Ken Kessler for Hi-Fi News:
“…the Sunilda pours forth the detail, the air, the sense of a 3-D space and the kind of control that’s hard to fault…”
“…as you can imagine, competition in this sector is tough: really tough. I recently bought the AR PH5, and – love it though I truly do – I have to admit that it’s shy of adjustability, and lacks the facility for a second turntable; this makes a pain in the arse if you like to fiddle about with cartridges and decks. Conversely, it’s the choice if you don’t fiddle around. EAR’s phono offerings are always magical, from the least expensive to the sublimely dear; Quad’s new valve phono amp is even more of a bargain than the Sunilda; Sutherland’s PhD is the quitest phono stage I’ve ever heard. AS any show-goer will tell you, there are countless other superb phono amps to consider as well. The Sunilda however is genuienly special. It manages the combine the best balance of all of the above phono amps’ virtues, sonically and practically, then doubles them up and sells them to you for a sane price….”
Michael Fremer of Stereophile:
“…Germany’s AudioValve is building some of the finest and affordable tubed products available today. The Sunilda is a great example. Loaded with features, beautiful sonics, and a price that makes this phono stage a veritable bargain in the context of its’ competition. The Sunilda uses 2 (two) 12AX7 and 6922 each making it a tube roller’s delight. Personally, I’ve used Telefunken, Siemens, Mullard, Amperex, and RCA among others. The many different combinations of tubes make for an unlimited number of possibilities you might find satisfying. I’ve been listening your Sunilda you’ll be hard pressed to buy more for its’ price and perhaps even a couple thousand more. Inputs for 2 MC or 2 MM cartridges at the same time; ideal for the enthusiast with a 2 tables or a table with dual tonearms. Front panel controls for loading and capacitance. External power supply for superior isolation and on and on. The Sunilda is one terrific value….”
“…the AudioValve Sunilda is one of the most enjoyably tube-based phono preamps I’ve heard…”
Helmut Becker likes wireless assembly, so the guts of the Sunilda rest on a double-sided PC board, laid out in a dual-mono topology, all beautifully assembled. Becker doesn’t compromise on the components, and he indulges in hand-selection, so the see-through lid is no conceit: you’ll enjoy gazing at its innards. For hours.
He describes the Sunilda as a ‘three-stage phono-preamplifier, based on 6922 or ECC88 and 12AX7 or ECC83 frame grid tubes.’ The Sunilda – named after the daughter of Siegfried and Brunhilde, so Valkyries can wallow in this one – accommodates both moving magnet and moving-coil cartridges. What inveterate fiddlers will love is that the Sunilda is two complete phono stages in one, with BOTH sets of inputs enjoying the full complement of settings, unlike some that offer either m-m or m-c for one or the other inputs. Where this might prove handy is for A/B’ing arms or turntables when you would need to use the same cartridges in both. And if you had two identical turntable/arm set-ups, you could use it to compare cartridges, including two of the same make and model. (Ask Decca-fiends about sample-to-sample variation…) And if you have two identical turntable/arm/cartridges, well, how about A/B’ing different LP pressings. Like 180g vs 200g or reissue vs original?
Thus, you have, independently for the two inputs, adjustable impedance and capacitive load, which you can do ‘on-the-fly’ while listening. Across the front, you have four rotaries and four toggle switches. The rotaries, two per input, set capacitance of 0, 100, 220 or 470pf and impedance of 47, 100, 220, 470, 1k and 47k ohms. Note that in moving magnet mode, the gain is 20dB lower than in m-c mode, at a fixed input-impedance of 47k.This means that users who like their m-cs at 47k ohms can employ that value with some added gain. Koetsu users: rejoice!
As for the four toggles, accompanied by various coloured LEDs, they activate, left to right, mute/operate/standby, mm/mc select for input 1, input selector for input 1 or 3, and lastly mm/mc select for input 2. Around the back are the two sets of RCA phono inputs with separate earths, a single pair of RCA phono outputs and the socket for the power supply.
Sunilda’s RIAA de-emphasis is passive and split between the first and second stage. According to Becker, ‘Dividing the RIAA network over two amplification stages lowers the insertion losses of the passive network dramatically. Furthermore, the design has a total absence of feedback, thus increasing the overall dynamics.’ He also opted for solid-state regulated power supplies. ‘This is the best way to obtain low noise and a supply line with a very low impedance, to increase the performance in the lower frequency range.’
