCA), and for outputs there are two sets of unbalanced (a normal one and a record one) and one set of balanced output, all using very good quality plugs.

In total, this is a preamplifier that if it was made in USA, it would cost at least twice the price sold (actually, more than that)

Another Reality

The preamplifier by AUDIA arrived to us brand new and …. well shielded in its impressive wooden box. As you realize it was not broken-in and we followed the instructions of the Italian company to break-in the unit for 100 hours of playing music. After the break-in period, the preamplifier showed us that it was not kidding …

From the very first note, the Flight Pre told us that it is differentiated from the Italian school-of-sound- that has prevailed, and the pre-amp very soon (this is what happens when a unit has class!!), showed us that it is placed amongst the finest preamplifiers for the two-channel signal, since being exceptionally quiet, perfect match for almost every power amplifier, very-very transparent and above all, a fanatic supporter of the "realistic" musical dogma. Dynamically … absent, I would characterized it in two words. Let’s see how it arrives at this difficult and worth praising result.

Absolutely realistic, analytical and transparent, the preamplifier delivers the musical signal to the next component, taking care beforehand to analyze in a harmonic way every parameter of the signal. All that, without presenting any "discounts" to the signal or with over-simplicity and mainly without any exaggeration. The character of the preamplifier is delicately portrayed and revealing, where necessary, since the interaction of the Flight Pre with the musical event starts and stops to the analytical character and the extended transparency, while, at the same time you can take for granted the coherency shown when managing the signal. The micro and macro dynamics of the preamp are performing like protagonist, but under no circumstances in a false way just to impress you. To the contrary, they "shine" and actually to the top level, only those elements that exist in the musical passage. The sound "projection" therefore is only huge when and where it should be, the energy is transferred totally, and the feeling overall, especially if the Flight Pre is used with monitor loudspeakers (as it happened with the BM15A from Dynaudio), makes you think you are listening to a studio-grade equipment that is not allowed to have a "personal" character.

If you prefer an airy melodic character overblown like a balloon, and timbres falsely "constructed"….. I am sorry but the AUDIA will not satisfy you. Because this exactly clean character, this character that is "soaked" with the "up-front" logic, is the character that differentiates this preamp. However this character will reject a wide range of audiophiles, who possibly desire a preamplifier with a particular "colored" signature. Fortunately or not, the AUDIA is for those music and high fidelity lovers that completely love to listen to the "truth" of the music.

With regards to the frequency spectrum now, things are expressed once again catalytically. The low end is full, clean, quick, like the live sound is heard, and its "transition" to the middle frequencies, I judge it absolutely reference level. The middle frequencies are vividly present, totally informative and almost – there couldn’t be more – analytical, that is why I would characterized them "dangerous" for the uninitiated listeners to the original live sound, and to be more precise, to the sound produced in the Recording Studio.

The upper midrange frequencies of the AUDIA is truly revealing, praising the authenticity and the peculiarity of the original sound. Nothing seems to be "fabricated", false, or needless – anyway the "air" between the performers, and the harmonic richness are present at the correct quantity, or, better still, at the quantity the music passages allow. With regards to the sound stage of the pre-amp, this is projected in a very dynamic, open and specific way. Everything is placed on the loudspeakers, in them, behind them and in general, wherever the recording producer has intended it. As a general characteristic though, please bear in mind the Flight Pre’s "dynamic" approach and the immediacy of its soundstage.

Finally …

The Flight Pre is considered a tool for the correct judgment of all other equipment in the audio chain, and for the cables too, where it was exceptionally analytical exposing immediately their sonic character. On the other hand I must inform you that in situations that it did not "accept" some cables or other hi-fi equipment, it did not hide this fact, but it was expressed clearly and with great immediacy. Be careful then, before you approach the AUDIA, you must be certain that you and your hi-fi system, need an absolutely clean signal "manager", that adopts the dogma of realism and truthfulness like no other, disregarding the consequences. The only thing I have to declare, is that the rest of the "elite" group of preamplifiers under the Q1 scale, has just received an exceptional partner. Probably the most realistic of all of them ……

......it does what the very best of solid state can do in the here and now. As such, a ‘great’ solid state preamp. Tube guys, hear this preamp.
Anthony Kershaw

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Strumento n1 will be purchased by those wanting a flexible hi fi system with a heart of a lion. With it in your system, it can be also deliver analog and computer files, and will always be there to provide maximum musicality, maximum flexibility, and yes, even value. You’ll never need another. Highly recommended. 

 

EXTENDED REVIEW: The Italians get a rough ride when it comes to high end audio. Flaky kit, manuals that have been edited by Basil Fawlty, iffy distribution, etc. Sure, it looks good, and often sounds divine, but will the company be here for the long haul? I just reviewed a pair of Italian loudspeakers from Chario. They were superb, exquisitely designed and manufactured. That speaker went a long way to eliminating my prejudices (real or imagined) about Italian gear. Another manufacturer that added to the elimination of misconceptions is Audia Flight (AF).

Audiophilia’s Andy Fawcett the Audia Flight CD 3 CD player three years ago. He loved it. I never got to hear it, but was, once again, worried that Andy may wake up in the Outback and realize there’s no one there to help in case things went wrong. Wrong, again! Audia Flight is going strong and by all the positive notices continues to design and manufacture superb electronics. After Andy’s review and an introduction at last year’s Toronto Audio Show, I wanted to test a piece of Audia Flight kit for myself. I opted for the Audia Flight Strumento n1, the company’s top of the line Stereo Pre Amplifier.

At over US$16K, the n1 is AF’s top preamp and is part of their ‘Strumento Series’. It’s a Line Stage and comes with a hefty metal remote. There are modular system cards slots for phono inputs and SPDIF/USB 192kHz/32bits inputs. With the two extra cards on board, your musical needs, both digital and analog will be looked after for some time. I did not listen to the n1 with phono stage or via the USB, only in its line stage configuration.

More high end prejudices exist when discussing the need for a preamplifier, especially one costing many thousands of dollars. True, there are a plethora of fantastic DACs and Servers out there trying to put the CD Player and Preamp out of business. Not so fast. Every time I listen to a great system with a gorgeously musical preamp, I am reminded they are the heart of a truly flexible and musical system. The AF n1 is no exception.

Structurally, the n1 is a beast. The design is Italian, but with a Germanic heft. It features ‘…fully balanced circuitry, highly selected components, a power supply built with extra low impedance, computer grade capacitors (60.000µF only on the main power suppliers), 8 power suppliers, special print boards with an extra high surface copper, copper bars, special audio transformers, ultra fast rectifiers, are only few of main elements. For the volume control, which also controls the balance of the preamplifier, AF uses only high-precision, low-noise, 0,1% tolerance metal foil resistors. The completely new volume control has constant impedance and is absolutely silent during the commutation, without clicking noises’.

AF boasts the n1 ‘…is the perfect device for transfer of the signal to the power amplifier with the best precision, energy and speed (bandwidth more than 1,5MHz). The Strumento n1 is an unrivalled preamplifier where ultra low noise, speed and control ability are elements close to perfection’.

The unit I reviewed was already broken in. The aluminum front fascia has five buttons along with the largest volume control knob I’ve seen on a high end preamp. The bright display shows menu options, input or volume. The display may be dimmed. The rear sports XLR or RCA connections (Inputs 1 and 2). Inputs 3, 4, and 5 are XLR only. A RCA tape-out is included. The signal output consists of a single pair of RCA’s as well as two sets of balanced XLR’s.

I focused on a few favorite CDs to get a handle on the sound. I was lucky enough to review the unit through Raidho D-1 Loudspeakers (in their size, among the best on the planet), the Audia Flight CD One M CD Player and AF’s Strumento n4, the n1s power brother. More structural beasts featuring magic within (reviews forthcoming).

