Fezz Audio Silver Luna Prestige integrated amplifier

The last time I had to box up my roughly 2600 records, during a move, I cursed up a storm and drank almost an entire bottle of tequila. I struggled to keep the vinyl alphabetized and kept running out of boxes, markers, and tape. And I discovered that I had more LPs of music by Miles Davis and Bach than by anyone else. In third place was George Jones.

The vectors of tradition, originality, and talent came together in Jones to produce a strange and unlikely gift. His music can make you feel things as suddenly and deeply as just about anyone's, but on top of this Jones had the greatest instrument of any male vocalist in country music, almost outlandish in its range and power. Then there was his technique: He could wring four syllables out of a four-letter word, and even when performing the same hit night after night, he varied the stresses and melismatic leaps depending on his mood. Sinatra called him "the second-best singer in the world."

His specialty was the kind of ballad that plumbed the depths of lost love and despair. Like his idol Hank Williams, who drank himself to death at 29, Jones believed that country singers sang about their lived experience, and he created a life that often embodied those ballads' harrowing lyrics. Off stage, he was a timid man haunted by crippling stage fright, which he medicated with increasingly desperate helpings of bourbon, cocaine, Librium, speed, and whatever else happened to be on hand. By the time Jones scored his biggest hit, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," in 1980, he had become so emaciated and ravaged by substance abuse that he was living in a car parked in a Nashville alley that he shared with a cardboard cutout of Williams. During this period, he often communicated in the voice of Donald Duck.

Yet Jones's singing remained so transcendent that few other vocalists could even imitate him convincingly (though Johnny Paycheck tried). Every phase of his recording career has much to recommend it, but the most original and important one began in the early 1970s, when together with Nashville producer Billy Sherrill he recorded a string of albums that managed to fuse country music with the emotional register and dramatic sweep of opera. Sherrill surrounded Jones's baritone with string arrangements that might have turned another singer's work maudlin but in Jones's case had the effect of heightening a song's emotional stakes and scale until it sounded almost like an aria from Turandot.

My favorite of their collaborations is 1974's "The Grand Tour," about a man making his way through a house he'd shared with a wife who left him and took their infant. Or the song may be about a man whose wife has died while pregnant with their child. In any case, what Jones does with the lyric is chilling and, on a technical level, almost difficult to believe. Buffeted by strings and a weeping pedal-steel guitar, with a four-note piano motif marking time, his voice seems to become grief itself while bending notes in ways that seem to violate the anatomical imperatives of human vocal chords. Listen to the way he sings "lay in love together"; if it doesn't raise a lump in your throat, you may be beyond the reach of music. It would be coy not to mention that Jones's wife, singer Tammy Wynette, filed for divorce while "The Grand Tour" was still on the charts, and that several years later she married George Richey, one of the song's writers.

Jones's lachrymose ballad became a crucial support for my mental health in the early 2000s, when I began writing for a West Coast magazine that required me to fly from New York to Los Angeles. I hated flying, most of all over the Rockies, when turbulence shook the jet so hard that I nearly pried the armrests from my economy seat. Eventually I discovered that the only remedy was to become engulfed in an emotion more extreme than my fear of turbulence, and that's where "The Grand Tour" came in, which I listened to on repeat through Grado headphones and a Sony Discman. (This worked reasonably well until I discovered Xanax.) By the time the flight smoothed out over Nevada, my tears had dried.

It may be unscientific to suggest that not every hi-fi is suitable for reproducing the recorded legacy of George Jones. We are told that decent audio gear should be agnostic to the music played through it, but most of us know better.

The Fezz Audio/Toroidy headquarters in Juchnowiec Kościelny, Poland.

Enter the Fezz Audio Silver Luna Prestige
As it happens, many pedigreed, high-resolution systems of the kind one finds in audio salon demonstration rooms are simply too fussy and hung up on sound effects to do justice to this music. But recently I lived for a few months with possibly the most George Jones–friendly amplifier I've heard, an integrated tube amp called the Fezz Audio Silver Luna Prestige. Unlike any country singer I can think of it, it hails from Poland.

