An essence of our earlier work.
It’s remarkable how much of the technology from the Altair II and Performance series Virgo II preamplifiers is preserved in the Inspiration PREAMP 1.0. The core audio circuits are the same. The power supply retains its triple-transformer design. The dual mono design is there, too. The chassis is built from CNC-machined aluminum slabs, crafted in the same metal shop that builds the enclosures for the Reference and Performance series components.
We like to say the Inspiration PREAMP 1.0 is distilled, not diluted. It embodies the essence of our earlier work while retaining the subjective musicality and objective performance that won so much acclaim for our previous preamps.
Custom-designed binding posts.
Of course, the Inspiration PREAMP 1.0’s most important characteristic is its sound, which in every way lives up to the reputation established by the Altair II and Virgo II. The slightest subtleties in every musical performance come through unaltered. No conventional balanced-topology preamplifier can equal the detail retrieval, delicacy and musicality the Inspiration PREAMP 1.0 effortlessly achieves. The gear disappears, and all that’s left is you and your music.
Triple-transformer power supply
The design of the power supply in the Inspiration borrows heavily from the Altair II and Virgo II. We chose R-core transformers to power the audio circuits because of their inherently low noise and low radiated magnetic energy — and because they worked so well in our previous designs. There are separate R-core transformers for left and right channels. A conventional EI transformer powers the control circuits, so the sensitive audio circuits are well-isolated from the noise of the control circuits.
Line Stage Gain Module
We use our Line Stage Gain Module circuit in all Constellation Audio products, from the Inspiration series to the Reference series. This unique topology uses servo circuits to achieve an essentially perfect balance between the positive and negative halves of the audio signal. The result is, simply, a more lifelike sound, one free of the colorations that conventionally designed balanced preamp circuits can impart.
Fully balanced audio circuitry
Like our more costly preamps, the Inspiration line stage employs fully complementary balanced circuitry, in which the signal is amplified by two identical, mirror-imaged preamp circuits, one for the positive half of the signal, one for the negative half. This arrangement cancels interference while doubling the slew rate, yielding an impressive 100-kilohertz frequency response.
Double-supported chassis joints to minimize vibration
The thick, machined aluminum panels that make up the Inspiration Line Stage’s chassis are assembled using a unique combination of steel buttresses and a CNC-machined joinery system somewhat like the tongue-in-groove structure found in fine woodwork. The result is a chassis far stiffer and less prone to vibration than in most preamps in this price range.
Mechanically isolated circuit boards
To prevent microphonics and other vibration-induced distortions in the Inspiration Line Stage’s sensitive audio circuits, we isolate the circuit boards from the main chassis using a pliable material. All connections from the power supply are made through cables that float freely between the power supply and the main preamp board, so they can’t be affected by external disturbances and so they won’t carry vibration from the power supply into the preamp circuits.
Home theater bypass mode
For those who don’t want to sacrifice sound quality, yet want to enjoy two-channel music and home theater surround sound in the same system, the Inspiration Line Stage offers a home theater bypass mode. One of its inputs can be configured to receive the left and right channel signals from a surround-sound processor. In stereo, the signal passes only through the Inspiration line stage and the connected amp, so two-channel performance is completely unaffected by the home theater equipment.
Constellation Direct interface
Like the Altair II and Virgo II preamps, the Inspiration Line Stage features the Constellation Direct interface. This interface routes the high-level, perfectly balanced audio signal from the preamp’s Line Gain Stage Module straight into the voltage gain stage of a Constellation Audio amplifier. It bypasses the amplifier’s own Line Gain Stage Module, removing one amplification stage from the signal chain and achieving even greater musicality in the process.
Machined aluminum remote
Because the Inspiration line stage’s elegant chassis comes from the same machine shop that builds our Reference and Performance series products, we simply couldn’t use a generic remote. Thus, the Inspiration line stage’s remote, like all of our others, is made from machined aluminum and has a suitably gratifying heft and feel.
Full dual mono construction
The Inspiration line stage’s left and right audio channels have their own isolated, separate power supplies, each channel with its own low-noise R-core transformer. The preamp circuits and even the input and output jacks are arranged with the left channel components on the left side and the right-channel components on the right side. This arrangement delivers extraordinary channel separation, resulting in spectacular imaging and soundstaging.
I have long been a fan of the sculpted forms produced by the Neal Feay company, Resolution Audio’s beautiful Cantata first brought this Californian metal worker to my attention but it was Constellation Audio that showed just how finely they can machine aluminium, with creases that fade to nothing like a piece of silk. It should come as no surprise perhaps to discover that Alex Rasmussen, the guy behind the Constellation designs is the president of Neal Feay, it would take someone deeply embedded in the computer aided design and manufacturing world to understand how much more could be done with the technology than is usually attempted.
It did the trick and drew me to Constellation, a company that’s unusual in that it pools the talents of a range of industry experts to produce electronics that in my experience sound at least as good as they look. Those experts include Peter Madnick of Audio Alchemy, phono stage guru John Curl and digital audio maverick Demian Martin. The people who gathered the Constellation team also brought the Continuum turntables to the market, so it’s safe to say that they know a thing or two about high end audio. READ MORE