I am a true admirer of Raidho speakers and am very susceptible to any changes in its ‘house’ sound. The AF preamp gave no indication of coloration — certainly, no straight wire with gain, as it ‘added’ a synergy to the system that was so musical. But, what blew me away with the n1 was the bottomless noise floor. So low, so black. Like a magical elixir. It allowed for many nuances to shine. The new reissue of Billy Joel’s greatest hits emphasized this wonderful quality. Never the best recorded (lots of ‘studio’ artifacts), yet Sony has released a winner. The studio artifice has been removed for the most part, and what’s left is Joel’s amazing musicianship and the wonderful surrounding virtuosos. But, it was instruments such as harmonica and Joel’s own piano that caught my ear. The front edge of the harmonica, with its breathy articulation and the brilliance of Joel’s ‘pop’ piano playing. The piano on his recordings can never be mistaken for a Bosendorfer in a beautiful hall. Here, the piano’s transient and decay was lovely. It was involving instrumentally like few pop recordings from the 70s through the 90s. Usually, all glitz and glamour with string machines and imaginary drummers. The reissue’s engineering helped a lot, but the Audia Flight unravelled the lines magically, too. The noise floor, again.

Voices on CDs from The Cowboy Junkies, Anita O’Day, and Linda Ronstadt floated in the soundstage between and around the Raidhos. This preamp knows how to reimagine a voice, and with the effortless control of the very best preamps. Everything is locked down and solid, but all the musicality and enchantment came through. So many high end devices get the technology but the music remains elusive. The AF is fleshy, but shapely. Every bump in the right place. Audia Flight has taken great pains to use top of the line parts, solid topology and exceptional ‘tuning’ to get the balance right. You would not confuse the n1 with a great tube preamp like Audio Research, Lamm or VAC, but it does what the very best of solid state can do in the here and now. As such, a ‘great’ solid state preamp. Tube guys, hear this preamp.

Orchestral music in this system rocked the room. The Raidhos can outperform just about anything I’ve heard for orchestral replication, and the wonderful trio from Audia Flight matched them every step of the way. I ended with my 1969 von Karajan Beethoven 9, last movement. Always a snarky, red headed stepchild when trying to deliver the music diaphanously. Much like Beethoven’s vocal writing, recordings can get bogged down, especially in the opening orchestral volley, ‘ Millionen’, and the contrapuntal string writing in the 6/8. The n1 did a wonderful job in allowing me to hear the magnificent instrument that Karajan developed (inherited?). Once again, the AF loved to get timbres correct — piccolo (always swamped in this recording), bow on strings in the scrambling 6/8, and bass drum clear as a bell in the back of the Jesus Christ Church in Berlin.

The Strumento n1 will be purchased by those wanting a flexible hi fi system with a heart of a lion. With it in your system, it can be also deliver analog and computer files, and will always be there to provide maximum musicality, maximum flexibility, and yes, even value. You’ll never need another. Highly recommended. 

.......Anthony Kershaw

A good and beautiful machine that confirms our thought about this Italian brand, to which we accord without restriction, our Best Buy recognition. Rate 19/20
Antoine Gresland (France)
AUDIA FLIGHT PRE MK3 review from "Haute Fidélité" magazine 03/2008, review by Antoine Gresland (France)
We can say that Audia Flight’s engineers are able to offer with this PRE MKIII a level of quality rarely found at this price. The Audia Flight Pre reveal a level of transparency of first order. In terms of timbres and bandwidth we can recognise the priorities of the Italian manufacturer: distinctions and elegance. The high part of the spectrum is magnificently open and delicate, the medium very slightly warm and the bass is deep and steady, all there to provide you the magic that we expect from our preferred recordings.
 
In general this Audia Flight Pre take advantage of an uncommon sense of the melody to deliver a very musical signal, never tiring, keeping an exceptional sensibility at the changes of a source or of a cable. This preamplifier affirms its ability in recreating the ambiance of music hall, the specific voice of each single acoustical instrument and of a voice in a live concert, but also is comfortable with studio recording based on electronic instruments. The transients are of a rare precision, sometimes violent if needed.
 
Here is a preamplifier that exceeds in transcribing ambience and detail without loosing contact with the modulation of the music, thanks to homogeneity that make it at the same time performing and charming.
 
Conclusions
The Audia Flight Pre is a very nice machine that deserves its place in the best reproduction chains proposing a manufacturing quality and performances of very first order. Transparent and musical, its circuits in A Class deliver a very extended bandwidth at both extremes of the audio spectrum, a quality of timbres of a rare elegance with a large and stable soundstage.
 
Magnificently realised, the Flight Pre is easy to use with its very nice and complete remote control, offers several both balanced and unbalanced input and outputs.
 
A good and beautiful machine that confirms our thought about this Italian brand, to which we accord without restriction, our Best Buy recognition. Rate 19/20 
Sound quality from Audia’s Flight Phono is in the super league, capable of bringing out the very best from whatever cartridge you have residing in your turntable’s tonearm.
John Bamford & Paul Miller

SUMMARY REVIEW: Sound quality from Audia’s Flight Phono is in the super league, capable of bringing out the very best from whatever cartridge you have residing in your turntable’s tonearm. Thanks to its fabulously low noise floor and subjectively huge dynamic range it will have you reappraising your record collection late into the night, time and again. Price is up there in the super league too, but if it’s the very best you’re seeking... 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Designed to be a no-compromise 'statement' phono stage for high-end vinyl replay, the Flight Phono from Italy's Audia brand sounds every bit as good as it looks

It’s been almost two years since Hi-Fi News had the pleasure of auditioning a CD player and integrated amplifier from the Italian Audia company [see HFN September 2007]. With just a select range of amplifiers and a couple of CD players in its product portfolio, Audia may barely register as a blip on the radar of British audiophiles. On the European specialist audio scene, on the other hand, Audia has carved out a name for itself as a manufacturer to be taken most seriously in the high-end arena, its products regularly garnering accolades in French and German magazines as well as on its home turf in Italy, naturally.

   Talking of carving out a name, you just know that Audia’s products aren’t going to come without a fairly substantial price ticket attached to them when you see the build quality. Each component’s front panel is carved out of a solid billet of aluminium, with a high grade brushed finish that simply exudes understated ‘class’. The company’s new phono amplifier – called Flight Phono – is no exception. It’s been a long time coming, Audia having first previewed it at Munich’s High End show in 2008.

LOOKING THE BUSINESS

The Flight Phono is a two box design with its power supply housed in a separate chassis, connecting to the main unit via a 25-pin male D-SUB connector that terminates a heavy screened cable captive to the main unit. While the wrap around metal casework of both the power supply and main unit are in fact a little utilitarian on close inspection and not particularly well damped, the Nextel-type paint finish is exemplary and the whole is an object lesson in elegant industrial design. Attention to detail is evident in the machined aluminium feet ‘isolators’ that incorporate compliant rubber dampers and the luxurious, cost-no-object RCA phono sockets with gold plating. In short, it looks the business.

   On powering up, an illuminated Audia winged insignia cut out of the Flight Phono’s fascia flashes for a minute until the unit is ready to ‘go’. Both single-ended (RCA) and balanced (XLR) outputs are provided, and there are two inputs that can be selected via a button on the front panel. On our sample the two inputs were for moving magnet and moving coil cartridges, however the Phono can be ordered with two MM or two MC inputs if so desired. As the MM and MC input stages employ totally separate input boards, your Flight Phono can always be reconfigured by your dealer at a later date.

   A removable plate on the rear panel reveals rows of input pin sockets into which supplied gold-plated jumpers are inserted to achieve a required input loading for precise cartridge matching. For the MC input the maximum resistive load (with no jumpers inserted) is 47kohm, while inserting/not inserting jumpers into the various rows of sockets as determined provides for a choice of ten settings – from 7ohm to 980ohm. Custom settings can also be achieved by inserting a 0.25W resistor into the first row of pin sockets.

