Review: Fezz Audio Mira Ceti 300B Amplifier

Review: Fezz Audio Mira Ceti 300B Amplifier

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This article first appeared in StereoLife Magazine, a HiFi publication from Poland that offers “A Daily Dose of Audiophilism”.

English version edited by Robert Schryer.

If I didn’t know what Fezz Audio and Pylon Audio have in common, I would think they share the same owner. The two brands openly support each other, exhibit together at major industry events, hold joint photo shoots, and have the same distributor in some countries. In reality, however, these companies only share what one would call a path to success. Hard, bumpy, risky, based on ingenuity, diligence, and youthful energy drawing on the experience of the older generation. Pylon Audio began as a small carpentry shop making loudspeaker cabinets. Later, it began producing its own loudspeakers, raising the bar pretty much every year. Fezz Audio, on the other hand, is a side project of a family-owned company specializing in manufacturing toroidal transformers, or at least that’s how it began. Many experts say that toroidal transformers are moderately suitable for tube amplifiers, but Fezz Audio’s Lachowski brothers had a different opinion. They developed a transformer that performed brilliantly, and since it was a successful project, they decided to build a complete amplifier around such transformers.

During the first period of its existence, Fezz Audio launched more amplifiers and gained quite a following in its homeland, Poland. Its tube amplifiers were virtually the only reasonable alternative pricewise to Chinese designs. At some point, a few distributors found out about the whole venture, and when they researched the subject, saw, touched, listened, and made sure no one had made a mistake with the price list, they started ordering several shipping containers of Polish amplifiers. New employees had to be found immediately, conditions had to be created for them to assemble the equipment, all existing supplies of components had to be multiplied by ten, and a million other things had to be taken care of to meet customers’ demand. As soon as one order could be fulfilled, another, even bigger one would come along. The company moved from its former plant to brand-new headquarters located a mile away. It was a challenge, but even in the heat of the battle with builders and bureaucracy, the process of designing new products didn’t stop. In addition to more tube drivers, Fezz Audio introduced three phono stages. The real shock came a little later. The company announced its first solid-state amplifiers, which looked quite different from the colourful but square, utilitarian-looking tube amps we’d seen before. The Torus series models are modern, minimalist, but beautifully designed. The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan. When more and more images of the products appeared online, audiophiles were ecstatic. And they weren’t the only ones.

The look of the Polish manufacturer’s older equipment may not have been criticized because the idea of form following function cannot be bad by definition. Since several interesting colour versions were introduced early on, and the amplifiers were inexpensive, they somehow held up. However, as more expensive designs appeared in Fezz’s catalogue, a revolution was underway. Developing a single, distinctive stylistic esthetic that could be applied to everything from a basic phono stage to a high-end set consisting of a preamplifier and two monoblocks became necessary for the company to move forward. The task was entrusted to true professionals—Kabo & Pydo, a Warsaw-based design and strategy studio founded by designers Katarzyna Borkowska and Tomasz Pydo. Their collection of awards and accolades is truly impressive—Red Dot, IF Design, Good Design, Designer of the Year 2020, Good Design, Top Design, and German Design Award are just some of them. The decision to cooperate with Fezz Audio caused yet another Red Dot award to “drop in”, the eighth in total credited to Kabo & Pydo. If I haven’t missed anything, this is also the first Red Dot awarded to a Polish manufacturer of audio equipment. All this made me want to review one of the components from the Evolution series, but which to choose? Since I had already reviewed the Silver Luna, Titania, and Gaia MM phono stage, I wanted a double novelty—a new enclosure and a design I hadn’t yet listened to. In the end, the choice was easy and obvious: the Mira Ceti 300B amplifier.

The new design of the Fezz Audio amplifiers was developed by Kabo & Pydo.

