The process of reviewing audio equipment is well documented. In some respects, it’s all about the bit before the review, which could be likened to a dating agency. As the reviewer is going to live with the component for several weeks or even months, it’s important to make sure the two are compatible with one another. That said, some of us are more flexible and learn how to get into the ears of the typical listener who would like the device under test.
All of this goes out of the window when dealing with a product like the Bespoke Audio preamplifier, because there is no typical listener. The clue is in the name: each Bespoke Audio preamplifier is made for the customer to their individual requirements.
Bespoke Audio builds preamplifiers using custom in-house wound multi-tapped and shielded attenuation transformers, built to your specifications to match the gain structure of your system, should you so wish. The same applies to the number and type of inputs and outputs, the choice of wiring (Jupiter Condenser Company case wire as standard) whether you want a remote control, and, of course, colour scheme. A notional specification sheet exists, but is subject to a major amount of negotiation. As is, understandably, the price: if you want your preamplifier made from platinum, unicorn eyelashes, and the ground-up skulls of your vanquished enemies, it’s going to cost more than the standard product price.
There really is something of the Savile Row suit about the process. The first consultation is a discussion of your needs and wants, a design is agreed upon and then the Bespoke Audio people begin the process of construction. From first concept to final product typically takes about five weeks, but Bespoke keeps the customer in the loop with weekly email bulletins, complete with photographs of your preamplifier in its various stages of build. These build-up images give you an idea of just how seriously Bespoke Audio takes its job – there is a lot of wiring in a preamp like the Bespoke, because you are taking individual taps from each set of resistors on each step of the attenuator. Opening up such a design can look like you happened upon an abandoned bird’s nest. Not in the Bespoke Audio, though; cables are carefully dressed, wrapped and laid out with the precision of a military parade. This is not necessarily something that in any way changes the sound of the product and in most cases is not something the end user will ever actually see, but that doesn’t matter. It’s done because it’s the right way to do it. It’s the Rolls-Royce ethos.