PS Audio Stellar M1200 Mono Power Amplifier Page 2

I made use of the M1200s' cool demeanour by installing them stacked and laced to Bowers & Wilkins 705 S2 standmounts and then to some three-way tower speakers. PS Audio's BHK Signature Preamplifier was used to feed sources including a Bluesound Vault 2i music server and Oppo UDP-203 universal disc player.

sqnote Steel 'N' Silk
This slender monoblock amp is not solely devoted to room-shaking power. It has that capability, but appreciation of its punch comes with an appreciation of its grace. The sound is a confluence of steel and silk – fast, rhythmic and able to respond astutely to the shifting dynamics of music. A smooth treble lifts it high above the realms of the rough-and-ready, and there's an energetic delivery of the midband. But the star attraction – the one that gets your blood pumping right away – is its exceptional bass handling.

To check my Bluesound Vault 2i was behaving itself, I fired up, at random, Chris Rea's 'Daytona' [The Road To Hell; Tidal Master]. After no more than a second I had stopped worrying about my network connection and started focusing on the music. This gentle, mid-tempo homage to a Ferrari race car (complete with tyres squealing over the outro…) arrived with a slippery, fluid and authentic bass sound that I wasn't prepared for, the kind that has you wondering why you haven't always done your listening through 600W monoblock amplifiers.

Pound For Pound
The B&W speakers are no slouch when it comes to low frequencies, but with the Stellar M1200s behind them they acquired a new identity. It wasn't just a case of 'making standmounts sound bigger', but making them sound more assured. Nor did this bass sound too dry or rich. I felt like Goldilocks on her third bowl of porridge…

This fulsome bass is the foundation for the M1200's other charms. Rea's composition is relatively sparse, giving focus to the piano, vocal and isolated flourishes of percussion. On the surface there's perhaps not much going on, but the Stellar duo seemed to cherish each aspect, bringing a pristine feel to woodblock hits and a sublime delivery of the timbral characteristics of the piano.

'Daytona' is music for a lazy Sunday afternoon, so next up was some music for a lively Friday night. AC/DC's 'Thunderstruck' [The Razor's Edge; EPC 510771 2] and the title track from Trivium's What The Dead Men Say [Tidal Master] gave these amps reason to let their high-power hair down. The former scatters pounded floor toms throughout its lengthy intro, and they sounded as big as I had hoped, gently decaying to leave just air in their wake.


Boxing Clever
The latter track positively erupted, the amplifiers creating a searing midband with Matt Heafy's sinewy guitar tone brought to the fore, and drums again hitting with the speed and aggression of a champion boxer. The smoothness of the M1200's upper ranges helped here, taking some of the edge off the avalanche of distorted guitar and making this track more than palatable.

The resolution and nuance on offer comes with the usual caveat. Lower-quality sources sound like, well, lower-quality sources. Soundstaging and production differences are illuminated by the M1200's transparency, rather than buried under its own character.

That said, I found it pleasingly genre agnostic – there wasn't anything the M1200 didn't have a whale of a time with, from hip hop and dance music to live jazz and orchestral pieces. Across them all, the same qualities came to the surface: weighty but uncoloured bass, impressive agility, and a real grasp of tonal subtleties.

From the off, Billy Joel's 'Travelin' Prayer' [Piano Man; Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, 88.2kHz/24-bit FLAC] sounded up-tempo and deliciously pointy, without smearing the staccato bassline or rat-a-tat percussion. The tongue-twisting lyrics tumbled out, followed by the frantic plucked banjo of Eric Weissberg, and as the track varied in instrumentation, the M1200's mastery of it didn't. Honky-tonk piano, mouth harp and violin were interwoven into what proved to be a foot-tapping musical medley.

Similarly impressive was the PS Audio amplifier's evocative rendition of Howard Shore's 'The Breaking Of The Fellowship' [The Lord Of The Rings: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack; Tidal Master], a more sedate track with string and brass layers, and breathy choral motifs, that served to emphasise the M1200's calmer side.

Here the London Philharmonic spread out, with a generous space and depth to the soundstage that enabled me to visualise the throng of players. Conversely, the pulsating electronic beats and synth stabs of 'Fuego' by KOAN Sound [Tidal; 44.1kHz/16-bit] appeared to flit in and out of my vision, split-second bursts of energy benefiting from the Stellars' transient power.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
With its tube input and uprated ICEpower output stage, the M1200 is something of an outlier in the entry-level Stellar series, yet PS Audio's 'thinking-outside-the-box' design pays dividends. From a package small enough to easily share shelf space with the rest of your system comes a performance that's big and bold – yet also impressively emotive and refined. The best of both worlds? I think it just might be.

PS Audio
Boulder, Colorado
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems
07738 007776