Design and Functionality

Let’s start by explaining what the Evolution series is about. If I’m correct, it’s simply about the exterior design. The models from the old and new series are called the same, with “Evolution” and “Legacy” labels, which quite clearly suggests that the photos of the older models are not accurate anymore. The same is true on dealer websites. Technically, no Fezz Audio components have been labeled “Evolution”. For example, the new Silver Luna is still a Silver Luna, although the current version looks quite different from the older one. There is no such thing as a “Silver Luna Evolution.” It’s possible that the company didn’t want to cause confusion, hoping that after a while the older equipment would simply be pushed out of the market, everyone would forget about it, and it wouldn’t be necessary to emphasize that we were dealing with a product belonging to the Evolution series. Equally important, however, is the fact that the design change didn’t engender changes elsewhere. It would have been tempting to improve something inside, to modernize, to make even minor adjustments to the electronics, but let’s look for a moment at the scale of what an operation like that would have entailed. The Evolution line includes the models Silver Luna, Silver Luna Prestige, Titania, Mira Ceti 300B, Mira Ceti 2A3, Lybra 300B, as well as the Titania Power Amplifier and Mira Ceti 300B mono power amplifier monoblocks. Then there are such wonders as the Sagita transistor line preamplifier, Gaia Mini, Gaia and Gratia phono stages, and the Omega Lupi headphone amplifier. Rummaging through the guts of each of these devices could unnecessarily delay the whole operation. Customers who bought the devices in the old chassis will surely be a tad pleased to know that electronically and sonically the “Evolution” and “Legacy” models are the same.

At this point, you probably expect that due to these changes, new customers will have to accept a significant price increase. But no. This is perhaps the biggest surprise about the introduction of the new series—prices have not budged. In its older version, for example, the Mira Ceti 300B was $5300 (€3825), and that’s what the new version costs. Malcontents might point out that prices had gone up before the design changes, and that Fezz was giving us nicer enclosures as a “gift”. Maybe so, maybe not, but even if so, I don’t think anyone expected the Polish manufacturer to be the only company not affected by inflation. The Silver Luna Prestige costs $3900 (€3,150). Comparing it with the competition, this is still a reasonable proposition. And, let’s be honest, no Chinese amplifier at a comparable price looks that good. You can also select a few options, such as the HT (Home Theatre) input, subwoofer output, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, or a protective tube cage. Prices for individual options are more than fair. I’d have a bigger problem with the colour choice because each of the seven available finishes looks great. For the review, we got the least distinctive silver version (Moonlight). There is still a choice of black (Black Ice), white (Republic), dim gold (Sunlight), maroon (Big Calm), bright red (Burning Red), and green (Evergreen). You can choose something universal, or go wild and take advantage of the fact that in addition to having a beautiful form, our amplifier can also have an original colour. Oh, and there’s no extra cost for any colour.

I started my interaction with the new Fezz by unpacking it, of course, and already at this stage it was clear to me that after years of making cheap amps, the Polish manufacturer had reached a higher level. The Mira Ceti 300B arrived in a nice cardboard box, the contents of which are arranged as if it were a luxurious turntable. First, we take out the documents, tubes, protective cage, remote control, and additional accessories, such as the power cord and cotton gloves. The main course awaits us at the very bottom, packed in a canvas bag. It looks posh. The amplifier, though suitably heavy, is set on high rubber feet. After my experience with tube amplifiers with sharp spikes, such simple and effective solutions have pleased me very much. The tubes have been numbered, so even a layman should be able to cope with mounting them. All you have to do is put each one in its place, remembering not to touch them with your bare hands. The Mira Ceti 300B uses two Electro-Harmonix 6SN7 double triodes and two legendary 300B triodes supplied by Psvane. These are not the most expensive tubes that can be installed in such an amplifier, but in a design at this price, I’d be very satisfied with this set. The process of installing and setting up the amplifier essentially ends with the installation of the tubes and connecting the cables. The Mira Ceti 300B has an automatic bias control circuit, so we don’t have to waste our time doing it manually. The Polish company is trying to simplify the process of using tube amplifiers because some music lovers are still afraid of them. Is it safe? Will it blow up? Do you have to get a PhD in electronics to even try? No, you don’t. And no, it won’t explode.

As for the overall design, what can I say other than it’s a work of art? Kabo & Pydo have used a number of elements here that we’ve already seen in various components (the base of the chassis reminds me of Cambridge Audio’s Edge series, the tube cover looks a bit like the one we can find on Egg-Shell amplifiers, and the two round transformer covers are reminiscent of the ones used by Balanced Audio Technology), but all these elements have been bundled together in an extremely elegant way, creating something truly unique. On the front panel, apart from the tubes, we see only two knobs (source selection and volume control) and a discreetly illuminated logo. Its bluish glow is apparent only when we look at the switched-on amplifier from the front. On the rear, we find three RCA inputs, an HT input with a power switch, a Bluetooth antenna with another switch (this switch shuts off the Bluetooth module), a preamplifier output, speaker terminals with selectable taps for 4 or 8 Ω speakers, and a power socket with a mechanical on/off switch. You also get a lovely flat remote control. It has just a few buttons, so in most cases, you’ll only use it for adjusting the volume, but at least it’s not an ugly thing that deserves to be hidden away in a drawer. In lighter colour versions of the amp, the remote is like the one shown in the photo, while with darker amp finishes, the remote is black.

