The Ultimate Enigma of the Audio Arts is Explored

But First A Secret of the Jewish People Revealed

By definition a profound experience, especially those musical in nature, affect every aspect of our senses. All of our senses our interconnected and a musical epiphany means that we are in a heightened sense of arousal where all of our senses,  smell, taste, hearing, all of our body is trembling... meaning the whole of us gets high.

As you know I have been struggling to expand the vernacular of the audio arts, and have used eccentric analogies to convey meaning in a sport that is dedicated to experiences which no language can describe: the most ineffable, dematerial and subjective human emotions.  This explains why  I often turn to “classic Jewish deli” to explain my most profound feelings about the audio arts. So just give this piety a chance.

Very few understand what it means to be “chosen”, in the way the Jewish people are chosen, so I must educate many. To be chosen means many things, but being chosen always means being  chosen to bear a heavy burden. It is the burden of knowing the truth...like the truth of what constitutes a truly state of the art corned beef sandwich, and the truth about how to shop wholesale. Before I discuss David Berning’s amazing new, and world’s first bi-sexual SET ZOTL I must explore with you the art of the “classic” corned beef sandwich

 (the type that Moses ate before he trekked up the mountain to get the ten commandments), which is a lot like the art of creating a great amplifier. I will not now discuss the art of shopping wholesale because too much excitement at once is not good for your heart.

The art of creating a state of the art corned beef sandwich is all about balance; balancing the fat content with the meat. Too lean and the taste is very dry and analytical and does not induce the kind of tongue quivering spasm of delight we expect from such delicatessen delicacies. Too fat and the delicate flavor, aroma and spices of the corned beef are fogged over with fat. Perfect balance must be achieved, yet there is no doubt that each deli-maven has their own opinion about the ratio between fat and meat. This is a very important aesthetic consideration.

As a young Jewish boy I was obliged to attend Hebrew School to receive rigorous training in: (2) the Torah, a very  Holy scroll of wisdom, and (2) how to order deli properly. When Jewish boys turn thirteen we are Bar Mitzvahed, become men, and are, for the first time, permitted to order deli on our own, and this is a very big deli deal. It shouldn’t surprise you that my report card in Hebrew School indicated “F” in Torah and “A” in deli, which should point out that I was an idiot savant even as a boy.

I also want to point out for all of my Christian friends living in the midwest, that the wrath of God will strike you dead if you eat corned beef with mayonnaise on white bread with lettuce. There is only one way to enjoy “classic” corned beef... with real spicy New York Type brown mustard, and real Jewish Rye bread. If you should ever visit New York City be sure to go to Katz’s Deli on Houston Street to experience one of the most esoteric form of Semitic ecstasy, and be sure to take your glycerin pills and oxygen bottle so you can recover from the experience. At your first bite you will hear the Voice of God.

I also want to point out that the reason the Israeli solider is such an effective warrior is that before every battle the Army serves him/her a corned beef sandwich on rye.


Because only those who have an above average IQ read my articles, you know that an amplifier is just like a corned beef sandwich... it is possible to tune an amplifier/sandwich so that it has just “the right balance” of  lean and juicy.  As I clearly stated in my first articles about the 300B SET ZOTL I was put off guard by the clarity of this amplifier. It takes about five seconds of listening to ZOTL to identify the type of distortion that is endemic to all output transformers. I commented that the major problem with this amazing new ZOTL circuit is just how low in distortion it is, and how it painfully reveals all of the system flaws that are smoothed over by output transformers.

In many articles that appear on the TG web site, I have suggested that the art of creating an ecstatic audio system is the art of knowing exactly what kind of distortion works best for you. This is knowing your right balance between the fat and the meat. ( Have you ever barbecued a piece of lean meat and discovered you were chewing on leather?) This is sport is not about getting the lowest distortion, but the most pleasure...and that is the only thing that matters, and it is as personal as love....which is also the art of balancing the pain and pleasure...we need them both. Art is not about pursuing perfection, but about pursuing ecstasy.

