Solid State Power Amp Reviews

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John Atkinson Posted: Apr 06, 2012 0 comments
There is always a conflict between the needs of reviewers and the realities of the marketplace. Once a reviewer has invested his time and energy in a review, he would like that product to remain in production for all time, which would allow it to be used as a reliable recommendation forever. But whatever the product and whatever the category, sales of a product almost always follow the same triangular curve: a sharp rise at the product's introduction, a maximum reached sometime thereafter, and then a steady decline to a sustained but low plateau. Marketing-minded manufacturers therefore introduce a new model every three or four years, in hopes of turning that single triangle into a continuous sawtooth wave.
Michael Fremer Posted: Mar 19, 2012 3 comments
As large as a small file cabinet and weighing 223 lbs, MBL's most powerful amplifier, the Reference 9011, is a tour de force of electronics design and implementation that will set you back $53,000 if you're a single-ended stereo enthusiast, or $106,000 if you like pure balanced mono.
Kalman Rubinson Posted: Nov 23, 2011 4 comments
As I write this, in early August, the global economy is in flux and the stock market gyrates, seeming in stark contrast with the gleaming, luxurious audio components that surround me. Perhaps there is some prescience in my rising interest in reasonably priced, high-performance products, as exemplified by the Oppo Digital BDP-95 universal Blu-ray player, which I reviewed in this column in September. Surely there must be other products that provide truly excellent sound at prices strikingly lower than expected.
John Atkinson Posted: Sep 02, 2011 10 comments
"That's just silly on so many counts, Antony."

I was talking last winter to Musical Fidelity's Antony Michaelson, who had been enthusing about his forthcoming stereo amplifier, the AMS100. It would be physically enormous—almost a yard deep—and commensurately heavy at 220 lbs. Despite its bulk, its maximum rated output would be just 100Wpc into 8 ohms. It would also be expensive, at $19,999. And to cock a snoot at environmentalists and their concerns, the AMS100's output stage would be biased into class-A up to its rated 8 ohm power, meaning that, even when not playing music, it will draw around 10 amps from a typical US wall supply of 120V. This also means that it will run very hot, making the amplifier impracticable for summer use in homes without central air-conditioning. Like mine.

Larry Greenhill Posted: Aug 19, 2011 1 comments
"Larry, you have too many amplifiers!" exclaimed John Atkinson during a recent visit. This surprised me—I didn't think it was possible to have too many amps. While I'm not going to open an amp museum, I do have a starter collection of Mark Levinson amplifiers from different eras. This either makes me exactly the right or the wrong person to size up Mark Levinson's new No.532H.
Michael Fremer Posted: Aug 12, 2011 1 comments
That is not a typo. The company is named Soulution—as in soul commitment to designing and manufacturing the finest audio gear it knows how, as in souldiering on in the face of skeptics who can't imagine why a power amplifier that puts out 130Wpc into 8 ohms or 260 into 4 ohms should cost $45,000, or weigh as much as a small pickup truck.
Erick Lichte Posted: Apr 12, 2011 7 comments
Audio reviewers are kinda slutty. Not sexually, of course, but in the way we promiscuously go through equipment. Like the most popular girl in school, or Tiger Woods, we have our choice of any hot thing we want, whenever we want it. Heck, reviewers don't even have to pick up equipment at bars or clubs: the stuff is delivered right to our homes. We use the gear for a few months, then send it packing once the next hottie comes over to play in our room.
John Atkinson Posted: Mar 09, 2011 6 comments
On the face of it, the power amplifier has the simplest conceptual task of any audio component. Fed an audio signal at its input, all it has to do to satisfy the demands for current made by the loudspeaker is to modulate a high-voltage voltage supply with that signal. Yet power amplifiers vary enormously in their ability to perform that task without editorializing. As a result, when I find an amplifier that appears to step out of the way of the music in the manner I desire, I make the commitment, I buy it, and I stick with it.
Wes Phillips Posted: Feb 18, 2011 5 comments
When Philip O'Hanlon of On a Higher Note, Luxman's US distributor, delivered the B-1000F monoblocks, it took three of us to wrestle their shipping crates into my house and then into the listening room. Once they were unpacked, it still took two of us to maneuver each of them into position—at 141 lbs and 16.9" wide by 11.6" high by 23.3" deep, the B-1000F is far from easy to shift. Fortunately, O'Hanlon had also brought along a pair of Stillpoint stands specifically made for the Luxmans; the B-1000Fs certainly wouldn't have fit into my equipment racks. (The Stillpoints are lovely things. I recommend 'em if you go for the B-1000Fs.)

When O'Hanlon told me the price of the stands—$2500/pair—I asked what the amps cost.

"Fifty-five," he said.

"You mean the stands are 45% of the price of the amps?"

Art Dudley Posted: Sep 13, 2010 0 comments
One of my favorite parental duties is dispensing advice that's calculated to make me sound wiser than I am. Among those pearls: Every so often you should change your point of view—your philosophies—just to see if your opinions can stand the strain. In doing so, you may discover a few things that are better than you expected them to be!
John Atkinson Posted: Mar 15, 2010 0 comments
A decade ago, many predicted that amplifiers with switching or class-D1 output stages would come to dominate high-end audio. In a post–Peak Oil world in which the price of energy would always continue to rise, a class-D amplifier's very high efficiency in converting AC from the wall outlet into speaker-driving power would be a killer benefit. Although a conventional push-pull class-B amplifier has a theoretical efficiency of 78.5%, which would seem usefully high, this efficiency is obtained only at the onset of clipping; the need for the output devices to carry a standing bias current reduces that efficiency considerably, typically to around 50%. Class-A amplifiers are even less efficient, with a maximum of 25%; ie, three times as much power is dissipated by the amplifier as waste heat as is used to drive the loudspeaker (see "Sam's Space" in this issue).
Michael Fremer Posted: Jan 27, 2010 0 comments
Hang around long enough, and your reward is often to be taken for granted or ignored. Canadian electronics manufacturer Bryston Ltd. has been around since the mid-1970s, and while—if coverage by Stereophile is any indication—the company has hardly been ignored, it's often taken for granted.
Wes Phillips Posted: Jan 15, 2010 0 comments
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the Titan who supported the heavens—although 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").
Wes Phillips Posted: Sep 14, 2009 1 comments
It seems as if I came of audiophile age in the George Kaye era. The first truly high-end system I ever heard contained a pair of Julius Futterman OTL monoblocks that Kaye had "finished" after Futterman's death in 1979 (footnote 1). In the mid-1980s, I owned both an New York Audio Labs (NYAL) Superit phono section and a Moscode 300 amplifier—two lovely examples of high-value high-end. Both components were far from perfect, but they were fun—and, unlike most of the other components that were then highly regarded by magazines and listeners, I could afford them.
Michael Fremer Posted: Jun 23, 2009 0 comments
Musical Fidelity's founder, Antony Michaelson, arrived at my house to help me set up the two chassis of his sleek, limited-edition, $30,000 Titan power amplifier. (The task requires at least two people.) A week later, a representative of Musical Fidelity's US importer, KEF America, dropped by to listen and to deliver three of Musical Fidelity's new V-series products: a phono preamp, a DAC, and a headphone amp. All three fit comfortably into a small paper bag; the price of the three was $700.

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