Other niceties include an outboard power supply, housed in a separate aluminium case and connecting to the main chassis with a computer-grade cable. The main case itself is laser-cut, 4mm thick steel, as mentioned before absolutely identical in size to the Eklipse line-level pre-amplifier. Beside offering the Sunilda in both silver and black, you can also specify silver or gilt knobs, again depending on your stomach for bling-bling. Alas, Sunilda sunglass are not supplied.
This unit arrived in the midst of my most overactive analogue phase in years. In addition to SME 10 and SME 30 turntables, I’ve recently added a Trio L-07D, and I have a fistful of cartridges to play with, and of every stripe: London Gold and Maroon (the latter mono), Koetsu Black Urushi, Shure V15 V, Lyra (mono) Dorian, Transfiguration Temper V and a few others. With this mix, I was able to assess most of the settings, comparing m-m vs m-c, assorted impedances and other characteristics. First, some observations:
If you are using a complex system, and a couple of turntables, you must pay attention to earthing to avoid a loop. You may find yourself opening AC plugs to disconnect earths. Moreover, the Sunilda responds well to quality mains leads, a solid mounting surface and a good set of phono cables to the pre-amp, which in this case was a line input on the McIntosh C2200. I used Transparent Reference, and did not earth the Sunilda to the Mac. The rest of the system included the McIntosh MC2102 and Wilson WATT Puppy System 7.
What was common at all stages was a consistency that shows Becker favoured neither mm nor m-c: the Sunilda treats both equally. Where it shines is in its ability to let the user extract the most from either. I know, there are phono stages that provide even more settings, but AudioValve struck a nice balance. The only thing I would have added were oddball impedances for mm so I could tweak the Deccas, but then I’ve only ever found these on Tim De Paravicini’s magnificent solid-state EAR 324.
Provided you address the cabling properly, the Sunilda is eerily quiet, if not quite on a par with the Sutherland Phd. And yet you never forget that it’s all-valve, with a warmth that separates it from the EAR 324. The latter is hardly ‘cold’, but it is so precise and proper that it approaches ‘laboratory equipment’ in its presentation. The Sunilda is definitely fatter, more . Intriguingly, transparency is on a par with solid-state phono stages, so either Becker found some top-grade tubes, or – more likely – he extracted better performance from the glassware he used than is humanly possible, something he does with his power amps. (Actually, for Sunilda he’s using Electro-Harmonix tubes, which are mighty fine.)
Sunilda’s warmth was kept in check so that it didn’t overwhelm the listener with a hyper-analogue sound. It’s easy to dial in so much euphonic artifice that you can make any LP sound more inviting than most intrinsically harsh digital sources, but that means throwing away super-quick transients, or bass slap. Sunilda sacrifices nothing: it pours forth the detail, the air, the sense of a three-dimensional space and the kind of control that’s hard to fault. If, on the other hand, you need a vice-like grip over the entire affair, you simply have to turn to EAR. (Damn, that 324 is some kind of wonderful…)
What made me fall in love with the Sunilda were big band mono LPs, which possess a sheen and shimmer that exists nowhere else. Trust me: Billy May LPs have to be heard in true mono. With both the Decca Maroon and the Lyra Dorian, I was able to summon up room-filling, ear-caressing sounds that can only be described as ‘silky’. I hope that analogue’s leading warriors, Michaels Hobson and Fremer in the USA, get hold of Sunildas, because Sunilda will prove to be a positively Wagnerian ally. If you have any doubts about the worth of vinyl in 2005, this phono stage will help dispel them.
As you can imagine, competition in this sector is tough: really, really tough. I recently bought the Audio Research PH5, and – love it though I truly do – I have to admit that it’s shy of adjustability, and lacks the facility for a second turntable; this makes it a pain in the arse if you like to fiddle about with cartridges and decks. Conversely, it’s THE choice if you <DON’Tfiddle around. EAR’s phono offerings are always magical, from the least expensive to the sublimely dear; Quad’s new valve phono amp is even more of a bargain than the Sunilda; Sutherland’s Phd is the quietest phono stage I’ve ever heard (to be reviewed soon!). As any show-goer will tell you, there are countless other superb phono amps to consider as well. Sunilda, however, is something genuinely special: it combines the best balance of all of the above phono amps’ virtues, sonically and practically, then doubles them up and sells them to you for a sane price.
