English Trilogy manufacture is unique in many ways. Its main man – Nic Poulson – proved more than once that he’s a very skilled engineer and a well-seasoned audiophile. I’ve had a pleasure to know several Trilogy products, which were very precisely tweaked to sound quite similar. Needless to say, Nic does this on purpose. But to pull this off no matter the product, now that’s something to behold. This review’s main dish is Trilogy 925, Mr Poulson’s very special integrated. Enjoy!
Trilogy is a very small operation, known for rather luxurious goods of exceptionally high quality. And by that one should understand marvelous fit-n-finish and grand sound quality. This journalist had a pleasure to get familiarized with several Nic’s products in different setups, yet each and every time these machines provided an outcome much greater than expected. This was the case with 931 and 933 headphone amplifiers, whereas the latter (discrete class A with separate power supply) is the best one among many others I’ve heard thus far. But the real treat came with 992 and 908 combo. This jewel alike setup sported exactly the same sound qualities two said headphone amps did. And boy oh boy, every Trilogy product screams quality build wise. Yet my adventure with this manufacture started for good elsewhere, on the very top and not within my own four walls.Hi End Munich 2015, it all happened there. My main goal back then was to visit one room in particular, the one with Sven Boenicke in it. There were many reasons, yet the most important one was his speakers. This surely was a treat, especially for W5 monitors owner. Yes, this journalist. This time around, said room looked utterly Swiss; minimalist and very tasty. English CAD owner – John Scott – provided a transport and a source, whereas Sven brought from Switzerland his W8 model along with a rack by his design. This kit was complemented by a very seriously looking deck by Trilogy’s main man. How about that? Two of my favourite engineers working together? It quickly turned out that said English machine was Mr Poulson’s top of the line 925 integrated, a device I’ve heard lots of good things about in the past. And to make this picture even more complete, it was a Trilogy intense time for this scribe back then. 933 model was reviewed in early April and not more than one month later I got myself acquainted with its more affordable 931 sibling. The game clearly was on.Yours truly had heard W8 in the past, during Polish Audio (Video) Show in 2014 these speakers performed very well with Sanders Sound Systems two-piece kit. But the outcome Boenicke, Scott and Poulson trio pulled off in 2015 was to my ears remarkable, audibly better in comparison to the sound during above-mentioned Polish show. The performance was exceptionally big, smooth, vivid and utterly impressive overall. Back then I already knew that DHT loaded and enormously versatile LampizatOr covers my every source need, hence CAD products were off the table. Yet since the W8 experience couldn’t be easily forgotten, these fine speakers finally landed under my roof and Sanders Sound Systems set used originally in Poland arrived shortly after. The American combo was a temporary solution, bought solely because it worked with said Swiss floorstanders rather well.Yet the itch wasn’t completely gone. It’s quite funny how defenseless we audiophiles sometimes are. When one is fully aware that a major upgrade is for the taking and already confirmed to interact with a target setup as intended, money will be spent eventually. That was the case with 925 and yours truly. It couldn’t be otherwise, it was unavoidable, this deck was purchased nearly one year ago in the process. That’s more than enough to know it well, especially after taking many speakers and amplifiers along the road into consideration. This fact alone has made the 925 dish even easier for this cook to serve. Bon appétit.