   Similarly the capacitive load can be configured for MM cartridges. Using the provided jumpers a choice of twelve settings are available between 47 and 600pF, while custom settings can be achieved by removing all the jumpers and inserting a capacitor of a specific value in the first row of pin sockets. Needles to say if an ‘ideal’ value is not available by simply inserting the jumpers as required, your dealer will assist to enable nominally ‘perfect’ matching with your chosen cartridge.

   To insert the jumpers you should do this carefully using long nosed pliers. Don’t do as I did: as I’ve small fingers I thought I’d get away with using my hands, but accidentally let a jumper slip from my fingertips. No big deal, you might think, but there’s a gap between the casework and the internal circuit board which allowed the jumper to fall inside the unit. Urgh... the air was blue in the Bamford listening room, as I had to do something that is ill-advised for regular users and disassemble the entire case in order to fish out the lost jumper that was now rattling around inside. You have been warned!

   In addition to switching between the Phono’s two inputs, push buttons on the fascia provide for selection of IEC equalisation (20Hz filter), summing of the left and right channels for good reproduction of mono records when using a stereo cartridge (as most of us do!), and a +10dB gain switch.

   Returning to the separate power supply unit for a minute, at the rear there’s an RJ45 socket for connecting a ‘communication’ Ethernet cable. Moving an adjacent toggle switch from Master to Slave consequently allows the Phono to be automatically powered on/off by one of Audio Flight’s amplifiers. The power unit houses two independent transformers in fact, a 50VA toroid powering the Phono’s analogue audio stages and a 15VA toroid providing a separate supply for the relays, logic control and memory. Switching commands from the fascia’s push buttons are via opto-isolators.

   Common to the design philosophy employed in Audia’s Flight amplifier range, the Phono’s MC input preamplifier is a current feedback design (while the MM employs a differential transistor input stage), after which RIAA/IEC equalisation is achieved entirely passively using high grade components such as 1% polypropylene and polystyrene capacitors. A second gain output stage, dubbed MCF NG1, employs Audia’s latest current feedback design ideas to ‘further reduce the noise floor and improve transient speed’ – which the company claims is the result of over two years’ development work.

PLAYING CATCH

From the moment the stylus cleared the run-in groove it was evident that this is a fabulous phono amplifier, with exceptionally low noise and a powerful, confident demeanour. I had to leap for the volume control of my Harman Kardon HK990 amplifier, as the uncommonly low noise from the record’s lead-in groove fooled me into thinking my system was set at a low-ish volume level. Actually it was – but the high gain of this Audia is such that I wasn’t far from catching my speakers’ drivers in my lap. And that would have been costly.

   Spending time with Audia’s Flight Phono soon had me rediscovering forgotten gems buried within my record collection. Prefab Sprout’s Swoon album [Kitchenware, KWLP1] for example, the band’s debut LP from 1984, sounded so fresh it might have been recorded only yesterday. The opening track of side two, ‘Couldn’t Bear to be Special’, with its layers of enchanting, breathy vocals and complex textures sounded magnificently holographic courtesy of the Flight Phono, with Paddy McAloon’s voice literally leaping out of the soundstage in a manner that was frankly startling.

WINDING BACK THE CLOCK

Was it simply that the last time I listened intently to Swoon I was in an attic apartment, nearfield monitoring through Yamaha NS1000Ms driven by Crimson  monoblocks? I thought this system was quite splendid at the time, but, well, that was a quarter of a century ago...

   Listening again to the opening couple of minutes of ‘Couldn’t Bear to be Special’, this time through the Edwards Audio MC1 phono amplifier, a great-sounding little phono stage priced £250 [see HFN July ’07] reinforced that this Audia Flight is truly, er, special. While one can happily revel in the polished sound of this recording through the clear and open-sounding Edwards’ MC1, with the Audio Flight the performance gains what I can only describe as majestic scale, authority and ‘sumptuous realism’. I consider the little Edwards’ MC1 a bargain for £250, a great example of ‘budget esoterica’. But what you gain by spending the equivalent of fourteen MC1s (a sobering thought, I’m bound to accede) is a smooth, luscious, creamy quality that takes all the ‘edge’ away – yet manages this without losing any sparkle and brilliance in treble details.

ROSY CHEEKS

Another trip down memory lane included a session enjoying Kate Bush’s Never for Ever LP [EMI, EMA 794]. Mine’s a slightly noisy pressing I’m sorry to say, nevertheless the Flight Phono sounds so effortlessly powerful and vibrant that surface noise all but vanishes beneath the energy of the music. As I wallowed in the lush tapestry that makes up the sound of Kate Bush’s ‘Babooshka’ the listening experience was so intimate I might have blushed had anyone entered the room.

   Late one evening, during yet another prolongued ‘LP fest’ thanks to the addictive realism I was enjoying, members of my family were heard to yell, ‘What on earth’s that?’ as the thunderous cacophony of Edgar Varese’s ‘Arcana’ and ‘Ionisation’ orchestral works (scored for 39 percussion instruments!) resonated through the building.

   Regarded by many as a ‘reference’ recording of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and LA Percussion Ensemble under Zubin Mehta [Decca SXL 6550], Edgar Varese’s hallucinogenic, roller coaster compositions on this LP, with its staccato blocks of explosive percussion, had me listening at a ‘realistic’ sound pressure level, shall we say. And it was a little late.

LUXURY CRUISER

I take no blame for disturbing a slumbering household whatsoever. It was all the fault of the Flight Phono. You see, when you’re doing 70mph in a Lotus 7 single seater sportscar you know you’re travelling quickly. But when you’re doing the same speed in a luxurious Bentley you feel as if you could walk faster. And the sound of the Flight Phono, no matter what music you feed it, is nothing short of luxurious.

   The Flight Phono arrived last month when I was auditioning five MC cartridges in the £230-£270 price range and I was ‘wowed’ by the sound they produced through this phono preamplifier. Given that very high-end cartridges are necessarily expensive to run (it will inevitably need re-tipping), one might be better advised to buy a modestly priced moving-coil and a top-flight phono stage like the Flight instead.

VERDICT

Sound quality from Audia’s Flight Phono is in the super league, capable of bringing out the very best from whatever cartridge you have residing in your turntable’s tonearm. Thanks to its fabulously low noise floor and subjectively huge dynamic range it will have you reappraising your record collection late into the night, time and again. Price is up there in the super league too, but if it’s the very best you’re seeking... 
...........John Bamford & Paul Miller

I still have the AF-FL100. I found the AF-FL100 to be a better value the the Lamm M1.2 Reference amps which I had simultaneously.
various forum FL100 owners comments

mechans
I have heard an all Audia Flight system at an audio group members house. He was using the 100wpc class A only amp with custom made wild technology speakers. The pre and CD were both overshadowed by one of the best sounding amps I have ever heard for an SS amp anyway. It is just what you want authoritative, full, brass balls bass that sings not coughs, forceful, warm and for a blessed instance an amp like that which is lightening fast. I liked it enough to buy it if I ever have money again. I only had a twenty on me and was short just a few grand. Wonder no more it is the real deal.

irg4gcg2002
I was so fortunate to hear a shop local to me in the UK was selling a Flight 100... I walked in and they asked politely what I might be interested in?..

I almost exactly stated what Mechans said above... and that I wanted a powerful amp that would drive ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, plenty of headroom, found all the detail that was there, was not harsh at all, plenty of clear and punchy bass, made all instruments sound like they should sound and are there in the room, etc, etc...

The reply was 'well you're not asking for much then'.. and 'well, we just might have something...come and have a look...'

