Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
Here’s a stylish new Meridian product right in the mainstream: a headphone amp/USB DAC with optional outboard PSU. It wouldn’t be a Meridian, though, without having some novel features. The cases are interlocking aluminium extrusions, double-skinned to enhance screening, and having no visible fasteners holding it together – clever. The PPS power supply is not dedicated to the PHA headphone amp but provides five 12V/500mA DC outputs on mini-DIN sockets, each incorporating dual-stage linear voltage regulation, for powering other Meridian products as well.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
It was perhaps Benchmark that set a trend by equipping its compact, high-value DACs with a capable headphone amplifier. They became, in effect, an amalgam of DAC, headphone amplifier and simple preamp, and the HA-1 is from the same mould. Much of its electronics derives from Oppo’s BDP-95EU and BDP-105 universal disc players [HFN May ’12 and Jan ’13]. The HA-1 uses the same ESS 9018 Sabre DAC and the same output circuitry but the headphone amp and preamplifier stages are new.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
Schiit products benefit from a Scandinavian nomenclature – Asgard, Bifrost, et al – so, should this stunning little Magni headphone amplifier prove tempting, you needn’t approach the salesman with the embarrassing request, ‘Do you stock Schiit?’ As its company founders are seasoned designers of [quote], ‘fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps, etc,’ they could have launched Schiit with whatever product genre they liked. Being savvy, they chose headphone amps. Schiit works with ‘simple, discrete circuit topologies’ for the analogue sections, while its DAC products feature ‘innovative bit-perfect management systems’. It also uses Class A amplifier designs ‘where practical – and single gain stages when possible’.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 22, 2015
Teac’s HA-501 is a Japanese product of the old school, with no-nonsense looks and a quality of fit and finish that belies its £700 asking price. Teac highlights a number of aspects of the 501’s circuit design. First that it operates in Class A, as evinced by the case running warm to the touch. Second, dual mono construction is clear when you remove the top plate to reveal two identical circuits side by side on the main PCB.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
Ifyou’re old enough to remember Audio Research gear circa-1972, the new SP20 will tug at your heartstrings. This preamp’s fascia designer has revived the distinctive sectioned faceplates of the SP3 – the whiff of retro is much appreciated. Suffice it to say, gone are the days of a half-dozen toggle switches, mechanical push-buttons or old-school rotaries. The SP20’s buttons are limited to power on, mute and a choice of output to ‘speakers’ (power amp) or headphones, but not at once.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
At last, Levinson’s flagship No53 monoblock amplifiers [see HFN Jan ’11] now have a Reference-status preamplifier with which they may be rightly partnered. The No52 is a two-chassis component designed with meticulous attention to detail both in its topology and in features that offer comprehensive system configurability. The rationale of this approach is to isolate the pure analogue audio circuitry from any possible source of pollution: it physically separates the power supply and microprocessor-driven controls from the audio electronics contained in the larger chassis. Volume control is via a precision ladder resistor network with fine gain adjustment in 0.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
Like the hardy perennials of audio horticulture, the standard valve amplifier circuits keep coming up fresh year after every year. And there’s been a new flowering in the family of beam tetrode tubes that started with the venerable KT66. This is the new Tung-Sol KT150, and the first manufacturer to feature it is Icon Audio, showing this tube off to good advantage in its MB90 MkIIm monoblock power amp. Built in Icon’s factory in China but finished and tested in Leicester, the MB90 MkIIm looks solid and handsomely-proportioned.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
Krell’s new iBias range is claimed to be more efficient, or less power-hungry, than pure Class A. Paul Miller suggests that iBias is a modern take on the popular sliding bias circuits of the 1980s. So what is the motivation for it? Statements from the company suggest that Krell is doing its part to modernise the high-end, to increase its appeal to audiophiles who are not comfortable with bulky intrusions into their living spaces in a manner acceptable in the past. And yet nothing differentiates the Duo 300, physically, from hundreds of other ball-buster amps.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
User-friendly features are a major aspect of the current VTL Signature Series, including the power amp reviewed here. Based on four 6550 output tubes per channel, it has newly-designed output transformers, a larger power supply, and the Signature Series control electronics. When running, the tubes can be seen discreetly glowing through the smoked glass front window. (Our sample was fitted with KT88s, an option that adds £200 to the price.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
ModWright’s owner Dan Wright argues that ‘Valves are great voltage amplifiers and solid-state devices are great current amplifiers. ’ Hence the combination here: the top of the range ‘DM’ dual-mono version of the LS 36. 5 preamp, with its separate PS 36. 5 power supply, and the KWA 150 Signature Edition power amplifier.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
Each of these three units – preamplifier, two-channel power amp and a power supply to ‘beef up’ the power amp’s performance – is housed in an all-aluminium chassis identical in size and appearance. Pre and power amp are ‘double mono’, the left and right channels both electrically and mechanically separated, with power supply sections, audio circuits and control electronics all in shielded chambers. The new P3000HV preamplifier has a comprehensive functionality that includes an analogue tone processor module to provide bass/treble adjustment, a user-variable ‘loudness’ control to suit your loudspeakers’ sensitivity, and parametric equalisers for tuning your speakers’ bass performance to your listening room. Illuminated touch-sensitive controls allow access to the preamp’s configuration menu, and a headphone amp is built in as well.
Richard Holliss  |  Dec 22, 2014
In Tony Michaelson’s company started with one diminutive but memorable product, called simply ‘The Preamp’. He started by making them on his kitchen table… What made the product so eyecatching was the acrylic front, with the product name illuminated in red. In its original form, The Preamp had an appeal all of its own. It was so tiny, so simple, yet so businesslike.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Dec 22, 2014
Furutech’s Alpha Design Lab range includes cables, headphones and earphones, a portable headphone amplifier and stylish system equivalents of the ADL X1 here. This appears to be a portable miniature music centre, offering USB and iDevice functionality, plus a built-in rechargeable battery giving around five hours of operation. Six top-mounted LEDs display sampling frequency, and there’s a front fascia volume control – which sadly proved just a little too easy to accidentally move when out and about. Those on the Number 41 bus will doubtless prefer the ergonomic simplicity of, say, an Arcam rPAC or Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS, which are truly portable devices.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 13, 2014
This lavishly-built C600 preamplifier and unusual looking partnering M600 monoblocks [not shown] are TAD Labs’ ‘Reference’ amplifiers. The C600 preamp’s aluminium subchassis is 33mm thick and weighs 15kg alone, designed to resist acoustic vibration and provide a ‘low and stable ground potential’, says the company. Removing the preamp’s top plate reveals its dual mono construction and all-discrete signal path; it’s a fully balanced design. The power supply, with its massive transformer, is a separate ‘hideaway’ unit.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 13, 2014
Yes, they’re expensive – but Nagra’s electronic jewels are gloriously timeless and beautifully engineered. The new Jazz preamplifier maintains the compact form factor and familiar brushed aluminium casework synonymous with the marque – it’s a Nagra through-and-through. And Nagra says the preamp’s circuitry – which employs 2x12AX7/ECC83s and 1x12AT7/ECC81 dual-triode valves – has been completely rethought to improve stability and reduce noise to the point where its engineers no longer consider a battery power supply a necessity. The Jazz is powered by a hideaway PSU that delivers DC to the main unit via a cable terminated with a Lemo connector.

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