YBA 2 HC power amplifier Page 3

Overall dynamics were punchy. Mahlerian climaxes were not reined in; Eddie Van Halen's essential guitar lines on Latoya's slightly-more-famous brother's "Beat It" raggedly ripped around the room. Even at high levels, the amplifier's sound didn't harden or become fatiguing. This amplifier has more power (la puissance, en français) than you'd expect from its modest physical size.

The YBA's midrange was more laid-back than the Audio Research Classic 120's, though the Mark Levinson No.20.6 monoblock softened the mid-treble further. The YBA wasn't reticent in the high treble, though, once warmed up, it could never be called bright. And its soundstaging was wide and deep, with excellent ambience retrieval. The traces of Columbia's old 30th Street studio surrounding Paul Chambers's bass on the Super-Bit-Mapped reissue of Miles's Kind of Blue were easily discernible, yet were well integrated with the direct sound of the instrument—just as they would be in real life. (Some writers have promoted the idea that increased image depth is an amplifier artifact and doesn't, therefore, always equate with greater accuracy. If that's true, Gordon, you can call me Albert! See our March issue.)

Though I found the YBA's performance good, it faces stiff competition from domestic solid-state stereo amplifiers that offer much of its performance at a lower price. The Aragon 4004 Mk.II ($1850), Bryston 4B NRB ($2095), Hafler TransNova 9500 ($1900), and McCormack DNA-1 ($1995) have all received rave reviews from Stereophile writers in the last year or so—why should someone spring another $1750 for the YBA?

Personal preference, that's why. All the above amplifiers, in the limited amount of listening I've done to them, seem to offer exceptional clarity and dynamics. However, to a greater or lesser degree, this is coupled with a somewhat vivid overall presentation. It seems difficult for a solid-state amplifier designer to obtain clarity without vividness, and this is where Yves-Bernard André's YBA 2 HC scores in spades: it offers a superbly transparent view into the soundstage, yet nothing is thrust unnaturally at the listener. This is how you hear things in real life. This is how I heard things via the YBA 2 HC.

Cool! (C'est ultra fidèle, en français!)

"L'être dont l'être est de n'être pas," wrote Simone de Beauvoir about humanity: we're essentially beings whose essence lies in having no essence. The French writer could have been describing amplifiers: the perfect amplifier would leave no evidence of its existence other than the fact that the varying voltage representing the music signal has been made larger, resulting in truly musical sound from your speakers.

While the YBA 2HC doesn't reach that paradigm, it does less damage to the signal than most solid-state amplifiers I've heard. Recommended.

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