On January 1, 1990, Canadian electronics manufacturer Bryston instituted a remarkable warranty program that covered each of their products for a full 20 years. This warranty includes all audio products ever manufactured and sold under the Bryston name. Besides covering parts and labor costs, the company will also pay shipping costs one way. This is all the more significant for their 4B NRB amplifier, which has been in production since 1976. The amp's $2k price, while not cheap, is at the lower end of what well-heeled audiophiles typically pay for amplifiers.
The $1200 Counterpoint SA-100 amplifier came up to bat fourth in my listening sessions, behind (in order of appearance) the Adcom GFA-555 II (not reviewed here, but sent along by JA for comparison purposes), the VTL Tiny Triode monoblocks, and the Muse Model One Hundred. Thus, my progression went from bipolar solid-state to tube to MOSFET, with a wide spread of sonic characteristics between them: stygian bass from the Adcom; uncanny spatial presentation and vocal reproduction from the VTLs; and an overall superior sound from the Muse. I was therefore eager to see where the tube/MOSFET hybrid Counterpoint would fall in this group of very different-sounding amplifiers.
What's in a name? Quite a bit, when you stop and think about it. Would you rather have prostate surgery by Dr. Steadyhand or Dr. Whoops? Names imply a lot, even if we don't consciously make the connection; that's why your Polo shirt was made by Ralph Lauren instead of Ralph Lipshitz.
Recently, on the StereophileWeb forum, reader Natal commented on Robert J. Reina's review of the Creek Audio Destiny integrated amplifier in the January 2007 issue: "Maybe it's just me but I've never found any piece of electronic equipment sexy."
"I've know I've seen this amp before," I thought to myself when I lifted the $1200 Muse Model One Hundred out of the box, and I wasn't thinking of Robert Harley's review of the identical-looking Muse Model One Hundred Fifty reviewed in January 1990, either. No, I'd seen this amp before, somewhere else, in some other magazine, but with a different manufacturer's name.
As a reviewer who has focused on seeking out high-quality audiophile gear for cost-constrained readers, I'm embarrassed to say that the flagship RB-991 stereo amplifier is the first Rotel product I've had in my house. (To be fair to myself, this 38-year-old family-owned company did not develop a large US market presence until this last decade.)
The last Classé power amplifier I reviewed, back in November 2004, was the imposing Omega Omicron monoblock ($20,000/pair), which made glorious sound with the Revel Ultima Studio speakers. But things change. First, my reference speakers are now B&W 802Ds. Second, my system now has three front speakers, supplemented by two B&W 804S speakers for surround sound. While a quintet of Omicrons would undoubtedly be dandy, five such monoliths would take up so much space that I'd be wondering about their effects on the room's sound. With so many channels, it seemed time to investigate whether a multichannel amp could carry the load.
Canadian manufacturers enjoy a special relationship with the US market. Though technically their products are "imports," a high level of trade harmony, plus a common continental location, mean that Canadian designs tend to be equably priced in contrast to those exported to the States from overseas.
Talk about going from the ridiculous to the sublime. One day I'm reviewing the $139 Sonic Impact Super T power amplifier, and the next day Krell Industries delivers their $10,000 Evolution 505 SACD/CD player, $15,000 Evolution 202 preamplifier, and their $30,000/pair Evolution 600 monoblocks.
I've been tweaking my weekend multichannel system for years, but with my city system I've kinda faked it. I now realize that I listen more actively to the weekend system, and not only because that's when I have the time for it—the sound of that system is simply more engaging and psychologically immersive. So, with the growth of my library of SACD and DVD-Audio recordings to almost half the size of my CD collection, I told my wife that it was time to transform of "our" city stereo rig into a full-blown multichannel system.
Eleven years ago, Threshold Corporation entered the high-end audio market with the first amplifier ever to use sliding bias (footnote 1) in its output stages. Some 10 years later, Threshold spawned another innovation: their so-called Stasis circuitry, which yielded the S-series amplifiers. The SA-1 and its lower-powered sister SA-2 are the latest from Threshold, and are the first Threshold amps to abandon sliding bias for straight class-A operation. Both use the Stasis circuit.
Best known for its omnidirectional loudspeakers, the German manufacturer mbl also produces three complete lines of high-performance electronics that, despite being large and built to jewel-like perfection, are sometimes lost in the shadow cast by the dramatic-looking—and -sounding—Radialstrahler 101E, which I reviewed in October 2004.
When most of us think about the folks who populate the high-end audio industry, we tend to conjure up the designers—the names above the titles, as it were. Or, in many cases, the names that are the titles: Richard Vandersteen, Jim Thiel, Bill Conrad and Lew Johnson, Mike Creek, to name just a few.