AXPONA 2018: Nick Doshi Builds a Time Machine

A few months before AXPONA, Nick Doshi of Doshi Audio showed up at The Audio Company, a superb local hi-fi store in Marietta, Georgia.  The program was to show local audiophiles what tape machines could do with an excellent playback system featuring Nick’s well-regarded tape pre and a J-Corder modified tape deck. Using upper-end Focal speakers and Constellation gear, the sound quality was superb and I believe it really opened some minds on what good tape playback can offer. In short, a good tape rig easily remains the best analog playback we have today.

In my mind, that also established the expertise of Nick Doshi in terms of building tape machine gear.  Clearly, Nick knows hows his electronics. But at AXPONA 2018, I believe Nick took us to a new level in two ways: 1. his ability to build other electronics besides a tape pre, and 2. his ability to put together a system that wows in sheer naturalness. Nick partnered with Midwest dealer Paragon to create a large room featuring Wilson Audio Sasha 2 speakers and his new stereo amp.  My colleague and fellow Wilson fan Mohammed Samji has discussed the sublime sound this corner of the show was producing, but I wanted to dive in a bit deeper into this Studer and dCS sourced system and introduce Nick’s stereo amplifier in more detail as I felt it was one of the very best sounds of the show.

I often tell people that the amp and speaker combination is one of the most critical factors in achieving great sound. To be honest, I fell in love early with the Alexia 2s and felt that the Sasha 2s were great but not quite as outstanding as the Alexias. I think this is still true, however, Nick’s system showed the heights that the Sasha 2s could reach. Transparent Audio was showing its cables and their new power conditioners. Noise floor seemed to be in the basement in the best sense. Resolution of detail was terrific.  This was simply the best I have ever heard the Sasha 2s sound.

The new Doshi stereo amplifier is just a terrific match for Wilson. Here are the relevant features:

  • 2 Gain stages for 75WPC. Highly biased into Class A with over 50WPC available in Pure Class A

  • Discrete j-fet front end with EL34/6CA7 tube output stage. Less than 7 db of total feedback

  • Sowter output transformers capable of superb low-frequency reproduction and resolution

  • Same parts quality as the monoblock amplifiers with shared chassis components for reference quality reproduction into real-world speakers

  • Same microprocessor control setup as the monoblock, providing ease of bias setup and protection/shutdown in failure modes.

  • Uses easily available EL34/6CA7 tubes for inexpensive tube replacement and a wide variety of tube choices for individual system optimization

  • Introductory pricing at $18,995.00

I took a close look.  Build quality was superb as fas as I could tell easily at the level of the pricing with machined metal casing. But the resolution and dynamics were just impressive. No doubt helped by one of Nick’s many sources and super-clean Studer A810 reel to reel, this system just was so comfortable to listen to. I visited this room four times and it was packed every visit.  Audiophiles are finicky people but I think this sound pulled people in. The Sashas are capable of terrific macro-dynamics and micro-dynamics. Rickie Lee Jones cover of Show Biz Kids was mesmerizing.  I’ve heard this tape before with Gus Skinas’ help in past Sonoma Model 1 rooms and I know it well.  It sounds amazing on Sonoma headphones and it sounded amazing here. This amp would be a definite short list item for Sasha and other Wilson owners looking for an amp.  It operates in class A for the first 50 watts and has reasonable to replace vacuum tubes.

AXPONA 2018 Coverage brought to you by Zesto Audio

Outside the room, Nick had set up a headphone station featuring Nick’s headphone amplifier was equally impressive with the Focal Utopia’s playing computer files and employing Transparent’s excellent headphone cable.  The midrange on several Dire Straits cuts was spot on. Bass was deep and taut. This headphone amplifier features:

  • Employs Dual Differential topology for each channel input.
  • Discrete Balanced Volume control with relay switched attenuator using low noise, surface mount resistors
  • High Voltage balanced drive to custom sowter output transformers.
  • Relay switched secondary sections allowing for maximum power transfer into headphones regardless of their impedance
  • Balanced and SE headphone cabling can be accommodated with no loss of quality
  • Massive power supply as per the usual Doshi philosophy
  • Dual inputs with switching for Balanced/SE on rear panel
  • Introductory pricing at $3795.00

Getting back to the Wilson room, I admit it’s a little over the top for me to say that this was a “Time Machine” but the sound was so exquisite that I wanted to make a bold claim. This is stereo amplification worth checking out and Nick Doshi is arguably high-end audio’s latest star designer. It’s going to be fun watching what Nick does next. Tape is expensive and inconvenient but mix a clean and calibrated deck with Nick’s electronics and stellar Wilson speakers and you are able to recreate music at a reference level. Thank you Nick for one of the best sounds of the show.  And thank you Paragon for several great rooms!