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New music listening room
Michael Valentine Studio
New music listening room 2023
(page one)
New music listening room

Click an image to enlarge (except amplifier images below).


May 2021 - Moving on up (or down South to be more accurate)


After over fifty years of relatively peaceful living in South London, I have been fortunate to be able to relocate to hopefully almost guaranteed peace (and greater space) of the South Coast.

Like many house hunting music lovers, my top priority (alongside location - location, aspect and property structural integrity) is ‘can the hi-fi and music collection fit comfortably in the new listening space?’

This is my third and hopefully final move, so I had to get it right! Now with greater musical experience, more (and better) hi-fi components and an even larger record collection, I look forward to designing my music listening room (Michael Valentine Studio) almost from scratch.

June - November 2021 - Design & Planning

After many months of planning, re-planning and waiting for local authority approval, building works started on 31 January 2022. The cost of living, building and labour costs have increased (and continue to rise) dramatically, however, I am still working hard to insure I reach my goal. The build completion date has changed a few times now due to earlier unpredictable weather patterns, design alterations and structural calculation changes. The last predicted full completion date was August 2022. Of course, this date came and went faster than the last UK Prime Minister. The reason for this completion date change was similar to UK government personnel changes. A shortage of high quality and trustworthy trades’ personnel!

July - September 2022 - Basic structure completed

The listening room dimensions are now 3.65m width X 8.53m length (12’ X 28’ in old money). This may not seem substantial to some (especially to some of my American cousins) but this is a huge increase on my previous terraced listening space in South London and opens up various component placement possibilities (especially as a MartinLogan ESL user). Dedicated single radial circuits have been installed to cater for individual system components,
finished with silver plated sockets.

New music listening room

As you can see from the photograph here, my beloved MartinLogan
ESL 11A speakers have been placed roughly into their proposed positions. Kimber 12TC speaker cable has been installed within conduit under the floor tiles between each speaker. So progress has definitely been made.



October 2022 - Setbacks and challenges

Experience has now taught me not to offer any further completion dates. The actual ‘structure’ completion was on time. Underfloor heating and floor tiling was also completed (at last). However, the changing works start dates regarding underfloor heating and floor tiling had a huge impact on other minor parts of this project. I was actually at a point where I could have taken over the project completely to finish any minor snagging issues and install various items such as doors, locks and finish painting throughout my property. This would have finally led to me inviting specific company amplifiers onsite (albeit with a smaller budget). BUT I continued this project under the shadow of my two-year outstanding shoulder operation. We are all aware of NHS operation wait times? The shoulder operation took place on 14 October 2022 and I was grateful, despite the fact that I resembled a slightly faulty one-armed bandit at a funfair for several weeks.

So, no DIY and certainly no lifting of any item (not even a vinyl record) for a number of weeks. Great timing? Can you imagine how it felt to walk around looking at areas in my home that needed work I had the skill to complete, but not being able to, due to hopefully a temporary physical impairment? I am sure others have had to manage greater issues, so again, I was grateful the operation was now in the past and healing had begun.

May - August 2023 - Nearly there

New music listening room

The listening chair is in position and I am nearly ready to start listening to amplifiers even though the amplifier piggy bank is forever changing. Yes, the cost of a can of baked beans has increased substantially AND so has the cost of each amplifier on my shortlist.





Mains leads & Quadraspire Q4 component rack

Mains leads plugged in and ready to connect. Quadraspire Q4 component rack set-up ready. I do realise this rack will most likely need reconfiguring, or may have to go altogether depending on my amplifier / pre-amplifier choice, however, this rack will be needed in the interim for my turntable, phonostage and CD player.



Amplifier research actually started in early 2021 & is still ongoing

The amplification shortlist has changed by either adding or taking away specific models. Even the Gryphon Essence Mono amplifiers were a consideration for a very brief moment, before the imaginary money tree began to wilt. EAR Yoshino 509 Monoblock (pair required) was at the top of my list for some time. I initially heard these way back in the early 00s and was impressed at the time, however, I was not in the market for amplification and I confess that I have never considered ‘valve’ amplification until experiencing Von Gaylord valve amplifiers at the February 2023 Bristol HI-FI Show. Unfortunately, the EAR 509 Monoblock valves are one of the many product casualties of the Russian & Ukraine conflict. The valves used in this amplifier are sourced from Russia, therefore, are unavailable at present. I have messaged both Nevin and Dena at EAR Yoshino asking for updates regarding the possibility of sourcing valves from an alternative supplier, however, positive news was also in short supply!I received better news regarding the EAR 890 amplifier with regards to its compatibility and capabilities, however, these amplifiers are not easily sourced for demonstration purposes, so I decided to move on.

Early August 2023, two amplifiers were cemented at the top end of the list. Yes, there are a few threads that question PS Audio BHK Signature 300 monoblock capabilities against specific difficult to drive speakers such as MartinLogan ESL’s. I posed the same question to the UK distributor who did not say yes, or no (If I had a penny for all the times I have had the same response from a hi-fi distributor or retailer I would be able to pay off the UK national debt and still have change for the PS Audio BHK Signature 300’s). As for the rock solid and weighty (physically and audibly) Gryphon Diablo 303 integrated amplifier… this amplifier is due to be released in October 2023 and boasts an even greater musical presence (and price tag) than the very popular Diablo 300!