But take a tip from KK: order yours in silver rather than black.
Andrew, from RPM Audio – UK
AudioValve Sunilda phono
The AudioValve Sunilda ($4995), a
tubed phono preamp from Germany,
offers a lot of setup convenience
and flexibility, all controlled from its
front panel. There are two
independently configurable single –
ended inputs selectable for MM or
MC and adjustable for resistive (47,
100, 220, 470, 1k, and 47k ohms)
and five choices of capacitive
The outboard transformer for the
solid-state power supply connects to
the main chassis via a computer-
type ribbon cable and multipin
connector. The dual-mono circuit
uses pairs of 6922 and 12AX7 tubes
in a threestage configuration, with
passive RIAA equalization split
between the first and second stages.
Interestingly, while the manual
specifies 20dB of gain with the MC
stage switched in, total gain is not
specified. The specifications page of
the manual lists MM and MC gain
“@1kHz” but neglects to give
numbers, though it says elsewhere
that the MC stage adds 20dB, so it’s
a good bet the total gain is 55 or
The Sunilda’s claimed RIAA accuracy
is ±0.25dB, with noise 76dB below
signal in MC mode, which is fairly
typical for tubed phono preamps.
High-quality parts are used
throughout, and the signal paths are
kept short, all but eliminating any
point-to-point wiring. While
rotary knobs for loading and
capacitance have a rubbery feel due
to the long acrylic shafts that
connect them to the switches
mounted on the rear board, that’s a
worthwhile sacrifice in the interest of
frontpanel convenience and short
signal paths. Use is straightforward
and easy, but be sure to select Mute
before changing inputs, or
hear a loud
. Otherwise, the
Sunilda was glitch-free during the
The AudioValve Sunilda was
quiet, even with relatively lowoutput
MCs, and produced a sonic
panorama with a rich, lush midband
that definitely let me know that
tubes were involved. But thanks to a
wellcontrolled bottom end and
pleasing high-frequency extension,
the sound never sank into the overly
Though the Sunilda’s bass extension
was only moderately deep (your
system would need to plumb the
20Hz depths for you to hear what
was missing), bass control was very
good—a combination preferable to
more extension and less control.
While the better solid-state phono
preamps will deliver more extension
and more muscular control, tube
fans will revel in the Sunilda’s
palpable bass textures. Drum skins
and plucked bass strings had a
supple elasticity that solid – state
phono preamps tend to gloss over,
just as the Sunilda tended to
somewhat soften the visceral punch
of the electric bass. Kick drums were
more about the skin reverberation
and less about the transient attack,
pianos were more about sounding
boards and wood than about
hammer strokes, and so on.
When this balance goes overboard in
one direction or the other, I hear
either skeletal “runway model”
sound, or the overstuffed kind that
sounds the way Midwesterners at a
state fair look. The best solid-state
designs avoid the former, while the
better tube designs avoid the latter.
And the Sunilda is a better tube
Its pleasingly rich midrange and full-
bodied harmonic palette can be
described as Dockers expansive
rather than unpleasingly plump.
Combine its midband generosity
(which includes that special 12AX7
golden glow) with clean, reasonably
fast, grain-free, topend extension,
nimble yet warm midand
midbass, and reasonably decent
bottomend extension, and you have
a supremely listenable and
enjoyable phono preamplifier.
Could you get more muscular
bottom-end extension? Yes. Greater
macrodynamic slam? Yes. And
probably blacker blacks, too, which
usually leads to more low-level
microresolution, which you can also
get elsewhere in solid-state designs.
But there’s a particular magic to the
all-tube experience, particularly in
how tubes resolve and three-
dimensionalize certain instruments.
I’m again playing Sundazed’s new
reissue of Simon and
Bridge Over Troubled Water
, and the
Sunilda’s rendering of “So Long,
Frank Lloyd Wright” is truly special.
The strings are feathery, the
acoustic guitar a perfect blend of
string and body, the flute juicy and
airy, the bongos have lots of skin,
and the whole picture floats
ethereally in three-dimensional
space with great deliccy.
As with the Benz-Micro LP S
cartridge, if you mostly listen to
modern electric rock, the Sunilda
might not be for you—but well-
recorded acoustic music of all
genres, as well as early rock and
folk, sounded vivid and convincingly
real, tonally, texturally, and spatially.
