It has become a cliché in audio circles to claim ‘there are no good preamplifiers’. Fortunately, there are exceptions to the rule and they are increasing in number. Ten years ago, the number of really good preamps could be counted on the fingers on one hand, and a hand that had a bad fight with a combine harvester at that. Today, they number in the double-figures. The Karan Acoustics KA L Reference was always one of the contenders, but that didn’t prepare us for the LINEa, Karan’s latest and greatest top-of-the-line preamplifier.
The LINEa is the first in a new Master Collection from Karan, the whole collection a reflection of 30 years of Milan Karan’s outstanding range of amplifiers. A second, one box line preamplifier, a two-box statement and one box ultimate phono stage, stereo and mono power amplifiers will follow, each establishing themselves as the definitive Karan statement in that field of amplification. That would be a bold statement from any brand but given Karan’s ability to already make ‘world-class’ products in any amp sector, these models have a lot to live up to. Judging by the LINEa, however, that’s not going to be an issue.
The Master Collection is a worthy product line to show off Karan’s 30 years of quality amplification; the products are a distillation of the best of Milan Karan’s engineering smarts developed both before and during his time with the brand that bears his name. The circuit is made using the best components, and what constitutes ‘best’ is more than just a trawl through a Who’s Who of famous names in the electronics business and is instead an iterative process of laboratory measurement and listening test evaluations for all the active and passive components in the LINEa circuit. This even comes down to using different thickness copper traces for different stages of the circuit; 120µm for the power supplies, and 75µm for the amplifier sections of the LINEa.