Calling the Trinnov Amethyst a ‘preamp’ is a bit like calling Rafael Nadal ‘a tennis player’; it’s true, but dramatically fails to get across the bigger picture. You see, the Amethyst does all the conventional things you might want from a preamplifier, such as a multitude of line and digital inputs (including UPnP networked audio) and a very fine (not to mention extremely clever) phono stage, but that’s just the jumping off point. The smarter part of it is it’s also a room/loudspeaker optimiser, and it’s even an active crossover, although in fairness, I didn’t have the speakers to test this out. It’s kind of the Swiss Army Knife of audio hubs.
When it comes to cracking the Amethyst, the biggest problem for a reviewer is finding the right place to start. The room optimisation section is probably the reason why most people who are thinking of a preamplifier might look to Trinnov, and with good reason. This uses a supplied measuring microphone and a set-up wizard to compensate for the iniquities of the room/speaker interaction. The multi-point time/frequency acoustic measurement is quick and reasonably painless (you need to place the ‘3D’ multiple microphone pod in the listening position at ear height, directed at the speakers, and the app does the rest of the work). Give it a few minutes to process what it measures and you can then apply the room correction curve to your sound. Better still, you can tweak this correction curve, should you find the results not quite to your tastes (more on this later). This naturally requires some on-board computing power and it’s perhaps little wonder then that almost half the back panel is given over to the connections of a micro-ATX computer. But the rest of that panel is all business. Audio business.
It handles 11 audio sources in all; four analogue (two balanced, with one of the single-ended capable of switching to a phono stage), two AES/EBU digital, four S/PDIF digital and one Ethernet connection for its UPnP Media Renderer option. This last currently falls into the ‘under development’ part of the package (you currently need to use an app like PlugPlayer to feed the Renderer section), and networked specialists like Cyrus, Electrocompaniet, Krell, Linn or Naim offer a more elegant networked solution as it stands.