What the Sunilda might lack in that
last bit of slam it more than made
up for in well-saturated harmonic
colors and three-dimensionality. Just
don’t use it with a cartridge that’s
already on the warm side, or you
might end up with sound that’s too
slow and thick to get out of its own
way. I enjoyed many months of
listening with the Sunilda,
particularly with the more analytical
and Ortofon MC A90
cartridges. If the sound I’ve
described is your type of sound,
you’ll love the Sunilda—and you
can’t beat the convenience of two
independently configurable inputs
and front-panel control of loading.
The AudioValve Sunilda is one of the
most enjoyably balanced tube-based
phono preamps I’ve heard. It might
not be the last word in any
particular performance parameter,
but taken as a whole, it’s one of
those components that can be
installed and enjoyed for a very long
time without leaving you feeling you
need or want more of anything.
AUDIO – ART magazine 2009 Taiwan, Audio Valve Sunilda Tube Phono Amplifier
Equipment comments / Liu Zhen
In recent years I have heard a number of Audio Valve amplifier. Whether the former level, single-ended amplifier, or push-pull amplifier, the German Hi End plant products won my heart. Called Sunilda singing of course, the whole vacuum tube head amplifier amplification, but also dual-mono design, two channels on the same piece of circuit board, using completely independent of the amplification circuit. For each channel using the one 6922,12 AX7, according to that the use of the three original amplification, while the RIAA curve compensation circuits were added to the first level and second-level amplification, the Audio Valve, according to a passive RIAA said it would split into two can be significantly reduced because the signal caused by the passive circuit losses. Sunilda provide MM amplification (40dB) and MC amplification (60dB) two kinds of gain, do not use negative feedback.
One capable of reaching the two with the
It can take two to sing the first! Must be people who say: What’s next two Phono remarkable? Many sing the first amplifier will do. However, Sunilda two inputs can be independently adjusted for the gain, resistance, capacitance value, so you have both equal to two Phono Amplifier! Why it can do so, others do not? You just look through the transparent roof puts inside will know: it is not fancy installed two sets of two groups of resistance and capacitance. Production costs in order to look at this is not the economy (in Germany, handmade, how many more welding so many parts, labor costs may be even higher than the parts cost), but it is a very practical approach. 2 input to relay switch, it will not produce any interference. Who used this function right? For the audio commentators like “Doo-disk” is very useful for audio fans.
External power supply to exclude interference
4 knobs for each of two groups, one used to adjust the impedance, the other is the capacitance; four lever switches were responsible for input, gain adjustment and mute, standby. Interface to operate it, Sunilda beautiful design is very reasonable, we can see Audio Valve boss Helmut Becker must be a logical concept-oriented person.
Audio Valve has always been inside the machine to maintain a high completion level of resistance and capacitance of the connecting rod is used to adjust the machine back office to adjust the signal path is very short. Having said that power supply section also in order to eliminate interference, in particular, chassis design, the two computers using the old kind of printer cable connections. The power supply is not easily to a chassis trouble, but with a real aluminum metal outer case fitted up.
Use of vacuum tubes, front-end of the ECC88 is the Tesla, NOS tubes, the output buffer stage of the 12AX7 is JV products. See Tesla, I would like to find fault with the tube for tube fans should have to give up the idea of a bar!
By the way, agents Code Audio Co., Ltd. Li stressed that Taiwan imported Audio Valve products are specifically requested to strengthen the German original power supply specifications and a variety of materials, are also gold-plated knobs, so the performance would have been better on the types of aircraft sold abroad, Some strong. Of course, you should also prepare to spend a little more price.
Machine a mute, I knew my fascination for the digital system was again an analog system to completely defeated. Why? Good Sibu Si, I have come to listen to vinyl records is the CD has been heard do not know how many times the “Cafe Blue”. I thought the music, all kinds of details have been gains a complete surprise, the analog system, sound, or like a new vista in general, always giving me a surprise! What surprises do? Than the details of the digital system to better performance, better than the digital system, live feeling better than the frequency of the digital system, at both ends of the performance of all I listened to a few minutes later, we can immediately feel the benefits.
