Fezz Audio Titania
Fezz Audio is an example of a brand that has kicked-off fairly recently, but the onset of the launch of their very first product, it has already had a considerable baggage of accumulated experience, facilitating a strong, heads-on jump-start. From the very beginning, it seems that the manufacturer has not only embarked upon the right concept when it comes to the design of the device itself, but he has also pointedly targeted an extremely attractive price range. The tube amplifier in question, called Silver Luna, has perfectly blended into the demands of audiophiles, a product trait which we have witnessed only very rarely in recent times. From the outside - it holds the traditional looks of stereo tube amplifier, made available in a range of intriguing color schemes. From the inside - a respectable powerhouse built of components stemming from the companies in-house production. And all of this comes at a price that would, under normal conditions, restrict us solely to a product range comprised of middle-class solid state amplifiers or, possibly, to some Chinese tube amplifiers, of questionable quality at that.
The experience of the creators of the Silver Luna has resulted not only in its final form, but also in the entire events envelope that accompanied the introduction of such a new product onto the audiophile marketplace. Specifically for this amplifier, they organized several sessions of professional photo shootings and prepared a functional website. The device was first introduced with perfect timing, during the last year's Audio Video Show exhibition. After these attractions, they have also organized a national tour, resulting in that a Silver Luna amplifier has appeared in essentially every reputable audio outlet in Poland, and gradually, it began to magnetize the interest of foreign journalists and distributors. Not a year has past since the introduction of that very first amplifier, and now Fezz Audio is already offering a second amplifier called Titania. Will this new, more powerful model repeat the success of the Silver Luna?
Some might be wondering at this point, where does the experience of the constructor team at Fezz Audio really come from and how is it possible that this very young company has managed to cause such a commotion on the market. At this point, the story gets even more interesting. In the back scenes of this project, there stands the company called Toroidy.pl - a family owned business engaged in the production of transformers, power supplies and other components for audio equipment. It is hard to imagine a better jump-start base so as to establish a tube amplifier manufacture, although, to be honest, the initial strategic plan - was a totally different one. Since multiple years, the company has been delivering mains transformers for renowned European and American companies. But then, its owners have decided to break this production stereotype and to design a toroidal transformer that could be used as a speaker output transformer within a single ended vacuum tube amplifier. They have succeeded in this task. The development of such a transformer lasted three years, during which they have developed a unique technology for the production of cores and windings. Thus, it was possibile to produce a speaker output transformer for virtually any type of vacuum tube, independent of whether be it used within a single-ended, or push-pull type of system architecture. Frankly, it was supposedly impossible to believe in the values of the technical parameters that have actually been achieved, especially if one takes into consideration the size of these transformers and their price tags. It hence seemed certain, that the successful introduction of such transformers, to be embedded within a wide spread of amplifier types of other brands is a given, but here they have hit upon a problem that has nothing to do with the technical parameters or with the value for money. The problem being the prejudices of the industry, claims that it is not possible to produce a good sounding speaker output transformer based on a toroidal core. Moreover - that the construction of a Single-Ended toroidal speaker output transformer is a sheer technical impossibility. Considering the aforementioned, the company has decided to construct its own single-ended amplifier, based upon its own transformers.