I listened to the Audia Flight 100 and quickly made them swap the expensive, but horrid Monitor Audio speakers for something that doesn't sound like nails on a chalk board...

They returned with the managers own Kef speakers...which were a great improvement I think the ref 3.2 or something and very new (about £5,500.00 UK to buy I remember)

I listened for a while...just because I could (I already knew I was buying this amp now).

I bought it and I will NOT be selling it.

I have driven several speaker combinations, using different cables...Speakers include ATC, Dynaudio, Kef...and CURRENTLY Avalon Acoustic Ascendant Mk.1 (I will not be selling the Ascendants either!).

I have loved Hifi for 25 years and never really stopped looking and listening... Music is the most important thing...not the Hifi, but I think I am pretty well home now...

Listen to one if you can; I would be interested in any comments.

The Dagogo and 6 Moons reviews were pretty good I think.

I guess that was more than two cents worth, but hey, It's what I feel about my Flight 100.

PS. FORGOT TO SAY; I had no manual with it, but I sent an email to Massimiliano Marci at Audia Flight and got a PDF Manual copy for nothing...and within a week! Ralph Ward from Henley Designs in the UK was very helpful too!

classicaljazz
The Audia Flight 100 and 50 are both very good amps. Wide bandwidth, smooth treble and nice detail without being at all harsh. This is likely attributable to the Class A bias. The amp is very well made, has custom heat sinks and chassis rather than DIY parts and incredibly deep and tight bass. The AF100 compares favourably by spec with most any amp around its price class (2 x 700VA enclosed transformers, nearly 200,0000 µF in energy storage, WBT binding posts). It is very heavy, over 100 pounds. I had the AF50, similar with slightly less deep bass control. I still have the AF-FL100. I found the AF-FL100 to be a better value the the Lamm M1.2 Reference amps which I had simultaneously.


rcrerar
About a year ago I went to the local dealer I frequent and noticed that they were now an Audia Flight dealer. I had never heard of the brand. In one of the smaller rooms they had one of the integrated amps, the middle model I think, with the matching CD player driving Dynaudio C1's with all entry level Shunyata signal cables and Shunyata power cords and the sound of this system absolutely floored me. I went back to the store recently and they still had the same system set-up. I was curious if it was maybe just something about that first time I heard the Audia Flight gear and if maybe this time around I wouldn't be impressed. Well, don't you know this system upon second listen sounded even better than I remember it sounding the first time I heard it. If I was in the market for a new simple two channel rig that wouldn't completely break the bank this would be it.

leungdpy
First bought Audia Flight 2 int amp in 2007. A versatile int amp which could manage from Linn Tukan with or without sub, to Sonus Faber minis like Concertino Home or Minima, to Rogers Studio 1 with respective cables. Bought Flight CD 2 in 2010. Excellent player. This year bought Flight Pre Mk 3, Flight 100 and Flight CD 1 Mk 2. Getting quite addicted to Audia's neutral, transparent, warm and relaxed sound with lightning fast reactions and very extended frequency range. No need to crank it up. Just enjoy pure class A handling of the source material with unlimited headroom. All you hear is the result of the source and speakers. Audia disappears from the chain of equipment. Recommended.

As you have already guessed Audia Flight FLS-4 just went to my private list of potential upgrades reference system and is immediately on the first place.
Mark Dyba - High Fidelity (translation)

SUMMARY: For some time now, even before the upgrade columns Matterhornów to the Model One I looked for a potential successor to my ModWright KWA100SE. And frankly not very takowego seen. Of course, in favor of financial possibilities, and not in lack of a better amp than mine. The assumption was that this must be clearly higher class device, but playing the way I like. To reviewing the need, of course, the transistor, but he has to play musically, must not only write down perfectly in the bass, playing energetically, provide excellent control of all columns that may hit the test, play clean, retail, open, but sophisticated, weighted down mountain bandwidth, but also offer a full, colourful, saturated in diameter, three-dimensional space and a good presentation. And somehow among such candidates known to me the power amplifiers possibly achievable ceiling price so far not actually met. As you have already guessed Audia Flight FLS-4 just went to my private list of potential upgrades reference system and is immediately on the first place. I do not know if and when actually I can realise it, but you are, I hope, an indication that this amplifier just need to be interested. Definitely worth it because it's a fantastic device!

EXTENDED REVIEW: Ask somehow happened that in recent times increasingly explores the Italian market audio products. And time and time again their products surprise me very positively stimulating my curiosity and desire to learn new ones. The thing is not even the only such well-known brands as Pathos and Sonus Faber, but also those less known and, so far not so recognised, such as Tektron, Standard Audio M2Tech, zing, or Audia Flight. The latter, although present on our market for some time, somehow bypassed me.

Well over a year ago Wojtek he not tested the way (though, of course, a matter of relative) Integra brand, model FL Three S , and rated it very positively, giving it even Award of the Year in 2015 . So far I only had the opportunity to listen to several devices AF exhibitions. It is not enough to form an opinion about them, but enough to gain desire to meet with at least one of the Italian amplifiers in their own system.

And then finally I hit the bargain. Polish came to the most recent, stereo power amp this brand - FLS-4. This device is a fair size and weight, but also its dimensions allow you to provide such a device to test me (to drink here ends the series strumento weighing 100 kg or more, which no one would did not make me). Gdansk Premium Sound was polite FLS-4 bask properly, and immediately after this amplifier got to me. 

New Italian stereo power amp weighs a "minor" 34 kg net and a solid wooden box in which it is delivered, the weight goes back more than 42 kg. You have to toil so it was healthy to take this device to my house and set them on the table. But with the help of the Arka Sztandera Premium Sound we were able to accomplish this.

The tip makes a very solid impression. Thick front with a characteristic "the step", that separates a thicker, lower portion of a bit thinner, smaller and containing highlighted in blue "smile" upper, although simple kind, particularly for catching the eye (at least mine). In fact, this "smile" is one of the two associations, which almost immediately came to my mind when you turn on the amplifier.

The second is a Cylon ... - so, again, this nasty robot with a series BattleStar Galactica , which I mentioned at the occasion of the review columns Hansen Audio The Knight 2 . They also have a paragraph at the backlit bar. Although the difference is such that in them was red, and here is blue, but the association was immediate. Even when the amplifier is not turned on the light from the outside makes this bar is clearly visible. I think that the black color version, which came to the test, makes it even more impressive than the silver front.

The housing is made of aluminium using CNC machines, and after each element of quality is carefully monitored and, if necessary, "corrected / smoothed" by hand. Some critical elements are finished entirely by hand. The effect obtained in this way is simply outstanding. Dizajn can and is quite simple but elegant, and the quality of workmanship and finish makes this a subject that can safely be put up in an elegant interior.

As this stereo power amplifier only manipulator disposed in the small recess in the bottom of the front plate, a power switch. The rear is slightly richer - the user gets for the disposal of two pairs of speaker per channel, balanced inputs (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) and balanced output.

It's a powerful stereo power amplifier, which can give 200 watts per channel into 8 Ω (and up to 900 W for 2 Ω), which in practice translates into excellent control of the vast majority of columns available on the market. Just like. Standard Audio, Audio Flight also relies on a very wide frequency band (according to manufacturer it goes above 0.7 MHz). As highlighted on the website, the creation of this structure thing was not the same parameters as such, although these are important, but also in the use of already 20 years of experience engineers Audia Flight in designing uncompromising amplifiers, which was still supported by critical listening sessions "trained ears" .

Really speaks to me one more thing, there found, a reference, namely the comparison of the luthier builds his instruments, which builds them according to certain assumptions, but ultimately it tunes using your hearing, experience and sensitivity to the beautiful sound. As provided by the manufacturer, it looks the same in the case of devices, including FLS-4.

