There’s a lot about this Kickstarter project to dissuade me from writing about it. First, this is a bass preamp, a little box that sits between the bass player and the amplifier. It is a device that is interesting only to a certain subset of musician and it is expensive – $1,495 for the early bird models. Heck, it doesn’t even look like it will hit its goal.
But the “Perfect Storm” is an important piece of audio equipment and some of the coolest hardware you’ll see today. Created by custom music gear maker Blackie Pagano, this little amp contains two 6C45pi vacuum tubes, Russian tubes created to fly in fighter jets during the Cold War. These tubes are highly sensitive but can handle high voltage. Quoth Pagano:
￼Though quite small and innocent looking, this insane device is rated to withstand constant vibrational forces of 15g’s at -45 to160 degrees F, won’t quail under the influence of nuclear radiation, is extremely sensitive to audio signals (a quality known as high-transconductance), and despite its tiny size, is rated to run at the same whopping currents one would expect to see in large power tubes (6L6, EL34, 6550, etc.).
Based on these astounding specs and sonic potentials, this 6C45pi tube sparked huge interest in audio circles. Inexpensive, extremely long-lived, and easy to source, it made its way into a number of high-end audio products and is currently featured in the Woo Firefly DAC and other well-known pieces that have garnered excellent reviews.
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Pagano is looking for $17,000 and he just hit about $8,000. Early units are $1,495 and there are a few perks including shirts and swag as well as a high-end model. All use the same impressive tubes.
Generally, you’re getting a tube pre-amp at an acceptable price made by one the best in the business. Like the Pono before it, gear like this is highly specific and unusual in that it was created by musicians for musicians. Even if you don’t ascribe to the tube idea or even care about pre-amps, the fact that Pagano is working on these odd pieces of hardware is a testament to the power of crowdfunding as a way to get weird stuff into the world. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go warm up my vacuum tubes.