The first amplifier, a prototype called Laura, was presented less than two years ago. The level of interest that it has triggered was larger than initially anticipated. So, the production of speaker transformers has started in full swing, and soon afterwards, the designers came up with yet another idea - let's create a new brand name, and design a commercial tube amplifier, a retail version, at an affordable price point. An amplifier that would constitute the 'Polish Alternative' to 'The Chinese.' And that is how the Silver Luna has come to be. The first official amplifier, under the Fezz Audio brand name, was presented as a system together with Pylon Audio Sapphire 31 StereoLife Edition loudspeakers. To our great satisfaction, it played very well, so I already knew that the Silver Luna had great potential within. This was confirmed by subsequent events and listening sessions, as organized by new dealers of Fezz Audio, and by the first reviews published on the Internet. So why has the Silver Luna not been subject of a listening test with us? Hmm... That is a very good question. After the last year's exceptionally successful Audio Video Show exhibition, we had to quickly execute the tests that were pre-agreed upon earlier. I need to admit that I even wanted to listen to the first Audio Fezz amplifier privately at home, but I simply ran out of available free time that I could invest in the further development of my hobby, which is still an after-hours add-on to my regular work. After a few months, Silver Luna was still a high fligher, but it lost its 'newbee' status, a newbee of which everybody would be curious about. This is the reason why we most probably have not ultimately come to terms with conducting tests of this model on the pages of StereoLife. But in the case of the Titania model, with the help and commitment of the manufacturer, we were able to fix this. Moreover, we were the first editors worldwide who have received this unit for testing, even before the premiere, which took place during the High End 2016. By showing it in Munich, Fezz Audio has undoubtedly took a great step forward, and hence we could publish a full test of the Titania, coincident with the start of the largest audio equipment exhibition in Europe.
Design and functionality
Since our editorial office has received the first ever produced unit of the Titania, which shall most likely take on the status of a demonstration model, the producer has informed us that some details of the design are subject to change, as they are not yet fully buttoned up to the very last button. But when we took the amplifier out of the casing, we had a completely different impression. Not only has this device the great Looks, but from the onset it allowed us to feel that we are dealing with a product in which the designers actually do pay attention to detail. A beautifully painted durable housing, made of thick steel plates, perfectly aligned transformer covers, elegant legs, knobs and sockets - it all looks like a high-class tube amplifier. As you may well know, a good class tube amplifier should also have a considerable weight associated with it, and the Titania is no exception here. The center of gravity is obviously slightly shifted towards the vicinity of the transformers, but not to an extent so as to get the impression that in our hands we are holding almost nothing besides them. In other words, the amplifier does not violently 'swing' backwards when you try to grab it and lift it. You can obviously feel that the chassis is not made of styrofoam. Titania is a true military tank among tube amplifiers, although I must admit that it looks great on top of a stylish dresser, or on the top shelf of an audiophile rack.
In addition to the overall robustness of its execution, the greatest impression imprinted upon me was the manufacturer's care for details, details about which such a young company could could still be in the dark and not have a clue. Maybe some people think that a company engaged in the regular production of transformers had a head-start at positioning such a tube amplifier on the market, but in such cases I always remain cautious and vigilant. I already know of the existence of some constructs in which the tubes burned out after some two hours worth of usage, due to the fact that the designer did not take care of their proper ventilation. I also tested amplifier constructs in which the entire base of the chassis, with accompanying feet simply bulged in, arching under the sheer weight of the device. You may believe it or not, but such 'attractions' are endowed upon customers by companies operating on the market since multiple years, and with dozens of device models in their product portfolio. And since their designers forget that a tube amplifier is a heavy device and hence can not be supported by a piece of sheet metal, how on Earth did such a young Polish company embrace all such complex topics? It turns out that there is no problem with that, two traits suffice - the constructors care for detail and a design that is founded on the best, well proven standards.
Titania gives the impression of a product that has left the doors of a factory that specializes in the production of tube amplifiers since many, many years. It is a device whose construction, apart the use of toroidal transformers, is utterly classical. You could say that the amplifier is executed by the book. On the front panel we have two essential knobs, which are used for source selection and volume control. At the rear - three inputs, speaker terminals and power inlet with a mains switch. The tubes are located in the front part of the top chassis plane, whereas the transformers - a few centimeters behind them. The only decoration of the front panel is a metal plate with a beautifully engraved logo of the manufacturer. Besides, a full symmetry, emphasized by the triangular covers of the speaker transformers. The amplifier rests upon four metal legs. Nothing wobbles or swings. The paint looks very resistant - you can see that the designers took into account both the high operating temperatures of the amplifier, as well as the more pedantic variety of users, who will often wipe the chassis clean of dust. It may sound corny, but it seems to me that the recipe for the Fezz Audio success lies in the lack of sophisticated exaltations and decorations, which do not serve any purpose other than differentiating from the crowd out there. The Titania boasts no exotic wood panels, nor does it catch the eye with tubes mounted in a horizontal position. There are no additional switches or subsystems targeted at prepping up the sound. Both from the outside, as well as from the inside, it is a purist construct of an amplifier. The protagonists of the setup are the vacuum tubes themselves, and possibly the transformers. All the rest is designed according to the principles of art. This can really be enjoyed.
