Sonic Impact Model TA2024 Super T power amplifier Page 2

I was promptly amazed. Not that the Super T worked—I'd figured it would work. But the Super T wasn't too bad—in fact, I sort of forgot all about listening to the Super T and zoned out on Marty Ehrlich's alto-sax solos. "The Mooche" is pretty much trombonist Art Baron's showpiece, but for me, Ehrlich comes awfully close to stealing the show on his second set of variations at the end of the track.

That was good. Now how about some Manu Katché...?

But enough with this music stuff—what about the sound? Forcing myself back into my analytic mode, and despite being impressed that my system's sound hadn't gone all to tarnation, I had to admit that, compared to the $3500/pair Portal Paladin monoblocks it had replaced (see my review in the September 2006 issue), the Sonic Impact Super T had less focus, more grain, a slight haze overall, and less bass control in the deeper passages. In fact, Rendezvous turned out to be a good opening selection, because lesser systems always rob Jerome Harris' Taylor acoustic electric bass of its punch and pop—both of which were essentially MIA with the Super T. Still, the Super costs $159—and who in his or her right mind would connect a 7.5"-tall, 11Wpc amplifier to 6'-tall reference speakers?

Anyway, I'd proven that the Super T "worked"; now it was time to get real. I took it downstairs to my newly created "small" listening room (9' W by 15' L by 7.8' H) and connected it between a Musical Fidelity X-RayV3 CD player and a pair of Linn Tukan speakers with Kimber PBJ and 8TC speaker cable—still no budget system, but all components that I've lived with for years and know well.

Now we were talking! I heard a lot less grain, haze, and hash, and was just as entranced by the music. I started spending a lot of time in my "lesser" listening room, listening long into the night. I was stunned by the amount of bass impact the Super T produced through the Tukans. On Claude Chaloub's eponymous CD (Teldec 8573-83039-2), the sound of his Stradivari violin was more than counterbalanced by the immense bass sounds (augmented by synths, I at first suspected) the Sonic Impact wrested from the disc. Sonic Impact? Hmmm, good name.

Yet I was convinced that still lurking in the Super T was performance I wasn't exploiting. I placed a Shakti Stone on top of it and an immense amount of the remaining haze disappeared, giving the amp a heretofore unsuspected clarity and, yes, focus. No, I have no idea why the Shakti Stone works, other than to bet it's not for any reason given as the "one, true" explanation—but that's what I heard.

I was so emboldened by that change that I wanted to go further. Dubiously eying that switching power supply, I remembered that I had a Monolithic Audio Perpetual Power Plant on the shelf and that it put out more current than the Super T's 3A. Sure enough—again, the sound was transformed. Now the bass on Chaloub's disc had less of that shuddery synth sound and a lot more of that bass-drum-head-flapping tautness. I was starting to question whether there was any bass augmentation going on. Things were getting really good.

Things were also getting out of hand. I was no longer reviewing the Super T, exactly, but a Frankenamp. However, in my defense, it had been a long time since an audio product had gotten my juices flowing the way the Super T did. It made me want to play—play with it, and play music with it.

Common sense always takes a hasty and superficial view
So back to the stock power supply (but keeping the Shakti Stone on top), I began to switch speakers around. The Tukans were fun, so I thought I'd substitute the Dynaudio Focus 140s ($1800/pair), which I reviewed in May. The Dynaudios are about twice the price of the Linns, and the performance difference seemed to justify that. With the Super T, at least, the Linns had an exaggerated presence at around 50Hz that began to explain my reaction to the bass-drum sound on the Chaloub disc—it was far more controlled with the 140s.

Yet the 140s sounded less exciting throughout the presence region, precisely where a violin recording ought to excite. Deciding I'd try another loudspeaker, I looked into my magic storeroom of wonders and beheld a pair of Dynaudio Special Twenty-Fives ($5200/pair). Hmmm, kind of silly...but what the heck.

As ridiculous as it sounds, the combination was magical. At first I was concerned that the Special Twenty-Fives would tax an 11Wpc amplifier, but this speaker spends a lot of its range in the 6 ohm region, which seemed to make the Sonic Impact quite happy. With the Special Twenty-Fives, Jerome Harris rejoined the band he leads on Rendezvous. His bass burbled under, snaked around, and just generally pushed the other musicians wherever he wanted them to be. Welcome back, Jerome!

Claude Chaloub's Strad was far more in proportion to that big bass drum, too. It had a sheen and shimmer that made me remember how loud a violin can be when you're in its field of focus. Well, hel-lo, Claude.

The superfluous is very necessary
I had no sub-$200 amplifiers to compare the Super T to, so I pulled out Channel Island Audio's D100 monoblocks, which at $1399/pair are only 9 times the Sonic Impact's price. I'd like to report that the Super T was the D100's near equal—we all love David-vs-Goliath stories (not that even two of the little D100s could be considered a Goliath)—but the Channel Islands, which also use a class-D output stage though not from Tripath, were just plain better.

It's not so much that the D100s had the edge in smooth sound or drive, although they were superior in both areas. No, it was the resolution of detail, whether spatial or temporal. Sounds started and stopped better with the D100s, which made Rendezvous snap and crackle with more energy. This was especially evident in Billy Drummond's drum sound, which is woody and rich, and in his rhythmic drive, which is artistry that approaches magic.

The Super T got close; the D100 brought it on.

I was intrigued enough by the disparity between the amps that I pulled out all three pairs of stand-mounted monitors and listened to them with the D100s. I clearly heard the differences among the three speakers, but they seemed less extreme than they had with the Sonic Impact. I'll read JA's measurements with interest; I suspect that the Super T's frequency response may vary with impedance, suggesting that choosing the right speaker is the secret to extracting maximum performance from the Super T.

Well, that's just super
All of which seems practically dunderheaded in how it misses the points. First: The Sonic Impact TA2024 Super T costs $159! Second: It's pretty darn good—and can be tweaked to sound even better without spending a ton of money or putting yourself in danger. Third: It sounded good enough that I rediscovered my (not so) inner audio geek, spending hours trying different fixes, making comparisons, doing weird stuff just in case.

The Sonic Impact TA2024 Super T is not going to cause Krell or Halcro any sleepless nights, but it's good enough that it might cost you some snooze time as you stay up late playing records you haven't heard in a long time. If you're an old fart like me, it might reconnect you to the time when hi-fi was fun. And if you're a young'un, it just might persuade you that it is.

And did I mention that it costs only $159?

Sonic Impact Technologies
2555 State Street
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 232-2555