What I have just asserted is probably nauseating those who are always seeking absolutely the lowest possible distortion, which is the old paradigm. Triodians know that there is an art in balancing all aspects of an amplifier design and if we add some distortion because we hate feedback sludge so be it. Get my point? Do you get my point that each of you knows best what combination of real world distortion works for you? Perfect amplifiers always sound perfectly awful.

This point was clarified for me when I sent David’s 300B SET ZOTL to Art Dudley, who reported....”This is the best sounding transistor amp I ever heard”. I believe Art was commenting on two things: David’s amp didn’t have the warm juicy midrange coloration that we all love in our SETs, and it had, compared to transformer coupled amps,  a very squeaky clean sound. And he is absolutely right from his point of view. We are now at the central paradox of the audio arts:

When I auditioned all the ZOTL circuits (push/pull, 811 and 300B) with master tapes there was no doubt that the Berning circuit was the best at creating the illusion of the Steinway concert grand that we just recorded, and all transformer coupled amplifiers sounded slow, sloggy and distorted. On the other hand when used in my home system the Berning was not only revealing the distortion endemic to all CD playback but other distortion in my system, and this was very often not the most pleasureful, so I began to listen to my less competent but more pleasureful (higher distortion) transformer coupled amplifiers. Yes, I preferred the bloated midrange of these amps...because I am a hedonist. Then I had to return the 300B ZOTL to David....not an easy thing to do.

So what does a smart thermionic techno-shaman do? I asked David Berning if he could make me a corned beef sandwich with a little more fat. Because he said he would try I sent David by Fed Ex, in a hermetically sealed container, a perfect corned beef sandwich from Katz’s Deli, so he would have a reference for his design work. I think the success of David’s amazing new circuit is directly related to having a Katz’s corned beef sandwich as a reference.

Now we all know that David is the Einstein of tube circuits, so when he called me after he ate the sandwich and told me “ Gizmo, I am going back to my drawing board, and I am not going to stop until I have an answer for you”.

So what did the Master do? He went back to his drawing board and he started to draw...he drew ducks, chickens, bunny rabbits, puppy dogs, tubes playing with tubes, tube powered watches, tube powered fire trucks, tube powered rockets and tube powered cars...and  after many long and playful hours at his drawing board he made a stunning breakthrough....EUREKA!  David had one of those major electro-mechanical breakthroughs...he decided to change the value of one resistor. That’s right folks. America’s most gifted thermionic techno-shaman made another one of those startling breakthroughs..David came up with a NEW IMPROVED, WHITER THAN WHITE, JUICIER THAN JUICY version of his 300B amp...by changing one resistor. Normally this modification would cost at least $1,000 but David assures me that it only raises the price of the amp 49 Cents. What a bargain. The ZOTL SET 300B MK I is now available.


According to David there is no measurable difference in electrical performance between the amplifier with the original and new resistor value, yet there is a NOT SUBTLE aural differences, and the Einstein of Thermionics doesn’t know why! Which is the whole point about the audio arts...even the Masters don’t know what is going on at the edge of the art...but they trust their ears. Which is exactly what Nobu Shishido said....trust your ears.


Before I describe the change I heard let me bring your attention to my writings about THE ONE WAY WAY, which is all about the new cult of the single driver speakers which includes Lowther, Diatone, and Fostex. America is finally catching up to Japan and Europe because our DHT revolution is picking up speed. What is so cool about this trend is that it is a microcosm of speakermania righteousness, of magnetic wholeosity. The best of these one way drivers have high impedance/high efficiency alnico magnets which is RIGHT ON. Yes, they do have limited dynamic range and anemic bass but their midrange is filled with cream, and best of all these drivers demand a whopping NO MORE THAN THREE WATTS, if that much.

