Carot One Ernestolone Review 
Home Theater Power Amplifiers Integrated Amplifiers
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 11 December 2013

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.

Carot One Ernestolone

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.


 

The Ernestolone played files with sample rates of 44.1 to 96 Khz with no issues. I had a blast putting Jriver on shuffle play and enjoying tunes, both while working and listening attentively. Ergonomically, I liked the feel of the volume knob, which provided plenty of range. I really got the sense there was no skimping or corner cutting here.

Not forgetting the Ernestolone is equipped with a pair of analog inputs, I ran an iPod cable from an iPhone and iPad via their respective headphone outputs, and was treated to nifty sound. Certainly one could get better results by connecting a disc player or turntable with regular analog interconnects, but I wanted to have fun, and I had that in spades. I maxed out the volume on the portable devices, so I could attenuate with the Ernestolone’s volume knob, and away I went. The sound was very engaging, though perhaps a slight notch down from using the laptop/Jriver combo. This may simply be due the limitations of the internal DACs of the portable devices.

Carot One ErnestoloneThe Ernestolone was resolving enough that I could hear the differences between various classic album masterings. The recent reissue of Jethro Tull’s Benefit sounded terrific via the Carot One and KEF combo. The 2013 remix/remaster is the definitive edition, in my opinion, and I very much enjoyed how the Ernestolone rendered Ian Anderson’s voice and flute.

The Paper Kites, from Australia, are a terrific band I recently discovered. Both their EP, Woodlands, and debut full-length album, States, were wonderfully textured and layered via the Carot One and KEF combo. The band mines similar territory to Seattle's Fleet Foxes, with acoustic overtones and melodic, mysterious compositions. The Ernestolone really drew me into the music.

For a complete change of pace, I cued of legendary drummer Billy Cobham's opus, Spectrum. It is a rock-jazz fusion tour de force. I was quite amazed at the amount of bass the Ernestolo was able to coax out of the LS50's. The instrumental spread across the soundstage was not what I expected with this tiny amplifier and DAC. The precision of Cobham's drumming and the interwoven keyboard and guitar parts were very distinct. Basically I was experiencing what I call “mini epic” sound. The only thing that missing was real life scale, but at near field, I was very much able to suspend disbelief.

I also used the Ernestolone as a headphone amp, with both Paradigm Shift ear buds, and a pair of Grado SR60 cans. There were no issues driving either one to satisfying levels. I very much enjoyed listening in this mode, something I don’t do often anymore. Rest assured, the sound was excellent, and I would not want for more.

Carot One Ernestolone

Conclusion

The Carot One Ernestolone was one of the coolest “desktop” solutions I have ever encountered. A tube preamp, a 24/96 onboard USB DAC, a headphone amp, RCA inputs, a mini jack input, and speaker connections. Tough to beat at $699. I loved the way the unit looked and felt. I loved the tube. I loved the plug and play aspect. Best of all, I loved the sound -- the Ernestolone really surprised me with how it drove the KEF LS50’s.

Add speakers, a digital or analog source, and cables to the Ernestolone, and you can have a wonderful $1500 complete audio solution. These are certainly interesting times. Highly recommended. As a matter of fact, I want one for myself!

Specifications



Carot One Ernestolone: $699
www.carotone.it
www.colleencardasimports.com

●     Output Power 2x25W @ 4ohm
●     2x12W @ 8ohm (RMS)
●     Input Audio IN RCA (Left / Right) x 1
●     Power Socket 2.1mm x 1
●     Banana Speaker OUT socket x4
●     Power Supply DC 12V-13.2V (max.)
●     Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) 92dB
●     Power Output 3.0 Watts per channel on 33 Ohm
●    Headphone
●    Frequency response 15 Hz - 100 kHz-1db
●    Vacuum Tube 6DJ8/6922 series or 12AU7 series (exchangeable)
●    Input Impedance 10k Ohms
●    Input Audio CD IN RCA (Left / Right) x 1 [3Vpp max.]            
●    USB version USB2.0 Full speed compliant supported USB Audio
●    Class 1.0
●    Resolutions 16/24 bit supported
●    Sampling rate 8/16/32/44.1/48/96 kHz supported
                                

Review System 1


SACD Player: Marantz SA-14S1
Server: Squeezebox Touch w/ CIA VDC-SB power supply
via Ethernet to MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate
external drives.
DAC: Marantz NA-11S1, Plinius Tiki, SIM Neo 380D
Headphone Amp: Pro-Ject Head Box II
Headphones: Grado SR60
Preamp: Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MkII
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Carver Black Magic
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables:  Stager Silver Solids, Darwin Ascension (IC), Transparent  MM2 Super (IC), Transparent Plus (Speaker) Acoustic Zen Tsunami II (AC),Transparent (AC).Shunyata Venom (AC) Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs TosLink, DH Labs AES/EBU, Audioquest, Forest, WireWorld Ultraviolet, DH Labs USB(USB) DH Labs (USB)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner,Salamander rack

Review System 2


Universal Disc Player: Oppo 105
Music Server: Squeezebox Touch via Ethernet to
MAC Mini w/ Western Digital & Seagate external drives.
DAC: Musical Fidelity A90 DAC
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Rogue Sphinx
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Genesis G7c
Cables: Darwin Cables Silver IC, Kimber Hero HB,  DH Labs White Lightning (IC),QED Transparent MusicWave (Speaker),PS Audio (AC), Mojo Audio (AC), DH Labs TosLink, Audioquest Forest USB, Wireworld Ultraviolet USB
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold, KECES XPS






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