Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Paul Miller  |  Nov 20, 2011
Dan D'Agostino returns with a product half amplifier, half sculpture, all genius With his new company’s first product, the Momentum Monoblock Power Amplifier, Dan D’Agostino hopes to re-write the rules of solid-state amplifier design. Most notable is a concern for green issues, by addressing the amp’s power consumption when not in use. It’s a claimed 1W – not bad for a 300W amp that thinks it’s a kilowatt. Running in Class AB, and merely warm to the touch after a long session reflects a cooling system which provides much of the Momentum’s visual presence: solidcopper bars (venturis) that form the amplifier’s flanks.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 19, 2011
A sumptuous Italian pairing with sonics to match the exquisite looks You have to hand it to Italian designers: they sure do know how to make a statement. These mightily imposing valve power amplifiers dubbed 845 Monoblock and accompanying PhL-5 preamplifier simply ooze luxury. At £9995 per pair, the monoblock employs twin 845 tubes in parallel single-ended pure Class A mode, with two 6SN7 dual-triodes used as drivers and, as you might expect, zero negative feedback. The transformers are hand-wound with litz wire to avoid the use of solder and are ‘potted’ in a mix of resin and gravel to provide mass damping.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 17, 2011
The first solid-state Quad remains a classic of the genre Exemplifying all that was admirable in British hi-fi, the 33 preamp (£43) and 303 power amp (£55) were Quad’s first commercial solid-state offerings, the company having waited for the new-fangled transistor to settle down before embracing it in 1967. It was in many ways ‘a solid-state Quad 22’. Any previous customer would have immediately recognised the control locations, the flushmounted rotaries, the balance control under the volume control, the press buttons that also offered Quad’s unique, fully cancellable filter and tone controls and RIAA selectors. In size, the 303 and the Quad II power amps were nearly interchangeable.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 01, 2011
A very substantial design indeed with impressive performance to match Owned by Paradigm, Canada’s largest speaker manufacturer, the Anthem electronics brand is renowned for its high value AV offerings. While its ‘bread and butter’ receivers are made in China, its premium Statement components are built entirely in-house, this massive P2 power amp sharing the same case as the company’s five-channel P5 [see HFN June ’09] that draws so much current it needs two power cords. Just as in the P5, each channel of the P2 is built as a monoblock on its own PCB with substantial heatsinks fitted with thermal sensors to monitor operating temperature. And each channel has its own toroidal transformer and regulated power supply.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 01, 2011
A very potent performer considering the accessible price In its most recent 15-Series line-up Rotel entered the brave new world of efficient Class D amplification with some of its models. It promotes them more for home cinema and custom installation duties rather than ‘pure audio’ systems, however. For high fidelity music reproduction Rotel still prefers to focus on tried-and-tested Class A/B solid-state designs, in which it has a fine pedigree. Cosmetically, the RB-1552 is identical to the more powerful ’1582, only the chassis’ reduced depth and lighter weight suggesting a smaller power rating here.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 01, 2011
The entry level Belles power amp has some charming characteristics This midi-sized power amplifier from American designer Dave Belles’ Power Modules company naturally has a similarly compact preamplifier to partner it, dubbed Soloist 3; there’s also an MM/MC phono stage. This is ideal for enthusiasts desiring a separates combo that requires precious little space. There are no frills here – while better known for its high-end amplifiers, the Soloist components are Belles’ entry-level models. Build quality is staid and workmanlike, without the gloss of more costly designs.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 01, 2011
A robust design that produces a sound noticeably free of adornment Famous for its uncoloured, bomb-proof monitors beloved of recording engineers the world over, ATC builds not just speaker drive units but also the amplifier power packs for its active speakers in true artisan fashion in its Gloucestershire workshops, populating circuit boards entirely by hand. Similarly, the company’s standalone pre- and power amps are individually hand crafted, only the metal casework is bought in from an external supplier. As mentioned on page 43, we reviewed the P1 and its partnering CA2 Mk2 preamp in March ’10. Since then the power amp has unfortunately crept up in price by some £250.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 01, 2011
The Baby Bryston has many of the behavioural traits of the brand and some likeable sonic qualities Based a couple of hours’ drive north-east of Toronto, Bryston builds its audio components fully in-house. Next year will see the company celebrate 50 years since its initial foundation as a manufacturer of blood analysis equipment. It made its first amplifier in 1973 and progressed into the audio business soon thereafter. Luton’s Professional Monitor Company (PMC loudspeakers) has been Bryston’s UK distributor since the early 1990s – and naturally it’s Bryston amplifier modules that power PMC active monitors.
Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2011
Better known for multichannel, the A21 demonstrates that Parasound knows a thing or two about stereo too As with Canada’s Anthem electronics, San Francisco’s Parasound components are often found powering luxurious multichannel ‘home theatre’ systems. Unlike Anthem, however, Parasound does make pure audio (as well as AV) preamps to partner some of its power amps, especially its two-channel models. Designed in the US by John Curl, a veteran whose CV includes classic Mark Levinson and Vendetta designs in years gone by, Parasound’s amps are outsourced to Taiwan for manufacture – which might explain the keen pricing. This A21 power amp from the flagship Halo range suggests a lot for the money, weighing 27kg and resplendent in classy casework.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  Aug 08, 2011
Though outwardly unchanged, a serious internal makeover has brought Karan's cool-looking pre/power duo up-to-date. But how do these revised models sound? here must be many audiophiles who are torn between valve and solid-state amplification. If you are attracted to the sound of valves, but hesitate to take the plunge for practical reasons, you’ll be interested in solid-state products which try to offer the best of both worlds. And that’s part of the promise held out by the Karan amplifier line, which is built in the Republic of Serbia and has been gathering a following in several other countries since around 2000.
Steve Harris and Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2011
Still refining its triode technology after all these years, the American company offers a purist preamplifier that promises new levels of musical insight Now that tube amplifiers seem to grow on trees, at least in China, it’s hard to imagine the overwhelmingly solid-state hi-fi scene of 35 years ago. In America, though, a tube revival was coming. Audio Research had been selling new hi-fi tube amplifiers since 1970, while many audiophiles were still finding something in the sound of old tube amps that seemed to be missing from the shiny new solid-state stuff. Among those users of classic tube equipment were Dr William Conrad and Dr Lewis Johnson, two economists who were both also keen audiophiles.
John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  Apr 10, 2011
The first product from a new Japanese high-end marque, this imposing hybrid power amplifier system employs a ‘DC reactor’ power supply housed in a separate chassis Rarely does an amplifier designer launch a new hi-fi company with such a bold high-end statement. ‘This is our vision of amplification’s ultimate form’, says designer Robert Koch of the imposing ‘tri-chassis’ Takumi K-70 power amplifier, designed and built in Japan, and the very first product to sport the Robert Koda brand name on its fascia. The Japanese ‘Takumi’ character can be translated as ‘maestro’, while the word ‘takumi’ actually means artisan – the naming of the Takumi K-70 being particularly apt as the amplifier is wholly hand-crafted, and manufacturing is limited to just 20 units per year. It’s a single-ended hybrid design employing some 32 power transistors and two 5842 triodes in each monoblock and one 6X5 rectifier tube per side in the power supply.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 24, 2010
With the introduction of stereo LPs in 1958, Leak wasted no time in bringing stereo equipment to market. The fi rst public demonstration of the Stereo 20 amp and matching preamp took place in April 1958 at the Audio Fair in London. This must have been quite a coupe for Leak as most rival manufacturers at the show were demonstrating mono equipment. The price of the Stereo 20 was 29 Guineas with its partnering Point One stereo preamp costing 20 Guineas.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 24, 2010
The Pyxis is a sturdy, handsomely-styled preamp which, in the best modern fashion, can be used with all manner of amplifi ers despite a plethora of Leema-only features. Pyxis provides both fully-balanced and single-ended analogue operation, with extensive custominstall/ home cinema-friendly settings and sockets. Its price is further ameliorated by the inclusion of digital ins and outs, including USB and S/PDIF in both directions, so the Pyxis is able to accommodate all of your digital sources and feed a computer for archiving. For another £500, the Pyxis can be supplied with an onboard phono section (based on Leema’s £3k Agena).
Ed Selley  |  Nov 24, 2010
With the C-600f preamp and the M-600A stereo power amplifiers, Luxman has delivered its interpretation of current generation solid-state excellence. The power amp offers balanced or single-ended operation, the option of converting it into a bridged monoblock of up to a specifi ed 120W/8ohm, plus a couple of neat touches on the back. Like all new Lux products, an indicator tells you with the press of a button if your mains polarity is correct. Another rear panel delight is a quartet of the largest speaker terminals I’ve ever seen, a nod to those who like tight terminals, but with an aperture for banana plugs.

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