The configuration and operation of the Titania is close to trivial. After placing the amplifier on a table, you can immediately proceed with the installation of the vacuum tubes. The manufacturer provides them in the form of packaged boxes, numbered from '1' to '6', in accordance with the positions of the tubes on the top panel of the amplifier. It is sufficient to unpack the consecutively numbered boxes in sequence and affix the tubes from left to right. Ideally, of course, for this purpose it is advisable to use cotton gloves or at least a soft clean cloth so as not to leave any dirt stains on the glass. After making the necessary cable connections, we can immediately begin to play, and we are not too limited in our choice of possible loudspeakers. With a power of 45 watts per channel, and with the KT88 tubes, you can actually achieve quite a lot. The manufacturer provides us with an amplifier that is trimmed, measured and ready to go, but if after some period of time the quiescent current parameters of the power tubes shall begin to diverge, which is a common case and quite a natural phenomenon for vacuum tubes, we have available at our disposal a set of test points and potentiometers that allow us to trim the working conditions for the tubes of the left and right channels. The procedure for setting the bias values is thoroughly described in the amplifier's operations manual. The documentation itself - is yet another item that totally contests that Fezz Audio is such a young brand. The manual looks completely professional. Similarly as the cheaper Silver Luna amplifier, the Titania will be made available in a choice of several color schemes. I really like the version with either the white or the red base, but most probably that does not exhaust the range of possible configuration possibilities. If you have seen the photos from the photo sessions as organized by the producer, I'm sure that you already know that the Titania looks great in any interior.
My guess is that both in the case of the core design of the amplifier, as well as in the case of all the other 'non-obligatory' parts at hand, it is apparent that it comes from the hand of a man who cares about the product at it's various stages of life, not excluding provisions that enforce its correct usage by the customers. The amplifier device, as delivered for our tests, was even equipped with factory warranty seals, and before commencement of the actual test, I have exchanged at least a dozen emails with the chief designer, not to mention the incoming messages on my phone at night. Midnight. You can hence imagine the extent of baby-sitting associated with this Titania product. Further, I also take into consideration the fact that this is a pre-production unit, and that the actual production units will be even a little bit better.
Cons? For sure, you shall not find them in the category of workmanship, but I can only come up with some thoughts pertaining to certain practicality issues. Like the Silver Luna, this latest Fezz Audio integrated amplifier has no remote control or tube covers. The lack of a remote control - that, as an audiophile, I can understand and live with. Ultimately it is worth to move yourself from time to time up from the couch, sofa, and gain physical contact with such a cool looking device, which in itself is a pleasant experience. But the lack of tube covers may, however, cause the power amplifier to be written off in advance and deleted by music lovers from their list of potential purchases. Lovers, who in addition to a home with loudspeakers and cables are also equipped with a wife, some children, a dog, a cat, a slow bobbing guinea pig or similar. Perhaps the tube cover will soon become available as an option, but for the time being, I did not see any such thing. For those who fall in love in the sound of the Titania, a serious discussion need be carried out with the other household members.
The thing with tube amplifiers it pretty very much like with... Donuts. Virtually everybody likes them, maybe not everyone can afford to gobble them up in large quantities, but speaking for myself, I have yet to meet somebody, anybody, who would decline and say nay to a tasty one. If you do not believe me, take a whole box full of very fresh donuts to work with you and watch them gradually disappear, albeit that apparently all them ladies out there are on very strict diets and them gents do not like sweets, gents who would very much prefer posturing as true tough machos, guys that eat raw beef with hot peperonchinos. No way. Donuts always tend to disappear very rapidly. In theory, a good donut is a thing that potentially anybody can create, but here the stairs begin. Even a novice baker of bread or pastries should be capable of coping with the task. The technology of producing donuts has been known for centuries. The recipe does not change every ten years, and even the most up-to-date donut software updates need not be downloaded every fortnight. But donuts remain diversified. Some get them right, and some get them wrong.
