EMIA Elmaformer (volume control) review

banpuku

Well-Known Member
Apr 24, 2010
27
35
458
MN
EMIA is a collaboration between Experience Music (Jeffrey Jackson) and Intact Audio (Dave Slagle). Over the past 2 years I have communicated with Jeffrey extensively. He is a first rate individual who goes the extra mile for customer service. Highly recommended.

Per myemia.com, the Elmaformer is "the volume control of purists... a beautiful rotary switch by Elma of Switzerland controls this inductive volume control wound on a Permalloy (80% Nickel) core... inductive attenuation is based on conservation of energy instead of burning off extra signal as heat... why would anyone ever want to throw away the majority of the signal's power?"

Further from the manual, "The EMIA Elmaformer is a stereo volume control based on multiple tapped auto-transformers. The unit has 47 steps of 1.25dB each. The complete gain range is from -51.25 to +5dB. As the name implies, the switch is our favorite high quality unit from Elma of Switzerland. The cores of the auto-transformers are made of 80% Nickel, also known by its trade name of Permalloy. Each auto-transformer uses non-magnetic brass channels for that last bit of signal circuit preservation. Three inputs are switched from a front panel mounted three position toggle switch. Each unit has two outputs that are in parallel."

The build quality is interesting. Silver RCA connectors are first rate. The front panel is made from a dead-to-the-knuckle-rap material that speaks "industrial minimalist". The best part of the design is the jumbo volume control knob which gives the user a smooth, notched disk to adjust gain. Some people will enjoy the "no bling", all matte black approach, while others will want something with flash. This is a personal choice. Could the product be improved? Sonically, that would be hard to achieve, although the silver version would be interesting. The chassis is standard fare and if there was one area to improve, possibly a heavier duty chassis would be in order, of course this would drive up price ($3,000 copper, $4,800 .9999 silver).

In my setup, the copper Elmaformer is driven by either an EMIA phono stage or a Bluetooth DA converter with 2V line output. To these ears, the Elmaformer is a gain control champion that transparently allows the music signal to flow effortlessly. It does nothing more. Nothing less. With 3 different RCA inputs, the Elmaformer just allows the signal to pass thru effortlessly. Adding nothing to the signal, the Elmaformer will showcase all upstream components and cabling. No skimping with cheap cables or underperforming front end components. The Elmaformer lays bare the performance of everything in the audio chain. Equally important, the Elmaformer has a very liquid, natural, at-ease sound. Never analytical, etchy or sonically tinted. Rather, the inductive volume control keeps the signal pure. If you have not heard a Permalloy (80% Nickel) core product, then you are in for a treat. Nickel is so natural sounding. Meaty, smooth, aggressive, punchy, non-etchy, non-bright, non-fatiguing, not over hyped. Just lifelike. Oh, BTW, this thing is DEAD QUIET!!! More so than any other product I have heard.

Primarily playing classical music, I prioritize tonality and dynamics over other attributes. This is where the Elmaformer is king. Tonally pure, the Elmaformer gets out of the way and lets the musical signal pass thru unabated. Cello and violin (with the right recording and upstream equipment) recordings are full of harmonic richness with a beautify color palette. Kramer never sounded so good playing Schnittke's violin sonata. Prior experience with other passive pre-amps lead me to perception that passive's are thin, etchy and lack drive/dynamics. Nothing could be further from the truth with the Elmaformer. Dynamics are better than ever. Lively. Snappy. Precise. True to form. Just listen to the staccato notes on Sofia Gubaidulina's string quartets played by either Quatuor Molinari or the Stamic Quartet. Lifelike dynamics are neither underwhelming or exaggerated.

At $3,000 (or even $30,000), this is "the volume control" to own. If you are an audio purist / minimalist, this is "the product" for you. Thru the past 2 decades, I have owned 11 world class pre-amps including the EMT JPA-66, Lyra Connoisseur, Boulder, etc. Each of these products is great in it's own right. That said, no active or passive pre-amp that I have heard can compete sonically with the effortless liquidity and natural sounding permalloy EMIA Elmaformer. Other pre-amp will offer flexibility (the EMT JPA-66 is the champion) or build quality (Lyra Connoisseur and Boulder), but to these ears, this passive pre-amp volume control just lets you sit back and enjoy the music (assuming your front end is up to the challenge). Relax the shoulders, enjoy the drive.