Although FLS4 represents a lower series of many elements taken from the top amplifiers strumento at the forefront of a fully balanced system of dual mono carefully selected elements, 32 high-power transistors and power supply, which uses low-impedance capacitors (with a capacity of total 288 000 uF only in the main power supply).

Frankly, the impression was so large and so surprising that not even remember where I started monitors. And actually it was not even listening - just plugged in the system and let go of some music to give Audii (and themselves) in time for the accommodation of the system. Just the amplifier did not want to give me time to get used to its wording, would not let me do something else. From the beginning of my undivided attention he conquered using a combination of many features sound, some of which completely did not expect after him.

What to begin with? Perhaps the fact that the tested amplifier played with the test in the previous month Hansenami The Knight 2. Sound club took them away, so for now I use of these fantastic speakers (mine are also delicious, but Hanseny are even better). After a few different pieces, it was clear that the Italian Canadian amplifier keeps the column as an iron grip as me. And he does it surreptitiously, without effort, not boasting that he deals the cards, not imposing them your (I was not) character.

I wrote in my review of The Knight 2, that the bass is impressive (even if not equal in this respect more Prince'om V2 ). Well, although the tip Bryston seemed to squeeze them almost everything had to show in this regard, as it turns out, this "almost" lay in a still quite a wide margin. The thing is not even in the same control and the definition of the bottom of the band, because here "Canadian" if at all, is very little inferior "Italian fans." It's more a matter of hue, saturation, intensity bass, and for the cause of all these advantages, and also causing the classic jaw-dropping impressive naturalness of this range. Nothing specifically illustrious Brystonowi, Audia Flight in these aspects of the game have a better class (let's not forget that it costs about 50% more).

It did not completely matter what music I played. Acoustic Bass - please. First fantastically differentiated - bass, even in the hands of the same music (even Raya Browna) on each CD sounded different. Each time, however, was a large, three-dimensional lump, were put great balance between strings and body, was incredible immediacy of any jerking the strings, the strings buzzing reality on the neck. When Isao Suzuki used smyka reaching the lowest sounds that you can extract from this instrument, I felt every stroke deep in the bowels, even if physically descent was not as low as those Prince'ach V2.

Acoustic guitars in a variety of editions, whether in concert with the San Francisco Friday Night , or the Flamenco puro live , whether in the end the studio album, Badi Assad, is another instrument, which made my eyebrows rose very high and has remained so. None of the test transistor at my house so far, he has not played guitar in such a natural, flowing and - probably repeating myself - delightful way. Instruments acoustic guitars at the forefront of this domain lamps, period! Meanwhile, here are completely quartz power amplifier (although supported by the lamps and pre-DAC u) presented them as insane as if it were sitting in triode and some are working in SET. Sure, brilliant Kondo Soug and Kagura , amplifiers or audio Tekne approaching the sound of real instruments even a bit more, but - hell! - costing a few, and a dozen or more times!

How it used to be the best test tubes, now also I dusted off his guitar, tuned it to Paco de Lucia and pobrzękałem moment with him (because it's hard to call it playing). This, likewise fared guitars played by the system and the one on which I played was remarkable. Again, the game entered the immediacy of jerks, again were heard as each string vibrates, the box takes over these vibrations and amplifies them, how long, full reverbs are true.

Of acoustic instruments already close to the vocals. She sang for me anymore, how beautifully, Badi Assad, and now came the turn of Macy Gray from her latest album Stripped (very good album by the way!). And he can sing! Best voice has been shown with exacting precision focus equally on its color, texture and special talent for the artist. On the same disc, probably when Macy's does not just sing, przyuważyłem sonorous, strong, full of cymbals. Their great diversification, excellent speed and duration-donating again reminded to mind the experience of truly concert. The more that where losses included tighter drums once again gave itself felt immediacy of each stroke sticks and equally swift response to beautifully resilient membrane. It juiciness each stroke, his enormous energy, excellent timing and fine differentiation made the drums sounded so good, so strong, so ... true. Somehow, no matter what instruments I looked closer, the impression is the most important came down each time to this, as naturally and truly each of them fall out of the FLS-4.

Macy Gray album to listen to great, although even so perfect for controlling bass as set FLS-4 with 2 Knightami not cywilizował slightly inflated bass, did not make it enjoyable to the ear. It sounded a bit like the Oregon concert, which took place for quite a few years ago, probably in Warsaw's Roma, where a wooden platform set on the instrument wailed sounded hollow and somewhat blunt - here is the same, but that was just recorded. A Audia Flight was not going to cheat, hide, polished, smooth - clearly showed that if you treat her recording, in which the elements are less processed, so she just punish it. And while those captured on the (contractual) tape correctly, in this case, vocals, or drums, went extremely well.

These also fared well most intense, passionate vocals eg .: Etty James, Janis Joplin, or Mark Dyjak. Indeed expression, the Italian transistor can match many a very good lamp. And since the space and visualise the individual virtual sources, and thus vocalists, is delicious, I had the impression that each of these artists is almost on the doorstep of me and sings with such great intensity that until the sparks dancing on the microphone ...

Audia Flight huge class proved too large classics. Outstanding resolution, combined with very good separation, supplemented how natural (and again is pushing everywhere determine) the presentation of colors and the incredible energy of playing made him the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven, is the opera of the same first or Verdi, were more than just an ordinary hearing. Because they were intense, stimulating, engaging experience. Each song, regardless of whether the last 20 or 120 minutes I listened with full concentration and dedication from the first to the last second.

The momentum and power that FLS-4 was able to give playing orchestra were obviously not 100% give a true dynamics, because it's just not possible at home, but taking on a possible amendment to the present scale, it was just brilliant presentation. It is for me a completely new experience. Ie. of course, it happened before, but only with a vacuum tube devices. For the first time so much music in me a clean engaged transistor.

At the end I served up a dose of rock, really well already knowing what to expect. Excellent pace & rhythm , a giant serving of naturally sounding power, speed, immediacy attack, tight low descent dociążonego bass, which was amazingly resilient, contour, but absolutely not artificially hardened. Guitars sounded brilliantly - with a smile, Drive , an aliquot of aggression rock and dirt. Bass guitars in most cases were hard, fast, powerful sound recording pulse setting.

No cheating - compression in the recordings could be heard, not the best quality. But this kind of music is this above all fun, it will be performances by outstanding musicians and singers, which, properly presented, easily distract listeners from defects in implementation. Audia Flight performed their tasks formulated so fantastic, and I played with great when AC / DC, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Marillion and several other bands.

DESCRIPTION:

Audia Flight FLS-4 is a stereo power amplifier, the first product in a series of FLS. It is quite large and heavy device offering 200 watts per channel into 8 Ω and doubling capacity for 4 Ω. Italian manufacturer, e.g., as., Audio Standard also relies on a very wide bandwidth, in this case extending above 0.7 MHz. Elegant, rigid, solid build carefully made of aluminium. There are two colour versions - silver and black. In the lower corners of the front plate provided slightly subtitles with the company name and the model, and the middle lower part, in a recess provided tiny push button switch device, and more than a tiny LED.

The main, if not the only decoration of the front of the power amplifier, is placed above mentioned "tiers" backlit "smile" (backlight can be turned off). Although it looks like a part of the de facto uniform consists of several elements that indicate possible blinking problem with the device work when one of the protection systems. The sides of the amplifier is large, sturdy, well-constructed heat sinks discharge large amounts of heat.

On the back provided two pairs of speaker channel, XLR and RCA and the small switch which indicates the selected way of connecting the amplifier with the preamplifier or the source with variable output. What is interesting are placed next to the "male" XLR, which is intended to connect with the other arts FLS-4, if you have such and we want to use bi-amping. In addition to the said switch RCA / XLR socket placed I / O trigger, so that the tip can be combined with other devices also equipped with triggers. In the lower portion of the rear panel in the middle of a power socket provided with the main switch.

