It is said that teamwork makes the dreamwork. Several Polish manufacturers took this saying to their hearts as deep as they could and the so-called Polski Klaster Audio (Polish Audio Manufacturers Informal Union), aka. PEKA, was born. They probably figured that single-handedly their range might be limited, hence the cooperation happened and birds tweet that a success followed shortly after. The PEKA is rather large at this point, yet in this review two of its brands and their products are under the scope; Audiomica Laboratory Excellence loom and Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST Mk2 by Encore Seven. Enjoy!
To be honest, we have no intel whether PEKA was born because each manufacturer on his own wasn’t successful enough. This might and not necessarily has to be merely one out of many reasons. Or it might not. Perhaps this union was established to promote wholly Polish setups in the name of local patriotism above all else? Or maybe to spread the word further in the audio world about Polish shenanigans? Maybe all of the reasons above or none of it? Pick yours if you have to. Though this is of small importance now. But that dreamwork saying above is. In audio it’s all about the synergy. The ability to put right pieces together in right fashion, in order to achieve an outcome grander than expected, yes? Yes, that’s true. As true as it gets.At times this journalist is very lucky. When things work out just fine with minimal effort, that’s a valid reason for a small celebration. And that’s the story with this review as it’s actually a part of much bigger and very tricky plan. Let’s travel in time a bit, to November and issues yours truly had with Voxativ’s Zeth model. Very picky boxes these are, I assure you. The initial situation with said speakers was hopeless, which is a rarity in general. Usually amplifiers and speakers get along just fine more or less, the outcome is decent more times than it’s not. But said German case was barely mediocre at best. These are €10’000 speakers, hence something clearly was off.In the very beginning of Zeth adventure I simply wasn’t capable of pulling off a stunt Mr Holger Adler does as effortlessly as it gets and on a daily basis. I wasn’t neither properly prepared, nor equipped. Luckily, Amare Musica Entropy amplifier arrived and saved the day. This one amplifier out of seven available. Past this adventure I thought that maybe this was a struck of luck and nothing else. Even a blind hen finds some grain from time to time. But to be sure that the outcome back then wasn’t random, further equipment tinkering had to take place. Suddenly Encore7 company reached out, interested in this journalist’s work. Single-ended class A valve amplifier of 9WPC? Yes, that’s a promising match for Zeth floorstanders. “By all means, send this bad boy right away, it’s a perfect timing for him!”. Something along those lines was my answer and the effect is that Zeth material will be published very soon. In any case, it quickly turned out that Egg-Shell is a part of the puzzle. PEKA details emerged shortly and Audiomica Laboratory Excellence loom was sent as complementary tools to work with. Two birds killed with just one stone then? Yes, that exactly. At times this journalist is a very lucky man indeed.
In Egg-Shell’s case, my contact was Krzysztof Grabowski. This obviously is a multitasking man. Amplifiers such as the one in this review are merely a fracture of what he does. Concerts co-organization, professional audio equipment, live gigs photography, lots of it. Heck, Krzysztof is even into business related projects. Yet Encore Seven seems to be as precious to him as the one ring to rule them all was to Gollum. Moving on, this is a mother company to Egg-Shell brand, owned by said gent’s brother – Andrzej. The latter individual is an engineer, yet of self-taught kind. Many years ago, during his high school times, a guitar amplifier was badly needed for this gent. And since a product of this sort was literally unobtainable at that time in Poland, he had to learn how to make his own. Early beginnings were of DIY sort obviously, Andrzej tinkered with old radios, namely he changed these into proper guitar amps. Then he dug deeper and possessed skills necessary to build something from scratch. All this happened more or less 25 years ago. For the sake of the facts it should be clear that Andrzej is the engineering brain behind Egg-Shell’s machines and this brand belongs to him. Krzysztof is the man responsible for visuals, his job is to deal with the press, handle logistics and – above all else – put his brother’s circuitry in proper cases. And fine and peculiar these are, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Both gents decided to do Egg-Shell/Encore Seven thing commercially not that long ago, in 2012. At this point their work is well-known in Poland, recognizable and said to be very good in general.Now let’s move to Audiomica Laboratory. This manufacture’s HQ is located in Gorlice town, said to be very picturesque. Not many background info is available regarding said company. What is known though is that several friends started cable tinkering many years ago and and at some point (about six or seven years ago) they decided to make themselves fiscally viable and legal. That’s how it all started. First reviews appeared and Audio Show attendance followed, which eventually led to distribution abroad. Let’s consider this as a success thus far. Audiomica Laboratory naming is quite self-explanatory as its main man is Łukasz Mika. He is the brain behind this cables focused operation. Mika = mica, audio and laboratory parts are obvious. In any case, Audiomica Laboratory portfolio is strongly based on filtering accessories embedded into its products. Picture MIT and their magical boxes. Not the same, but somewhat similar story is with our Polish cable company.
Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST Mk2
Egg-Shell offering might be somewhat unclear at first. It consists of three series in total; B&G, Classic and Prestige. The first one sports only one product, which happens to be a… guitar amplifier. After taking Andrzej’s background and early days into consideration, that’s hardly any surprise. The same story is with second family, only one integrated amp and nothing else. Yet after taking a closer look, things are much tastier, it looks peculiar to say the least. Moving upwards, the main and highest series is Prestige. Five amplifiers, one dandy remote control and one phonostage make it complete. Therefore the most luxurious Egg-Shell’s shelf is the most crowded one. Odd, ain’t it?9WST Mk2 model was delivered to yours truly. This is a single-ended class A integrated amplifier and the most affordable one in the Prestige family. Just add a source and a pair of right speakers and you’re good to go. And by ‘right’ one should understand high efficiency. 9WST Mk2 power output is ‘mere’ 9 watts per channel, which makes this amplifier a product aimed at certain aficionados, who already are quite aware of what it is. Or people willing to learn what high efficiency is all about. Said machine’s frequency response starts at 30 Hz and ends at 20 kHz ( +/- 3 dB). It weighs 20 kg and measures (W x D x H) 400 x 390 x 190 mm, therefore is on the quite big and heavy side. The power consumption is 140 and 60 W under load and in standby respectively. 9WST Mk2 sports two Tung-Sol EL34 output tubes, one JJ Electronics 5AR4 rectifier and two pairs of EF86 input and ECC83 driver bulbs made by Electro-Harmonix. All four work in preamplification section. If a customer wishes, different brands can be provided upon request.9WST Mk2 looks subjectively tasty. Here’s the valid reason, its design was made with living rooms in mind. Slightly round edges here and there, plus solid form and lots of small, yet uncommon additions make it at least intriguing. Let’s start from the very beginning, our machine’s front. It’s made out of thick glass. One can easily see each and every tube right through it. In this glassy center there’s a nice and solid knob, which happens to be an input selector. A bit below there’s a huge wheel, yet only a small part of it is visible and accessible, that’s an ALPS based volume control mechanism, loaded with servomotor. Three lights in total sit on the front panel’s left side, each with a number that indicates selected input (1 to 3). Only one is active. Another red dot is seen on the right side, it informs user that the machine is turned on.The most visually impressive part is where the tubes are. EL34’s don’t sit vertically as per usual, but are tilted. 45 degrees is the angle and it makes hot-rod alike impression. This feature is one of Egg-Shell’s trademarks and fine one at that. I haven’t seen anything like this before, said aspect grabs one’s attention in an instant. But there’s a reason why this angled mounting happened. Krzysztof had to figure out an enclosure, which would make the ready product visually very living room friendly, therefore fairly compact among other things. If EL34’s were mounted typically, 9WST Mk2 would be noticeably higher, therefore bulkier in the process. Angles aside, the space around tubes is made out of polished steel. Therefore it reflects things a lot, yet there’s no harm in valves’ glow reflections, that’s the eye-candy rewarding part right there. And all this tubey goodness is perfectly seen via thick front panel made out of glass, which further elevates a listener’s visual experience. It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Krzysztof is undoubtedly a very clever designer.The product’s top is removable, based on strong magnets. To see the the bulbs’ array in its full glory, one needs to simply use minimal force and pull said element up. No screws, locking mechanisms or anything else of this sort. This solution works brilliantly. In addition, 9WST Mk2’s top cover has some artwork on it and lots of small holes, which help with heat dissipation. If a customer wishes, his own project can be done. There probably are some limitations of what can be done, but it’s good that trumpet alike shape present in a product delivered to yours truly isn’t the only option available.Moving on, there are two switches on device’s bottom. These power buttons have to be turned on in the right order, to save tubes’ life. One is the main switch, whereas the other is responsible for anode voltage. The interval betweet flipping these should be at least one minute. The device’s back looks flashy. It sports rather standard socketry, yet polished steel plate makes the properly blingy impression. Three RCA inputs by CNC, one IEC socket with two fuses and speaker terminals capable of handling 4 and 8Ω loads are everything one might need. The product sits on four thin yet quite high rubbery feet and very easy access to its well-hidden power switches is the effect. 