My system:

Gates CB500 turntable (complete rebuild by Banpuku Audio)
Durand Telos tonearm
Murasakino Sumile cartridge
Murasakino Nobala step-up transformer
EMIA LR Phono Corrector
EMIA Elmaformer
Auris bluMe HD Bluetooth 5.0 Music Receiver
Enjoy Music GM70 power amp
Gryphon Colosseum power amp
Ilumnia Magister speakers
Tellurium Q cables
 

djsina2

Well-Known Member
May 31, 2019
524
291
73
50
I had this unit. Didn’t work in my system at all. Dave Slagle couldn’t really figure out what the issue was. I tried some things he suggested but he eventually gave up and stopped answering emails. Not the best customer support. When it was working the sound was quite impressive though. I think the build quality is cheap and I definitely do prefer the minimalist no bling look. I ended up selling it to a friend and he’s had no issues with it. So it seems like it can be sensitive to the system it’s put into.
 

advanced101

VIP/Donor
May 3, 2017
181
83
183
I had ordered a SUT, put down a deposit. No updates after a month, E-mailed them multiple times and didn't hear back. Two weeks later I had to file a claim with my credit card company and they magically showed up and said they were at a show. I'm extra cautious with Boutique/ Bespoke vendors these days.
 

bazelio

Well-Known Member
Sep 27, 2016
1,586
934
215
California
@advanced101 sorry to hear about that experience. Dave is super laid back and sometimes unresponsive. Case in point, he sent me the Emia LR Phono for demo with zero money down, no credit card on file, nada. Then he didn't contact me again for about three months. When I contacted him, he said he just figured I was enjoying the unit and was giving me space. LOL.

Anyhow, big big Emia fan here too. Dave and Jeffrey are in fact great to work with, and know their stuff. It's not flashy, it's not fancy, it just sounds great. So I too use the Emia silver SUT into the Emia LR Phono into the silver Emia Elmaformer. Well technically, I bought the Elmaformer itself directly from Dave, designed my own chassis, and wired it up myself. Love the result. This combination just does it all, PRaT, tone, transparency, soundstage, etc.
 
Last edited:
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banpuku

Well-Known Member
Apr 24, 2010
27
35
458
MN
@advanced101 sorry to hear about that experience. Dave is super laid back and sometimes unresponsive. Case in point, he sent me the Emia LR Phono for demo with zero money down, no credit card on file, nada. Then he didn't contact me again for about three months. When I contacted him, he said he just figured I was enjoying the unit and was giving me space. LOL.

Anyhow, big big Emia fan here too. Dave and Jeffrey are in fact great to work with, and know their stuff. It's not flashy, it's not fancy, it just sounds great. So I too use the Emia silver SUT into the Emia LR Phono into the silver Emia Elmaformer. Well technically, I bought the Elmaformer itself directly from Dave, designed my own chassis, and wired it up myself. Love the result. This combination just does it all, PRaT, tone, transparency, soundstage, etc.

bazelio - if you don't mind, curious to learn more about your chassis for the Elmaformer. Photos? Material?
 

advanced101

VIP/Donor
May 3, 2017
181
83
183
@advanced101 sorry to hear about that experience. Dave is super laid back and sometimes unresponsive. Case in point, he sent me the Emia LR Phono for demo with zero money down, no credit card on file, nada. Then he didn't contact me again for about three months. When I contacted him, he said he just figured I was enjoying the unit and was giving me space. LOL.

Anyhow, big big Emia fan here too. Dave and Jeffrey are in fact great to work with, and know their stuff. It's not flashy, it's not fancy, it just sounds great. So I too use the Emia silver SUT into the Emia LR Phono into the silver Emia Elmaformer. Well technically, I bought the Elmaformer itself directly from Dave, designed my own chassis, and wired it up myself. Love the result. This combination just does it all, PRaT, tone, transparency, soundstage, etc.

Yea, bummed me out. I didn't go through Dave directly, but whoever was the distributor that the EMIA site linked me to a couple years back. Really wanted to try the Phono stage too.
 

bazelio

Well-Known Member
Sep 27, 2016
1,586
934
215
California
Yea, bummed me out. I didn't go through Dave directly, but whoever was the distributor that the EMIA site linked me to a couple years back. Really wanted to try the Phono stage too.
You should go back to them now. They've put a lot more effort into productization. You can work directly with either Jeffrey or Dave. They're great, to be honest. I love those guys.
 
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Reactions: advanced101

bazelio

Well-Known Member
Sep 27, 2016
1,586
934
215
California
bazelio - if you don't mind, curious to learn more about your chassis for the Elmaformer. Photos? Material?

