Copland CSA150 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

This would seem to rule it out as an obvious match for your Motörhead collection – which would be right – but it might give you a greater appreciation of the band's craft, because regardless of genre or recording I found the CSA150 always shone a favourable light. Its performance is full of character, consistently rustling up musical magic from seemingly the most lo-fi of recordings.

721copland.remI didn't kick off with the raucous stuff, though. Once the amp was ready to roll (that valve brings with it 30-odd seconds of boot-up time), Mark Knopfler's 'Yon Two Crows' [Privateering; Mercury 3707935] proved a good early-listening choice, as it was a captivating, intimate listen from the moment its uilleann pipe/keyboard intro oozed from my B&W 705 S2 speakers. It was just a murmur to begin with, but even at a low level I could hear a wealth of texture and separation, and then it unfurled, and the amp started to really breathe life into this folk-influenced recording. Knopfler's acoustic guitar playing was awash with inflection and succinctly picked strings, and his downbeat vocal appeared spectre-like in my room.

Pure Instinct
Deciding to switch from analogue to a 96kHz/24-bit FLAC download of the same piece revealed the same tasting notes: excellent tonality, grin-inducing detail and a wide-open soundstage. The amp sounded unfettered, nuanced and – to put it simply – quite lovely. It's vital for a model with hybrid aspirations (analogue and digital) to be effective with both, and Copland certainly hasn't missed the trick.

The CSA150 has a way with bass that puts the affordable end of the market to shame, which is what one should expect from an amp at this price. Low-end notes had a rich, pure quality, sounding deep

and purposeful but entirely in keeping with the rest of the audioband. Even the gentlest of compositions, such as Nils Frahm and Woodkid's piano-laden 'Winter Morning I' [Ellis; 48kHz/24-bit] had a tangible solidity to them, and with an electronic track like Grooverider's evocative 'Where's Jack The Ripper?' [Mysteries Of Funk; Higher Ground HIGH6CD], it lapped up the deep dives and midrange snarls.

Drink To That
Jostling for attention alongside this adept bass handling was the CSA150's expression and graceful grasp of the high notes. Indeed, this is a product where it's hard to put a finger on one specific standout aspect. Call it holistic hi-fi. Listening to Pink Floyd's immaculate 'Brain Damage' [The Dark Side Of The Moon; 96kHz/24-bit FLAC] was like wondering what to sample at a wine tasting – far-away guitar licks, harmonised vocals, the dynamic surge of the drums, the quivering of a Hammond organ? I drank it all in.


Yes, this amp's character makes it an unlikely fit for brasher listening tastes, but what it does successfully is unpick the detail and rhythmic nature of whatever you put through it. It got a lot out of Guns N' Roses' 'Nightrain', the standout track on a standout album [Appetite For Destruction; Geffen Records, 00602567565673]. Steven Adler's drum kit sat at the back of a cavernous space, ride cymbal hits ringing out, while intricate twin-guitar riffs were lifted clean above bass and vocals. All highly enjoyable, without, it must be said, delivering the head-banging experience the LA quintet probably envisaged.

Likewise, Nirvana's 'Lithium' [Nevermind; 96kHz/24-bit FLAC] revealed a higher-quality production than I remembered from my youth with, again, soundstage depth and instrumental detail. It was only when the chorus arrived, accompanied by a barrage of distorted power chords, that the CSA150's measured tone began to sound slightly incongruous.


The thing is, such a voicing is no doubt deliberate, and it's not the case that the CSA150 is short on dynamic ability. It leapt into Michael Jackson's 'Bad' [eponymous; EPC 504423 2] from the opening bar of stabbed synth chords, locked into the track's funk rhythms and let the percussion roam free across the stereo field. It was snappy, upbeat and bold. The song ends with Jacko asking 'Who's bad?'. Not this Copland, that's for sure.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The hybrid market won't fade away if amplifiers like Copland's CSA150 keep arriving. By way of performance, this beefy Dane doesn't so much cut the mustard as slice through it with an Ulfberht sword – as long as you appreciate its character it'll give you hours of listening pleasure. It also picks up brownie points for looking smart and being well-connected. Audition it alongside the more affordable CSA100.

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Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
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