Boulder 810 line preamplifier & 860 power amplifier Manufacturer’s Comment
Editor: I'm in a hotel room halfway across the country from home with a good bout of the flu and a high fever and trying to write these "Manufacturer's Comments" without sounding crabby. If I fail, then at least I have a good excuse.
When we received the preprint of the 810-860 review, we were all pretty enthusiastic about it, to a point. We learned of four listening sessions and one testing session among three different people, and how the 810-860 combination allowed all of them to enjoy what they heard to an incredible degree. Wes Phillips even considered the 860 "revelatory" when he took the amp home. Twice. We also learned of a problem that occurred in only one person's system that diminished but did not disappear with the removal of the 860. This problem did not occur at all in any of the other systems. To quote one person here at the factory, "Is that it? Where's the part where he figures out what the problem was?" Erm, yeah. About that...
Boulder is an engineering firm, and thus our way of thinking is biased toward scientific methodology and eliminating all of the variables that may be the source of a problem, one by one, until an issue is discovered and can be eliminated. Our first inclination when hearing a wealth of positive information as well as some negative, especially when the negative was still there to some extent with the 860 substituted and completely removed from the system, would be to try to find the source of the issue by removing and replacing each of the other components, one at a time.
It seems to us that the 860 was incredibly revealing of beneficial hidden musical information, but was also revealing of sonic problems previously hidden elsewhere in one of the four systems. We are, of course, about as biased as you can get when coming to that conclusion (we'll readily admit to that), though leaving the problem unsolved means to us that, in this case, the review process isn't finished—the review is only halfway done. The review has presently ended on the assumption that the 860 can reveal only positive information, but is incapable of revealing sonic issues upstream. Finding the source of the problem would not only allow Fred [Kaplan] to possibly hear an improvement in the sound of the music in his home and hear the 860 without distraction, it would also provide a little more reliability and confidence (for readers as well as other manufacturers) in his future review findings. We know from prior experience that the problem could be something as silly and simple as a bad or dirty connection on a cable.
We're not crying sour grapes here—if the problem had occurred consistently when the 860 was in each system, we'd quietly take our lumps and go back to the drawing board. But since it didn't, and since two other listeners did not experience the same issue in their systems in three separate sessions with the amp, we have a hard time accepting that the 860 is the source of the problem, or somehow not as capable of revealing existing low-level negative information as it is the positive. Somewhere, someone shot the messenger.
At this point, our only recommendation to you, Dear Reader, is to trust the ears that matter most: your own. We test, measure, and listen to every product we ship prior to packing it, and we've selected dealers who will have no problem setting up a Boulder 860 for your audition with any number of pieces of associated componentry, including the 810 preamplifier (which, we almost forgot, received very high marks in the review—thanks, Fred). You can hear for yourself just how much information of all types is passed along to you, the listener, and how deeply it can involve you in music and all of its nuances. You be the judge.—Rich Maez, Boulder Amplifiers