Coda Technologies S5 power amplifier Wes Phillips, August 2005
After testing a new sample of the Coda Technologies S5 stereo power amplifier (May 2005, Vol.28 No.5), JA left it at my house for additional listening. Even though, at $3750, the S5 is more than twice the price of a pair of Channel Islands D-100 monoblocks, it seemed a likely subject for a level-matched comparison.
I began with the Hilliard Ensemble's CD of Guillaume de Machaut's Motets (ECM New Series 1823), and the Coda and the CIAs sounded pretty darn close. Both captured the big acoustic of Propstei St. Gerold, and both placed the tenor lead quite distinctly nearer the listener than the other vocalists—and the decay on the individual parts was rendered with delicacy and precision. With the motets, I was hard-pressed to choose between the amps, which was pretty good going for the D-100s.
Things were less equivalent with Pierino Gamba and London Symphony's Rossini Overtures (CD, JVC JVCXR 0229-2). The D-100s presented a large soundstage and lots of dynamic resolution, but the S5 captured the snare-drum rolls in La Gazza Ladra with a tighter brrrrrp. The snares sounded looser and flabbier. The Coda also kept the lid on the fortissimo passages better, handling them with more ease—the D-100s sounded as though they were teetering ever so slightly at the edge of control. Exciting, but not, I suspect, an accurate reflection of the LSO's performance.
On Rockin' the Spirit, the amps were again very close. Both the CIAs and the Coda gave me a big soundstage with lots of enveloping spatial cues, but I felt the S5 better conveyed the body of the pianos, especially in regard to the strong left-hand work of the four stride pianists. This wasn't entirely an issue of bass response, though I did feel the S5's bottom end was ever so slightly tauter. It was, rather, more that the bass lines were better integrated with the middle and upper keyboard lines. I have no idea why I was aware of this with well-recorded solo piano—and piano four-hands, of course—and not with the Rossini overtures, but there you go. Comparisons can be full of surprises.
The biggest surprise, of course, was how well the Channel Islands D-100s acquitted themselves going head to head with an amp as good as the Coda S5.—Wes Phillips