I took a broken Tivoli USB radio out of the wood chassis and threw away the innards. Then I used Front Panel Express to design front and rear panels. It's got an A/B input channel selector and two parallel outputs. I used the silver Elmaformer and wired it to the rear panel RCA connectors with Zenwave D4 wire.

 
Last edited:

jazdoc

Member Sponsor
Aug 7, 2010
2,991
311
540
Bellevue
You should go back to them now. They've put a lot more effort into productization. You can work directly with either Jeffrey or Dave. They're great, to be honest. I love those guys.

Could not agree more. Two of the best guys in the business. Yes, you will be working on "EMIA time", but if you can be patient, you will be rewarded by a true 'end of life' product. I've owned my gear for 10 years and can't imagine replacing it. Hope to afford one of Jeffrey's uber amps one day.
 

brencho

Member
Aug 28, 2018
12
23
8
LA
I have nothing but good things to say and gratitude for Dave and Jeffrey of EMIA. They are awesome guys that love music and are super passionate for their craft. They have been amazingly helpful throughout a few changes to my system. Like the banpuku and bazelio, I picked up a EMIA AVC preamp. I chose to go with the silver version with remote, because, well, sometimes I'm lazy and I figured it might be useful to have control of channel balance. As the OP states, it is just an incredible preamp, regardless of price, so I won't repeat what banpuku said about it.

The transparency of the preamp did get me thinking about my phono, and so once again I contacted Jeff and he sent me a loaner of the EMIA LR Phono and Dave sent along a silver SUT to my cart specifications. I demoed the Phono and SUT for quite a while and was able to compare it to quite a few other units in my system (Allnic H7000, aesthetix, ARC, doshi, EAR 88pb/324/912, Pass, VDH Grail, Ypsi, Zanden, Zesto...). The EMIA LR Phono really knocked it out of the park for me, with excellent tone, transparency, extension, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, amazing flow... As others have mentioned, the looks are spartan/industrial but that suits me just fine. As they say, the good shit is on the inside. Like jazdoc says above, I can't imagine replacing these units.
 
Last edited:

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
12,583
3,155
703
E. England
Are these guys still doing their take on the hugely modded NOS Straingauge cart/valve-based energiser? Not using the Straingauge cart, but 1970s Panasonic one. I believe it is (was?) a collaboration w Win Tinnon of Saskia fame.
 

bazelio

Well-Known Member
Sep 27, 2016
1,586
934
215
California
Dave has a strain gauge cart and associated preamp. I had an opportunity to demo them too, but passed. I heard somewhere that Dave is working on a MM cart now. I'll want to hear that.
 

spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
12,583
3,155
703
E. England
I'm loving my SG cart sound. But I'm intrigued to hear it thru a valve stage.
 

advanced101

VIP/Donor
May 3, 2017
181
83
183
You should go back to them now. They've put a lot more effort into productization. You can work directly with either Jeffrey or Dave. They're great, to be honest. I love those guys.

Just want to note that I didn’t deal with Dave or Jeffrey. Jeffrey sent me a very kind message explaining things, seems like they have cleaned things up since my experience.
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,368
1,812
630
Hong Kong
Dave & Jeffrey are good guys and so are their products : unassuming but sonically excellent.

I own a Bent Audio AVC-1 passive preamp inside which are 4 Slagleformers.

David, a friend of mine in Hong Kong bought an Emia Silver balanced remote control model last year.
Here are the photos :

IMG-20181117-WA0058~2.jpg
IMG-20181117-WA0057~2.jpg

It was placed next to a non-remote single-end model.
The latter was lent by another Emia owner friend of mine to David before he got the remote balanced version.
Both are silver autoformer versions.

IMG-20181117-WA0060~2.jpg
IMG-20181117-WA0062~2.jpg
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,368
1,812
630
Hong Kong
EMIA is a collaboration between Experience Music (Jeffrey Jackson) and Intact Audio (Dave Slagle). Over the past 2 years I have communicated with Jeffrey extensively. He is a first rate individual who goes the extra mile for customer service. Highly recommended.

Per myemia.com, the Elmaformer is "the volume control of purists... a beautiful rotary switch by Elma of Switzerland controls this inductive volume control wound on a Permalloy (80% Nickel) core... inductive attenuation is based on conservation of energy instead of burning off extra signal as heat... why would anyone ever want to throw away the majority of the signal's power?"