Even the arrangement of the connectors on the amplifier so suggests that this device in a dual-mono, and writes the producer, it is also fully balanced, like the tip of the top brands of strumento series. With them also they are taken carefully selected components and power transistors 32. The main power supply uses a low-impedance capacitor 16 with a capacity of 18 mF 000 (i.e., total 288 000 uF). Each channel supports two, high-current power supplies and four independent, fully stabilised. The separate toroidal transformer 15 powers the logic VA and safety, which completely isolates them from the audio circuit. In total, the unit operates 12 power!

The manufacturer utilised custom made to order PCBs additionally coated with a layer of high-grade copper. The main toroidal transformer 2000 VA power is enclosed in a double ferromagnetic shield box and additionally flooded with a special resin.

All of this happens in such a dynamic state that it becomes transparent.
Andio Morotti of Italian hifi-magazine “Fedeltà del Suono” n° 77 r
REVIEW: FLIGHT 100 power amplifier + FLIGHT PRE review excerpts from Italian hifi-magazine “Fedeltà del Suono”. 
The AUDIA FLIGHT PRE is a pre amplifier on line entirely dual-mono controlled by a microprocessor. This is a real masterpiece, although the sample I have here is one of the first assembled and some details were modified in later models.

The sound of the AUDIA FLIGHT amplification left me stunned, I had not yet discovered its musical exceptional qualities. With the preamplifier, just to make an example, I run the risk of having to change all my opinions on solid preamplifiers.

It is as refined as the Klimo Merlin Reference and the Convergent Signature, my referral preamplifiers more than twice expensive than the AUDIA FLIGHT. I am convinced that the Italian preamplifier has very few rivals in the world when it comes to full and complete sound.

Similar considerations can be made for the AUDIA FLIGHT 100. This equipment is so impressive, not only for its capacity to express power, but also for its absolute quietness in doing so. 100 Watt per channel on 8 ohm are really a lot, believe me, especially when the impulsive power (the important factor in music) is as high as our AUDIA FLIGHT.

However, when power is there not for show, but to serve the final sound, then you can really be delighted with it. Then you can forget the technicalities of solid state, of volts and amperes, but you can feel the control over the low frequencies, the fluid middle, and the rich flourish of the high tones with all the harmonics, which make the reproduction more realistic. All of this happens in such a dynamic state that it becomes transparent. 

We can now add our voice to the claim that it is certainly one of the best phono stages in the market today, sonically.
ASTRA SUITE NEWS

After extended listening with the AUDIA FLIGHT FL PHONO STAGE, we can now add our voice to the claim that it is certainly one of the best phono stages in the market today, sonically.

Built like a tank, to borrow a phrase usually associated with power amplifiers, yet small in stature, it is both elegant and rugged at the same time. At its price, with two sets of separate phono stage boards inside (it can accept two tonearms, and no switches that degrade the sound), the Audia Flight FL Phono is actually a bargain. It is currently doing great justice at the showroom to one of the best cartridges in the world today, the "My Sonc Lab Hyper Eminent", bringing out with exuberance the energy in the music which My Sonic Lab cartridges are known for, as well as outstanding microdetail rendered with excellent timbre, not just tizz. A musician would certainly appreciate this sonic strength, when they hear an instrument reproduced with outstanding high fidelity.

The Audia Flight FL Phono has been reviewed and consistently hits deservedly high marks, like getting the Stereophile Class A Recommended Component badge, among others. Well, read on for an optimisation tip that can improve the sound even more.

The FL Phono can be loaded to match cartridges using jumpers behind. It’s a good feature, and does its job very well. However, for the more adventurous, it can also be loaded with resistors to match a cartridge load, and this is probably an unused feature by many. Resistors are like valves (although with lesser choices), popular brands made of certain materials sound different in a high resolution system, and can impact the sonic quality. Currently our favorite resistors on the FL Phono are the tantalum resistors, an example shown in the picture below, where they gave the biggest soundscape and a wonderful balance in treble and bass extension. We preferred a 270 Ohms loading for the Hyper Eminent cartridge rather than the recommended 400 Ohms, at least in our current system. This just shows how loading is a very important factor in matching cartridges and phono stages, at least in one’s individual perception of what sounds best.
ASTRA SUITE NEWS

Full, rhythmic, colourful, and swift as an arrow, an upgradable music machine of the top grade – for an affordable price!
Stereo Mag

REVIEW SUMMARY: At its base price, this amp’s way with music is pure magic, and its highly developed musicality makes it a frm recommendation. We’d also suggest anyone interested should equip the amp with the phono or digital option, either right away or later as an upgrade: together, these options complete the Italian device and, while this pushes the price over the €3000 mark, it is easily worth it.

AUDIA FLIGHT THREE-S - 5 STARS - 85% rating OUTSTANDING
Full, rhythmic, colourful, and swift as an arrow, the Three S sounds even better via its balanced input. An upgradable music machine of the top grade – for an affordable price!  The arrow-true, charming and spacious-yet-smooth Audia Flight basically makes you sit there with your mouth open. How does it go in one of the current charts hits? Ah yes, „I Wasn‘t Expecting That“! It’s a lot of fun – especially considering that you can own it starting at just €2,500. I will definitely be volunteering for the next amp test... 

Group Test Comparison with: 
Audia Flight THREE-S (Euro 2,600) - 5 STARS
Icon Audio Stereo MkIIIM (Euro 2550) - 4 STARS
Analogue Audio (Euro 3850) - 4 STARS 
Mcintosh Blue Horizon (Euro 8,950) - 4 STARS

EXTENDED REVIEW: Audia Flight has thoroughly reworked its entry-level model and increased its performance. It can also be upgraded.

Italian manufacturer Audia Flight has been in business for more than 20 years, and is a company with great vertical integration, including component selection and circuitboard assembly: Jan Sieveking of the German distributor assured us he’s witnessed the design process during which individual components had been played against each other to win their place on the boards. 

The Audio Flight „Three“ was for many years a sales success, officially, the Three S is a carefully modernised, performance-enhanced, but subtle revision. 

However, in addition to a solid power increase, some deeper changes have also been made to the circuit design. 

A striking catchphrase used for the Audia Flight is trans-impedance amplification: this is described as a kind of current-controlled voltage source, or current-voltage converter, in which an amp converts an input current into a proportional output voltage. 

The inputs of the Audia Flight can be named arbitrarily and the display dimmed, and when turning off the device reduces its volume setting to a minimum, which will avoid surprises when turning it back on.

What’s more, as well as a significant overall performance upgrade as part of their thorough reworking of the Three, the Audia Flight designers have also fitted a high-quality headphone amp – a sensible move in view of the current popularity of ‘personal listening’.

Good, expandable equipment Home theatre fans will be happy that one of the four line-level inputs can be configured as a direct input for the power amp, bypassing the preamp and volume control, for instance to accommodate the front left/right preamp outputs from a surround processor or receiver. The Three S also has a preamp output to feed active speakers, an external power amp or a subwoofer and, in addition to Rec Out sockets, has a these days less and less usual monitor/read-after-write setting for analog recording fans.

The Audia Flight also permits the installation of a high-quality MM/MC phono input board, selling for € 320 either at the time of purchase or as a later addition, and offering very flexible configuration via dip-switches including both impedance and capacitance, As an alternative, or for another € 360, a USB DAC board is available to turn the amp into a 24 Bit/ 192 kHz-compatible, high-grade sound card for the Mac/PC if so desired. 

The double-mono construction of the device is striking, even though this is not carried through to symmetrical layout, as is the case in the other Italian amplifier here, while the amp is also available in a choice of black or silver finish on the thick aluminium fascia. 

