Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Steve Harris & Paul Miller  |  Feb 06, 2009
Reacquaintance can be a fraught affair, as anyone who has met an old lover after many years will attest. You risk either discovering that you are still in love with them, which is usually bad news, or wondering whatever attracted you in the first place. Neither outcome is good for the ego. It’s much the same when revisiting an audio product.
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  |  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.
Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngLaunched in 1980, these slimline separates proved just the tonic for those seeking sophisticated sonics wrapped in eye-catching casework. How do they sound today?

Who buys top quality hi-fi equipment? First there is the audiophile, who is willing to devote considerable resources in the pursuit of components that deliver what he or she regards as the best sound quality for a given budget. There was once also a largely non-technical group who had equally high musical expectations. Wealthy and design conscious, they wanted complete systems that not only sounded good but looked good too, and included all the latest technological refinements.

Ken Kessler  |  Aug 19, 2022
hfnvintageKen Kessler explains why he believes Audio Research's Reference 1 preamp and Reference 600 power amplifiers are in a class of their own

Whatever your response to once-in-a-generation revelations, the Audio Research Reference 600 monoblock amplifiers and the matching Reference 1 preamp will render all who hear them something akin to 'gob-smacked'.

Martin Colloms  |  Apr 25, 2023  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1991
hfnvintageMartin Colloms hears the FET nine/e and SA/3.9e from Threshold – a company that can lay claim to being one of the founders of the high-end...

Threshold has been making high-quality amps for many years, its preamps showing early use of FET circuitry and the power amps distinguished by an output stage design which Threshold calls 'Stasis', a kind of active Class A operation. Company founder and chief designer, Nelson Pass, remains fully involved and his signature appears on the circuit diagrams included in the excellently documented operating manuals supplied with the units.

Ken Kessler  |  Feb 24, 2022  |  First Published: Mar 01, 1992
hfnvintageThe irrepressible Antony Michaelson is at it again, with pre and power amps from Michaelson Audio and Musical Fidelity. Ken Kessler listens

Upon my taking delivery of the review samples of Da Vinci, about which I was warned in mid-summer 1991, company founder Antony Michaelson launched into his usual tirade about the high-end, with barrels of venom for American ballbuster amps in particular.

Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Apr 06, 2009
Back after a hiatus of nearly a decade, Trilogy’s founder Nic Poulson has returned to amp manufacture, having spent the interim producing mains filters and regenerators. Both the promise and the standards of Trilogy ‘Mk I’ have been maintained in the rebirth, but with new twists, including microprocessor control. Poulson has revived Trilogy with three models, continuing the 900-nomenclature of the 1990s units. The 909 preamplifier will most amuse the tweaker because it’s all-valve, using three ECC88/6922s and a 6U4P rectifier, but it boasts features usually found in cutting-edge solid-state products, or valve exotica from the likes of VTL, McIntosh and other American makers.
Steve Harris  |  Feb 23, 2024  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1999
hfnvintageSteve Harris on a small British manufacturer making a bid for the high ground with a single-ended amplifier offering a choice of output valves

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the audio underground in the US and Europe finally picked up on the efforts of Japanese audiophiles two decades earlier, and started a revival of single-ended triode amplification. The American interest really got going when enthusiasts started salvaging dusty pre-war systems out of old movie houses. Western Electric's 300B triode, dating back to the dawn of cinema sound systems, became the tube of choice.

John Atkinson  |  Aug 19, 2020  |  First Published: Jan 01, 1986
hfnvintageJohn Atkinson lives with Krell pre- and power amplification

Streetwise. Now there's a word. I suppose you could say that in a hi-fi context it means being aware of the unwritten myths, such as 'image depth is due to microphony in valve amplifiers' or 'Class A amplifiers sound better than ones operating in Class B' or 'the only truly great preamplifiers use valves'.

Ken Kessler  |  Oct 25, 2022  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1993
hfnvintageAn old circuit with a modern look versus a new design with retro styling as Ken Kessler hears valve amps from Papworth and Sonic Frontiers

Contrary to the practices of most specialist companies, some still believe that small is beautiful. Despite the continuing displays of excess from across the Pond, enough manufacturers realise that the only way to get quality sound into certain homes is to 'down-size'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 02, 2021
hfnoutstandingSteeped in valve lore, this iconic tube brand extends the 'voicing' of its products right down to the choice of passive components and hand-wiring. We test a stack of VAC!

With the Valve Amplification Company, aka VAC, now 30 years old, it qualifies as a stalwart of the 'third wave'. The first was, of course, the original golden age generation of Marantz, Quad, McIntosh and others of the 1940s and 1950s, while the second wave hit in the early 1970s with Audio Research, EAR and other tube revivalists. VAC arrived at the point when tubes were demonstrably here to stay, Kevin Hayes founding the company with his father in 1990. He was, and remains, resolutely focused on the high-end, as this pairing's £69,000 cost attests.

Ken Kessler  |  Apr 26, 2019  |  First Published: Aug 01, 1989
Few specialist Japanese valve amps ever leave Honshu, so as the Air Tight ATC-1 and ATM-1 finally hit British shores, Ken Kessler is on standby...

For the past four years, I've been waiting impatiently for a stab at the electronics from Air Tight. I admit that the charm of the name, the absolute perfection of that moniker for a brand of valve amplifiers, caught my attention as much as did the obviously exquisite manufacture. The price, too, appealed, considering that these amplifiers promised peerless construction and attention to detail you just don't find this side west of a Jadis. At last there's a UK importer, so my wait is over.

Ken Kessler  |  Apr 24, 2020  |  First Published: Apr 24, 1986
hfnvintageKen Kessler takes delivery of the Audio Research SP-11 preamplifier

The time is early June, and let us imagine that this issue has been on the stands for two weeks. Editorial secretary Jennifer Scotland walks to where I am sitting and dumps a pile of letters on my desk. The angry correspondence has arrived.

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.

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