A few years ago, someone had asked me if I had gone into the Silbatone room at a high-end audio show, probably Munich. “Silbatone?” I asked. “Who are they?”
My friend readied his stance as if to say, How do I explain this? “Well, take a bunch of old vintage horns in gigantic enclosures that look like they were found in a junkyard, hook them up to some really expensive tube amps that only have one or two watts per channel…and surprisingly enough it sounds pretty awesome.”
Words and Photos by Marc Phillips
I’d almost forgotten about that conversation, and about Silbatone, until High End 2023 in Munich. I walked into the Silbatone room and sure enough, it was just as my friend had described. Huge junkyard horn speakers that were probably once used in an old movie theater during the Great Depression. Really gorgeous tube amplifiers with rare single-ended triodes. And a crazy big yet altogether musical sound.
I don’t know much about Silbatone, but that’s okay–I didn’t know about ESD Acoustic either until I walked in and was floored by the sheer audacity of it all. Again, this is the fun of going to the Munich show every May. It’s one thing to see unusual systems at North American audio shows, but quite another to wander in a room and see something like this, something out of an installment of The Far Corners.
Silbatone is based in South Korea, and I’ve spent plenty of time with handmade low-powered SET amps from the Far East with very low power. (The Yamamoto Sound Craft A-08 45 power amplifier I owned 20 years ago, at 2 wpc, is still one of my favorite amps of all time.) Silbatone is known for its NeoHyb technologies, which suggests a something old, something new approach. The Silbatone P-103 205D power amplifier that powered those ancient behemoths at High End 2023 were rated at a healthy 8wpc despite the output tube used–205D, 50, Vt-2 and even 300Bs.
Silbatone brought their gorgeous handmade gear to Munich–amps, DACs and more–and absolutely thrilled the audience. I don’t think I’ve heard a crowd applaud at the conclusion of every song played, but it happened here. So what did it sound like? Big yet pure. Imagine listening to “Yesterday” and Paul is about 15 feet tall, but it’s still unmistakably Paul. It’s heady, but it’s fun.
I will offer extra points to Silbatone for bringing a Thomas Schick Liebenthal turntable rig. I love Schick tonearms for their breathtaking simplicity, but I’ve never seen a Liebenthal in the flesh before. We should have these in the states!
If you would like to hear even more coverage from Munich 2023, check out our recap report and highlights from our audiophile-oriented show The Occasional Podcast. You can stream the episode direct from the embed below, or from your favorite podcast platform including iTunes, Android, Google, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more.
Also don’t forget to check out our latest collaboration – a solid bronze record weight available only for a limited run. This 800g of solid bronze features the PTA roundel on the top which also acts as a 45 adapter. You can purchase direct from the PTA Approved Store here on the site.