The Audia Flight turned out to be the sonic surprise of the test group, despite its quite moderate price. It created a soundstage that extended past the speakers in width, depth, and even height, the image breaking free from the enclosures in impressive fashion. That‘s how it should be, but the sound is certainly impressive for just € 2600, as is the way it delivers very fine detail despite an overall presentation defined by power, extreme speed

Meanwhile the amp’s way with rhythms made us prick up our ears: its interpretation of Sacred Spirit‘s „Legends“ had us on the edge of our seats with ultra-deep bass, astonishing spatial effects and wild harmonica. The bass was effortlessly nimble, but underpinned by solid foundations, and despite the enormous playfulness, we weren’t even annoyed by the rare, almost overly transparent HDCD version of the debut album „Come Away With Me“ by Norah Jones, whose existence continues to be a mystery. 

At its base price, this amp’s way with music is pure magic, and its highly developed musicality makes it a firm recommendation. We’d also suggest anyone interested should equip the amp with the phono or digital option, either right away or later as an upgrade: together, these options complete the Italian device and, while this pushes the price over the € 3000 mark, it is easily worth it.

…… Tom Frantzen (Stereo Editor)

LAB COMMENTS: 
Great performance with room to spare, overall very good values, the non-peak distortion and damping values indicate low degenerative feedback. 

Once again, as I found in my Strumento № 4 review, the Audia Flight FLS4 surpasses the expectation at the price point. This is a manufacturer with serious designing skills
Edgar Kramer

CONCLUSION: Once again, as I found in my Strumento № 4 review, the Audia Flight FLS4 surpasses the expectation at the price point. This is a manufacturer with serious designing skills (as I found during my factory tour – stay tuned for that pictorial report coming to the Features section soon) and completely devoid of a ‘me too/cookie cutter’ ideology. These are well-developed designs, the fruits of solid engineering talent.
What’s more, this craftsmanship is further elevated by co-proprietors Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini’s keen fine-tuning ears. Each Audia Flight component is carefully assessed and ‘voiced’ in a well-equipped auditioning room at the company’s headquarters and factory in Civitavecchia just out of Rome.
Add to all that the aesthetic design flair commensurate with the Italian credo plus the Swiss-precision build quality and you have yourself one extremely serious power amplifier that should last you a lifetime. Bellissimo!

EXTENDED REVIEW: As much as many consider the preamplifier to be the heart of a high-end audio system – direct feed from source notwithstanding as that is an entire new argument – the amplifier takes the blood that’s pumped from the heart and feeds it to our system in order to operate the mechanics of moving parts that transfer energy to the air, hence, making the sound of the music we hear and love. Audia Flight’s newest FSL series stereo power amplifier promises to ‘flow the blood’ in a most robust way…

Audia Flight’s top stereo power amplifier, the Strumento № 4 is, in my opinion, one of the best solid state amplifiers out there (I lived with it for many weeks while reviewing it for 6moons.com). You’d need to spend a whole lot more to get marginal improvements – maybe even just flavour variations, really. With technology and design ideas inherited from that powerhouse, the FLS4 hits the market at a more affordable price point.

Having said that, bringing a more accessible product hasn’t translated into a massively extended checklist of compromises. Looking at the FLS4, examining its chassis, connector quality and overall aesthetics would render a conclusion that, perhaps, not that much has been conceded to price points. Going deeper into the design would bring similar conclusions…

Instrument of amplification

An important aspect of the FLS4 amplifier that has allowed the Audia Flight engineers to reduce the costs involved with its production against the Strumento behemoth is, for starters, the somewhat lower power rating of 200 watts as opposed to an over-engineered and modestly-specified 250 watts of the Strumento № 4. This of course, allows for a shorter component list, a downgrade in parts’ electrical ratings (smaller transformers, etc.) and a shrinking of the chassis and heatsinking which, when you’re looking at such superb machining quality, the downsizing actually translates to considerably lower production costs.

So far we’re talking cosmetic and output power-related issues. Of course, some further trivial compromises may have been necessary within the circuit design – which may have minor sonic penalties, after all the Strumento is quite the killer and more than double the price – but overall, we may be talking about a lower powered version of an amplifier that may approach the sonic excellence of its bigger brother.

So, given its Italian heritage, it’s a given that this is a most attractively styled amplifier. It’s built around a massively solid machined aluminium chassis (the top panel’s etched Audia Flight logo is a nicely done touch) flanked by quality heatsinks. Like the bigger Strumento brethren the heatsinks are recessed below the top panel’s extended overhang which makes for knees and chins that will be safe from gouging. The front panel’s wings-like wave curve is followed by the amplifier’s display window (in cool blue) while the only control to interrupt the fascia’s simplicity is a central small on/off button.

The rear panel sports both unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR inputs as well as a set of XLR outputs (for daisy-chaining multiple amplifiers). Trigger mini-jack in/out sockets are provided for automatic turn on/off when connected to Audia Flight preamplifiers. Two pairs of clear plastic shrouded copper speaker binding posts are provided per channel (these are another concession to budget because even though they are of very good quality, they are less so compared to the Strumento’s superb Furutech posts). An IEC inlet with fused on/off mains switch rounds out the connectivity. Simple.

Audia Flight specifies the FLS4 as being capable of outputting 200 watts RMS into 8 ohms, 380 watts into 4 ohms and 700 watts into 2 ohms (this last minus the current limitation provision). The FLS4’s gain is 29dB while its input impedance is quoted as 7.5 k-ohms unbalanced and balanced. This last translates to excellent matching with AF’s own preamplifiers, of course, as well as other solid state units while some care may be needed with valve preamplifiers sporting somewhat high output impedances.

This is a wide bandwidth fully balanced design with a frequency response spanning from 0.3 Hz to 0.7 MHz measured at 1 watt RMS at -3dB. Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) is given as 0.05 percent with a Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) of 110dB while the damping factor of 650 at 8 ohms has the promise of decent bass control. The amplifier weighs a hefty 42 kg.

The stout ‘super high current’ power supply is built around a 2KVA toroidal transformer with a separate 15VA transformer used for the logic control and protection circuit. A bank of 16 capacitors totalling 288,000 micro-farads provide the main storage. Output devices are the bipolar type and the FLS4 features 16 of them per channel. The gain stage is a proprietary Class-A current-feedback circuit, is housed within an aluminium enclosure and is encapsulated in epoxy resin in order to eliminate noise interference, vibrational distortion and to maintain thermal stability.

There are actually four stabilised independent stages per channel comprising of two for the input stages and two for the proprietary current feedback stage. Audia Flight does not believe in using fuses in the amplifier’s output stage’s main power supply stating that they work as “resistors” and adversely affect sound quality. Instead, a microprocessor controlled current sensor is employed. 

It bears repeating that the FLS4’s chassis is a beautiful piece of industrial design using high-grade aluminium which is machined and finished after a number of processes including “shot-peening” (a metal shaping/finishing process) with final anodisation and “mirror polishing” resulting in an ultra-smooth surface. This level of chassis quality is associated with top end products – many at higher priced points.

Volare

I thought it pertinent to start my auditioning with Gianmaria Testa and the track “Cavali di Frisia”… to keep the Italo-frutti flavour – just saying. This beautifully recorded track is from the French speaker manufacturer Triangle’s Musique compilation (from Testa’s Extramurosrelease) and features closely-miked vocals and acoustic guitar.

Testa’s chesty vocals are reproduced with great sense of body and isn’t overdone by the FLS4, almost approaching a very good valve amplifier (the latter’s universally-acknowledged unbeatable strength) while controlling the lower frequency span of his voice extremely accurately. When Testa lets fly with a whistle close to the microphone it never sounds strident but the FLS4 tracks the dynamic contrast superbly. The track’s guitar sections are separated clearly from the vocal parts while being excellently reproduced both in terms of tonality and transient speed.