9WST Mk2’s innards are done in point-to-point fashin, which isn’t surprising at all. As an option, a customer might purchase a remote control unit, known as Prestige RCX. A ball with no moving parts? What kind of trickery is this? A spectacular one, that’s a given. In order to change the volume control, one has to place said spherical object on flat surface and then turn it left or right. Large volume knob on our integrated will move as well. But make no mistake, this is a very well-thought object. Because it’s loaded with a gyroscope, it will only work in perfectly horizontal position, therefore if it falls on the ground, nothing will happen. Not only this Prestige RCX looks grand, it works as intended and that’s the story with an 9WST Mk2 itself. One might not like it’s design, that’s a completely subjective matter. But it’s undeniable that each Egg-Shell product – including this one – stands out of the crowd in a proper fashion.
Audiomica Laboratory Excellence
Let’s move to Audiomica Laboratory loom. Several products were delivered, which helped to cover every cable need of my reference rig. Ness, Celes and Erys models belong to the Excellence series. The first one is a power cord, the second – an interconnect and the last one was designed to work with speakers. The main material is OCC copper of 6N purity and FEP teflon is the dielectric used. Every plug is silver-coated in two-step galvanizing process. Audiomica Laboratory team says that the outcome is three times thicker in comparison to standard methods. The shielding is made out of two types of braiding; copper and tinned copper. Each product is handmade, tested with electrical correctness in mind and certified via one of Audiomica Laboratory terminator’s signature. It’s also worth to know, that the Excellence series designed for the PEKA project is tweaked and known as the Amber modification. What it means exactly is that its regular products are equipped with Acoustic Points splitters and the braiding colour is changed in order to match the rest of PEKA’s gang. Said changes have an impact on the price though, the Amber rework make the whole Excellence loom about 30% higher. The description in the chapter above is more or less taken from the manufacturer’s site. Down below you’ll find out what this journalist’s thoughts are after several weeks time spent with Polish cables.The Excellence series loom looks and feels very good straight from the get-go. Each cable arrived in a very nice wooden box with foam inside and authenticity certificate. I don’t think that there are Audiomica Laboratory counterfeits. But it’s a nice touch nonetheless to see a leaflet with a signature made by a human being rather than a printer. The overall package is of quality, it’s easily seen that Polish cables are up in there, especially after taking their price into consideration.Celes Excellence is probably the bulkiest one out of the whole family. Make no mistake, this is one heavy cable. Not to a point of being capable of damage anywhere, though. It’s nowhere near as light and flat as Albedo Monolith, but the feeling is nice. It’s very solid, the part most prone to damage (namely from splitters to bananas) is exceptionally durable. Not a single thing gives a reason valid enough to be worried. And the cable between both splitters is exceptionally flexible, this is a very nice and positive surprise. From purely mechanical standpoint, every audio aficionado should be happy, no matter the inner pickiness level.The very similar story is with Ness Excellence model. Even though the product looks bulky, flexibility is its main mechanical feature. Both plugs are of unknown kind, as there’s a fair amount of heat shrink on ’em. But again, the impression is that it’s visually appealing and very decently built. Two power cords were delivered and this journalist would have helluva problem to find a single difference between them. It’s good to know that a product is made with tight QC as one of top priorities, at least that’s the obvious takeaway based on the overall experience.The Erys Excellence RCA is stiff, but that’s not an issue at all. The point is that there’s a difference between Amber Modded Excellence loom in that regard. Said interconnects’ stiffness probably serves a precise purpose, I can’t tell. But usage-wise, well, one puts the product in the setup and forgets about it until a change is in order. German WBT-0144 locking RCA plugs in Erys Excellence are a very nice touch though, it’s good to see quality parts in sub €1’000 price range. My experience with mid tier Audiomica Laboratory series was pleasant in general from purely mechanical and aesthetical side. These are ‘just’ cables, though it’s rather certain that if one is equipped with a costly setup, this kind of additions is important too. To be perfectly honest, once package from Polish manufacture arrived and past unpacking it, yours truly initially thought that delivered goods were of pricier sort, that’s the takeaway. Now let’s move to the most important thing, the sound.