Further from the manual, "The EMIA Elmaformer is a stereo volume control based on multiple tapped auto-transformers. The unit has 47 steps of 1.25dB each. The complete gain range is from -51.25 to +5dB. As the name implies, the switch is our favorite high quality unit from Elma of Switzerland. The cores of the auto-transformers are made of 80% Nickel, also known by its trade name of Permalloy. Each auto-transformer uses non-magnetic brass channels for that last bit of signal circuit preservation. Three inputs are switched from a front panel mounted three position toggle switch. Each unit has two outputs that are in parallel."

The build quality is interesting. Silver RCA connectors are first rate. The front panel is made from a dead-to-the-knuckle-rap material that speaks "industrial minimalist". The best part of the design is the jumbo volume control knob which gives the user a smooth, notched disk to adjust gain. Some people will enjoy the "no bling", all matte black approach, while others will want something with flash. This is a personal choice. Could the product be improved? Sonically, that would be hard to achieve, although the silver version would be interesting. The chassis is standard fare and if there was one area to improve, possibly a heavier duty chassis would be in order, of course this would drive up price ($3,000 copper, $4,800 .9999 silver).

In my setup, the copper Elmaformer is driven by either an EMIA phono stage or a Bluetooth DA converter with 2V line output. To these ears, the Elmaformer is a gain control champion that transparently allows the music signal to flow effortlessly. It does nothing more. Nothing less. With 3 different RCA inputs, the Elmaformer just allows the signal to pass thru effortlessly. Adding nothing to the signal, the Elmaformer will showcase all upstream components and cabling. No skimping with cheap cables or underperforming front end components. The Elmaformer lays bare the performance of everything in the audio chain. Equally important, the Elmaformer has a very liquid, natural, at-ease sound. Never analytical, etchy or sonically tinted. Rather, the inductive volume control keeps the signal pure. If you have not heard a Permalloy (80% Nickel) core product, then you are in for a treat. Nickel is so natural sounding. Meaty, smooth, aggressive, punchy, non-etchy, non-bright, non-fatiguing, not over hyped. Just lifelike. Oh, BTW, this thing is DEAD QUIET!!! More so than any other product I have heard.

Primarily playing classical music, I prioritize tonality and dynamics over other attributes. This is where the Elmaformer is king. Tonally pure, the Elmaformer gets out of the way and lets the musical signal pass thru unabated. Cello and violin (with the right recording and upstream equipment) recordings are full of harmonic richness with a beautify color palette. Kramer never sounded so good playing Schnittke's violin sonata. Prior experience with other passive pre-amps lead me to perception that passive's are thin, etchy and lack drive/dynamics. Nothing could be further from the truth with the Elmaformer. Dynamics are better than ever. Lively. Snappy. Precise. True to form. Just listen to the staccato notes on Sofia Gubaidulina's string quartets played by either Quatuor Molinari or the Stamic Quartet. Lifelike dynamics are neither underwhelming or exaggerated.

At $3,000 (or even $30,000), this is "the volume control" to own. If you are an audio purist / minimalist, this is "the product" for you. Thru the past 2 decades, I have owned 11 world class pre-amps including the EMT JPA-66, Lyra Connoisseur, Boulder, etc. Each of these products is great in it's own right. That said, no active or passive pre-amp that I have heard can compete sonically with the effortless liquidity and natural sounding permalloy EMIA Elmaformer. Other pre-amp will offer flexibility (the EMT JPA-66 is the champion) or build quality (Lyra Connoisseur and Boulder), but to these ears, this passive pre-amp volume control just lets you sit back and enjoy the music (assuming your front end is up to the challenge). Relax the shoulders, enjoy the drive.

My system:

Gates CB500 turntable (complete rebuild by Banpuku Audio)
Durand Telos tonearm
Murasakino Sumile cartridge
Murasakino Nobala step-up transformer
EMIA LR Phono Corrector
EMIA Elmaformer
Auris bluMe HD Bluetooth 5.0 Music Receiver
Enjoy Music GM70 power amp
Gryphon Colosseum power amp
Ilumnia Magister speakers
Tellurium Q cables
Hello Banpuku,
I have several frds in Hong Kong who are owners of Bent Audio or Emia Audio products.
The Slagleformers are awesome!

I notice that you have got the Emia LR Phono Corrector too.
Would you please talk more about it here or open a new thread on it on the Vinyl/phonoamp forum?
LR phono circuit is said to be a breakthrough in the Vinyl history.
Many thanks in advance!
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,368
1,812
630
Hong Kong
Hello Brencho,
Please open a new WBF thread and share with us your experience.
Bonpuku may chim in there too.

Many thanks!
 

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