Boulder 2050 monoblock amplifier Page 3

Of course, with a kilowatt of power on tap, I hankered to listen to some BIG music, and so turned to the Bill Holman Band's Brilliant Corners: The Music of Thelonious Monk (JVC JVCXR-0028-2). My listening notes for track 4, "'Round Midnight": "The midrange is so brilliantly fleshed out it's scary. The horns have just the requisite bite and burnish. The highs are soaring, the bass fantastically tight and in control, the pitch differentiation remarkable." The sunshine and joy in the recording—both of the music itself and of the obvious delight the band took in playing it—came through wholly unimpeded. The integrity of the sonic construct, the way it all hung together, was totally convincing. There was nothing out of place, no ragged edges, no compression. All musical lines were distinct and intact, with no evident distortion products clouding the sonics.

The entire presentation was finely detailed, fast, and on time: no jitter, as it were. The music built on this foundation had a kick and swing that helped it come alive. However, I preferred the way VTL's big, tubed MB-1250 Wotans ($27,500/pair) handled the cymbals on this recording; the Boulders sounded a touch more "ticky," with less burnished shimmer.

Playing "Mr. Eddy's Theme" from the soundtrack of Lost Highway (Nothing/Interscope INTD-90090) proved a total gas. My notes: "Man, it's pistonic! The huge, powerful bass is overwhelming and sinister, resonating deep inside me where lives the caveman who dwells in us all." But it sounded slightly dry in comparison to the VTL Wotans or Forsell's The Statement, both of which represent the wet, bloomy side of music reproduction.

As time passed, I realized that the Boulders gave their best when run balanced. Single-ended operation slightly exacerbated their tendency toward dryness. Nevertheless, as I see it, musical truth lies deeply within both "wet" and "dry" camps. It is, after all, entirely a matter of taste.

Wanting to hear if these superamps could handle the small, the nuanced, the finely formed, I cued up Stereophile's latest recording: Duet: Music for Solo Violin & Piano by Janácek, Schulhoff, & Enescu, with violinist Ida Levin and pianist Diane Walsh (STPH012-2). The Janácek and Enescu were recorded in a different venue from the Schulhoff; it was interesting to note the differing acoustics. I prefer the sound of the two works recorded at the St. Francis Auditorium. The integration of the piano and violin sound was as perfectly captured as I've ever heard, especially during the powerful climax of Enescu's Sonata 3, Op.25. But the wetter acoustics of the Loretto Chapel best suited Schulhoff's Sonata for Solo Violin, especially the beautiful second movement, all mysterious and gloaming. There was richness on tap via the 2050s, along with the edge and bite of bow on strings.

The decay characteristics of the two venues were also wonderfully explicated by the Boulder. The chapel sounded wet, wet, wet, even though the violin sounded a touch more astringent than as recorded in the St. Francis. There was for me, however, a musical integrity to the entire affair that was most satisfying. I wasn't there for the recording; but listening to Duet, I'm sure that's what I'd have heard sitting in the audience.

Here's the poop. The Boulder 2050 monoblocks sounded best when driven balanced. And they sounded best balanced when driven by the incredibly impressive (and incredibly expensive) Boulder 2010 Isolated Balanced preamplifier. The all-Boulder system—we're looking at something just over $130,000 for amps, preamp, and converter—proved to be a total, glorious sonic knockout. But when running single-ended, even with the most pedigreed of equipment (the YBA Signature 6 Chassis, the Nagra PL-P), a slight frisson of grain and dryness intruded on my enjoyment of the music.

But that really is no liability. I suspect that anyone with the very long green to shell out $59,000 for a pair of amps also has the funds to buy the rest of the Boulder 2000 series. And I further suspect that that person might very well be interested in buying an entire system rather than merely following an upgrade path. For those Masters of the Universe, my advice would be to go for Boulder hook, line, and sinker. Taken as a system, the three elements that make up the 2000 Series are about as perfect as they come.

3235 Prairie Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 449-8220