Einstein Audio Components The Tube Mk.II preamplifier

It doesn't take a moroon to appreciate the audacity of naming a company after Albert Einstein, the iconic science and math whiz. Clearly, company founder and owner Volker Bohlmeier knew what he was doing—this German brand of boutique electronics has enjoyed worldwide critical and marketplace success since its founding more than 20 years ago.

In fact, Bohlmeier has done far better than Albert Einstein's father. In the late 19th century, when Hermann Einstein opened an electronics company in Munich, he bet on direct current. Fourteen years later, by which time alternating current became the dominant way to distribute electricity, he was forced to close his business.

From their beginnings until today, Einstein Audio Components' products have been built to an heirloom standard set many years ago by McIntosh, and impeccably finished in a distinctive visual motif of chrome and black lacquer. The packaging (wooden crates) and overall presentation are equally impressive, and foster in the buyer a pride of ownership befitting an expensive, limited-edition product. It may not be essential, but it's a nice touch.

Einstein Audio's initial offering in 1990, a solid-state amplifier called simply The Amp, was an immediate critical and commercial hit that remained in the company's product line for six years. They followed with a series of equally well-reviewed and commercially successful tubed and solid-state products with similarly generic names, including, in 1998, the original The Tube line-stage preamplifier.

The Tube Mk.II
The Tube Mk.II is handsome, looks essentially identical to The Tube, and sells for $18,400. The fully balanced, true dual-differential, pure class-A design features point-to-point wiring and a shunt-to-ground volume control that's outside the short signal path. Its true dual-mono topology is indicated by the two large, chrome-plated power-transformer enclosures protruding from the chromed chassis.

The volume level and the five choices of source can be selected via a plastic remote control unbefitting so costly a product. Another $930 gets you a curvaceous, beautifully finished model called—what else?—The Remote, which also controls Einstein's CD player, The Source. If you can afford The Tube, you'll want The Remote.

The Tube Mk.II incorporates eighteen E88CC/6922 dual-triode tubes and one ECC82/12AU7 dual-triode. Ten of the E88CC/6922 tubes function as input pairs and are lined up along the chassis rear, inserted in sockets affixed to a spring-suspended subchassis that's one of the modifications made for the Mk.II. The remaining nine tubes handle primary line-stage gain and buffer functionality.

Einstein claims a high-current output stage, an ultralow output impedance of 50 ohms, greater than 98dB channel separation, a signal/noise ratio in excess of 95dB, and an unusually high (but unspecified) bandwidth. The total harmonic distortion at 1.5V RMS is claimed to be less than 0.05%. Although less than complete, this is an impressive set of specs for a tube preamplifier. The Tube runs hot. You might be able to fry two eggs sunny-side up atop those chromed transformer enclosures.

Uniquely configured
The Tube is relatively compact, with a minimalist feature set and only two knobs, with which you can switch inputs (sort of, as you'll read), regulate the volume, and that's it. A rectangular cutout on the front panel does not contain a fluorescent display, and there's neither a mono switch nor a balance control.

Because The Tube's narrow rear panel already contains five sets of inputs (three balanced on XLRs, two single-ended on RCAs), a single set of balanced outputs (The Tube can be ordered with single-ended outs), and two pairs of singled-ended tape outputs, the IEC power socket and On/Off switch are on the chassis's underside. Although the resonance-absorbing feet are unusually tall, the AC cord's female connector must be short and right-angled if it's to fit. You can forget about trying most audiophile power cords with The Tube.

Einstein Audio Components
US distributor: Aaudio Imports
4871 Raintree Drive
Parker, CO 80134
(720) 851-2525