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Audio Consulting MIPA 30

02.05.2013 // Jürgen Saile
I must admit, I have a soft spot for unconventional equipment. What always interests me is when someone dares to wander off the beaten path. And the ideas behind it. If the unit also functions reliably and sounds good, that is really something! Weirdness alone is, of course, not enough. This brings me to Audio Consulting, a Swiss manufacturer, where the company owner Serge Schmidlin  prefers to devote his attention to unconventional solutions. The Swiss origin somehow vouches for quality, so that the first point should actually be fulfilled.
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Swiss precision workmanship, handmade in Commugny!
Swiss precision workmanship, handmade in Commugny!
Among experts, Audio Consulting has been quite well known for a long time as a manufacturer of transformers. The output transformer, or - depending on the circuit - also the coupling transformer in tube components is crucial for good sound. In designing and manufacturing many factors play an important role: the winding technique, the core material employed, shape of the core, the thickness of the laminations and much more. The Japanese are especially secretive when it comes to their winding techniques. A perfect transformer is created by just the right combination of all factors. Therefore, good transformers are expensive and they have always been so. In order to cut costs, switching power supplies are increasingly being used, even though the industry likes to give a different explanation.

Where is the IEC jack hidden? Answer in the text!
Where is the IEC jack hidden? Answer in the text!
FSchmidlin has brought his power amplifier MIPA 30 all the way over the Alps to Hifistatement. Unconventional about this unit is not the name, which stands for Independent Mains Power Amp, but the whole concept. After unpacking it, you have a surprisingly heavy piece of equipment in an MDF housing. MDF? The paneling has been undercoated multiple times and specially varnished giving the marbled surface a truly noble impression. Of course, also other wood variations are possible. Generally, Schmidlin avoids metal whenever possible - an aluminum casing would have been much less expensive.

There is a long, wooden power button – this is probably where “Pinocchio Model” is written - on the front panel are two LEDs, inputs and outputs on the back, and that's it! For a power amp no more is really needed. Oh yeah, and two jacks for external battery chargers are found in the middle of the unit. Heat sinks are nowhere to be seen. Class D? Tubes? An explanation for this is found underneath the top cover. What can now be found by lifting up the top cover? First of all, the interior looks quite different than one is normally used to. It looks like the little daughter may have helped with her building blocks. Whoever may be baffled by this, however, is making a big mistake. Everything is well thought out and totally perfected in this machine.

The existence of  two large 12 volt batteries explains the lack of an IEC jack. The MIPA is -as the name suggests - designed for pure battery operation. When fully charged, moderately efficient speakers could be driven for eight to ten hours,  higher efficiency ones even longer. Now you may say, other manufacturers have already had this idea. True, but that's not everything of course. Here, the house specialty is also the transformer, an essential part of the circuitry. The signal first passes through an input transformer which additionally splits the signal into plus and minus. From there it goes to the MOSFET amplification stages, one for plus and one for minus. The transistors are mounted on a small spring-mounted circuit board. This is the only place that is not hand wired. An interesting side note: The electrolytic capacitors on the circuit board are stripped, meaning the plastic cover on which the data and polarity is stamped, has been removed. This is responsible for quite bit of sonic improvement, as I am aware of from personal experience. The signal goes from the MOSFETs through another transformer to the output jacks. This will optimize efficient signal transmission to the speakers. The bandwith of the output transformer goes up to 95 kHz.


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