Instead of commenting on what you see in the photos, let me make a few observations relating to the use of this amplifier. I really liked the fact that the top surface of the chassis is completely flat and devoid of unnecessary ornamentation. Thanks to this, after removing the tube cover, you can quickly clean the amplifier with a soft cloth. It takes two minutes. I say this as the owner of a Unison Triode 25, the thorough cleaning of which requires squeezing a cloth into the tight nooks and crannies under the steel slats, which serve only a decorative role. This takes a good quarter of an hour. The Mira Ceti should also be praised for its build quality. It’s not only a beautiful, original object, but also the precisely assembled, heavy, confidence-inspiring heart of a hi-fi system. No one can say that something is wrong here, that some elements spoil the picture, or that the manufacturer went for tasteless, cost-cutting options. There is even a metal plate on the side, on which the serial number and the names of the people responsible for assembling the unit have been signed. Thanks, Beata, thanks, Mark. Good job!

Cons? I have to complain about a few minor details, some of which, as far as I’ve been able to find out, have already been noticed by the manufacturer and will be corrected. The first is the switch located on the back. Admittedly, a tube amplifier should be placed in a visible, well-ventilated area anyway, but you can see that aesthetics took precedence over ergonomics here. The cage protecting the tubes is made of metal, but the front of the unit is clear acrylic glass. Quite a non-standard material for a component that heats up a lot. How will such a cover stand the test of time? I don’t know, but perhaps that’s why during shipment to the consumer the “glass” is protected with a film on both sides. But with this also comes a small inconvenience. During removal, the film tears at the joints with metal parts, and you have to scoop out the debris. I recommend doing this with a toothpick. The mounting of the cover itself is also questionable. There are two screws for this, but what exactly are they supposed to go into? The cage is lined with felt, which is nice, but there are no clear holes or any attachments at the front, so even if you lock these two screws, the front part of the cover can still be lifted. In my opinion, it would be good to add some ratchets, hooks, maybe even two pegs in the front and clear holes in the back. In addition, the upper part of the cage is very, very close to the tips of the power tubes—half an inch separates them. It appears that more thought was given to protecting the tubes from being touched than to the user from being burned. For all intents and purposes, even with the cover on, you can still freely reach the tubes from behind. I doubt that any child or pet would be that curious, but technically such a possibility exists. As you can see, most of my grumbling is limited to one item. However, I’m glad that I received the cage, because the amplifier looks much more attractive with it. The Mira Ceti 300B stayed with me for a good three weeks, and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s a piece of equipment that’s so nice to have at home. But is it equally nice to listen to?

The minimalist front features only two knobs and a discreetly illuminated logo.
The Mira Ceti 300B can be equipped with a variety of options, including Bluetooth.

Sound

I started by connecting the Polish amp to the Spendor Classic 2/3 monitors, which were also in for review. Maybe I shouldn’t have conducted the first test with another reviewed product, but I had already become accustomed to the British monitors, and besides, in a few days the speakers were going back to the distributor. I decided to take advantage of the time I had left and start listening with my own speakers once the Spendors hit the road. Large, classic speakers and a beautiful amplifier based on the iconic 300B triodes, with Auralic Aries G1 streamer, Marantz HD-DAC1, Enerr power supply, and cabling by Fidata, Albedo, and Tellurium Q, sounded to me like a dream combination for quiet, long-term listening. Yes, to a certain extent, it turned out, because the sound was 100% tube-like. It was concentrated in the midrange—dense, saturated, maybe far from neutral, but extremely organic. I liked the combination of the Spendors with the Unison Triode 25 much more. The Unison is also a tube amplifier, but completely different. With the Triode 25, the sound was more interesting than with the Mira Celti—bolder, more dynamic, transparent, and engaging. I let the Fezz warm up, and then I repeated the comparison several times, but the result was always the same. The sound was too smooth, lazy, and over-sweetened, with indistinct contours and a compressed, foreground-focused soundstage. If I had ended the listening session at this stage, I could at most have written that the Mira Ceti 300B was a stereotypical-sounding tube amplifier, offering warm, sweet, and charming sound, but in many respects, it couldn’t compete with even slightly more powerful tube amplifiers, let alone hybrids and transistors. And you know what? Had I done so, I would have made a terrible, terrible mistake.

