|Tisbury Audio Mini Passive Review|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Wednesday, 27 August 2014|
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Tisbury Audio is a relatively new artisanal audio design firm located in London, England a few blocks away from the Wimbledon village, where the famed tennis championships are played. It is rather fitting. Wimbledon is about tradition, decorum, and getting things just right in an understated way. Tisbury makes handcrafted products it sells direct at miraculous prices. The two products on their web page currently are the Challenge Amp 1 headphone amplifier, and the Mini Passive volume controller.
Both the Challenge Amp 1 and the Mini Passive are built with quality parts, have a small footprint, and are absolutely beautiful to look at. The Challenge amp sells for £350 GBP, and the Mini Passive for £135 GPD, or about $225 USD. Wes Young -- see the Bonus Interview at the review's conclusion -- of Tisbury Audio offered to send me a Mini Passive sample from across the pond, and soon one arrived at my door step.
I found out about Tisbury Audio from a online discussion about passive controllers, a product category I have been on a mission to explore as a reviewer and audiophile. I recently reviewed the Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MKII remote-enabled passive. I have been using passive controllers in my system for the past year, as I have questioned the need for an additional gain stage and circuitry an active preamplifier inserts in the signal path. But I am not an absolutist on the matter. There are still a lot of superb-sounding active models out there.
Passive solutions will not work for everybody, as there are a few things to consider. Factors such as your amplifier’s input sensitivity, impedance, cable length, and the output voltage of your source are all important. In general, most systems will do just fine outside of any component that has unusual specifications. But shorter cable lengths are probably a good idea. I rarely use longer than 2 meter interconnects.
There are also several different types of passive preamp solutions. There are transformer-based designs that have the advantage of impedance matching, but are expensive to implement. There are even light-based solutions, but they seem to suffer from calibration issues, depending on implementation. One of the more common solutions is a stepped attenuator, and they have plenty of advantages, including being cost effective.
The Tisbury Mini Passive uses a stepped attenuator, and according to them, is made "using 1% thin film SMD resistors for ±0.25 dB channel balance at all volumes. It has a gentle, detented rotation and an input impedance of 10 kohms."
Three configurations are available: