As the Campion amplifier is finally retired after almost 20 years of service the Alabaster gets a tweak and inherits the phono stage much loved in the Campion. For years the Campion phono stage has been praised by customers for sheer musicality. We had resisted putting it into the Alabaster for sometime as we generally recommended partnering with the Sedley. Now it was time to retire the Campion it seemed an apt moment to change our minds and make the phono stage a standard feature of the Alabaster integrated amplifier.

An early version had been shipped out to Canada and here’s an extract from a  review:

I guess by now you could probably ascertain I like this amp. I like it a lot. This is probably the most musical gear I’ve had come through my music room in recent memory. Relentlessly, unobtrusively musical. It doesn’t jump out at you, announcing it’s presence, but instead pulls you into listening to and enjoying song after song, album after album…Rogue Cronus Magnum: The Sonneteer may not image quite as expansively, but has the Rogue beat both in the PRaT and bass department. Compared to the Rogue, the Sonneteer has earth-digging, subterranean bass.…Cambridge Audio 840A: The 840A may probably be better suited to cranking out rock or metal at deafening levels, but the Sonneteer has it beat in the musicality department. No hint of “digital” processing… absolutely musical and organic sounding…To sum up, if you’re ever in the market f or a no bells and whistles, beautifully musical, well built integrated, this is the one.
Audio Review, Canada

Sonneteer Orton RED with handsetThe Orton also got the attention of magazines again. This time the Wigwam which was one of the online HiFi and Audio fora/magazines that was steeling a lot of readers from the printed press and now highly regarded amongst the aficionados. Before we give you a snippet from their review we need to let you into a small secret. In the background we were busy developing (current) Orton Mark four. It was to be aesthetically upgraded and have a fully machined remote control unit. The thing is we had done some tweaking under the lid which was ready long before the case work. So we decided to roll theses internal changes into the current production of what was then Mark Three. This version went to review.

The build, fit and finish is exceptional. It’s quite Germanic in this respect, I really can’t see this thing letting anyone down f or 20 years to come. Fit and forget? Nope, you’ll be having too much fun playing air guitar to ever forget it. This is an amp that manages a rare trick: you get oodles of pace rhythm and timing, but without it ever sounding in-yer-f ace or shouty. My first day with the Orton was spent re-visiting my extensive collection of Rock and Electronica, it was huge fun with dynamism and pace in spades…Tonally the Orton is very neutral, I get an honest reproduction without colour. It inspires confidence. Do you get the impression I like this amp? I’ll tell you how much I like it: I’m now feeling a bit of a fool f or gushing so much over previous amplifiers I’ve reviewed. I didn’t leave myself enough headroom for weekends like this when I am properly amazed.
HiFi Wigwam June 2013.

The Byron CD player also got the Wigwam treatment a few months later that year.

All the technical details can wait. Eleanor Rigby from the Beatles’ Love album has just started and we need to talk about the sound – Now! Anyone familiar with George Martin’s re-engineering of the classics will know that this is a beautiful sounding album. But the Byron is revealing layers of detail I’d not tuned into before. And it’s doing this without sounding bright or cold…..The detail and insight are really remarkable and yet there is no price to pay f or this. The bass goes deep, the mids have warmth, the treble doesn’t tish or splash – it’s an enjoyable easy sound…..This kit sounds good dammit and people deserve to know.
HiFi Wigwam August 2013.

And a few nice words from Analog magazine, Japan:

Like the typical British audio electronics this machine has a Gentlemanly sound. It won’t wake you up with over fresh brightness. At normal sound levels there is a great deal of depth. With Jazz music the beauty of the harmony stood out with depth not achievable with other products. In Classical music the intensity of the musicality and the separation stood together. Even the big orchestra can be heard with every small detail which is not true of every other high end model. This is a machine of very high musicality.
Analog Magazine, Japan. Spring 2013

By the end of the year we also officially brought production of Campion and Morpheus to an end. In the case of the latter, technology and times were moving fast and we decided to focus on amplifier design as streaming adaptors were becoming cheap and good and changing/updating at a similar pace to mobile phones. We blazed a trail, but was now to go searching for a new Nirvana.

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