It’s no secret that an amp with an output power of a few watts per channel—maybe a dozen or so, which is what we’re dealing with here—can be demanding when it comes to finding suitable speakers. Every owner of a SET (Single-Ended Triode) tube amplifier knows that, mated with the wrong speakers, such a design can’t play to its strengths, and will result in sound as described above. I didn’t expect the Spendor Classic 2/3s to prove so difficult to drive, but the Fezz clearly didn’t like these monitors. I was sure the Mira Ceti 300B would prove a better fit with my Audiovector QR5s, which get along wonderfully with tube designs, hybrids, and class-A transistors. I was looking forward to this listening experience. However, I decided to perform one more experiment and connected the Polish amp to the Equilibrium Nano monitors, fully expecting another failure, since they too were not designed to work with amplifiers reaching at most 8 watts per channel. To my surprise, it clicked. And boy, oh boy, what a performance it was!

The sound was still warm, but far from cloying or caramel-sweet. It was dense, but at the same time dynamic and transparent. It was richly saturated, not just in the midrange, but across the entire bandwidth. Even the soundstage opened up, spreading freely to the sides. Changing the speakers was enough to hear the magic. Even with the Equilibrium monitors, which certainly wouldn’t have been my first choice for a low-watt tube amplifier, the system played flawlessly, harmoniously, and synergistically. The situation had changed completely. From the Spendors, the sound oozed listlessly, while after switching to the Equilibrium Nano, which plays ferociously and dynamically but with a shift of weight towards the low frequencies, the high frequencies began to shine. This confirmed that low-watt tube amplifiers can serve much more than an overdone midrange. They can enchant, not only with warmth, but also with the ability to deliver colours on many levels, delicacy, speed, meticulousness, the ability to render the finest details effortlessly, and to combine all these strengths in an extremely natural way. Such a sound is not only nice, not only pleasant, not only distinctive, but also—above all—very, very good.

I don’t know if there is any point in describing what happened when the Fezz was introduced to a second system, in the company of the Auralic Vega G1, Audiovector QR5 speakers, and cabling worth more than the amplifier itself. So I’ll just mention that the soundstage was phenomenal, with sensational reproduction of the acoustics in the recordings, sound coming from the side and even from behind my head, lows that were more energetic and that extended lower than I expected given what I’d heard with the Equilibrium Nano monitors. You can imagine the rest. Maybe it’s better that way, since I’m no master of audiophile poetry.

The Mira Ceti 300B is an exquisite amplifier and a great example of its genre. If anyone thought that only the Japanese, French, or Americans could build such amps, it’s high time to revise those views. Choosing the right speakers is essential, but there is no need to cross out all models with an efficiency lower than 90 dB. Sure, you can start with manufacturers whose loudspeakers have long had a reputation for being tube-friendly, but this is not the only way. The Mira Ceti 300B is by no means a nightmarish weakling. It only requires a bit of understanding and speaker sensitivity. It’s also not an amplifier that sounds warm, heavy, and dark, so when choosing the rest of the components in the system, I would suggest partnering it with neutral-sounding products, or at least start with them. After a few experiments, you will already know which way to go. If you think about it, we would do the same with a powerful solid-state amplifier. It might even be easier with the Fezz because if it doesn’t like its company, you will hear it very clearly. My conclusion is that the Mira Ceti 300B is not just a pretty face. That’s just the beginning. The brilliant design, the high quality of workmanship, the possibility of equipping it with options of our choice, including its colour—these are important details. But the best part of this amp is the sound, as it should be.

Inside, we can see two toroidal transformers, with two more mounted on the opposite side.

