Berning EA-2100 power amplifier Anthony H. Cordesman July 1985

Anthony H. Cordesman wrote about the Berning 2100M in July 1985 (Vol.8 No.3)

Wife: I read your draft reviews on the Futterman, Conrad Johnson, and Audio Research (footnote 2).

Husband: Ummmm.

Wife: If I were one of your readers, I'd think you missed a key point.

Husband: Urrmhm?

Wife: Doesn't the Berning 2100M cost less than half of all those other super amplifiers you are reviewing?

Husband: Umph.

Wife: Even if it wasn't the absolute best, wasn't the Berning 2100M directly competitive in most ways with amplifiers costing twice as much?

Husband: Grmmmmm.

Wife: Didn't you say that Dave Berning had corrected virtually all of the problems in depth and dynamics you heard in the early versions, and now had a much smoother continuity from top to bottom than the version Stereophile reviewed earlier.

Husband: Yes, but it still has all the minor limitations I described in my reviews, and it's cable-sensitive. You really do have to choose interconnects and speaker cables that match the amplifier.

Wife: I thought you said it worked very well with Monster Powerline II and the Interlink Reference interconnects, and that those were popular and anyone could get them. Also, didn't it work very well with the Randall cables?

Husband: Yes, but...

Wife: I thought you also said it had some pretty nifty technology. After all, it does provide 100 watts per channel, and it provides nearly 170 watts per channel before it clips. It also has exceptional bandwidth for a tube amplifier with –3dB points at 7Hz and 70kHz, uses only 8dB of negative feedback, has only 4.5 ohms of internal small signal output impedance, almost no TIM, and has no slew rate distortion.

I've heard it's also "all triode" and uses a special triode output stage with controlled damping and superior linearity. The power supply uses totally new kinds of tubes called MOSFETs, diodes, Triacs, and Toroids, and has a high frequency conversion system that charges the capacitors 140,000 times per second and eliminates power line garbage and transformer hum. And, it has very soft clipping.

Husband: You're just reading the spec sheet that Dave Berning sent me, and you've just invented four new kinds of tubes that aren't in the literature you're reading from.

Wife: So what, that's how most reviewers write their reviews, anyway. Besides, I'm entitled to some poetic license.

Furthermore, I think you should emphasize the fact that the Berning 2100M has extended tube life, weighs only 40lb, and measures only 5¼" high, 19" wide, and 17¼" deep. I like the idea of a tube amplifier that people can actually lift up and easily place in their home systems without it causing hum, heat or hernias.

Husband: I don't review for sissies.

Wife: In fact, you even said you like the Berning 2100M more than the Audio Research D-70, the Quicksilver, or the Conrad Johnson Premier Four.

Husband: Furrmpxh! Well, I have to admit that's true. I think the Quicksilver is very good, but it's a classic tube amplifier without real bass power or control, and has sweet, rather than accurate, highs without the extension and detail of the best tube amplifiers. The Berning has more extended, detailed, and dynamic highs than either the Audio Research D-70 or the initial version of the Premier Four, and gives up nothing in the bass or midrange. The modified version does have the sound integrity that was lacking in the version reviewed by Gordon Holt (footnote 3).

Wife: Then it seems to me that you should also point out that the Berning 2100M is a real "best buy," given that it provides nearly 95% of the sound quality of the Futtermans, Conrad Johnsons, and Audio Researches, all of which cost around $6000, and does so at a price well under $3000.

Husband: Well, what about the improved version Conrad Johnson Premier Four and the Audio Research D-70 II and D-115 II?

Wife: They may be great, but you haven't actually listened to any of those, have you? And you have listened to the Berning 2100M. Further, you just mentioned the names of the competing products your readers should listen to, so they can choose for themselves.

Husband: Let me make three things clear: 1) reviewers don't have to listen, they can intuit; 2) we aren't going to sell magazines by encouraging our readers to trust their own judgment; and 3) I'd have to go to all the trouble of writing another review.

Wife: I thought you were just being lazy. How about cleaning out the garage instead?

Husband: You're right! It's a "best buy!" I'll rush up and hit the word processor now, while the muse is still with me.

Wife: Good. You can do the garage when you come down.

Footnote 2: See AHC's review in Vol.7 No.7.

Footnote 3: See JGH's review in Vol.7 No.3.

The David Berning Company
12430 McCrossin Lane
Potomac, MD 20854
(301) 926-3371

NIkos Razis's picture

J. G. Holt was obviously describing a form of switching power supply. It is strange that he does not name the thing since these had been invented decades before and the term SMPS was introduced in 1976 by IBM. Switching power supplies had been used in digital systems long before the 80s. Was it the first time he encountered one of these?

John Atkinson's picture
NIkos Razis wrote:
J. G. Holt was obviously describing a form of switching power supply. It is strange that he does not name the thing since these had been invented decades before . . . Was it the first time he encountered one of these?

As far as I can ascertain, the Berning EA-2100 was the first high-end audio amplifier to use a switch-mode power supply.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

hahax's picture

Actually David used switching power supplies earlier on his Audionics BA150 amplifier and later on his 1st preamp produced by Precedent Audio in 1979.

It's too bad you didn't test the EA-2100. Knowing David his ratings are super conservative. The BA150 was rated at 150 watts per side but that was in an artificial brown out of 100 volts AC. The BA 150 amp really put out about 225 watts a side in triode. It was similar to the EA-2100 except instead of a tube the BA150 driver stage was a transistor which could put out much more current than the EA-2100 tube driver and the output tube was screen drive to make it into a triode but the tube driver couldn't delivwer enough current to fully drive the output stage.

Jack L's picture


Switch Mode Power Supply SMPS for audio amps ?

Thanks but no thanks.

Yes, SMPS is already a standard for powering all our digital devices at home: cellphones, cordless phones, labtop, computers, CD/DVD players etc etc etc.

But NOT for analogue audios, my friends. SMPS emits RFI/EMI noises into our amps.

That said, I still use small SMPS wallwarts to recharge the batteries inside the headamp of my MC cartridge & the bias batteries for all the tubes used in my design/built all-trioide class-A SET power amp. Needless to say, these SMPS are totally switched off from inside the amps after recharging.

Yes, SMPS is efficient & handy & cost dirt cheap to buy. Why not use it for recharging. But never ever used INSIDE any auidos, IMO.

Jack L

sa122's picture

I think Benchmark, manufacturers of the AHB2 power amp, would disagree with you there. It's one of the quietest amps you can buy at any price.