Fezz Audio is the sister company of transformer manufacturer Toroidy. Not surprisingly, the former company's amps use the latter company's toroidal transformers. Both are located near the northern Polish city of Bialystok and owned and managed by father Lech and sons Maciej and Tomasz Lachowski. Fezz Audio claims that compared to traditional EI-profile transformers, toroidal units offer higher efficiency, less mechanical noise, and much lower stray magnetic fields. Obviously, having a transformer manufacturer and an amplifier builder under one roof can only be a good thing in terms of both the economies of scale and the design process.

Toroidy, Fezz Audio's other corporate half, specializes in manufacturing toroidal transformers.

The Silver Luna Prestige is an integrated amplifier that uses four Russian-made EL34 pentodes in a push-pull configuration operating in class AB1 to deliver 35Wpc, and a pair of Russian 6N2P miniature dual triodes for input duties. (Because of the war in Ukraine, Fezz Audio has recently switched to tubes produced in China.) A company representative told me that the self-biasing circuit relies on "minimal" amounts of negative feedback. The front of the unit has two knobs, for selecting volume and one of three line inputs. The back contains three sets of RCA inputs, speaker terminals allowing a choice of 4- or 8-ohm output impedance, an IEC jack, and a power switch. The amp also comes with a tube cage and a remote for controlling volume (though, in my system, it changed the volume in increments large enough to render it mostly useless).

On the top of the unit there are two switches offering a fairly unusual set of options. The first allows the input tubes to be switched between the stock 6N2Ps and 12AX7s (a pair of which are included). The second switch toggles between pentode and tetrode operation; the latter mode takes the screen grids and suppressor grids of the EL34s out of the circuit, reducing the power output and changing the sound. I found that the 12AX7s produced a larger, meatier sound than the 6N2Ps. I also preferred listening in pentode mode, which lent the Silver Luna a fuller-bodied and more extended sound with a more forthright sense of drive. I could hear no advantages to tetrode operation and wondered why the designers opted for it instead of the more common triode mode option. During my time with the Fezz amp, I used it mostly in pentode mode using a pair of 1960s RCA Command 5751s (a ruggedized US military 12AX7 variant) in the input section.

Fezz Audio/Toroidy
Kolonia Koplany 1E
16-061 Juchnowiec Kościelny
+48 724 430 404

Ortofan's picture

... $2,995 or $3,495?
At least one dealer has the price shown as $3,495.

At $3,495, how does it compare to the Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III?

clsdwn's picture

the Rogue is a diff tube, more power different sonic sensibility. More appropriate would be an EL34 comparison with a PrimaLuna or a Unison Triode 25. An EL34 designed amp is a specific thing.

AlmaAudio's picture

The unit on the site is the "Evo" models, which have substantially better good looks than the standard unit that was reviewed.

Anton's picture

Is that distinction coming back into the common audiophile vernacular?

Are there really audiophiles who listen along the lines of those constraints?

Ortofan's picture

... whether or not the amplifier will be "capable at extracting meaning and emotion" from my collection of Bert Kaempfert LPs.

jimtavegia's picture

JA1 seems too busy finding either component failures in tested gear, or poor performance (why he tests). I know this is not all the time, but too frequent IMHO.

MatthewT's picture

Should happen before the review to catch broken gear. Won't catch shipping damage to the reviewer, though. If this thing was malfunctioning like this during the review....

jimtavegia's picture

I remember my first NAD system of a 1020A preamp and a 2155 amp and there was about a 2db imbalance in the channels, but it could have been the amp or preamp as all there was is a balance control on the preamp that I need to leave at 1-2 O'clock. The amp had no controls. I should have taken the pair back to the dealer for a check over.

I would think a reviewer would easily hear a channel imbalance but if one is a fan to tube gear, the colorations might seem "normal" to many.

I know now that at nearly 76, I would have a hard time hearing the effects of low, moderate, or high jitter from a DAC or CD player.

Aaron Garrett's picture

Thank you for mentioning George Jones in an audio review. I think Merle Haggard was the greatest singer but George Jones was definitely up there and his instrument was untouchable. The Grand Tour make a stone cry!