WELL, AFTER WHAT feels like many years of searching, I believe that I’ve finally found my new preamplifier. I visited Franco Viganoni of Viganoni & Viganoni this morning to drop off a set of Audio Pro speakers that I’d borrowed, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he had his new preamp set up in his main system.
Well, as it turned out, he actually had the prototype Sachem preamp set up. As the photos show, this is the bare-bones development unit that’s he’s been using to refine the design. Basically, the prototype is a PC board populated by some mystery components (which I’ve blurred to ensure that they remain secret until the production units are released) and a prototype external power supply that’s currently housed in an Audio Pro box.
To say that this is a minimalist preamp doesn’t get close to the truth. All the magic happens on a couple of tiny chips, and according to Franco, there is magic aplenty thanks to the minimalist layout with its ultra-short signal path, and the blisteringly fast dynamic performance of the chips. He reckons it’ll outperform just about anything in terms of outright speed and transient control.
Based on what I heard, he may well be right. I’ve heard his system with the current Sentec preamp a number of times since 2006 (as detailed here) but the new unit – even in its rudimentary form and hooked up with the most basic cables known to man – sounds better. The system has always been fast, controlled and transparent with epic dynamics. Now it’s more so. Better in every way compared to what I heard a few weeks ago? Yep, no doubt about it. The detail in the strings of Nil’s Lofgren’s ‘Keith Don’t Go’ from Acoustic Live was as good as I’ve ever heard it, while the sheer dynamic power and speed has been lifted to higher levels as evidenced by tracks from the likes of Santana and Lynyrd Skynyrd – power tracks that I know well. The sound is the Franco sound all the way – pure, clean and powerful, with nothing added.
In short, I want one of these things. Considering that it’s been made to match my power amps, and that it seems to complement them in every way, ticking the specific audio boxes that matter most to me, I can’t see why I’d bother looking elsewhere. I’ve seen the new chassis design and while it’s not as flash as my v1 Sachem power amps, it’s well ahead of the aesthetics of the current v2 model. I’ve put my name down for the first one that’s available; that’s how sure I am after listening to the prototype. The production versions will sound better but even if they sound exactly as good as this one, I’m still sold. Innovation in the field of audio is alive and well and it’s happening just north of Auckland. ASHLEY KRAMER