Never heard of Audionet? We're not surprised. Despite producing some great kit this German company has never made a particularly big splash in the UK high-end market.
Having reviewed a number of its products we find it hard to understand why.
Take a close look at this preamp (the top box here, with its companion power stage below) and you'll find a wonderfully engineered product that oozes quality, substance and sturdiness. Audionet doesn't deal in fripperies.
Features, such as they are, cover all the essentials. You get balanced operation, a headphone output and plenty of line level inputs.A rather pricy remoteIt's a shame that the company doesn't supply a remote handset as standard: it's a £250 option for a fancy programmable jobbie.
At this price level that strikes us as mean to the point of being unreasonable, even if we accept Audionet's argument that most customers are likely to already own such a remote handset already.
More after the break
The Pre 1 is a flexible unit that can be fine-tuned. Inputs can be named and their sensitivity adjusted so that each source comes through at around the same output level – CD players tend to produce a higher output than say a tuner or outboard phono stage.
Once adjusted there should be no noticeable drop or jump in volume level between the inputs, which avoids any nasty surprises when scrolling through.
Excellent for the moneyOnce properly warmed up this Audionet pairing delivers an excellent sound for the money. You have every right to expect a truck-load of composure, and that's exactly what you get. If large dynamic swings at high volume levels are your thing you'll love this pre/power.
Even with something demanding like Holst's Mars this two-boxer keeps on delivering without hardening up or struggling. Big power usually means big bass, and that rings true here.
This combination digs deep and true, managing the rare trick of being both weighty and articulate at low frequencies.
Listen to Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes and the Audionets capture the texture, heft and leading edge of the prominent bassline beautifully.
At this price level it would be a disappointment if that were the limit to the Audionet's talents. It isn't.
The pairing is equally at home with subtler music. It sounds fluid and expressive with Clint Mansell's Moon OST, making light work of the piano used in many of the tracks: there's just the right balance of attack, harmonic richness and refinement to convince.
Impressive clarityPerhaps most impressive is the amplifier's clarity. This duo digs up masses of detail and delivers it in an impressively clean and precise manner.
It's almost as though the amplifier processes the recording to make it sound pristine. It's all very impressive, but we can see some finding it all a little too polished.
Importantly, it doesn't dilute the passion and drive of music, nor do they show any particular preference for a specific genre.
It simply gets on with the job of making music without intruding on the experience. This might not sound particularly glamorous, but it's what great hi-fi is all about.