Re-boxing countdown-bit systems
CD’s performance in the low frequency do not should be more prominent? To be honest, I have always think so, but in a few top-level analog hearing to listen to the experience of the source, I found: the low-frequency analog is indeed far better than the quality of digital. Of course, this has a premise that analog systems are very good. For example, this time using the analog system, if the amplifier can be considered to be the first to sing in, prices have more than any I have heard the CD discs at home, so there must also be a better sound performance is normal. From the Sunilda sent to the voice of not only more full, more low, the severity of the drum and the speed of response are also better than digital systems. This flexible and clear foot drum, it sounds really comfortable and extremely enjoyable.
Can reproduce the music subtle changes in complex
Analog system signal to noise ratio is far lower than the figures in the book Digital Systems (MC Phono amplified signal to noise ratio is usually only in the 70dB or so), reasonable to say that the sound should be a very fine digital systems prevail, but in listening to a sense of the simply not the case. No matter which track to listen to, I can immediately hear the CD (or SACD) is indeed a number of subtle changes “simplistic” the. In other words, subtle changes in the dynamics of ups and downs, the analog system, a clear upper hand. To reproduce the music more complex and subtle changes in the entire sound field seems to have been cleared of mine, have a better sense of transparency and direct sense.
Large full of water again
The most outstanding feature Sunilda surprisingly, it is also related to vacuum tubes, it is loose in the high-frequency performance of water there. This loose so that when the choir sing the ups and downs is more attractive, able to front of the space to completely filled, a myriad of audio and video distribution choir let Sunilda spacious sound field advantages into play. Woodwinds the place where the most touching in its Qiyun, while Sunilda let loose a spirit brightened up a bit Smart. Guitar is filled with the sound on the show Sunilda advantage, which is full of water, there is some flexibility in the nylon-string guitars with the full, playing the particles also very clear.
Careful look at the level of a sense of
In the orchestral performance, Sunilda at the level of the strength of strong resolve, they will be fully revealed by such beauty. It may be noted that each of the piano as if the sound field in the location of the analytical capacity proved Sunilda resolving power in a hierarchical sense and above all have a very high achievement. Of course, the string sound is also very United States, but also with a sleek shiny beauty.
IF full of emotion
Sunilda IF is very full, playing works by this passionate singing, can let me hear the songs, the others singing skills with the use of physical sense. Either copper or electric guitar, through the broadcast Sunilda have very correct ratio to reproduce, on behalf of the Taiwan Phono amplifier to create a sound field, audio-visual shape and so on have very outstanding performance.
Excellent low-frequency control
Dynamic, low frequency, the details are Sunilda great selling point, is more important is fidelity. Even the bass drum full of grainy and the degree of so I am satisfied that. Sunilda feeling in the low frequency does not deliberately highlight the fat swollen, but is a convergence of good, with flexibility and full low-frequency performance. Low-frequency from high school have the same amount of sense of balance.
Sunilda regeneration cymbal sound totally dragging its feet, can easily knock cymbals will be quick to reproduce the details of the others out of those waves will not occur quickly glossed over cymbal sound vague, saying that Taiwan Phono amplification temporary state to respond to very high caliber.
Sunilda on sexual expression in various sound very good, but I think the most important of all, it let me replay the whole level of the system to new heights. Through Sunilda play vinyl records, I was shocked to the original amplifier and speakers to my surprise, there are so many in the past I have not a good performance to explore the potential! Each album out on me a surprise, once again, so that the enjoyment of listening to music to become excellent. It seems that in return will be Sunilda agent, I will not and then the power turned on CD discs.
Doomed to a lonely analogy of no return
After this the Lyrics, I recognized the sound quality on the analog system can not be undone, and value. Relentless pursuit of audiophile sound recycling are two-way road: One of them is A Q point (which the Chinese do not Ah Q?), Completely regardless of the strong vinyl drum up support for fundamentalists, as the world has never appeared this kind of music media, you can live a very happy day. The second way is to seriously save money, get a good enough analogy replay system, careful adjustment, you will find that the expansion of their own machines, the original speakers can be so beautiful so well.
2 Road to the election which one? As Frost said: “The forest, two-way points, the way deserted rare; I selected this road alone, is the situation of differences.” Audio Valve Sunilda is that you choose “deserted dilute” the analogy of an excellent companion on the road, it let me make it clear to see the analog world, colorful Vientiane, more cruel to see a number of expressive power located in the sound quality is also still much to be desired Transformation . This sound obvious winner is no turning back, so I can not help heart, “I doubt from the future, the ability to switch to return,” sigh!