ReMusic interviews Bartolomeo Aloia

Visits and Interviews
10.04.2014..

Hereunder the brief interview released by Bartolomeo Aloia. Notwithstanding the “small” age gap and the “big” experience gap, we feel a natural and sincere mutual respect mainly due to deep-rooted common choices made in our respective lives. I cannot either hide the positive opinion that I have always expressed towards the designs and creations of Bartolomeo Aloia, name that is also his brand.

 

By the way, ReMusic has just reviewed Bartolomeo Aloia’s last creation: the Kueyen line stage tube preamplifier, article that you can read here.

 

Question: Dear Bartolomeo, firstly I want to thank you for having accepted our third degree. Let’s start without a big preamble and tell us what the Kueyen means or is.


Answer: What does Kueyen mean? If we weren’t in the internet era, names like Melipal, Kueyen or others wouldn’t tell anything to anybody. The most cultured people could think that we are referring to something using an anagram like Galileo used to do. In fact, he used to announce his sensational astronomic discoveries through anagrams.

Who knows me, also knows that I don’t like something that others usually love and practice: travelling.

The cost of a trip is the same of what needed to buy a second-hand or maybe new system of electroacoustic measurement with microphone, custom amplifier and FFT bi-channel analyser. Although I do not like to travel far away, there is one place that I would like to visit. It’s a yard on the top of the Cerro Paranal mountain, in the desert of Atacama, in Chile. On that yard insist the four towers of the VLT -"Very Large Telescope"- gigantic telescopes. The VLT is the most sophisticated, powerful and refined system to explore the universe. It belongs to ESO "European Southern Observatory".

Each one of the gigantic telescopes has a name, coming from words of the local ancient language. The names are: Melipal, Yepun, Kueyen, Antu. That’s it. Why also my projects couldn’t have a name? If you browse through the ESO website, you will find a tiny mosaic of small flags representing the state members that participate directly to the gigantic scientific endeavour. The Italian flag is among them and that touches me deeply.


Question: What has moved you to design another preamplifier? What did you want to develop in the Kueyen design? Do you think that the qualitative performances have been brought to the extreme limits or that there is still room for improvement? Well, these are three questions actually, but it’s a third degree after all.

Aloia: To the first two questions the answer is just one. It’s not about an implementation of new ideas, but about a “summa” of ideas matured in course of time. “Matured” ideas, rather than new, because speaking of new ideas one hundred years after the invention of the triode is a bit dangerous for one’s reputation. Practically, in course of time a person learns to understand what is useful and what is not. In the Kueyen design I haven’t try to develop something new, but to concentrate what is really useful and, consequently, eliminate what is not required to get a sound of quality. In other words the aim of a design is a recap of experiences whose interpretation must dismantle the prejudices that are fossilised inside us. Everybody says so, hence it has to be true.

No sir, everybody says so, but it’s not true. Many of the developed concepts are very simple when not ferociously controversial. Others are less, although not so striking. What is suspect is to ascertain that most of the people haven’t understood that. Or maybe I haven’t understood. But it’s not up to me.

For the second part of the question the answer is very simple. There is room for improvement, just look at the VTPA The Last. But, and this is known, the small improvement, sometimes not so immediate to get, makes the cost skyrocketing. Therefore, the matter has to be taken on with an incisive examination of the costs/benefits ratio.


Question: Aesthetically the Kueyen resembles a lot to The Last. Which are the basic technical differences between the two?

Aloia: Of course it looks like The Last, it’s the same chassis! In The Last the chassis hosts the last stage of power supply, that is the second inductive stage, the circuits of line amplification and, but only on demand, the phono stage. The huge power supply is made of five feeders: three of them are anodic and later they decouple to become six, while two supply the filaments. It is enclosed in another container that is much heavier than the amplification chassis. The Kueyen should necessarily be conceived to stay in one chassis only. At last a curiosity: the “front panel” that I call front box, with the label and all the buttons, inputs and outputs, not only resembles to but is the same of The Last! It’s hard to describe all the differences. One is in the alimentations that in The Last have five stages, whereof two are inductive, but I should say they are more numerous rather than more sophisticated than in the Kueyen. The reason is that The Last is direct coupling, I mean without capacitors on the direct path of the signal. Kueyen benefits from coupling and capacitor.


Question: In your opinion does exist a part/section of a preamp design that could be highly delicate? If it does, which are the countermeasures that you have adopted to ride over such delicate aspects?

Aloia: The power supply, the input and output configuration, the configuration of the level control, the optimal gain and the dynamics that have to be attributed, an acceptable distortion, no influence from the mains, etc. All these elements are passible of endless discussions. Sincerely I’m not capable of making a classification in order of importance. Concerning the power supply I should say that just naming this component makes me feel bewildered. Better I’m sick to hear from everybody that the power supply is important. Never a sentence was so abused and its application so disregarded. Just to make an example: decades ago I demonstrated with incontrovertible instrumental documentation that the audio signal crosses the mains power cord. Many years later a famous Italian magazine, having noticed the fact, passed off this observation as its own “discover”, but without any documentation. I reiterated my assumption in a public conference thirteen years ago. I was told that everybody knows it but no one proved it and no one has tried to solve the problem. I’d rather stop here, let it be.


Question: In your opinion, which should be the peculiar technical/qualitative aspects of a preamplifier?

Aloia: I think I’ve already answered the question. Of course I could linger in clarifications on every single point but it will take too much time and space here.


Question: The Kueyen is a simplification with respect to your famous VTPA The Last preamplifier? Where do you have cut the costs?

Aloia: I cut the DC coupling. Actually, the limit of response in the low range by The Last doesn’t reach the CC, but the fact that the capacitors are missing on the direct signal path means that the power supply has to be complex as well as the service circuitries. On the contrary, the circuitry crossed by the signal is extremely simple.


Question: The power supply is always at inductive input, is that correct?

Aloia: No, the power supply is always at five stages, the fourth is inductive but not the input one. I always consider as first stage the transformer which is, obviously, designed and made in a particular way. Anyway, this is something I want to keep for me only. Today, as you know, all are become professors and if you try to explain something everybody says: I know, I know. You wanna know something? Do.

 

Question: Which kind of tubes are in the Kueyen and, if is possible to know, in which gain stage?

Aloia: The tubes are the common and well known 12BH7. Not tubes made by and oriental nuthead in a full moon night or piled in a dusty basement to save them from the bombing during the WWII. They are normal tubes.

The circuitry is totem-pole and is a circuitry that I introduced thirty years ago when here was completely unknown. So unknown that, to convince the audiophiles of that time that I wasn’t the inventor, I anticipated everything by publishing the photocopies of the related documentation. Brit staff. Not everyone knew the French people at that time and they only have eyes for Japan. The reasons are known. A totem-pole, in its simplicity, can be implemented in several ways. There’s no mystery, I’ve said and written all. But, luckily, not everyone can listen and “see” what he looks at. The great photographers teach.


Question: Well, end of questions. Obviously you can add something by making yourself some questions and answer to them and, most of all, I apologize for my questions, a bit naïve ones.

Aloia: I already ask myself too many questions.

by Roberto Rocchi
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