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Luminous Audio Axiom II Passive Preamp Review Print E-mail
Monday, 13 April 2015
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Luminous Audio Axiom II Passive Preamp Review
Set Up and Listening
ImageI believe in passive preamps or, maybe more accurately, passive controllers. There is nothing simpler than a device that lets listeners use a power amplifier, with the ability to connect one or multiple sources, and attenuate the volume. I like simplicity. Active preamplifiers may be preferred in some systems, but in the majority of cases they tend to be the weakest link.

Even though I worship at the altar of simplicity, designing an excellent passive linestage is far from simple. A poorly designed passive can be downright awful sounding. I have had the good fortune to review a few well-designed units including the Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MKII, the Tisbury Audio Passive Mini, and the Music First Classic II, among others.

There are a number of approaches to building a passive controller, and valid reasons to pursue each topology. Transformers have their advantages, as they help with impedance matching, yet it is a very expensive implementation. Traditional resistor based designs offer short signal paths. Even light-based designs have their virtues. Designers who choose any of the available schemes believe strongly in their approach and, from my experience, tend to use top quality parts and are loathe to make compromises.

Enter Luminous Audio. The Virginia firm was started by a gentleman named Tim Stinson, to make affordable but high performance silver audiophile cables. They currently make analog and digital interconnects, power cords, and speaker cables. But Stinson decided to make a foray into passive controllers, calling his the Axiom. You can read about his journey HERE. In a nutshell, Stinson also came to conclusion that the least amount of gain stages and the simpler the signal path, the better the sound.

Stinson’s current passive incarnation, the Axiom II, is available in a myriad of configurations.  You can choose the desired number of inputs and outputs, the type of resistors for fixed series devices, the Alps blue or custom 1% tolerance premium Polish sourced resistive series volume control, and even the option for XLR inputs/outputs as opposed to RCA type connectors.

Luminous also offers what they call the “Walker mod” version of the Axiom II, which uses ultra premium parts. This includes the Polish sourced control using 1% metal film resistors and a silver-plated rotary switch network, high purity copper wire, chassis dampening, and expensive Caddock resistors. The Walker Mod version was specifically the model I was sent. It was configured with a single set of RCA inputs and RCA outputs.


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