Trilogy 925 is a very interesting integrated amplifier. The word integrated indicates that it only needs a pair of speakers and a source. That’s the easiest description out there and highly convenient writing shortcut. But said model is actually Nic Poulson’s statement, one of his greatest achievements. In other words, the 925 matter is very personal to him. And if one knows what this gent did for a living and what’s his main speciality, things will start to look very interesting in a jiffy. Mr Poulson is a very skilled audio engineer in general, that’s a given, though one of his strongest trading cards is power supply. It’s not a mystery that this aspect is crucial in audio. And Nic? He’s the owner of ISOL-8 brand, which is focused on power filtering and conditioning. That’s hardly any surprise at this point. In any case, Trilogy 925 integrated was designed to satisfy a customer who’s after high-performance one box solution, minus digital section. Mr Poulson doesn’t play in this league at all, spinning vinyls is what he does when time allows. And he’s also confident that neatly designed pre+power amp one box circuitry can be a valid alternative to two- or three-piece set. Some folks say that the best cable is no cable at all, don’t they?Trilogy 925 is big and heavy. The size of (W x D x H) 445 x 485 x 138 and 25,5 kilograms weight are the exact numbers. Rated power output at 8 ohms is generous 135WPC. Input impedance via balanced and single-ended inputs is greater than 84KΩ and 42KΩ respectively. Input sensitivity of 600mV RMS, FR response of 10 – 50 0000Hz (+/- 0.5 dB), distortion of less than 1% A-weighted at rated output, correct (non-inverting) phase and fully symmetrical design almost seal the deal. Let’s add fully discrete class AB topology of push-pull and hybrid sort (valves+transistors), ‘Made in England’ sticker, €12’999 (in Poland) asking and boom, curiosity happens, doesn’t it? But there’s more, so much more.Trilogy 925 not only looks, but also feels very serious. In all of these regards, this is subjectively the most solid and stunning piece of hardware I had a pleasure to deal with thus far. It screams quality and poshness no matter at which part one looks, like it was built with not a single corner cut. The enclosure of this deck is mede out of CNC-milled aluminium of different sort. Its softly bead blasted front and radiators look different, a bit more shiny, in comparison to i.e. matte top cover. It’s also worth to know that if one wishes to have the device in different finish, that’s doable. Several primary colors are the available options, along with multiple Chameleon Powder Company coatings. The options are expansive and 925 integrated can match any decor.Moving on, our product’s chassis might look plain at first, yet the more one starts to pay attention to details, the more obvious it becomes that the devil is in these indeed. Every corner is gently rounded and very meticulously made. The front sports big red LED dot matrix display. It’s brilliant. Not only it delivers perfectly readable writing, but also can be dimmed or switched off completely. A bit to the right there are two function keys, described as ‘ENT’ and ‘ESC’. These allow to fiddle with generous menu options. Next in line is big, endlessly rotating volume knob. It’s very convenient to use, namely properly hefty and as smooth as it gets. The main off/on button sits in a small retention nearby and a red dot LED on/off indicator is placed in another one, neatly carved in 925’s right edge. Down below there’s another gap with 3,5 mm based AUX input. One can use Trilogy integrated with a smartphone or tablet for example.Moving on, each radiator is milled out of aluminium billet of 5 kg weight and has unevenly deep and thick fins. Said irregularities provide outstanding mechanical and thermal stability for the sensitive output devices. The top cover is easily removed, one has to get rid of just two screws and 925’s innards become perfectly available in the process. Our integrated’s rear is generous to say the least. It’s packed with six inputs in total; three XLRs and the same number of RCAs. The last input of the latter handles signal’s return function, whereas additional RCA pair a bit below sends it. Trilogy 925 was designed as an integrated, hence there are no fixed level inputs, which means that a separate preamplifier can’t be used. Well, technically it can, but there’s no way to bypass the internal one. Moving on, our deck has Mundorf speaker terminals. One might think that in 925’s price range something more kosher should be used. Let me put it this way: these are enormously convenient to work with. Easy to use, with strong grip and durable as hell. An IEC socket with breaker nearby and to RJ-45 based proprietary TASlink interface seals the deal. The last functionality was designed in order to include 925 in even bigger Trilogy setup and to navigate it all at once by just one remote control. And speaking of which, the standard one is functional, yet made out of plastic. More advanced and aluminium made RC known as PRC is for the taking and I sincerely recommend it. Even though I don’t have one. The asking of €1’000 is rather steep though.Let’s move to Trilogy 925 additional features. First in line is a PIN protection. Yup, if the product is not connected to a power source for more than 30 minutes, a code provided by the manufacturer has to be entered and there’s no way around it at this stage. Past said operation the machine warms up and proper writing appears on its screen, it takes about a minute or so and after that is fully operational. Nic obviously wanted to make 925 integrated a very unique device. In order to do so, he included a logical