Many audiophiles believe that it is equally easy to build a tube amplifier. Schematics are generally available, many of them have been successfully used for several decades, the availability of components is also not endangered. So, maybe in the area of execution and assembly you would need to exhibit a certain sensitivity and finesse, and to top that off with a complete success, one only needs a chassis of some sort. Simple, is it not?? Theoretically - yes, but in real life it may turn out differently. Special vigilance should be exercised when listening to simple, reasonably priced tube amps. Some of these products are produced by the donut-minded people, who think that it is easy to make them, and that - similarly as with donuts - everybody likes tube amplifiers, so it is impossible to encounter a dissatisfied customer. But tube amplifiers are different indeed. At this altitude of price range, most of them present music in one specific way or another. To a large extent, this depends upon the type of power tubes used, but bringing it all down to a selection of tube type is a gross oversimplification. So, perhaps you may ask, how in such a case do I recognize a truly tasty, delicious donut. Err, tube amplifier, I mean. My answer is simple. When you first listen to it, you must know that it is a tube amplifier playing, but for a short while, you should not be utterly convinced about it.
Why is it so? Because many of the manufacturers of such amplifiers on a tight budget sharply exaggerate in tuning them, prepping them up in a specific way, one that reveals an instant romantic, musical character of the glass tubes. If within two or three minutes of listening we feel a strong warmth to the sound, then almost certainly after fifteen minutes we will start to get bored with it. The ideal situation would be such that a certain amount of sweetness and organic liveliness of the midrange tones, as well as a delicate sweetening up of the high frequency band, should reveal certain features typical of a tube based design, but generally the temperature of the overall presentation would be raised only but slightly, with an unwavering tonal balance that remains intact, whereas no other attributes of the presentation, such as dynamics or transparency would seem to indicate that we are dealing with tubes. So here we now came to the crux of the matter, because that is the kind of presentation that is delivered by the Titania. Well, OK, I did not listen to her blindfolded, nor have I been separated from the equipment by a black curtain. Indeed, I did know a priori with what I shall be dealing with, but from the very onset, after the first few passages of music playback, I have already started to dwell and wonder in how far this new Fezz Audio amplifier is a typical tube amplifier, as opposed to some sound virtues which are typical of a good, natural transistor based amplifier. Or maybe to yet something else - to an amplifier that joins both such two disparate worlds. Certainly the tubes made a statement for themselves in the midband, as range which was nicely compacted and warmed, but fortunately very delicately, without anny exaggeration. A pearly, noble high frequency band, with sybilants that deliquescent in the air between the loudspeakers also reminds me of an inherent tube nature of the hardware, but other than that - I would be dumbfounded. To state it clear - for me the Titania has exactly the amount of 'tube characteristics' as needed, whilst in the other areas, it does not overdo it, but rather plays like a good, neutral amplifier and it absolutely does not give up on anything when it comes down to sheer power or resolution.
One of the biggest positives of this amplifier is the overall balance between the subranges, which is heavily augmented by the quality and quantity of available bass. If someone was lacking some bass within the Silver Luna model, and I did hear a number of such similar comments somewhere already, the Titania will not raise a chance for even the slightest hint of dissatisfaction. The bass, as presented by this Polish amplifier, is adequately powerful and deep, but at the same time, springy and controlled. The tubed nature of the Titania is pleasantly revealed here and fills the scene with the so-called beef clout, but one which is absolutely not to be associated with a slowing down of the presentation. You don't believe me? Me too, indeed, I played a gradual sequence of increasingly hardcore and beefy music material, trying to catch the Titania staggering, dragging out some of the bass grunts, but I failed. Okay, indeed, this is not an amplifier playing with a sharp, pit in the stomach type of kicking bass, but I think that the designers have managed to achieve an almost ideal compromise between depth and speed. A kind of side effect resulting from this crash test was a checkup of the dynamics of this Fezz Audio flagship device. As it turns out, the healthy 45 watts of pure tube power can really shake up some speakers, and you do not need to use loudspeakers of a high efficiency, say in excess of 90 dB, to make your case. During the test, we used two models of floor standing Pylon Audio loudspeakers, the Sapphire and the Diamond SLE 31 25, as well as several other loudspeakers, of which the most difficult to control were most probably the Albedo HL 2.2.
