Solid State Power Amp Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Jul 20, 2017  |  39 comments
Have I told you about my objectivist friend—the left-brain audiophile who puts a lot of trust in measurements? He has a high natural intelligence and is an extremely experienced listener, but once he knows a component doesn't measure well, he can never again experience it impartially.

I don't want to embarrass my friend, so in this story I will call him O., for Mr. Objectivity.

Larry Greenhill  |  Jun 22, 2017  |  16 comments
Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman International Industries, was addressing engineers and the audio press in a crowded conference room at the opening of Harman Luxury Audio's new Engineering Center of Excellence (ECOE), in Shelton, Connecticut. Paliwal singled out as the ECOE's first beneficiary the Mark Levinson brand, with the goal of revitalizing it as Harman's flagship marque. (Other brands in the HII stable include Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Crown, AKG, Lexicon, and Revel.) To achieve this, he gave the ECOE team access to Harman's R&D budget of $400 million; brought on Todd Eichenbaum, formerly of Krell, to be its Director; and hired 11 more engineers.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 15, 2017  |  12 comments
Three years ago, when I first heard Audionet's Max monoblock power amplifiers, I described their pairing with YG Acoustics Hailey loudspeakers "an absolute winner" and "definitely one of the finer systems at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach." At subsequent audio shows, no fewer than four other Stereophile Contributing Editors enthused about different pairings of YG loudspeakers with Audionet amplification. Herb Reichert, at the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest: "Everything had a kind of just right quality. Totally impressive!" Sasha Matson, at RMAF 2015: "Marvelous" on vocals, "rockin' and tight" on bass and drums. John Atkinson, at T.H.E. Show 2016: "Duke Ellington's classic Jazz Party in Stereo . . . was reproduced with terrific dynamics." Larry Greenhill at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show on the sound in the YG Acoustics room, which included Audionet's Max monoblocks: "the sound on playback of Jake Shimabukuro's ukulele wizardry came closer to matching his live performance than in most rooms."
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 30, 2017  |  3 comments
I've known Peder Bäckman, international sales director for the German firm Audio Video Manufaktur GmbH (AVM), for many years, ever since he worked with Electrocompaniet. When I told him that I was looking for products to review in the reference system in my new 20' by 16' by 9' music room, he invited me to browse AVM's large catalog and see what tickled my fancy. In consultation with John Atkinson, it became clear that AVM's largest, most powerful monoblock amplifier, the Ovation MA8.2 ($29,990/pair), seemed a good fit.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Mar 02, 2017  |  10 comments
The power-amp saga continues. For months, I've been plowing through the market, searching for something to drive my three front speakers. (I use a two-channel amp for the surrounds.) It can be a three-channel amp or three monoblocks—it just has to sound great with my speakers, and be light enough that I can lift it by myself when I need to rearrange my system. I'd finally settled on Classé's Sigma Monos for their transparency, and because I can manage their weight, one at a time. At the CEDIA Expo in September 2016, I saw two more candidates worthy of consideration. Review samples of both arrived here almost simultaneously.
Michael Fremer  |  Jan 24, 2017  |  20 comments
"I'm a recording engineer, so I value accuracy," said a panelist in a discussion—titled "How to Read Between the Lines of Audio Advertising"—at last October's Rocky Mountain Audio Fest. I, too, was on the panel, which was moderated by Brent Butterworth, a writer for the SoundStage! Network of online audio magazines.

"Accuracy is overrated," I interjected from the other end of the dais. "Accurate to what? To your sonic tastes? To what you hear on your preferred loudspeakers? Other than one's personal preferences, I'm not sure the term accuracy has much meaning."

