Carot One was a new name to this scribe until a few months ago, when Marc Phillips, of Colleen Cardas Imports , mentioned they would be importing the line from Italy. CCI has an eye and ear for top shelf gear from around the world. They import both Unison Research and Opera loudspeakers from Italy, Pure Audio from New Zealand, and My Audio Design loudspeakers from the United Kingdom. I recent reviewed the lovely M.A.D. 1920S monitors.
Phillips asked me if would like to check out the $699 Carot One Ernestolone, a 25 wpc integrated amp, headphone amplifier, and a 24/96 USB DAC all in one. I said yes immediately once I got a look at the orange chassis and I saw a tube sticking out of it. It had Italian chic written all over it. A few weeks later, it arrived with some decent break-in time logged.
To quote Phillips, "Carot One is an Italian company that offers a full line of tiny tubed integrated amplifiers, digital-to-analog converters, headphone amplifiers and earbuds, all at extremely affordable prices. (It is manufactured in China, but it's designed and tested in Italy.) The Ernestolone, sort of the flagship of the line, is all of these products combined--DAC, headphone amplifier and even a 15wpc integrated amplifier--in a package small enough to fit in one hand."
The Ernestolone is small, with very nice casework, and it is well built. It has a set of analog RCA inputs, a mini USB input, and two pairs of nice quality speaker terminals. There is also a mini-headphone jack, a stereo mini-jack input, as well as a solid-feeling volume knob on the front. The preamp section uses a 6922/6Dj8 tube type, which is interchangeable with the 12AU7 type. The tube pops out of the top of the unit, protected by a hard plastic case. The Erenstolone makes use of class D amplification to produce 25 wpc into 4 ohms and a little less than half that into 8 ohms.
Set Up & Listening
The Erenstolone came equipped with an external power supply, which CCI has retrofitted with an IEC receptacle for use with the power cord of your choice. I used a Shunyata Venom. Carot One also supplies a very high quality USB cable with a mini connector at one end. The first source I used was an HP Laptop running Jriver 19. I simply connected the USB cable supplied and, when the Erenestolone was detected, drivers were automatically installed. I then selected the unit as the default audio device in the Control Panel, and in Jriver drop down menu. That was it.
For speakers, I used the amazing KEF LS50 speakers, wired up with DH Labs Odyssey speaker cable terminated with banana plugs. I was unsure if the Ernestolone would be up to the task of driving the LS50’s, which are of average sensitivity. To my surprise, it was a great combination, with no issues regarding power, except when pushed to the very limit, at which point some clipping was apparent.
The presentation was very satisfying, with great energy and loads of texture. I was quite surprised at this level of performance from such a small package. Color me impressed, literally, as I also enjoyed comments from visitors who loved the appearance of the Ernestolone and were quite amazed at the sound it was producing. The glow of the tube and the orange chassis, as well as the sound, made quite an impression.