In fact, going over my notes during the listening sessions showed me making several remarks regarding two aspects which reiterated the FLS4’s greatest strengths – that of accurate tonal rendition and powerful dynamism.

From the same Triangle sample CD comes a bass guitar-only rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” from Jonas Elborg’s Elegant Punk title. Here the tight control, powerful punch and sometimes startling dynamics made for an edge-of-your-seat listen. This can be a scary track… “Will my speakers survive this?” is the niggling question as you listen. Indeed they did, with the FLS4’s unshakeable dominance of the low registers providing an exciting rollercoaster ride full of detail and thrilling transient pulses.

Australia’s Angus and Julia Stone’s releases have crossed oceans and become strong audiophilic fare around the globe. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is good music of a mostly acoustic pop variety slanted with Indie street cred. Secondly, and especially in their A Book Like This CD, the recording quality is outstanding. The brother and sister team – from Newport in the Norther Beaches districts of Sydney – also share the vocals which provides variety while the sometimes melancholic themes can stir the emotions of many listeners.

From that same release, the track “Here We Go Again” is renowned for its superbly captured kick drum and guitar. When the track starts the FLS4 wallops with a deep and concussive thump as the beater pedal hits the drum skin. It’s oh-so-fun… and also realistically… lifelike, your speakers permitting. And the amplifier performs superbly too when it comes to reproducing the siblings’ vocals. Julia Stone has a skinny, almost mousy cutesy tone (in a good way) and her intonation – in addition to the close miking techniques – can sometimes sound strident. The FLS4’s superb handling of tone and its ever-so-subtle sweetness eschews any brittleness while managing also to place Julia in the room with satisfying lifelike presence. This is a very refined solid stater with fluid and textured chops.

“Omosayo” in Yae’s Blue Line release is not audiophile quality by any stretch. In fact, it’s a somewhat compressed production yet, on that track, the simplicity of Yae’s lone voice is communicated beautifully via the FLS4. It’s incredibly convincing in terms of realism and she’s placed dead centre, without ever shifting, in a very wide and high soundstage with good depth perspective too.

The dynamic excesses of my usual test music was evident and uninhibited. Be it the extremes from the Japanese and Chinese big drum extravaganzas, or the orchestral largess of the Lawrence of Arabia and Gladiator soundtracks, or Tool’s imaginative and hard-hitting meanderings, or the immediacy of the devastatingly uncompressed live recording of the Tony Dagradi Trio’s Live at the Columns.

On a last note, the circuit design of the FLS4 is extremely quiet. Yes, those old audiophile clichés of inky black backgrounds and Black Hole blackness can be used appropriately here. This amplifier will not obscure finer low level nuance and detail in any way whatsoever. And putting your ear right up against your speakers’ tweeters – even with efficient models – will have you wondering whether you neglected to flick the power switch on the amplifier.

Conclusion

Once again, as I found in my Strumento № 4 review, the Audia Flight FLS4 surpasses the expectation at the price point. This is a manufacturer with serious designing skills (as I found during my factory tour – stay tuned for that pictorial report coming to the Features section soon) and completely devoid of a ‘me too/cookie cutter’ ideology. These are well-developed designs, the fruits of solid engineering talent.

What’s more, this craftsmanship is further elevated by co-proprietors Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini’s keen fine-tuning ears. Each Audia Flight component is carefully assessed and ‘voiced’ in a well-equipped auditioning room at the company’s headquarters and factory in Civitavecchia just out of Rome.

Add to all that the aesthetic design flair commensurate with the Italian credo plus the Swiss-precision build quality and you have yourself one extremely serious power amplifier that should last you a lifetime. Bellissimo!

… Edgar Kramer

Interview by Rene van Es: Audia Flight in a nutshell

René van Es was visiting for us in Münich a number of manufacturers to talk about their past, present and future. Not every manufacturer was visited and interviewed, but at least the result is 3 great reports. Rene describes his conversations with Audia Flight (Italy), Copland (Denmark) and Stein Music (Germany) and hopefully there will be more interviews of this kind from his hand, possibly followed by experiences of users of these products. Rene thanks for your extensive efforts.

Audia Flight in a nutshell

The second manufacturer I spoke with at the Münich High End Show 2012, Audia Flight, was represented by the two owners of the Italian company, Marzi Massimiliano and Andrea Nardini. Unfortunately there was no possibility for them to demo their products, only the eye was gratified with polished aluminum. I am myself a proud owner of the “pure class A” power amplifier of this brand, which is playing every day at my home. The two men were for sure more techie than smooth talkers, something that for an interviewer is not really easy. With some difficulty I got some words out of them, while enjoying an excellent espresso they knew to prepare on the spot.

How long does the brand Audia Flight exist now?

The company was founded in 1996 and before that we were already developing products. It took a few years before we could enter the market with our FL 100 amplifier. We both come from the professional electronics industry and together we had a chance to realize our dream. Still, Audia Flight is 100% Italian and we make our products in Civitavecchia, about 80 kilometers away from Rome.

What does the current product range consist of?

There are three series in our programm. The Three Series, consisting of a CD player and integrated amplifier. The Classic Series, in which you can find a phono preamp, two CD players, two integrated amplifiers, a line amplifier, two amplifiers and a 3-channel amplifier. The topline is Strumento Series consisting of the amplifier Strumento No.4 and the Strumento No. 1 line preamp. In the pipeline is a D / A converter with Class A headphone circuit and USB and S / PDIF inputs, expected to get a selling price below 2000 Euro.

You have won in particular with the phono preamp, quite a bit of awards.

Yes, that model has been quite successful, but that does not mean that we were not successful in the market with the other products. Our markets include Europe, the USA and the Far East. Especially the integrated amplifiers and CD players are a significant portion of our sales, especially when we look at the Benelux.

What makes an Audia Flight a particular product?

Our development takes much time, both the design and listening of what we build. Our method makes it impossible to quickly introduce a device on the market. Strumento The amplifier has cost three years of development before we were satisfied with it. The amplifiers use instead of voltage feedback, which almost everyone does, current feedback, so our amplifiers show an almost linear source of power. The feedback stops just before the power transistors. The result shows a wide bandwidth and very high rise times, resulting in a “fast” amplifier which follows the music signal with ease. Also to other things we give much attention, the power supply for example. The 3000 VA transformer in the No. Strumento. 4 power amp weighs 50 kilos and that is the main part of the total 90 kilos which the amp scales.

Class A is widely used in Audia Flight?

A true class A amplifier is not to improve with a different technique. It is inefficient and a source of heat, while at the same time with a musical result if built well. It is also limited in power. The Strumento works up to 20 watts per channel in pure class A, after that into class B. Also we are bound by EU standards in terms of power consumption and we guess that one day pure class A will be even banned. Already now we need to make the power consumption in standby very small. Our flashing logo can thus no longer ….

Fortunately, because on my FL 50 it is sometimes annoying.

Other customers told us already, so it’s not so bad (Smile).

With all possible love they made me a second espresso and they wanted to pose for me for the photo, but more information than you found above, I could not get out of them. I think they prefer to let their products speak for themselves instead of putting themselves in the spotlight. So, up to the store and listen if an Audia Flight pleases you as good as it pleases me.

Awards

"Writer's Choice Award 2015" in “Best of the Best: from US Hi-Fi magazine "Positive Feedback"

This device allows user to „see” music from a new perspective, to hear it like it sounds in concert hall. It delivers refined performance in a particularly calm (in the best possible meaning of this term) way. Equally good with speakers as it is with headphones. Perfect make&finish. Looks great on a wooden rack/platform – it represents Italian style after all!

…Review: No. 134, June 2015

Videos

high end 2013: Audia Flight