Smart Devices 2X150VT power amplifier Page 2
The rear panel includes an IEC AC jack, a pair of speaker protection fuses, five-way binding posts, an AC input fuse, bridging and ground-lift switches, gold-plated RCA input jacks, and two volume pots. The 2X150VT's home-theater pedigree is apparent in its labeling: Input 1 and Input 2, as opposed to the retro (art deco?) Left and Right found on most audiophile gear. Up front are the On/Off switch and two sets of LED power indicators, one for each channel, calibrated at 5, 50, and 150W.
Smart Devices claims some impressive specs for this well-built, very-well-finished amplifier: a conservatively rated 150Wpc into 8 ohms and 240W into 4, all with a low price tag: $2250. If the sound lives up to the claimed specs, this would make the 2X150VT an outstanding value.
The idea of using a power cord or speaker cables costing more than the amplifier struck me as absurd, so I went with Analysis Plus Oval 9 copper speaker wire and a Wireworld Aurora AC cord for most of my listening...though I did try some much more expensive cables. I also compared the 2X150VT to my stock Hafler DH-200.
MOSFET amps tend toward the soft and smooth side of the sonic spectrum, and so did the Smart Devices 2X150VT. With the tube input stage, the amp sounded lush and "tube-like," though no experienced listener would mistake it for an all-tube amp. This was partially because, as with my reference Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300—another hybrid design—the Smart's bass punch and solidity surpassed the performance of many all-tube designs.
The 2X150VT never sounded hard, cold, wiry, or brittle, yet transients were reasonably well rendered, with sufficient speed and detail to bring a healthy dose of excitement to the sound. However, "fast" and "detailed" don't come to mind when I think of the 2X150VT's overall presentation. If you're shopping at this price point and want sharpness and clarity, you'll find it elsewhere—usually at the price of edginess, with some chill in the air.
There were sufficient power and dynamic proficiency for the 2X150VT to easily drive the 89dB-efficient Audio Physic Avanti IIIs and sound open and at ease at all times and at any volume—not surprising, given the Smart's rating of 240Wpc into the Avanti's nominal 4 ohm load. I was impressed by this $2250 amp's ability to maintain its sonic character at volumes high and low.
When I threw spacious-sounding live albums at the 2X150VT—like The Weavers' Reunion at Carnegie Hall 1963 (Analogue Productions APF005), or Belafonte at Carnegie Hall (Classic Records' 45rpm boxed set), the results were impressive, but there was a slight flattening of soundstage depth, a loss of some air, and the applause was somewhat muted compared to my reference. But the presentation was quite pleasing and "whole."
The Smart's most noticeable deficiency was the 2X150VT's mushing-together of instrumental lines occurring in the same tonal space. The Band's second album, The Band, is a very warm recording with a high concentration of low-frequency energy created by a vintage drum kit with a flabby bass drum, tuba, electric bass, and, on many tracks, the acoustic confines of Sammy Davis Jr.'s cabana, which the group had converted into a recording studio. Separating out the sounds of the tuba, bass, bass drum, and the room itself is a tough task, especially for an analog front-end, but I've got it licked. Through the Nu-Vista 300 and a number of other amps far more costly than the 2X150VT, each element of the mix was easily discerned; instrumental lines were easy to follow. The 2X150VT tended to mix together and obscure the individual rhythm and musical lines. I heard this deficiency up and down the frequency spectrum—the general softness and warmth of the presentation were not frequency-dependent.