The Titania coped with them all very well and, what's more, it extracted out of all of the hooked up loudspeakers one hundred percent of their nature, adding by itself only a little bit of it's own pleasant smoothness and fresh, vacuum-tube richness of detail within the high frequency range. This amplifier is not about prepping up, therefore the choice of the appropriate loudspeakers will not turn into a nightmare, but rather another pleasure of sorts. With such a versatile powerhouse, we enjoy the freedom of going in almost any possible direction, and the choice of speakers, sources or cabling will not rely on heavy auditioning of some twenty or thirty setup configurations, five of which will perform tragically, the next twenty as a mediocre average, and where the last five of the lot would constitute a match for the Polish amplifier, whereby it would be a matter of luck whether the presentation of such configurations would fall into our personal liking or not. To the contrary, here we are dealing with quite the opposite situation. In most cases, we are guaranteed to face a fine presentation, whereby after a few listening tests of a few pairs of loudspeakers we can hit on target, on those with which the Titania shall play quite remarkably.
My impressions, after a few days worth of listening, can be summarized as follows - a very good, versatile amplifier, with a perfectly balanced addition in the form of a beautiful tube like ambience, and with a bit of his own character. Especially, I was impressed with its dynamics and transparency, as well as with the decisive, strong and even bass. I was expecting and in hope of a saturated ambience, and of a nobly finished upper end of the frequency band, so there was no surprise here. The biggest advantage of Titania may, however, be neither the bass, nor the ambience, nor the almost perfect balance between the different parts of the audio band. In my opinion, the advantage of this amplifier as compared to similar constructs with similar price tag is an almost complete absence of limitations imposed upon the interconnected equipment, as well as on the type of music being played back. At some point, I have even tried to downright torture this Polish amplifier. I gave it a workout which I would normally not even apply to some solid state, silicon based transistor units, but this one is a die-hard. It just did not want to give up. Gradually, I hooked up more and more demanding, difficult to control loudspeakers. I gradually pumped up the volume, switched over to more and more difficult music content... And nothing. There was neither loose, flaky bass, nor overload, nor even signs of clipping or of compression of the sound. So you would think that tube amplifiers are not suitable for listening to heavy metal sounds? If so, then kindly reconsider and think about why almost all guitarists love tubed guitar amplifiers. With a good amplifier, you can really rock up the neighbourhood and listen to the music the way as it really sounds. Not just loud and fast, but also with the right meat, saturation and richness of contrasts. You thought that that tubes are not suitable for dense electronic sound? Right... No point in writing any more. Just listen to the Titania, and you'll find that a tube amplifier does not have to be only but a nice toy so as to quietly listen to jazz, using bizarre loudspeakers, boasting high efficiency. With this new Fezz Audio integrated amplifier, you can do anything that you would normally do with a transistor based amplifier of a similar price point, but the difference being that here you will receive a sound quality, which may be called, without exaggeration, downright magical.
Build quality and technical parameters
Fezz Audio Titania is a vacuum tube based integrated amplifier, built using high quality components and in-house, dedicated transformers. Just like the first model as offered by the Polish company, the Titania is a purist construct designed with stereo systems in mind, systems from the middle and upper shelf. The name suggests that we are dealing with an amplifier capable of controlling even difficult loudspeakers and indeed, the 45 watts of power from four KT88 tubes, working in a push-pull configuration, is a very good result. Apart the KT88, the system is also equipped with two double 12AX7 triodes, used in the preamplifier and working as driver units. The design of the amplifier was developed in the Fezz Audio laboratory by a group of engineers with multiple years of work experience in the design and improvement of tube based pro audio systems. This new amplifier uses high-quality Nichicon Fine Gold capacitors, high-voltage Vishay capacitors and WIMA coupling capacitors. The power supply and audio output transformers were supplied by the mother company of Fezz Audio - by Toroidy.pl. They are executed as the Supreme class of audio transformers, made specifically for the needs of the Titania. Thanks to an optimized technology, pertaining to winding technique and choice of highest quality transformer cores, the company declares bandwidth exceptional for this class of equipment, exceeding 100 kHz in the upper range. Kindly take also note of the very low distortion, less than 0.2% THD. Such a distortion value is declared by the tube manufacturer. In this case, the Russian Electro Harmonix.
