Solid State Power Amp Reviews

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Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 08, 2023  |  18 comments
The Momentum M400 MxV Mono amplifier ($79,500/pair) is the latest iteration of Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' debut amplifier of 2011, the Momentum Mono amplifier. Weighing 95lb, it is smaller and lighter than its entry-level sibling, the more powerful, 125lb Progression M550 Mono amplifier ($47,500/pair), and is veritably dwarfed by some other monoblocks, including the flagship D'Agostino Relentless Epic 1600 (570lb) and the Karan Acoustics POWERa mono (231lb), which I reviewed in May 2023. But if the M400 MxV's rock-solid look and feel and its exquisite aesthetics—a sleek amalgam of silver and copper fronted by a power meter that glows green and radiates Rolex quality—are any indication, a helluva lot is going on beneath its showy exterior.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Apr 13, 2023  |  24 comments
It began with a bad outlet. Perhaps two weeks after my husband and visiting friend created several delightful holiday light displays in the living room, one of the living room outlets died. Every time I tried to plug in part of the light show, it, along with the living room sound system and reading lights, lost power. If the Grinch didn't exactly steal Christmas, he sure tried to guarantee it would arrive silently under the cover of darkness.

I moved fast. Distributor Wynn Wong would arrive from Toronto in less than a month, to install two Serbian-made Karan Acoustics POWERa monoblocks ($106,000/pair) for review. These monoblocks weigh an astounding 231lb each, with a shipping weight of 286lb; each contains two 2700VA toroidal transformers and a 210,000µF bank of custom capacitors. Each monoblock requires two 15A power cables, one for each amplifier stage.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 24, 2023  |  16 comments
At AXPONA 2022, I eagerly headed to the Esoteric exhibit, where I spoke with Keith Haas, national sales manager of 11 Trading Company, Esoteric's US distributor. When I learned of the forthcoming Grandioso M1X monoblock ($35,500 each), the culmination of a complete revision of the company's top-selling M1 monoblock (now discontinued), I worked with Haas and Editor Jim Austin and set up a review.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 23, 2022  |  49 comments
It's a not untypical tale. Two veteran engineers, Jason Stoddard, who had extensive experience in product design, development, manufacturing, and marketing, and Mike Moffat, who had an impressive track record designing hi-fi products (footnote 2), got together in June 2010 to start an audio company. What wasn't typical was the new company's brand name: Schiit Audio. What also wasn't typical was the company's business strategy.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Nov 04, 2022  |  56 comments
Back in 1999, while reviewing the Wazoo integrated amplifier from Bow Technologies, I learned that its designer and company founder, Bo Christensen, had previously founded another audio company. That's how I discovered Primare. Over the years, various products from Primare have appeared at audio shows but never grabbed my attention. In a recent EISA press presentation, however, Primare showcased an eight-channel amplifier that did, given my interest in multichannel audio. I was glad to be able to attend.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 28, 2022  |  3 comments
We've all been in similar situations. We approach an undertaking with the highest of expectations. Then reality intervenes, expectations change radically, and we have another story to tell, post on social media, or use to begin a review.

This tale of altered expectations began a few years after my birth, at AXPONA 2022, where I covered several stellar-sounding rooms that included Simaudio Moon electronics. By the third such room, I'd resolved to contact Simaudio, check in with Jim Austin, and see if there was a product that made sense to review in my system.

Ken Micallef  |  Sep 02, 2022  |  9 comments
Reviewing LKV Research's Veros PWR+ power amplifier in the September 2020 issue, Senior Contributing Editor Herbert Reichert enthusiastically opined, "the class-D LKV amp played equally rich and atmosphere-soaked through the entire audio band. It did atmospheric dreamy like class-A does atmospheric dreamy." Herb concluded, "Sound quality and music enjoymentwise, the LKV Research Veros PWR+ amplifier sits on a higher mountain than any other class-D amp I've encountered."
Michael Fremer  |  Aug 17, 2022  |  28 comments
Some time ago, an amplifier in for review caught fire when first powered up. I don't mean it smoked and sizzled and shut down—I mean that actual flames shot through the top grate. Fortunately, I was able to grab a kitchen fire extinguisher and douse the thing with foam. (Sorry, this was decades ago, and I don't remember the brand, but I think the company had a fire sale and was shut down.)
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 01, 2022  |  65 comments
Like an immense night bird aloft in the gold'n sky.
I should like to sail off towards islands of flow'rs
While list'ning to the perverse sea singing
In its old and bewitching rhythm.

It took some time to figure out why, in the middle of auditioning Rotel's Michi S5 stereo power amplifier ($7499.99) with the room-shaking opening of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra, Ravel's far subtler and perfumed setting of Tristan Klingsor's lyrics from Shéhérazade came to mind.

John Atkinson  |  Apr 22, 2022  |  9 comments
As I started to write this review, the news broke that Sound United, the owner of Boston Acoustics, Bowers & Wilkins, Classé, Definitive Technology, Denon, Marantz, and Polk, was going to be purchased by a corporation that makes medical instruments. Such consolidation is not new. China- and UK-based International Audio Group (IAG) was one of the first organizations to acquire iconic audio brands. IAG owns Audiolab, Castle, Quad, Leak, Mission, and Wharfedale. In 2009, they purchased Luxman.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Feb 23, 2022  |  7 comments
Like the proverbial pot of gold, darTZeel's golden equipment beckons. That, at least, is how it felt in January 2010, when John Atkinson and I ended our coverage of T.H.E. Show Las Vegas in the room shared by darTZeel, Evolution Acoustics, and Playback Designs. Listening to darTZeel's discontinued NHB-458 monoblocks (footnote 1) and NHB-18NS reference preamplifier (now updated), I was transfixed by the fullness of the system's midrange and overall beauty of the sound. "It was as though the system was opening its heart and welcoming us in," I wrote. "That's how warm and nurturing the sound was."
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Dec 24, 2021  |  31 comments
The $50,000, 176lb Accustic Arts AMP V (pronounced Amp Five) is the heaviest, tallest, most powerful, most expensive stereo amplifier to enter my audio system. With rated power of 900Wpc into 8 ohms, 1360Wpc into 4 ohms, and 1500Wpc into 2 ohms, the AMP V, which stands proud at the top of the Accustic Arts amplifier line, surpasses my reference D'Agostino Progression M550's rated power into 4 ohms by 260Wpc.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Oct 20, 2021  |  19 comments
We audiophiles so frequently get caught up in the pursuit of perfection that some have attempted to rebrand high-end audio as "perfectionist audio." But is it even possible for a single piece of audio gear, let alone an entire audio system, to attain perfection when there's no common agreement as to what "perfection" means? It's easier to cue up a Nirvana track than to find the way to audio nirvana.

Michael Fremer  |  Jun 24, 2021  |  3 comments
In an April 2020 press release, the McIntosh Group announced that its subsidiary brand Sumiko, which was cofounded by the late Dave Fletcher and distributes Sonus Faber and Pro-Ject among other high-performance brands, had secured distribution rights for Rotel Electronics in the US and Latin America. That press release prompted memories of a Rotel RP-3000 direct drive turntable I once owned, fitted with a Lustre GST arm.
Kalman Rubinson  |  May 21, 2021  |  33 comments
Power amplifiers should be boring. They have a single, well-defined function: Make the input signal large enough to run a loudspeaker so that it makes sound at levels suitable for listening to music. Generally, controls and features are few or none. Peter Walker of Quad famously defined the ideal amplifier as a "straight wire with gain." That's just one feature: gain.

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