Only a Frenchman would have the audacity to build an amplifier with a volume control that’s essentially the wrong way round, that is, the level goes up as you turn it anti-clockwise. You get some cool white LEDs to indicate that things are increasing that help, but it is nonetheless wilfully contradictory. I asked B.Audio co-founder Sébastian Bermann why and got the response “it’s made intentionally to match at best with the design.” In other words ‘because we could’, not to mention because it makes this preamplifier stand out from the crowd.
B.Audio was created by brothers Cédric and Sébastian Bermann in 2016 and is based near Strasbourg on the French/German border. Inspired by their father’s enthusiasm for music and tech, electronics engineer Cédric and tuning specialist Sébastian use contemporary technology to create a small but rather attractively formed range of audio electronics which share the minimalist style seen in the two units on this page.
The B.audio range has two strata if you like with the one series being the more affordable, they appear to have different feature sets to the ‘bigger’ models but share the same design philosophy. The B.dpr one for instance is a preamplifier that incorporates both analogue inputs and a DAC but unlike the more pricey B.dpr it doesn’t have a regular input selector on the front panel. Short presses of the power button will take you through the inputs or alternatively there’s the remote handset. Which is fine if you have the eyesight of a hawk but the text on the display makes it hard to see from more than a couple of metres. So it is at least socially distanced. That said the remote control is a beauty that reflects the build and design of the preamplifier precisely, it requires a little intuition to use but this doesn’t take long and I hardly every turned off the preamp by accident.
The input selection process takes a little familiarisation too, B.audio use the term ‘coax’ to indicate any input with an RCA phono connection, so both analogue and digital inputs have the same name. Fortunately there is a second line on the display that says ‘analogue’ or ‘digital’ (with format and sample rate) so you can differentiate these two. However for the lay visitor that once asked why a particular DAC had the word ‘coax’ (which means ‘persuade’ in English of course) illuminated on the front panel this might be rather baffling. There are three analogue inputs across the usual connectors and six digital inputs in S/PDIF, AES/EBU and USB varieties. The source weighting here indicates that the B.dpr one started out as the B.dac and incorporates B.audio’s patented SJR or source jitter removal tech which claims to eliminate incoming jitter entirely. This is achieved by a process not dissimilar to that used in reclockers where a new clock signal is generated in order to remove the noise associated with the signal coming from a digital source. It is worth mentioning that even though the B.dpr one is based on a DAC it contains balanced mode analogue circuitry alongside a suitably symmetrical volume control, this is not a digital preamplifier in any sense of the word.