This assignment was of different sort than usual. It happened by a coincidence and because of a very precise need. In addition, not one but many products were delivered, which theoretically should complicate things a bit. But the gist is that the goods this time sent to me should work together nicely, that’s the starting point. And in order to find out if that’s the case, only a pair of Voxativ Zeth floorstanders was used. As explained above, this was a no-brainer decision. Among several models on hand, said speakers were the only ones viable to go with 9WST Mk2 integrated. The rest of the flock simply didn’t do the job. High efficiency, low power and tubes are often a match, simple as that. And Egg-Shell/Encore Seven owners know this, they always exhibit with Polish Bodnar Audio widebanders in the name of PEKA glory, whereas Audiomica Laboratory input serves as a cherry on the very top of this domestic collaboration. Yours truly wasn’t keen to split said family apart. Hence this chapter is devoted solely to 9WST Mk2, Audiomica Laboratory loom, Voxativ Zeth speakers and LampizatOr Golden Gate combo. One small exception aside, no dissection, triangulation and reconstruction took place this time.My experience with Zeth speakers thus far leads to one main conclusion. When improperly amplified, these sound thin, lit-up and their low-end is simply gone. To a point where one starts to think that these major shortcomings can’t be repaired in any possible way. Wrong. All it takes is a grand valve amplifier and Amare Musica Entropy happened to be just that. It provided density and shove, made bass to be present and highs slightly trimmed, among other good things. Polish Entropy deck transformed Zeth from a rather mediocre performer to a champ in an instant. In short, the outcome of this Polish and German marriage was simply grand. One obvious question is in order then: is 9WST Mk2 and Excellence loom combo able to repeat that memorable performance? To deliver a fracture of it at least? Or perhaps even turn out to be better?Density, that’s the key word in this chapter. Zeth speakers performed with proper muscle tissue with this review’s Polish products. That was something I silently hoped for and to confirm or deny it was one of the most important things in this exercise. Therefore yes, the Polish addition in the reference setup brought thickness to the table. Not fuzziness but a fair chunk of meat so badly needed. Zeth model isn’t capable of overbearing body, exaggerated density simply isn’t a part of its DNA. But it needs some of it in order not to sound incomplete. And both 9WST Mk2 and the Excellence loom have what it takes. With the former the sound was sweet, on the softer side, full of subtleties and very tangible in general. That’s probably sufficient enough for some of you. Case closed then? Done deal? Nope, not yet.Zeth’s bass gained body, yet of softer, more polite kind than with Entropy by Amare Musica. Rounder outcome was achieved in the former scenario and feistier, similarly thick and deeper in the latter. Quality wise, Entropy has an edge here. For four times the 9WST Mk2 coin it should. But what’s the most important is that this review’s main dish augmented by the Excellence series provided a very pleasant experience in that regard nonetheless. Zeth builds the sound around mid frequencies, this model’s low end extension is audibly ‘somewhat’ limited for obvious reasons. These speakers simply aren’t for bass lovers but seasoned listeners. Therefore if this FR part is present and enjoyable to a point where one doesn’t crave for it, things are dandy. And that’s the story with 9WST MK2, any sort of additional low end need doesn’t happen. Simply because this integrated sounds complete and stress-free in general, it lets a listener to simply sit and relax instead of clinical dissection and detailing enforcement.The very similar story happens with Zeth’s midrange. Polish duo handles this FR part vividly and the sense of vocalist’s presence is surely there. If we’d like to base on certain stereotypes, then it’s safe to say that 9WST Mk2 is a perfect example of a typical tubey approach. Things are dense and smooth, these two aspects reign over contouring and neutrality in a very obvious way. The picture with this Polish integrated is saturated more than just barely. Yet still not fuzzy at all, as clarity is generous as well. Amare Musica Entropy handles mid FR instruments and vocals in even more clear and contour fashion, yet with similar density while doing so. That’s the distinguishable difference. Both integrated amplifiers are very smooth and coherent performers, though represent different ways of handling sound. Entropy model is darker, it has slightly trimmed top FR, whereas 9WST Mk2 is shinier, a bit shorter and more lit-up upstairs. Though the latter isn’t overbearing in that regard in any way. The outcome with this model has proper decay, is generously differentiated and – again – simply pleasant.The main difference between Amare Musica Entropy and Egg-Shell 9WST Mk2 is in scale. The former has audibly more vigor and crack, these are among its most prominent features. The latter integrated delivers in these regards as well, yet not as directly and big. Make no