board which monitors said deck’s actions and sports several very neat functionalities. For instance, one can adjust LED’s brightness or turn it off. But there’s an option to i.e. check channels’ temperature or set volume level individually for each input. And since 925 has an internal clock, to have a time and day of the week visible is not a problem at all.And to follow in that vein, one can set the device to warm-up when desired, i.e precise day of the week, hours and minutes. The same story goes with channel balance, PIN adjustments and so on, so forth. Heck, even horizontal bar graph can be displayed and these are some of extensive features 925 is loaded with. For instance, my own unit has the so-called ‘mood light’. Its belly sports two blue LEDs which fire the light on the surface beneath the integrated. Even this option can easily be switched on/off. Not to mention that each input can be individually named. All things considered, it’s easily seen that Nic has put a lot of effort to small little things. Yes, vast majority of these won’t be used probably, if any at all. Yet he included them because he simply could and wanted to. As I’ve said above, 925 integrated is a very personal design for our gent indeed. And even though its numerous options might look hostile to a newcomer, in practice things are the other way around. The interface is very intuitive, easy to navigate and the device itself is in fact very user-friendly.Let’s move to our deck’s innards. Now that’s a sight to be seen right there. The internal architecture is fully balanced all the way, therefore never converted to single-ended. 925’s inputs are switched via ruthenium-plated relays placed very closely. Next in line is preamplification stage. The voltage gain is provided by two Russian NOS 6H6П double triodes per channel. These are complemented by a servo unit in order for them to be in perfect symmetry and discreet HT shunt regulators provide pure regulated DC for them.Trilogy 925 has a very peculiar output stage, based on small FETs and bipolars. The former handles the very first watt, whereas the latter is the high current provider once a situation becomes more demanding. One pushes, the other pulls. Each of these transistors operate in high bias state though, hence more of class A envelope is on the table rather than B. Now onto power supply we go. It’s generous. The main toroidal transformer is Faraday screened and sports separate windings and rectifiers for each channel. Lots of custom made Trilogy capacitors (Mundorfs?) are a part of the PSU package. The valve heaters and logic units have their own power transformers, in order to keep internal noise in check. The PSU section is mounted on a thick plate made out of K-material. Said resin and metal composite has great self-damping properties. It also makes the non-magnetic enclosure stiffer and even more damped in general. 925’s feet are made out of this material too. And lastly, the volume control. Rotary shaft encoder is managed digitally at the user’s end. Yet the volume attenuation itself is done in a relays and FETs based integrated circuit, therefore in the analogue domain. All things considered, Trilogy 925’s inside is as stunning as its outside, that’s a given.
In order to properly test Trilogy 925… well, not this time. This device was matched with various sources and speakers over the last year. The latter group was rather extensive and technically different; regular, bass-reflex vented two- and threeways, threeways loded with class D active circuitry, OB designs and even widebanders. The same story goes with battles against a number of other amplifiers; Hegel Rost, Sanders Sound Systems Magtech, Cary Audio Si-300.2d, Amare Musica Entropy Diamond, JOB electronics 225, FirstWatt F7 and Egg-Shell Prestige 9WST Mk2 to name just few. Each of mix-n-match exercises with above-mentioned gear allowed this scribe to understand what Trilogy 925 is, where it fits the best and what it does with the sound in general. At time when this review is published, his main rig consists of Nic’s integrated, LampizatOr Golden Gate and Boenicke W8 speakers, among several other things. Truth be told, not only as a journalist, but an audio aficionado I couldn’t be happier than I currently am.After getting myself familiarized with several Trilogy products, it’s a mandatory thing to say that each handles the sound in a very similar fashion. And this is obviously on purpose, Nic is not only a very skilled engineer but also a seasoned listener. This gent has a certain vision in this regard in particular and always does everything he can in order to make it audible in his work. To hear similar things in a headphone amp, a pair of monos and a phonostage, lots of skills and a very trained pair of ears are obviously required. But the most important fact for now is that the so-called Trilogy flavour exists indeed. And to follow in that vein, 925 integrated fits said description perfectly. It’s time to ask some questions. What is it all about, then?To dissect the performance of our integrated in the usual manner, these several descriptive measures will do the job; density, texturing, smoothness, grand imaging, great vividness and generous, yet not overbearing clarity. Sounds like a really well-made class A affair, doesn’t it? And to a point this is indeed valid. One could easily think of 925 as a device of this sort exclusively. But here’s the major twist, it isn’t. And the longer one listens to it, the more obvious it becomes. Let’s invoke FirstWatt F7. The main difference between this deck and 925 is that the former is sweeter and more intimate, to some people it might even be fuzzier. Nic’s integrated sounds bigger and bolder, with