Kalman Rubinson  |  Sep 29, 2016  |  5 comments
Has it really been more than seven years since I reviewed Bel Canto's REF1000M monoblock? According to the Bel Canto website, that model, based on Bang & Olufsen's ICEpower class-D modules, is no longer available. But now, like so many manufacturers, Bel Canto has adopted for its new models the NCore class-D module from Hypex—although the REF600M monoblock ($4990/pair) is not Bel Canto's first product to use it . . .
Michael Fremer  |  Sep 22, 2016  |  2 comments
In 1967, in Los Angeles, Morris Kessler, with Ted and Beth Winchester, founded Scientific Audio Electronics (SAE), which enjoyed a successful run of 21 years. In addition to Kessler, Sherwood Electronics cofounder Ed Miller, as well as the legendary James Bongiorno, contributed designs. (If you don't know Bongiorno's résumé, please do a web search.) Some SAE products, particularly their big-metered power amplifiers, became objects of desire for audiophiles on the West Coast and, especially, in Japan.
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 20, 2016  |  10 comments
Every time a new audio technology enters the marketplace, a debate begins about its relative merit. That debate never ceases, even decades after the technology first came (and sometimes went). Turntable platters driven by belts vs rims vs idlers vs directly by their motors. Analog vs digital. Tubes vs solid-state. Triodes vs pentodes, Single-ended vs push-pull. Objectivism vs subjectivism. The power and seriousness of each of these debates has splintered our global hobby into diverse tribes, cults, and subcults—and therein lies one of the chief joys of being an audiophile: participating in cult rivalries.
Robert Deutsch  |  Aug 30, 2016  |  7 comments
To those who were into audio in the late 1980s and early '90s, the name Audio Alchemy is a familiar one. I've owned DACs and jitter-reducing devices made by Audio Alchemy and Perpetual Technologies (the first successor to the original AA) and found them to provide excellent performance at modest prices. Indeed, at the time, many in the industry felt that the Audio Alchemy products were underpriced, leaving too little room for profit, and that this led to the company's demise. The new Audio Alchemy—led by its original designer, Peter Madnick, and having on staff other employees from the old AA—is what Madnick describes as a "grown-up" version of the original company, maintaining "the brand's original ethos of superior technology and value." And the prices, while quite reasonable for the performance they seem to offer, appear high enough to allow the new AA to survive.
Kal Rubinson  |  Mar 03, 2016  |  3 comments
In the January 2015 edition of "Music in the Round," I reviewed NAD's latest Masters Series preamplifier-processor and multichannel power amplifier, respectively the M17 ($5499) and M27 ($3999). I was taken with both, but the M27 made a special impression. In many ways, it personified what a modern power amp should be: quiet, transparent, cool running, and compact. Its neat package of seven 180W channels inspired me to consider that stereo or mono versions of such a thing could supplant the ungainly monster amps I was using in my main system. So I asked NAD to send me not just one but two samples of their new two-channel power amplifier, the Masters Series M22 ($2999): Although this is a review of a stereo amplifier, I did want to have my front three speakers identically voiced.
Ken Micallef  |  Mar 01, 2016  |  5 comments
I'm a jazz lover. To be specific: I'm a lover of jazz on vinyl. I'm referring not to my sexual proclivities but to 331/3rpm LPs from such venerable labels as Blue Note, BYG Actuel, Contemporary, ECM, ESP-Disk, Impulse!, Prestige, and Riverside. Nothing hits the sweet soul spot of this former jazz drummer and devout jazz head harder than Tony Williams's riotous ride-cymbal beat, Hank Mobley's carefree tenor-saxophone shouts, Charles Mingus's gutbucket double-bass maneuvers, or Bill Evans's haunting piano explorations. Jazz and vinyl both may constitute narrow slivers of music sales, but millions of us around the globe are on a constant hunt for exceedingly rare, grail-like jazz LPs, which we spin on our turntables with an equally holy reverence for the musicians' achievements.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 03, 2016  |  1 comments
Was it more surprising that, in 2015, PS Audio would produce a monoblock class-AB power amplifier containing vacuum tubes, or that PS Audio would release a monoblock power amplifier at all? I'm not sure.

In 1974, Paul McGowan and Stan Warren founded the company to produce and market a standalone phono preamplifier, sold directly to consumers for $59.95. From there they naturally progressed to a series of line-level preamplifiers. Toward the end of the '70s, PS Audio produced the Model One, the company's first power amplifier. In the mid-1980s came the high-performance, moderately priced ($495) 4.5 and 4.6 preamplifiers. I reviewed—and bought—a 4.6 a few years after I began reviewing gear for The Abso!ute Sound; Tom Norton reviewed the 4.6 for the September 1988 issue of Stereophile.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Oct 30, 2015  |  17 comments
I first saw Benchmark's AHB2 stereo power amplifier at the 2013 Convention of the Audio Engineering Society, in New York City. On silent display in Benchmark's booth on the convention floor, its compact size and comprehensive features made the amp immediately attractive, and the design was described as a departure from traditional analog and digital amplifiers. It was also explained to me that the AHB2 was based on designs by Benchmark's founder, Allen H. Burdick (whose initials it bears). By the time of Burdick's retirement, in 2006, Benchmark didn't yet offer a power amplifier, but the company used a prototype based on his work to evaluate their new digital products, and that amp was soon developed as a commercial product; Burdick died just weeks before the AHB2, now named in his honor, was shown at the 2013 AES convention.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 29, 2015  |  2 comments
I first met electronics engineer John Dawson in 1979, at a British audio show. The company he'd co-founded, A&R Cambridge, had just launched the A60, a slim, elegant-looking, 40Wpc integrated amplifier costing only £99 (then equivalent to $217).

By the time I reviewed the Mk.2 version, in the October 1984 issue of Hi-Fi News & Record Review, the A60's price had risen to £199 ($248), the company was now called Arcam, and more than 22,000 A60s had been sold, making it one of the best-selling amplifiers in England. While preparing that review I had visited Arcam's factory, near the English town of Ely, where Dawson had shown me filing cabinets containing a separate manufacturing report for each and every one of those A60s.

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