As technology develops, things get more and more complicated. With every update of Windows, the program offers greater flexibility, but runs slower and makes greater demands on hardware. Automobiles have become so complex that only the most highly trained mechanics are able to fix even a minor malfunction. Surround-sound processors come with inch-thick owner's manuals.
Sometimes products are too cheap for their own good, and people don't take them seriously: the Superphon Revelation Basic Dual Mono preamp, Rega RB300 arm, AR ES-1 turntable, Shure V15-V MR cartridge, and the B&K ST-140 power amp. They can't be any good because they cost so little, right?
I am reluctant to call any given transistor power amplifier a "best buy" or "breakthrough." From my talks with designers and other audiophiles, it is clear that the state of the art in power amplifiers is about to change. From where I stand, the Adcom GFA-555 is the first sample of this new wave. It is so clearly superior to past amplifiers in the low- to mid-priced range—not to mention most amplifiers two to three times its pric—that I can unhesitatingly recommend it for even the most demanding high end system.
For me, the iconic Adcom power amplifier was the GFA-555. As an aspiring audiophile, I was deeply impressed with Tony Cordesman's review in Stereophile in 1985 (Vol.8 No.4). That did it! After years of kit-building and doing it myself, the '555 was the first factory-built amp that I wanted and could afford. Over the years, I changed speakers several times, and even added a fully regulated power supply to the '555, but it never balked. At the end of its tenure at my house, it had been demoted to my third-string backup; today it's making someone else tap his toes.
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the Titan who supported the heavensalthough he's more commonly shown supporting Earth itself. (Funny thing, that: the globe he was always shown supporting actually did once represent the cosmos, but at some point became the Earth.) According to Hygenus, Atlas was the son of Aether, the personification of the sky and heaven, and Gaia, the personification of the Earth. Atlas was brother to Prometheus (foresight), Epithemius (hindsight), and Menoetius (a warrior whose insolence got him smitten by a lightning bolt from Zeus, resulting in a name synonymous with "ruined strength").
When I first saw Anthem Statement's M1 at the 2011 CEDIA Expo, it was a bolt from the blue. Happening on this flat, black slab of an amplifier lying on a display table or bolted to a wall, reminded me of the appearance of the iconic monolith in Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The M1's dimensional ratios are not 12:22:32, and there are many other one-rack-unit ampsyet, like the monolith on the moon, the M1 was in such striking contrast to everything else in its environment that it demanded attention and reflection.
Like most audiophiles, I salivate over the latest Jurassic, second-mortgage-inducing power amplifier. Whether it's about the music itself, or simply "my amp is bigger than your amp" one-upmanship, we all know that those who risk a hernia in pursuit of the ultimate in sound invariably come out winners.
"Why no review of the Ayre V-3?" queried Stephen Slaughter in July's "Letters" column, echoing several urgent posts to my e-mail address. Word of mouth on this remarkable 100Wpc amplifier was reaching fever pitch. Show reports over the last several years had sounded a consistent note—rooms that demoed with V-3s kept getting mentioned in "Best of Show" overviews. Naturally, this also meant that the pendulum had started its backward swing. "It's not really as good as people are saying," one WCES attendee confided in me. "That's why they won't give it to critics."
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 heard my share of Krells, Levinsons, Rowlands, and the like in other people's systems—expensive solid-state amplifiers are not my usual beat. With the exception of an inexpensive Adcom a few years back, for more than a decade I've owned and reviewed only tube amps. In fact, until the $7500 Ayre Acoustics V-1 showed up, I'd not had one in my system. Similarly, I'd had only tube preamps until I reviewed the Ayre K-3, which so impressed me that I asked to hear the more expensive K-1—and ended up buying it.
I must admit that even before I connected up this amplifier I was put off by the accompanying literature. B&K makes some persuasive points about the validity (or rather the lack thereof) of some traditional amplifier tests, but the literature was so loaded with flagrant grammaticides, syntactical ineptitudes, and outright errors that I could not help but wonder if the same lack of concern had gone into the product itself (eg, the term "infrasonic" is used throughout to mean "ultrasonic"). Good copy editors aren't that hard to find; B&K should have found one.
The word on Bel Canto's upsampling DAC was already out when I visited their room at the 2000 Consumer Electronics Show looking to get one of the first samples. But despite my protestations, all Bel Canto's Mike McCormick wanted to talk about was their company's new digital amp, the eVo 200.2. Sure, there's a future out there in which all sources will be digital and D/A conversion will occur in the speaker (or later?). But today, I see no practical advantage in a digital amplifier with only an analog input. It may be more efficient and it may be new technology, but the amplifier has got to stand on the same footing as any analog design and justify its existence by the way it sounds. The eVo did make a good case for itself at the demo, so I signed up to get one for review.
I've been enthusiastically tracking the development of Bel Canto's class-D amplifiers, from their original TriPath-based models to their more recent designs based on Bang & Olufsen's ICEpower modules. With each step, Bel Canto has improved their amps' sound quality and reliability.