This allows to conclude that from the amplifiers architectural point of view, it introduces a distortion of close to zero. The power supply uses a powerful capacitor bank, with a total capacity of 770 uF which ensures an excellent supply of energy within the system. Toroidal signal transformers as applied in tube amplifier output stages are a product to which the Polish company has devoted an extraordinary amount of time and effort. The construction of dedicated measuring setups, adapted for various kinds of tube types, was a tedious, time-consuming task. The measurements lasted nearly 12 months. During this period, nearly 100 various prototypes of transformers have been created. These allowed to gain a wide knowledge base pertaining to the operations of toroids within the output section of a tube amplifier. Studies have shown that the use of toroidal cores brings some very interesting advantages over a E-I lammel based core, applied within a comparable system. A structurally optimized toroidal output transformer exhibits, above all, an excellent degree of mutual coupling between the primary and secondary windings. This hence results in an unusually low value of stray inductance. In conjunction with a very high value of inductance of the primary winding, a very high Quality factor has been achieved.
Pylon Audio Sapphire 31 SLE, Audiovector Ki3 Super, Pylon Audio Diamond 25, Chartwell LS3/5, Albedo HL 2.2, T+A E-series Music Player Balanced, Cardas Clear Reflection, Equilibrium Tune 33 Light, Enerr Tablette 6S, Enerr Symbol Hybrid Solid Tech Radius Duo 3.
Everyone loves the audiophile sound of tube amplifiers, but unfortunately not everyone loves them sufficiently enough to have such a device in their house. On the way to achieve musical accomplishment, one faces several obstacles of a practical nature, such as the protection of the amplifier from the household inhabitants, and vice versa, check-ups of the quiescent currents and possible replacements of the power tubes, need of ensuring an adequate level of ventilation, and finally the high price of such devices. I get the impression though, that many music lovers can quickly overcome these difficulties, and that the real problem lies elsewhere. A majority of such commercially available amplifiers are constructs inherently capricious in their nature, difficult to configure, and requiring the setup of a whole audio system so as to accommodate them - both in terms of the loudspeakers, as well as the other elements of the signal path. And even if we succeed in this, it often turns out, more often than not that, that ultimately our system can only be applied to listening to classical music and jazz. On the other hand, Fezz Audio offers us an amplifier that causes problems neither of hardware nature, nor with the chosen repertoire. You can connect it to virtually any loudspeakers, and there is very little likelihood that it will not like them. You enjoy a similar level of freedom in terms of the choice of the music genre. This can be jazz, as well as metal, or even trip-hop. The Titania does not have any problems with loud and dense material - it does not choke upon it, but to the contrary, it soars to even higher levels, presenting a sound that is natural, well balanced and presented with an appropriate dose of musical warmth. In terms of dynamics, of clarity and stereo imaging, the Polish amplifier does not have any inferiority complexes against transistor based constructs of a similar price tag. It seems that after the warm welcome, as witnessed and experienced by the Silver Luna model, the Titania may turn out to be an even bigger hit. It is a sturdy, well-executed powerhouse, one which may turn out to be an ultimate target platform for many audiophiles.
Output Power: 2 x 45 W
System type: Push-Pull, class AB1
Output Impedance: 4/8 Ω
Inputs: 3 x RCA
Frequency response: 18 Hz - 103 kHz (-3dB)
Power consumption: 180 W
Fuse: 3.15 A T
Dimensions (H/W/D): 17.5/42/41 cm
Weight: 17.5 kg
Manufacturer: Fezz Audio