elevated authority, yet at the same time pleasantly suave. Nope, not slow but gentle.Even though one might expect it, Trilogy 925 doesn’t pour sugar coating on the sound. It doesn’t make the outcome warmer and if so, only by a very mild amount. Yet what it does instead is vividness injection by a number of measures. The most important one is tangibility. The sound with 925 is literally wet, very present. Picture a hard soil full of cracks during a long drought. In short, that’s nothing pleasant. After several days of heavy rain this environment changes drastically, yet too much water makes the mud all over the place and that’s a no-go as well. But now try to imagine that precise moment when the downpour starts. It makes the ground moist and exceptionally fragrant. It’s neither dry nor unpleasantly paludal. For a short while things are simply dandy and the overall sensation is even further enhanced by a very redolent weather at this specific timing. Who wouldn’t like to preserve said moment? That’s the Trilogy 925 experience right there in a nutshell.Let’s get back to the gentle part. The only thing Trilogy 925 doesn’t have in excess is speed. This simply isn’t an obviously feisty deck. To paint somewhat broader picture, Sanders Sound Systems Magtech two-piece set is faster and so is Job 225, the latter is a real devil in this regard. But here’s the best part, Nic’s amp doesn’t need it that much. After knowing this deck fairly well I can only say that said addition, when elevated, wouldn’t quite fit in its profile. This English dish could’ve been overcoocked in the process. It wasn’t tuned to sound fast, but vivid, spaciously and generously thick. Additional thing given in return is authority and grand sense of presence is the outcome. Although slower than above-mentioned products, it beats them in the control department. With Trilogy 925 the sound never is watery, dull or unclear in any way. This deck always sings in a very lifelike vigor, namely it allows musicians to appear in front of a listener as organic and not artificial figures. To describe this in even simpler, d/a converters oriented way, 925 integrated isn’t an ES9018 or WM8741. This machine belongs to a happy place where a really well-made PCM1704 is. I tend to think of Nic’s integrated in such way also because of its exceptionally dark background. It’s dead silent, to a point where at times it’s scary.Even though to some people it might not make any sense (Trilogy 925 obviously is of mood-making and not magnifying glass sort after all), our deck is very picky in terms of recording quality. Its music differentiation ability is remarkable. Rest assured that if a big number of rows is a part of a tune, Nic’s integrated will make each very visible. This device doesn’t hide anything. Yet once it starts sketching things, it’s always very precise, resolving and refined while doing so. And the most funny thing is that this device at first doesn’t seem to have great resolving power. It has, but served in completely effortless fashion and somewhat as a bonus, as listener’s attention is focused on gloriously textured and lifelike experience instead. Make no mistake, this machine has great potential in detail retrieval, yet it doesn’t boast it all over the place. It’s too damn well-seasoned to do it. The imaging it delivers is also spectacular. Thus far I haven’t witnessed anything of quality this high in an amplifier. The instruments are always of proper weight, dimensions and presence. Never stockpiled one onto another, but very finely separated, with generous amount of air between them. And when most of amplifiers known to me tend to loose their grip, 925 doesn’t hit fast, but hard as hell instead, all the way to the very bottom. No weakening or softening when not needed, brilliant! This amplifier with right speakers delivers scale like it had literally no restrictions at all in this regard. And said feature alone puts a very big smile on this reviewer’s face regularly.Let’s move onto suitable company for Trilogy 925. Over the last year it wasn’t the right tool for just two jobs. Voxativ Zeth was a big no right from the get-go. Said speakers require a very special treatment which includes valves. The more of these glassy critters, the better and in order to pull this assignment off, this scribe had to loan two tubes stuffed decks. The next rather mediocre outcome was with Xavian Perla monitors. These are fine speakers, yet very thick in general. Long story’s short, times more affordable Job 225 turned out to be a much better performer than English 925. And the rest? Heck, everything ticked off with a bomb. Gradient Revolution (OB sort loaded with two dipole woofers and one great concentric driver) delivered a very memorable experience. With Trilogy 925, scale, control and vividness were the most prominent features and the outcome was grand in general, subjectively very enjoyable. The same story, though in a considerably smaller format, happened recently with Polish Megalith Audio SCX monitors.Moving on, Dutch Aequo Audio Ensis posh towers were also very charming performers, the same features as per usual were audible. Though this product is so easygoing that it’ll do just fine with literally every amplifier out there. Audioform 203.5 speakers didn’t work well with 925, though in this Polish case the interaction with my listening room was the main problem, hence this doesn’t count. And lastly, Boenicke W8. In order not to spoil the surprise (W8 writing is on its way), let me just say that these combined with Trilogy 925 net the outcome to die for in some aspects. Big, bold, spacious, smooth, dense and utterly impressive sound, you’ve been warned. Time to wrap this review up.