I personally believe, and it is confirmed by those who are deep into THE ONE WAY WAY that the smaller powered DHT a la 2A3, 45 and 50s are tonally more suitable for these drivers than 300Bs. Let me qualify that...if you have some the finest Japanese OPTs you can use a 300B with these speakers. On the other hand a garden variety 2A3 is cool. You also remember my comments about the new KR 2A3s being a completely new form of triode cream. Let’s pull this ball of wax together: THE ONE WAY WAY MAKES GREAT SENSE, so I asked David to create a 2A3 version of his ZOTL so that THE ONE WAY WAY cult could tremble in the tremendum of his creativity.

Let me make this point more boldly: to push THE ONE WAY WAY THE RIGHT WAY I asked David to make a 2A3 version of his amp which exploits the unique beauty of the KR 2A3.


I have often wondered if David didn’t have some of Dr. Frankenstein’s DNA. This was confirmed for me when he called me one night during a thunder and lightening storm and I could hear screaming in the background. He said,

“Dr. Gizmo, my experiment is a success. It lives. It breathes. It makes music. It is a 300B or a 2A3. Have it your way”.

Once again David kicks solder flux in the face of human tube amplifier designers. David figured out a really cool trick. He made adapter sockets for the 2A3s that cuts the filament voltage down from 5 volts to 2.5 volts. How is this possible? Remember David’s ZOTLs have 200 KHZ  AC on the filaments because he uses ultra-high frequency switching power supplies to eliminate all filament hum...creating the worlds quietest amplifiers. Because of the high frequency of the filament voltage he can use very tiny transformers to step down the filament voltage from 5 volts to 2.5 volts. This can only be done with this amplifier. David fits these tiny transformers into a tube adapter sockets. Neato!

All we have to do is plug these adapters into the amplifier and then plug our 2A3s into these adapter sockets which hold the micro-transformer. Want to listen to our 300Bs? Take out the 2A3s and their adapter plugs and plug in 300Bs. How long does this take to back the switch back and forth? About one minute.

There is one caveat. There is no change to the 425 V power supply so you can’t use any of the conventional 2A3s which are designed to run on about 325 volts.  If you are interested in bi-sexual DHT cream you must use the KR 2A3s because they work extremely well with the ZOTL driver circuit, can operate with 425 volts,  and sound like they are delivering about one third less power but with their own unique creamy personality.

Again let me point out to 2A3 connoiseurs: the combination ultra high frequency regulated switching power supplies, RF impedance matching, and a circuit with the lowest possible noise

(-120) creates a complete unique experience of our beloved directly heated triodes.

Both the 2A3 and 300B version of ZOTL delivers more power than I can ever use, and I personally prefer the sound of the KR 300Bs over the 2A3s because, in spite of their slightly less refined sound, they have the kind of harmonic testicularity that I love. Let me say this another way...300Bs have the kind of aroma of taste I love in a corned beef sandwich...rich, complex, smoky and bold, yet supple and erotic, with a tinge of irony. But caveat emptor...you must have high effeciency speakers to realize the value of this breaththrough.



It has been about three months since I have last listened to ZOTL, and during that time my brain has mutated, I have slightly tweaked my speakers and I am now listening to the cream of the cream Wadia 27X1 and 270 ultra cool digital gear ( which has taken me to the deep subatomic harmonic of music) and some new audio cables. In other words everything is in a constant state of change and anyone who attempts to be an audio robot reviewer deserves to be enlisted in the Iranian Army. Since I last listened to these amps I have been very deep into Plitron’s new torroid output transformers and have grown to love more deeply the Sun Audio Amps.

So it is with some regret and joy that I announce that David has, once again, fucked up my brain in a major way...and just because he changed one measly dumb resistor...which explains why this is not a sport for the mentally competent. You have to be crazy to claim that one bullshit little resistor can makes such a whopping difference. Yes, of course the Wadia digital gear is making a very big difference, and once again I am faced with the ZOTL CHALLENGE: all of the good music is better and all of the mediocre stuff is worse. The juice gets juicier and the vomit gets smellier.

