Speak to most ‘old-school’ audiophiles and they will bemoan the death of audio, the lack of new blood, and reminisce back to the glory days of the 1970s,80s and 90s. Dewald Visser’s Dewaudio brand is proof that these anoraks are wrong on many fronts. Firstly, high-end stereo is alive and well, and youngsters like Dewald are leading its resurgence.
Oh, and he believes that the glory days were long gone by the 70s. According to Dewaudio’s design principles, the heyday of audio was when watts were few, and efficiency mattered. This argument is logically compelling on certain fronts – and has been bought into by music lovers.
Many owners of medium to high efficiency loudspeakers will be painfully aware of the need for ultra-quiet electronics. Noise that is negligible on a pair of 88dB/W sensitive speakers can make 100dB/W speakers unlistenable. Ultra-quiet (typically transistor) amps can lack the ‘soul’ that aficionados crave, though.
Enter the Dewaudio Tsungai Amplifier System. “The concept of this system was born from dealing with a group of clients with high-efficiency loudspeaker systems,” says Dewaudio’s Dewald Visser. “They all share the need for a beautiful sounding amplifier with a very low noise floor, but not something that sounds clinical or lifeless.”
The Tsungai System is solidly screwed together, with a thick powder-coated steel chassis adding heft. The units are impeccably made, in spite of their budget pricing. While the blue faceplates may polarise opinion, this reviewer loved the way they looked in our rack.
The power amp is minimalistic, with just a rocker power switch and bright blue LED on the front panel. The preamp is only slightly less sparse, adding a single volume control and input selector – there are three line level inputs – to the buffer amplifier’s appointment.
The preamp under review was entirely manual operated, but future versions will have remote volume control (at no extra cost).
Our Tannoy Westminster Royal SEs are 99dB/W/m efficient, and therefore theoretically perfect partners for the 10w (into 8Ohms) buffer amplifier. In fact, the speakers’ sensitivity means that 10 watts offered up by the Dewaudio combo equates to the gain offered by 160 Watts into a pair of ‘normal’ 87dB/W/m speakers.
Indeed, any concern about output power is dispelled from the first listen. The Tannoy/Tsungai pairing is dynamic up to almost uncomfortable levels, and there’s enough headroom for most. When overdriven the Tsungai power amp clips softly, before the sound collapsing.
But measuring this combo by how loud it plays is a bit like talking about a Ferrari’s fuel consumption. The Dewaudio Tsungai combo makes the most glorious music. The pair’s sonic signature is balanced, with wonderfully open tops that complement the Tannoy’s slightly closed sound beautifully. Midbass detail is exceptional, too, without ever being overemphasised.
Spatially, the Dewaudios are similarly enchanting. The soundstage is ever so slightly intimate, making you feel like a front row audience member, and instrument separation is top notch. It’s as if one can get up and walk around the imaginary musicians. Everything is eerily tangible.
Compared to our reference Firstwatt F6 and B1 buffer preamp, the Dewaudio is quieter,’blacker’ with noticeably sweeter tops. The Firstwatt has more drive, and better mid bass texture, but overall the Dewaudio combo proved to be a superior partner for the Tannoy Westminster Royals – amazing considering its price point.
We didn’t review the combo separately primarily because it is priced as a pairing, and we felt that the synergy of the system needed to be maintained for better or worse.
There were times when compiling this review that we were concerned for our credibility – such was the perfection presented by the Dewaudio Tsungai Amplifier System in the context of the AVInside review environment. We have not heard a better amp and preamp combo in this system – full stop.
Yes, the Tsungai pairing is not for every system, its output power is limited – and this is not an amp with ‘big watts’, it needs sensitive speakers. For those that have 93dB/w and over speakers, and a desire to be enchanted at every listen, we can’t recommend this product enough. Bravo Dewald – you have produced a masterpiece.
Insane value for money considering the performance on offer. Excellent no-frills build. Sound quality that transcends objectivism and moves into the realm of the sublime.
Power output limits speaker choices drastically.
Significant other won’t let me buy more amps.
Price as reviewed: Approximately R50 000 for the combination
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The Dewaudio Tsungai Amplifier System was supplied for review by the manufacturer, and reviewed in the context of the AVInside reference system. No promotional consideration was paid.
The Dewaudio Tsungai amplifier system was built around the insatiable urge for absolute music enjoyment.
The line amplifier features minimalist vacuum tube architecture and it has a primary triode stage. This adds a touch of that “tube sound” that is revered by audio aficionados. The triode stage is managed by a constant current sink that we consider to be simple and clever. The two stages are directly coupled and output is achieved via a cathode follower with massive 10uF film output capacitors. A tightly regulated supply powers the audio section to achieve the lowest possible noise floor.
The Buffer Amplifier circuitry in the power amplifier is somewhat unique. It is based on tried and trusted studio line driver circuitry. Studio line drivers are low gain, low impedance amplifiers and are used to transfer delicate signals around a professional recording facility with the lowest possible distortion.
We think that the Tsungai’s architecture is beautiful! A low distortion operational amplifier drives a pair of complementary, high current devices via a constant current bias network. The system manages itself with no presets that can drift, and we feel that it is the embodiment of minimalism.
Tsungai is an African word that means “profound striving and perseverance” which summarises our goals with this amplifier system.