Smart Devices 2X150VT power amplifier Page 3

I recently found a mint original Capitol pressing of Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely (SW-1053), and the recording of Nelson Riddle's desolate arrangements—redolent with such "soft" instruments as French horns, trombones, oboes, and bassoons—is appropriately distant and "back-of-the-studio." Compared to my reference Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista 300, the 2X150VT tended to obscure the sensation of the short reflection time off the studio back wall while, for example, smoothing over the timbral distinction between the four trombones and the single "lonely" trumpet on "What's New." But remember—the rest of my system is made up of equipment far more capable of making these distinctions in the first place. I'll take the 2X150VT's detail-limited but rich presentation over the threadbare every time.

Against its grandfather
After a few weeks with the Smart Devices 2X150VT, I replaced it with my stock Hafler DH-200. The DH-200 is still a very decent-sounding amplifier, but it was no match for the 2X150VT, which offered much more. There was no comparison: The DH-200 sounded constricted, threadbare, and cloudy. It sounded soft and dry, while the 2X150VT gave a far more generous impression of musical flow and overall liquidity—particularly in the midrange, where the Hafler sounded parched. Forget that the Smart is based on the Hafler—the 2X150VT might look like a DH-200, but it sure didn't sound like one. And that's good.

Smart Devices is to be forgiven for their hyperbole about the powerful, well-engineered, pleasing-sounding, and reasonably priced 2X150VT. I would have preferred they left those volume pots out of the circuit—they can only obscure inner detail and low-level resolution, in my opinion—but the Smart's strengths aren't really about such qualities anyway.

The 2X150VT is a moderately powerful, warm-sounding, tube-MOSFET amplifier that avoids sounding soft and mushy and certainly doesn't sound bright, hard, and sterile, as some solid-state amps at this price can. The bass was extended and reasonably well-controlled, the mids liquid and harmonically well-developed, and the top sufficiently fast and detailed to prevent sonic boredom. It gave up some transient excitement, spatial information, resolution of inner detail, and air, but avoided altogether any grain, grunge, or hardness. Most important, its presentation held together, creating a whole musical picture. Overall, it was very pleasant and easy to listen to this "soft-focus" amplifier.

If you crave crystalline clarity, razor-sharp transients, and an "exciting" presentation, the Smart Devices 2X150VT probably isn't for you. But if I have to compromise, I'll take sins of omission and pass on "excitement," which usually ends up grinding you down in the long run.

I enjoyed listening to the Smart Devices 2X150VT over an extended period of time. Its overall well-balanced performance meant that its minor shortcomings became evident only in comparisons with far more expensive amplifiers. Mating the 2X150VT with a preamplifier of the opposite sonic persuasion could result in a system with truly outstanding sound. And the price is right.

Smart Devices
5945 Peachtree Corners East
Norcross, GA 30071-1337
(800) 457-6278