mistake here, this is a very lively product as well, yet Amare Musica ups the ante here even further. It’s hard to shake off the feeling that it simply is able to move more air towards a listener, while maintaining that tubey richness valves aficionados enjoy so much. Entropy model’s soundstage is also somewhat bigger and airier overall, which elevates aforementioned directness even more. This product also shows dynamic contrasts in music in more obvious and blunt way. At times the sense of punchness with Zeth was simply amazing because of this feature alone. Would this imply that 9WST Mk2 loaded with Audiomica Laboratory loom is slow, dull and inferior in general? No, not at all.Egg-Shell’s deck is great and here’s why – it sounds complete. The main feature of this product is the ability to show music in a very enjoyable way, that is already covered above. But the gist is that with Zeth, this integrated doesn’t struggle at all, like if it knew its inner limits and fully accepted these. It always sings with lifelike touches. To paint more clear picture, Zeth floorstanders unamplified properly have rather limited soundstage. Not in a sense of its width, depth or height though, but proper instruments’ shape and fullness. In such scenario, things are thin and watery. What 9WST Mk2 injects here is aforementioned muscle tissue, it simply acts as a very nutritious addition to a fat-free diet. But when it adds the body to the outcome, it doesn’t make it constrictive in any way, the music isn’t blurry at all. Everything is perfectly ‘visible’ in front of a listener and not only has proper shape, but is very nicely separated as well. It’s heard that our Polish deck doesn’t act like a magnifying glass for music, it clearly was designed to do other things, the sheer joy is its main focus. And it makes Zeth to disappear completely, whereas the very first row of instruments is drawn slightly behind the speakers. This is very enjoyable. Now let’s sugarcoat everything with smoothness and coherence, these two aspects are a part of the whole too and the same story goes with the approach rounder than usual. To conclude, said set of features makes 9WST Mk2 a product designed to be a joy provider and a highly relaxing tool, which obviously will work very well with Zeth alike speakers. No wonder that this integrated is shown with Bodnar widebanders on a daily basis. It simply makes sense.Once every piece of this high efficiency puzzle is taken into consideration, it’s quite obvious that nothing else could have been done with 9WST Mk2. It simply doesn’t sing with Xavian’s Perla and Boenicke W8. Widebanders are its destiny and not low efficiency monsters of various sizes. But Audiomica Laboratory loom is a completely different matter as these cables can be used in every setup. And to verify whether density of the Zeth experience came from Polish integrated, the Excellence family or maybe both, some cable tinkering was in order. These were used with three pairs of speakers, two different amplifiers and here’s what’s what. Amber modded mid tier range from Poland is dense, at least that’s what my very ears have told me. An input noticeable this easily makes it a rather specialist offering then, which will go rather nicely with thinner company. All things considered, these products should be a mismatch with Trilogy 925 amplifier and Xavian Perla speakers, whereas Boenicke W8 and Sanders Sound Systems Magtech two piece set should be viable. That’s the theory. The practice showed that only the outcome with Czech monitors was ‘slightly’ too thick. To some people this would be perfectly viable as detailing and smoothness were surely there. But that aside, the Excellence loom was a thickness provider no matter the scenario. Make no mistake though, these cables won’t drastically change the sound, their input is audible yet of rather subtle nature, therefore as per usual with this kind of accessories. But as Xavian example and every other conducted experiment showed, said density doesn’t come with a price. There’s no transparency loss, image blurring or resolution decrease. Just as if the Amber modded Excellence loom added only thickens to the table without taking anything else in return. At times it was heard that the lowest department was slightly rounded, but nothing else happened besides this occasional change. And it’s worth to know that Audiomica Laboratory Excellence doesn’t sound sharp, on the contrary and it doesn’t tinker with the soundstage. It simply allows the setup to be what it is, yet on a bit thicker side. It’s also safe to say that Polish cables don’t sound showy, the most accurate word here is ‘enchanting’ and as such, these are very enjoyable. Lastly, it turns out that both Audiomica Laboratory Excellence series and Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST Mk2 donate thickness to the sound. This, dear readers, is a very well-thought decision. Zeth example clearly showed that this kind of input is very beneficial. If Bodnar widebanders have the same needs (and that’s highly probable), a vary synergistic outcome will be surely delivered. Therefore the conclusion is simple: PEKA members introduced in this review clearly know what’s what in the audio game, that’s a given.