23 August 2023, I was able to demo both the Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated and Gryphon Essence stereo power amplifiers (with Gryphon Essence preamplifier) at Studio AV in Chobham, Surrey. Though I found the Essence stereo amplifier to be vastly superior to the Diablo 300 in resolution and musicality, I very quickly established these amplifiers ‘sense of signature’ and felt neither amplifiers would suit my needs, so decided not to continue with a home demo on this occasion.

Thankfully there are a few hi-fi manufacturers who still feel they have something to prove in this competitive market, so emails and discussions are ongoing.

September 23 – Home demos began with the Nagra Classic Amplifier & Preamplifier combo (after a jaw dropping brief listen at Studio AV). I was also able to get my hands on the Audio Hungary A75 integrated amplifier & the Audio Hungary Qualiton Power Amplifier & Preamplifier. Now this unknown to me (but revered by many in the industry) company have been mentioned a few times in late August. Apparently, build quality is second-to-none as well as highly rated sonic capabilities. The Nagra Classic Amp and Preamp are also revered in high-end hi-fi circles, so the later listening experience results of the Nagra amp and preamp were interesting?

The PS Audio BHK300 Signature Monoblocks & BHK Signature Preamplifier was at the top of my list for some time. In fact, I almost purchased a new rack to accommodate them even before listening (I was confident they would be my next purchase). Thankfully, after an extremely up close and personal listen to the PS Audio BHK600 Signature Monoblock Amplifiers & BHK Signature Preamplifier at The UK Hi-Fi Show, 1 October 2023 and detailed conversation with Paul McGowan regarding my personal taste,
I decided not to continue the PS Audio route. I was now on a valve amplifier exploration!

Communication with various amplifier companies is still ongoing. However, the Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Amplifier and C200 Preamplifer are in position on my hi-fi rack and sounding very nice indeed. Updates will be made shortly…

The short-list

1. Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Power Amplifer & C200 Preamplifer
(added to list September 2023 after a brief listen to the amazing A75 Integrated Amplifier)

Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Power Amplifer & C200 Preamplifer



Removed from the short-list

PS Audio BHK 300 Signature Monoblock Power Amplifiers
& BHK Signature Preamplifier
(removed from the list October 2023)

The BHK Signature 300 Monoblock Power Amplifier (added to list May 2023

Nagra Classic Amp & Preamp
(removed from list after September 2023 home demo)

Nagra Classic Amp & Preamp

75 integrated amplifier(removed from the list September 2023. Added the Qualiton Pre-power instead)

Audio Hungary A75 Integrated Amplifier

Audia Flight FLS10 Ballanced Stereo integrated amplifier
(removed from the list September 2023)

Audia Flight FLS10 Ballanced Stereo integrated amplifier

Audia Flight Strumento No. 4 MKII stereo power amplifier
(removed from the list September 2023)

Audia Flight FLS10 Ballanced Stereo integrated amplifier


PS Audio BHK Signature 250 Stereo Power Amplifier 300
(removed from the list August 2023. The Signature Monoblock Power Amplifiers would be the better option)

The BHK Signature 250 Stereo Power Amplifier (added to list May 2023

Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier
(removed from list 23 August 2023 after demo)

Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated amplifier

Gryphon Diablo 303 integrated amplifier
(removed from list 23 August 2023 after demo of Diablo 300)

Gryphon Diablo 303 integrated amplifier

Gryphon Essence stereo power amplifier
(removed from list 23 August 2023 after demo)

Gryphon Diablo 303 integrated amplifier

Reluctantly removed from list May 2023

EAR 890 70 Watts per channel stereo (bridgeable to 140 watts mono) amplifier
(added to list May 2023)

EAR 890 70 Watts per channel stereo (bridgeable to 140 watts mono) amplifier

Ear 509 100 watt Monoblock (added to list March 2023)

Message directly from Ear Yoshino
'Unfortunately, we are unable to supply the 509's at the moment due to
the conflict in Russia.'

'We are unable to get the valves from Russia, so the cost of the valves
elsewhere has gone too high.'

Regards Dina – EAR Yoshino

Ear 509 100 watt Monoblock

Removed from list May 2022

Hegel H590 integrated amplifier

Hegel H590 integrated amplifier

Coda 60.0 mono amplifier x 2 (with FET Preamplifier 06x or 07x)

Coda 60.0 mono amplifier x 2 (with FET Preamplifier 06x or 07x)

Research and communication with all the above amplifier companies continues. Other amplifiers may be added to the mix, while others may be removed. I am looking forward to listening to the next musical chapter.

Robin Francis
© Michael Valentine Studio
December 2021 - October 2023


Use the links below to go to the Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Power Amplifer
& C200 Preamplifer Experience Review part one, part two, or part three,
or the Nagra Classic Amplifier & Preamplifer Experience Review...

Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Power Amplifer (click to go to this page) Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Power Amplifer& C200 Preamplifer Experience Review part two (click to go to this page) Audio Hungary Qualiton P200 Power Amplifer & C200 Preamplifer Experience Review part three (click to go to this page) Nagra Classic Amplifier & Preamplifer Experience Review (click to go to this page)

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