Adcom GFA-565 monoblock power amplifier

"Hello, it is I, C. Victor Campos."

It was Adcom's Director of Product Development on the phone. He had just read my January review of the B&K M-200 monoblocks, in which I noted how Anthony H. Cordesman always seemed to rave about Adcom, Adcom, Adcom. Maybe there was an element of sour grapes on my part: Cordesman getting first crack at the Adcom GFA-565 monoblocks.

"The reason we didn't send you the amps earlier," Victor explained, "is that you wanted balanced inputs and we didn't have them ready. Now they're ready."

"And now Tony's tied up with Iraq," I said, referring to Mr. Cordesman's distinguished service as ABC News's defense analyst. "Send the amps. Excuse me, Victor, Tony's on the telly again."

Lars was sitting next to me as we watched Tony on the tube. During a lull in the fighting I told the Swede the Adcoms were coming. Meanwhile, we heard on the news that there was a small earthquake in Cleveland and some citizens of that Ohio city feared they were under attack by Iraqi Scud missiles.

"Things are looking up," I said to Lars.

"What happens if the Adcoms are terrific?" wondered Lars. "You have yust praised the B&K M-200 monoblocks as the best sound around for under $3000 a pair."

"I'll have to praise the Adcoms, too. I don't like all this praising, as you well know from the stinting praise I have lavished on your system. But if the amps are good, they're good. And if Cordesman is correct, it won't be the first time. He seems to be pretty good on Iraq, too." I paused. "Did you catch that? Peter Jennings and Tony are on a first-name basis."

What you want to know is which pair of monoblock amps is better: the Adcoms or the B&Ks. And that's tough—like asking whether Jeff Rowland Design Group amps are "better" than Krell.

Consider the Jeff Rowland amps. I haven't heard any of their models lately, but there was a time when a dealer friend handled the line and I listened a lot. Jeff's designs—his amps, in particular—tend to be rich, warm, dimensional: remarkably tubelike for solid-state amps. They tend to be excellent choices with speakers which "need" tubes but can benefit from the dynamic authority of solid-state: Avalons, for instance.

I had a chance to live with VTL 225 monoblocks for several months—the amps Bob Harley finds heavenly with his Hales Signature Two speakers. The Hales tend to be on the lean side of neutral. The VTL amps are rich, warm, generous, full, with lots of bloom in the bass. Perfect match for the Hales, perhaps, but not for my own reference Spendor S100 speakers.

The VTL 225s tend to sound too much like the Spendors, which may be why, when you mate the two, you get too much of what is usually a good thing: richness, warmth, and a sweet, forgiving quality to the treble. I needed more bite, more balls.

The Adcom GFA-565 amps arrived promptly as promised and I let them warm up while I attended a meeting of the Westchester Audiophile Society. The following day, Victor was on the horn again, close after the crack of dawn.

"Cock a doodle doo. It is I, C. Victor Campos. Is this Tom Selleck?"

"Tom Selleck?"

"I mean Sam Tellig. Is this Sam Tellig?"

"Yes, Victor, I got the amps. They sound good but I haven't had much time to listen yet."

"When I first heard the Adcom GFA-565 mono amps," Victor said, "I couldn't believe my ears. This is the best sound I have ever heard."

"You haven't heard a Krell KSA-250," I shot back. To date, the Krell KSA-250 is the best solid-state amp that I have heard, all things considered.

"I don't know how the Krell could be better than a pair of Adcom GFA-565s," Victor crowed. "The dynamics, the detail, the transparency. This amp is our masterpiece."

Only Victor Campos can get away with hype like this.

"The amp is my swan song," Victor continued.

"Swan song? You retiring? Going somewhere? Florida? Heaven?"

"No, I'm leaving for Massachusetts tonight. I'm not going anywhere, really. But I don't know how I could improve on the GFA-565. It's our masterpiece," Victor declared.

"Newt will think of something else for you to work on," I said. (Newton Chanin is Victor's boss—head honcho of Adcom.)

"I don't know any other amp I would rather listen to," Victor continued to crow, before I cut him off.

"We'll see how it compares to a Krell KSA-250," I said.

"You have a KSA-250? I thought you told me you decided not to buy one."