It works like this: you get into hi-fi in your teens/twenties, toil away at a decent job for twenty or thirty years, and then realise that life is finite and that if you’re ever going to do what you really want to, now is the time. So you start building audio components and slowly people buy them, and with luck you have a business that is actually satisfying, even if the yacht and the swimming pool are becoming less and less likely to arrive. This may entirely not be the case with Carl and Neil Broomfield who founded CAAS (Class A Audio Systems) in 2006, but I suspect it’s near the truth. These brothers from Yorkshire have useful backgrounds when it comes to audio electronics, as Carl is an engineer specialising in high frequency microwave technology while Neil is a software engineer, and looking at their photos I’d guess they didn’t leave it much more than twenty years before they followed their dream.
CAAS make ‘three/four’ products: the Elysian Pre-amplifier seen here (with a version with built in ladder DAC and network streamer) a standalone DAC/streamer, and the Elysian mono power amplifiers. A fairly typical product range until you realise that pretty much all of it was developed by the company from scratch, which is presumably why it took 10 years to bring the products to the wider market. As the pictures hopefully reveal, build quality is of a very high standard indeed. The machined-from-billet aluminium casework on the Elysian preamp is in the premier league, and this is serious audio engineering even on the outside. Under the skin things get even more extreme; this is a fully balanced line stage with no fewer than 12 discrete regulated power supplies following triple transformer isolation. I was confused by the presence of seven digital power supplies given that this is an analogue preamp, but it turns out that it uses digital control software for the motor drive for the volume pot and resistor relays.
The circuit is DC coupled from input to output. CAAS is keen to point out that there are no capacitors in the signal path, while the buffer stage is a zero feedback, Class A JFET type with DC servo technology to minimise distortion. The volume control is a 128-step relay-based device with fixed resistors for each step, a feature rarely seen in any product with a sub-megabucks asking price. Those 128 steps come in very handy when you want to make small changes to level, both manually and through the remote handset.