Solid State Power Amp Reviews

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Robert Harley, J. Gordon Holt  |  Apr 09, 2019  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1990  |  4 comments
In 1988, Bob Carver set out to design the best amplifier he possibly could, without regard for cost. It was more of an ego exercise than an attempt to build a product with wide commercial appeal. The result was the four-chassis, $17,500 Silver Seven.

Interestingly, Bob Carver chose vacuum tubes to realize his dream of building the ultimate power amplifier. The Silver Seven uses fourteen KT88 output tubes per channel, and puts out 375W into 8 ohms. Bob built three pairs of Silver Sevens, not expecting to sell many at the $17,500 asking price. When those sold quickly, another 10 pairs were manufactured. Now, demand is so great that Silver Sevens are built in groups of 30 pairs.

John Atkinson  |  Apr 02, 2019  |  24 comments
In our February 2019 issue, when I reviewed a new integrated amplifier from Colorado-based Ayre Acoustics, I concluded that "the EX-8 Integrated Hub is a high-end contender at a competitive price" (footnote 1). In that review I promised a Follow-Up in which I would compare the EX-8 with Cambridge Audio's Edge A integrated amplifier, which Ken Micallef had positively reviewed in our January 2019 issue (footnote 2). While I'd enjoyed my time with the EX-8, I'd found its balance rather on the light side, and that it projected voices somewhat forward on the soundstage.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 22, 2019  |  7 comments
I am obliged to begin this review of First Watt's new stereo power amplifier, the SIT-3, with an explanation of how I believe a power amplifier should be reviewed. Why? Because the 18Wpc SIT-3 is a unique and historically important design that can't be wired up to just any loudspeaker and then critiqued on the basis of its bass power, treble brightness, or midrange acuity.
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 08, 2018  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1986  |  4 comments
Japanese audiophiles venerate American high-end audio components, paying huge sums for vintage Marantz tube amplifiers, racks of Levinson ML-2s, and early Audio Research tube preamplifiers. The balance of trade, at the high end anyway, hasn't been reciprocated: Japanese high-end amplifiers and preamplifiers have not received as positive a reception in the US. Perhaps it was a matter of styling, but the sonics of the Sony Esprit line and the class-A Stax amplifiers did not receive the following they might have, had the products been American.
John Atkinson  |  Sep 25, 2018  |  34 comments
I am finding hard to grasp that it is almost 50 years since I first went to a hi-fi show. That show, held at London's Olympia exhibition center, was notable both for Yamaha's launch of a loudspeaker with a speaker diaphragm shaped like a human ear, and for being the first time I saw the drop-dead gorgeous Transcriptors Hydraulic Reference turntable, which was later featured in the film A Clockwork Orange. The most recent show I attended was AXPONA, held last April in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. There I saw no ear-shaped drive-units, but the final room I visited featured sound that the 1969 me could have only fantasized about.
Ken Micallef  |  Aug 23, 2018  |  31 comments
Designed in New York City, manufactured in Poland, and barely bigger than a thick paperback, the Brooklyn Amp ($2495) is Mytek's first power amplifier. Like all of their products, it's sleek to behold, with a powerful look that suggests the company's pedigree: in addition to high-end consumer electronics, Mytek makes gear for the pro-audio market, where exceptional build quality and space-saving design are the norm.

Consistent with that last characteristic is the Brooklyn Amp's output architecture: it operates in class-D, a technology that remains controversial.

Robert Deutsch  |  Aug 02, 2018  |  First Published: Apr 01, 1995  |  1 comments
Founded by Nelson Pass in 1974, Threshold is one of those companies audiophiles tend to take for granted. Best known for the much-imitated Stasis (sliding bias) amplifier designs, Threshold became one of the industry leaders during the early 1980s. Since then, they've been upstaged somewhat by such rivals as Krell and Mark Levinson, and the public's impression of the company's stability wasn't helped by the departure of several of its principals, including Nelson Pass.
Michael Fremer  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  51 comments
Not everyone needs a power amplifier that can deliver 888W RMS into 8 ohms or 1776W into 4 ohms. You could say that no one needs one of these—or two, if you want to listen in stereo. Most household AC systems can't even provide enough current to deliver all that power. But Simaudio does build Moon 888 monoblocks, and people do buy them, whether or not they need an amp that weighs about 250 lb each and costs $118,888/pair.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 24, 2018  |  42 comments
It was almost seven years ago that Nelson Pass, whose talks and exhibits I'd covered at many a Bay Area Burning Amp DIY event and audio show, surprised me with a loan of two Pass Laboratories' XA 160.5 class-A monoblock amplifiers. Ten months later, after I'd commented that my system had challenged the XA 160.5s in the bass department, he sent me a pair of XA200.5 monos. I connected those bigger babies to Wilson Audio Sophia 3 loudspeakers and some now-discontinued digital components with Nordost Odin 1 interconnects and speaker cables. Then came my way, toward the end of 2016, the XA200.8 monoblocks ($42,000/pair).

Robert Deutsch  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  4 comments
When it comes to amplifiers, ya gotcher tubes, yer solid-states, and yer hybrids. Although amplifier manufacturers would have you believe otherwise, the majority of designs within each category are variations on a few fairly-well-known themes. Everyone agrees that the power supply is extremely important. Most designers try to obtain the amplifier's desired frequency response and distortion characteristics with a minimum of negative feedback. It's also agreed—at least among designers of solid-state amps—that the ability to drive a variety of speakers, including those that present a low-impedance and/or reactive load, is an important priority.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 21, 2018  |  39 comments
On the second morning of a recent audio show, I walked into the exhibit room of Bricasti Design.

"How about some Mahler?" asked cofounder and designer Brian Zolner.

"Oh God. Not at 10am!"

Herb Reichert  |  Jun 14, 2018  |  10 comments
An e-mail from an old audiophile pal: "Herb, my buddy owns a recording studio, and he told me one of his $10k reference amplifiers stopped working and the manufacturer said it would take months to be repaired. So he went online and bought this 60W AkitikA solid-state amplifier to use while his big amp was being repaired. The trouble is, the kit cost only $314. (The studio guy bought his assembled and tested for $488.) Now, he likes the AkitikA more than his broke-down reference amp."
Larry Greenhill  |  May 01, 2018  |  13 comments
When I reviewed the Mark Levinson No.536 monoblock, I said that its sound quality was second to none. However, its stratospheric price of $30,000/pair unnerved me—only seven of the 35 top-rated solid-state power amplifiers listed in the April 2017 edition of Stereophile's "Recommended Components" cost more, and a similar number (not the same models) deliver more power into 8 ohms. "But don't despair," I wrote—"Mark Levinson has just released a less expensive version of the No.536: the dual-mono, 350Wpc No.534 stereo amp ($20,000)." I requested a review sample of the No.534, to see if it matched the No.536's outstanding qualities of build and sound.
Kalman Rubinson  |  May 01, 2018  |  4 comments
For some years now, I've tried to free myself from playing physical media and get all my music organized on a server. It's not that I don't enjoy handling and playing discs, but it's almost impossible to keep track of them. When my collection was only a thousand or two LPs, I felt I could remember each one individually. But now I have several times that many silver discs, and I know I can't.
Larry Greenhill  |  Mar 27, 2018  |  18 comments
I've found that some audio amplifiers have sonic signatures so subtle that they emerge only over weeks of listening; yet other amps sound so distinctive—more vivid, more transparent, more dynamic—that their signatures are immediately apparent. Can those latter qualities really be inherent in the recording, or are they colorations produced in the amplifier?

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