The road to nirvana

My journey into Photography, Horology, and Audiophilia

Audio Hungary Qualiton X200 integrated tube amplifier

December 01, 2021

Who is Audio Hungary

Outside of the usual suspects, the goldmine is vast for good products across the globe. The power of internet search allowed me to discover brands like the German Octave, Italian Tektron, and Hungarian Audio Hungary.

YouTube videos of the above mentioned brands were sparse. I found only one video of the Octave V70SE driving a Scansonic 2.5 but that was enough to give me a hint of what to expect. For Audio Hungary their dealer in Greece posted some videos of the X200 driving different speakers.

I finally found this video of the company that instantly carved a place in my heart. Like German clearaudio and Acoustic Signature, the Japanese DS Audio and Accuphase, the  Hungarian company manufactures their products entirely in-house. From CAD/CAM design, to CNC, transformer winding, metal folding, painting, etc. including the final step of certifying and actually listening to their products.

During my reasearch, I reach out to the companies to ask questions and get a feel of customer service and it was Audio Hungary that gave me the best experience in social media interaction. Whoever is in-charge of the Facebook Messenger account, I salute you. They're very responsive, patient, and accommodating to all the questions I threw at them. I have to say that this positive experience is a big factor for me in choosing the Qualiton X200.

Post assessment

The Gryphon Diablo 120 returned to the distributor leaving me with mixed emotions. The Hegel H190 is still here and servers as my streamer with its single ended variable output feeding the direct single ended input of the Qualiton X200. The combination sounds nice, and I thought I can live with this for a while as I map my future direction with regards to streaming.

Build quality and design

Did you watch the video I shared above? If you did, a segment showed how they make the chassis for their products. The Qualiton X200 is well-built and designed, from the chassis to the selection of components.

Looking at the manufacturer photos of the internals reveals modular construction. There are separate PCB for power supply, the main amplifier section, the driver section, the control section, and what I suspect as the differential board on the right side.

I can see at least 13 fuse in critical sections of the integrated amplifier, which will protect the circuitry should a power tube decides to "run away."

My X200 chassis is a semi gloss black with silver facia accent but there is another version that is painted with rust effect which I think was cool, but not available from the local distributor.

The RCA and XLR connectors used by Audio Hungary are all good quality with heavy duty binding posts, i.e., no plastic. Take note that the spacing of the RCA inputs is just enough for standard sized, say REAN by Neutrik, plugs.

The knobs feels like they're made from aluminum and has a smooth feel. If there's one complaint, that will be the light mark on the volume knob to indicate position. Having said that, I have memorized the volume position using the remote control. Four clicks from minimum turns the knob to 9 o'clock which is my reference point.

The fonts are clear and very legible. Surprisingly, the word QUALITON is not the usual logo but spaced out all caps which I think matches the rest of the font. Look at the Qualiton logo on the remote control and you'll know what I mean.

The remote control build is superb, which is light steel with a leather back cover to access the battery. This weighs nearly 1/3 kg so avoid dropping in on your feet. I'm sure it can be a fatal weapon in capabable hands.

Power amplifier mode using direct in

As previously mentioned, I downgraded the H190 to streamer and pre-amplifier duties. The sonic characteristic dominates that of the Qualiton X200 which unsurprisingly is influenced by the pre-amplifier section of the Hegel H190. I could live with it in this mode, and retain a pure solid-state option as was the initial plan, but I'm not going to enjoy the X200 fully this way.

Tone controls

Honestly, I snubbed this feature initially. I never use equalizers or tone controls in any of my home audio setup because they don't come with one or ignored as was in my harman/kardon 430.

The bass and treble boost settings of the X200 are as follows:

  Bass Treble
  Boost Freq Boost Freq
Position 1 +5.6dB 200Hz +6dB 3kHz
Position 2 +7.6dB 300Hz +8dB 2kHz

Interesting choice of boost levels and frequencies, and they work for me. Granted, I use them very seldom, but when I need it like when playing the Anette Olzon Strong vinyl which is badly mastered compared to its digital version, I can make it a little bit listenable by using the treble boost in position 1. It still is a pretty bad mastering, and no tone control setting can save it.

Circuit block diagram

It's really nice that Audio Hungary provides the block diagram of the integrated amplifier, which they also printed on the back of the transformer cover but is wrong (on the earlier models, like mine). Consequently, the included printed manual reflects this mistake. Here's the correct version from the downloadable manual.

If you find this small, the bigger version in on Page 35.

The MM phonostage  

I'm surprised how the MM phonostage sounds like. It definitely is not an afterthought and can be compared to standalone units.  

The first hint of glory is when I connected my vintage JVC QL-Y66F with a two decade old Clearaudio Aurum Beta cartridge that surprised at how good it sounds.  

Recently, I decided to use the Nagaoka MP-110 which for lack of interest has been parked days after I purchased it. I mounted it on the TA-1000 NEO and configured the PH-10 for MM. I was pleasantly surprised in this rediscovered experience with the Acoustic Signature Tornado NEO fitted with a $150 cartridge.  

After a couple of days listening to this new combination, I decided to use the X200 phonostage and what a revelation and confirmation of how good the built-in MM phonostage really is.  

It is a complementary feature that enhances the value of the Qualiton X200. I will dare say that it is as enjoyable in performance compared to my Clearaudio Nano V2, iFi iPhono V2, or even the Gold Note PH-10.  

It has lower gain compared to the PH-10 (at 0dB gain setting) and will need two clicks volume up from the remote control. The soundstage is deeper but not smaller and retains the tonality and timbre of the X200.

Final verdict

Is the price worth it? Hell, yes!

To be honest, my mind was conditioned to the purchase of the Gryphon Diablo 120 and the Qualiton X200 audition was supposed to be a validation of the former's supremacy. But I believe the Gryphon is demanding a bigger room which is why it behaved that way it did.

The Qualiton X200 offered many qualities of the Gryphon and suits my room perfectly. I'm not going to list each and every vinyl or digital track I used, but these are what I get from the X200:

  • Inner resolution and detail, which is a real surprise to me considering the X200 is all tubes, except the phonostage and headphone out I assume.
  • Holographic soundstage and imaging in a much improved way the Hegel H190 ever achieved and the Diablo 120 failed to deliver.
  • "Midrange magic" which is something I am expecting.
  • Tone and timbre that are palpable. Nuance and texture in spades.
  • The X200 can do metal! To be honest BABYMETAL sounded exceptionally good with the X200.
  • For a tube amplifier, the X200 has the PRaT I'm accustomed to with Naim and it was a pleasant surprise.

Because of the results I am convinced I have to "align" my digital front end which currently are the Surface Pro running Audirvana connected via USB to the iFi Zen DAC.

The Audio Hungary products are distributed by Audiostars PH and you can visit their Facebook page as well.

Equipment used

  • Audio Hungary Qualiton X200 tube integrated amplifier
    • 2 x Electro Harmonix 6922
    • 2 x Electro Harmonix 12AX7
    • 4 x Tungsol KT120
  • Scansonic MB3.5B
  • Magnepan 1.7
  • Infinity Kappa 200
  • iFi Zen DAC
  • Acoustic Signature Tornado NEO turntable
    • TA-1000 NEO tonearm w/ Koetsu Urushi
    • Clearaudio TT-3 tonearm w/ Clearaudio Concerto
  • Gold Note PH-10 phonostage
  • Harman/Kardon HD-750 HDCD player
  • Naim Headline-2 headphone amplifier
  • Nordost Blue Heaven speaker cables
  • Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects
  • Furutech e-TP80 power filter distributor