This was one enjoyable ride. All things considered, the outcome with Zeth floorstanders turned out to be great. For the price of 9WST Mk2, that’s a major and very positive surprise. The initial expectations of this scribe were low, said speakers are picky. One needs to nail the amplification in their case, that’s mandatory. But past the very first listen, it became obvious that Polish integrated further augmented by Audiomica Laboratory Excellence loom has what it takes. Let me stress again that the sound was exceptionally pleasant; rich, well-bodied, smooth, coherent, properly textured and vivid. It’s not for me to judge whether the speakers elevate the experience, I’d have to have Bodnars or any other widebanders nearby to verify this. But what counts is the outcome within my four walls. And after taking price into consideration, it was a grand one in general.
Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST Mk2 is a peculiar amplifier, a specific design built in order to go with a rather narrow group of products. Therefore one has to be aware of it in order to achieve a proper outcome. There’s no room for mistakes here and this should be said loud and clear for anyone to acknowledge. And since said amplifier sounds on thicker and pleasure focused side, a rather thin company seems to be the safest bet. If one keeps that in mind, happiness is just around the corner. Polish integrated looks spectacular, it clearly was designed by someone, who walks his own path and isn’t into commonly seen solutions. Cheers to that, variety makes our audio world a much better place. Let’s be honest, most of audiophiles fancy dandy, smart designs (not to mention their wives) and Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST Mk2 provides that exactly.
Audiomica Laboratory Excellence series turned out to be a very positive surprise as well. These unusually flexible cables are built to last. Even though their place is in a rather specialist group soundwise, the input these provide is not only audible, but also predictable. It’s heard that this loom was made by an experienced manufacturer, with clear idea of what it should sound like. Again, a company on thinner side is advised, though there’s no harm in trying the Excellence family in neutral environment. My Boenicke W8 benefited from these, which proves a point to a degree.
And lastly, would I recommend Polish Egg-Shell and Audiomica Laboratory offering? As a package destined to work in widebanders based setup, you betcha. The same story is with separate purchases. Only you know how much meat and pleasure you’d like to add to your system and in what way in particular. To know that said Polish manufacturers allow that is this review’s main takeaway. The other one is kudos towards them, for the ability to work in a very synergistic fashion on purpose. This approach educates people, builds awareness and is very desired in our hobby. ‘Till next time.
- Amplifier: Trilogy 925, Sanders Sound Systems Magtech + preamplifier
- Sources: Lampizator Golden Gate (Psvane WE101D-L + KR Audio 5U4G Ltd. Ed.)
- Speakers: Boenicke Audio W8, Xavian Perla
- Transports: Asus UX305LA
- Speaker cables: Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept
- Interconnects: Forza AudioWorks Noir
- Power supply: Gigawatt PF-2 + Gigawatt LC-2 MK2 + Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept
- Rack: Lavardin K-Rak
- Music: NativeDSD
Retail prices of reviewed components in EU (excl. tax):
- Egg-Shell Prestige: 3’190€
- Prestige RCX remote: 440€
- Audiomica Laboratory Ness: 936€
- Audiomica Laboratory Celes: 1053€
- Audiomica Laboratory Erys: 890€
Manufacturer: Egg-Shell by Encore Seven
Manufacturer: Audiomica Laboratory