Build Quality and Technical Parameters

The Fezz Audio Mira Ceti 300B is an 8Wpc tube integrated amplifier whose output stage uses Psvane’s legendary 300B triodes, one per channel, while the preamp uses two Electro-Harmonix 6SN7 double triodes. Thus, we are not only dealing with an amplifier based on triodes but also one with a single-ended design with power tubes working in a push-pull, class-A arrangement. When configuring your amplifier, you can also choose premium tubes as an option. However, I was unable to find what those premium tubes were on the manufacturer’s website or in dealer descriptions. So I contacted the manufacturer and immediately got an answer to my question—the premium tubes consist of Full Music 300Bs with nickel-plated anode and Psvane CV181 Treasure Mark IIs instead of 6SN7s. This selection, as well as the standard one, was chosen by the manufacturer based on listening tests. We can, of course, buy premium tubes later, but it is worth noting that this option is available at the ordering stage. Considering the potential sonic benefits, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. To get to the interior, you need to remove the warranty seals and unscrew the base fixed with twelve screws. As is the case with classic tube amplifiers, it’s a bit hollow here, but at least no one will complain that the wires are routed in a shabby way. You can even clearly see the ones that have been left in case the owner wants to add some optional modules in the future (the free places for sockets have been secured with rubber plugs). What strikes the eye, of course, are the two power transformers—one large and one small. Add to these another two output transformers mounted on the opposite side, and it turns out that the Mira Ceti 300B is a product whose number of toroidal transformers matches its number of tubes. The transformers are made in-house, a highly-regarded practice in the world of tube amplifiers.

The remote control shows minimalism and simplicity.

System Configuration

Loudspeakers:

  • Audiovector QR5
  • Spendor Classic 2/3

Amplifiers:

  • Equilibrium Nano
  • Unison Research Triode 25
  • Hegel H20

Streaming and Digital Sources:

  • Auralic Aries G1
  • Auralic Vega G1
  • Marantz HD-DAC1

Turntables and Phono Stages:

  • Clearaudio Concept
  • Cambridge Audio CP2

Cables and Interconnects:

  • Cardas Clear Reflection
  • Tellurium Q Ultra Blue II
  • Albedo Geo
  • KBL Sound Red Corona
  • Melodika Purple Rain

Power Conditioners and Accessories:

  • Enerr One 6S DCB
  • Enerr Tablette 6S
  • Enerr Transcenda Ultimate
  • Fidata HFU2
  • Silent Angel N8

Headphones:

  • Sennheiser HD 600
  • Beyerdynamic DT 990 PRO
  • Beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO
  • Meze 99 Classics
  • Bowers & Wilkins PX5

Mounts and Stands:

  • Pro-Ject Wallmount It 1
  • Custom Design RS 202

Acoustic Treatment:

  • Vicoustic VicWallpaper VMT
  • Vicoustic ViCloud VMT

Verdict

Going into this review, I was both curious and apprehensive. I wanted to play with one of Fezz’s new amplifiers, inspect it carefully, and listen to it in a well-controlled environment, but in the back of my mind, I still suspected that maybe creating a high-end amplifier based on the iconic 300B triodes was too much for the Polish company. In retrospect, I was unfair. I didn’t take into account that almost everything had changed in this company since my time with the Silver Luna, Titania, and Gaia MM. The transformers, electronic circuits, and the love of tubes remain, but the design, the enclosures, the packaging, and even the factory where Fezz Audio equipment is made, are all new. And better. The Mira Ceti 300B is an amplifier that excels even more than the Silver Luna in the reasonably-priced tube segment. The only component I know of that comes close to the Fezz in design, build quality, and sonic performance, and perhaps in spirit, is the Unison Research Preludio—a small, sweet, and underrated amp that, in the right company, can sound utterly captivating. The Mira Ceti 300B also has this gift, but in many ways is also better. If the asking price was $14,000 (€10,000), the decision to buy it would not be so easy, but at $5300, it’s a complete no-brainer.

Technical Data

Tubes: 2 x 300B, 2 x 6SN7
Output power: 2 x 8 W/4-8 Ω
Analog inputs: 3 x RCA
Distortion: < 0.4%
Frequency response: 20 Hz – 45 kHz (-3 dB)
Bias control: automatic
Options: remote control, HT input, tube cover, Bluetooth 5.0, pre-out output
Power consumption: 115 W
Dimensions (H/W/D): 20/42/38 cm
Weight: 19.5 kg
Price: starting at $5300 (€3825)
Manufacturer: Fezz Audio

Editor’s Rating

Sound: 9
Functionality: 8
Design: 9
Quality: 8
Price: 9
Overall: 8.6

For more, visit StereoLife Magazine, a HiFi publication that offers “A Daily Dose of Audiophilism“.

2024 PMA Magazine. All rights reserved.


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