One resistor change has made the ZOTL much more dynamic in the way single-ended circuits have that amazing midrange dynamism without sacrificing what ZOTL does that no other transformer coupled amplifier can do...complete balance from top to bottom. The upper octaves are there as are the bottom octaves. While listening to a wide range of music I noticed (now get this Pearsonism) there was an inner glow to the vibrato of strings, a shimmering grace fell over the harmonics of Cassandra Wilson’s voice, it was as if an Angel of Tone was sprinkling fairy dust over each note, but what was most stunning was the silence between the notes, which become the background for a palpable sense of depth that I had previously  only experienced when staring at Dolly Parton’s bosoms. My epiphany was having goose bumps. This combination of harmonic purity, clarity,  dynamism, and wave front wholeosity is completely unique.  And let me go on record once again and state that David Berning pisses me off that this amplifier weighs under ten pounds.

And there is another reason I hate this amplifier..I carry it around in my attach» case to my friends house. It can’t be tweaked, and it all that I can do is swoon over its music abilities. What am I going to do now...take up knitting?

So let me state once again: this amplifier is not for everyone. It is too good for most systems. It is the kind of device that forces us to reconsider everything. It has given me a much greater appreciation how the best Wadia digital gear can reveal the subatomic nature of digits...and that is both good and bad. You absolutely must have the finest input devices for this amplifier. You must have high efficiency speakers of high refinement, and they are rare. This is absolutely the most stunning view of the edge of the art of tube amplifier. There are many good reasons that David is making other audio designers emotionally unstable.

Because I love spending hours listening to the unique personality of tubes, and because this amplifier reveals those differences better than any other amplifier let me once again share with you my observations.

Having lived with the Sun amplifiers now for six months I can boldly state that when executed properly a push/pull 300B amplifier clearly demonstrates the limitation of single-ended circuits in terms of missing frequency extremes, and in particular their strange bassosity. The Sun demonstrates how the push/pull amplifier has better control over the whole-istic aural matrix.

What I experience in this 7 watt, let me repeat 7 watt ZOTL circuit is almost everything I love in the Sun, but without the limitations imposed by output transformers. The Sun is still slightly better than this ZOTL in one region of the bass, but in all other aspects this ZOTL is much more balanced, and especially more revelatory in the upper octaves.

This translates into a capacity to lay bare the most naked minutiae of the music, including a brilliant insight into the nascent nature of the different brands of tubes.

It should be clear to all by now, that while some men love collecting stamps, or cars, or fine wine...my thing is savoring the aroma of fine 300Bs. With this ZOTL I am really getting off on the Western Electric 300Bs, which forces me to sacrifice dynamics in the lower regions but produce the most refined midrange. on up, of any 300B. These are the ideal tubes for chamber music, harpsichord or other “heavy information” rich midranged music.

My opinions about the extraordinary value of the $99 JJ/Tesla 300Bs remains the same, but now I also can hear their limitations against the KR 300Bs. The KR tubes continue to amaze me for their virtue of balance, but I can now hear, what I believe to be, a upper midrange microphonic coloration. David confirmed this with his testing. This was not apparent in my transformer coupled amplifiers, once again confirming how ZOTL has the ability to reveal subtle harmonic intonations.

The current version of ZOTL also reveal the very big difference in the spatial attributes of the different brands of tubes, which is, of course, unmeasurable, with any test equipment.

Having the ability to switch back and forth between 2A3s and 300Bs is a big deal for me because this means that two of these amplifiers is the ultimate combo for bi-amping...2A3s on tweeters, 300Bs on woofer. The change in value of one resistor has made this amplifier much more sensuous without sacrificing any of its totally unique attributes.

When David calls me and tells me he needs this amp back I am going to tell him that it was stolen.

Only the courageous will use this amplifier, because not everyone is ready for triode heaven on earth.

DAVID BERNING: 301-926-3371 


Back to The Triode Guild©               Back to Meta-Gizmo   

e-mail Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg: drgizmo@meta-gizmo.com

Copyright© 2000      Meta-Gizmo.com and Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg      All rights reserved.
All the material contained within the above articles may not be reproduced without his express permission.