Editor’s Note: Before we dive into Hubcon 2022 coverage, let’s take care of the elephant in the room—what the hell is Hubcon? Hubcon is a gathering of Part-Time Audiophile writers and editors. During our planning of this strategic-social event several exotic locations were discussed: those included Toronto, Hawaii, and Cartagena. Alas, we decided on something closer to home for our initial outing—the state of North Carolina. Home to both Dave McNair and Eric Franklin Shook, and within reach of Grover Neville, Graig Neville, and Jameson Mourafetis. In short, Hubcon is where love and audiophilia meet and shake hands.
What fun would this be without toys?
Graig Neville, a more recent contributor to Part-Time Audiophile, has quite the extensive history playing the everyman audiophile, and in his time with PTA has taken to scouting and reviewing gear like a duck to water. The last to arrive at Hubcon 2022, Graig didn’t come empty handed.
Words and Photos by Eric Franklin Shook
Of the many shiny audio toys we’ve had the pleasure of toying around with during our Hubcon week, the Backert Labs Rhumba Extreme 1.3 tube preamplifier might have stroked our softer spots for “high-performance, high-value” components more than any other. Exuding a forbidding elegance in its build upon first inspection. It even tempted Speedy McNair to investigate further during our unboxing.
The Backert Labs Special Sauce
Once the black and steely magnificence, with its brushed aluminum face was plucked from the cellophane and installed into the system, the warming process began—but not without worry. Maybe it was our impatience, or the fact that the Ampsandsound amplifiers were already warm and ready to go, things started off cold.
Potentially too early, we began listening to what the Backert Labs Rhumba Extreme 1.3 had to offer, and felt things to be a bit rolled off and recessed. Then, without warning or pretence, time itself presented us with gifts. The unit finally reached optimum operating temperature, and not only was all-well from then on, everything was (to quote Seinfeld) real and spectacular.
Graig and myself had a bit of a debate on whether or not balance knobs should be accepted on gear that sounds this good. But in the end, Graig won me over with his humor.
Eric Franklin Shook: I’m not totally sure about this, but I don’t think I like balance knobs.
Graig Neville: I’ll keep my balance knob, as my room hangs a little to the left.
A consensus began to form, surrounding what to credit for the sonic blooming of the Backert Labs preamp. We each noticed some subtle, but still really special sauce being imparted to the music, a quality of gear that we’ve identified as “additive in nature.”
Tube swapping also proved to be quite fun, as everything we popped in was giving us a new and unique perspective, without running into any potholes.
Along with this additive quality we speak of, we also took note that in the presence of a rack full of VAC statement gear, the Backert Labs Rhumba Extreme 1.3 didn’t look out of place. A case thus made for a high pride of ownership at real world prices. It looks the part, works the part, and leaves little to nothing lacking in features. All for under $8K.
Graig Neville’s full review of the Backert Labs Rhumba Extreme 1.3 is forthcoming.