Trilogy 925 is the best integrated amplifier known to me, period. As a package, this deck is remarkable; it sounds terrific and is exceptionally well-made. Craftsmanship of calibre this heavy is very rarely seen in audio. Nic Poulson simply doesn’t cut corners, it’s quite obvious that he’s obsessed with the quality word in general and his 925 integrated serves as a very solid proof. It matters not from what angle one looks at it.
Trilogy 925’s build quality is exceptionally high both inside and out. This amplifier is made to last. Not only it looks very serious, but also feels like it. Every piece of this English integrated is perfectly cut, assembled and well-thought. This scribe wasn’t able to single-out even one design flaw after nearly a year of rather extensive usage. At times, it was and still is turned on and off many times during a day as a part of my journalistic routine. And the same story goes with tinkering with its settings, connecting various loads, switching sources and so on and so forth. In short, the English machine is always stable as a rock, no matter how hard it’s pushed. At some point it became obvious that it was designed to withstand literally everything. Well, Nic Poulson is crazy about R&D and QC, he never rushes with new products. He takes his time, like if a great pleasure in torturing them before the release was a major upshot for him. I wouldn’t be that surprised if, somewhere during development phase, 925 was dropped from a considerable height, just in order for Mr Trilogy to see whether it’ll survive the fall and leave a small crater beneath or not. Perfectly aware of said gent’s approach and measures, I honestly wouldn’t be shocked at all.
Of course one might not fancy 925’s looks, that’s a purely subjective matter. For this scribe it is simply stunning. Yet this aspect aside, to have many additional features embedded in it is a big plus. Not only these show Nic’s dedication and effort, but vast majority is useful indeed. To see a bar graph instead of vol. mode or time and date is a nice variation and the same story is with lights on/off, separate gain for each channel, warm-up schedule and many other tweaks 925 sports. Even if one won’t use these options, to have them available is something to behold.
And lastly, the sound. 925 is fabulous in this regard. It’s a Trilogy classic, therefore generous density, great load control, impressive imaging and top notch texturing all are on the table. One can’t go wrong with this package. It’s also heard that said deck is a mature performer and showiness isn’t a part of its DNA. Usually products of 925 sort tend to grow on a listener slowly, but this review’s hero goes far beyond that. It’s calm yet bold attitude is plainly addictive from the get-go and once vivid, lifelike experience in general is added to the mix, the outcome is simply spectacular. Hence instantaneous involvement at user’s end happens in the process. One can’t run from it, which is always good. Let’s stop here, this reviewer could go on and on about many Trilogy 925 virtues. To conclude let me just say that if one can afford this machine, to grow old with it is a very likely scenario. Congratulations Nic, you’ve done it again. ‘Till next time.
- Amplifier: Trilogy 925, Sanders Sound Systems Magtech + preamplifier and then some
- Sources: Lampizator Golden Gate (Psvane WE101D-L + KR Audio 5U4G Ltd. Ed.)
- Speakers: Boenicke Audio W8, Xavian Perla and then some
- Transports: Asus UX305LA, Lumin T1
- Speaker cables: Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept, Audiomica Laboratory Celes Excellence
- Interconnects: Forza AudioWorks Noir, Audiomica Laboratory Erys Excellence
- Power supply: Gigawatt PF-2 + Gigawatt LC-2 MK2 + Forza AudioWorks Noir Concept/Audiomica Laboratory Ness Excellence
- Rack: Lavardin K-Rak
- Music: NativeDSD
Retail prices of reviewed components in EU (excl. tax):
- Trilogy 925: €12’999
Manufacturer: Trilogy Audio Systems