Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 08, 2021
hfnvintageWith VFETs costing top dollar and facing stiff competition from other semiconductors, the late '70s saw Yamaha unveil a new pre/power amp duo. How does it sound today?

It's always intriguing to see how a company reacts to the realisation that a technology it has championed is reaching its sell-by date. This was the situation faced by Yamaha in the late 1970s. Since the middle of that decade, its top-end products had made use of Jun-ichi Nishizawa's Static Induction Transistor – more commonly known as the VFET – to great effect. This led to the development of designs such as the B-1 and B-2 power amplifiers, and C-1 preamplifier, all of which are still held in high regard.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 17, 2020
hfncommendedWith a rich heritage in the pro audio field, US brand Bricasti is paying closer attention to the high-end consumer market with this new, dual-mono pre/power combination

Few products passing through the HFN review process elicit quite as much discussion as has this Bricasti pairing – or at least one half of it. Our initial listening results were slightly puzzling, with a sound clearly doing many things right when interposed between editor PM's dCS Vivaldi One/Melco front-end [HFN Feb '18] and Bowers & Wilkins 800 D3 speakers [HFN Oct '16], and yet our musical souls were not entirely stirred. Was this an example of unpredictable system matching? Some judicious high-end separates swapping revealed the £19,500 M25 power amp was certainly able to deliver the goods in no uncertain fashion. But did the £13,500 M20 preamp sound just a little too smooth?

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 27, 2020
hfnoutstandingIt looks like the S5 stereo power amp, both inside and out, but the Michi M8 monoblock is altogether more powerful and, as a result, offers a sound with a charm all its own

You'll have to examine the £5399 Michi M8 monoblock power amp very closely to see how it differs from the company's S5 stereo model, reviewed previously alongside the £3299 P5 preamplifier [HFN May '20]. The two are the same price and size, look identical and have much the same 'ask a friend to help' mass. In fact, the M8 weighs marginally less than the S5, at 59.1kg – the difference presumably accounted for by the need for two-channel inputs on the stereo amp whereas the mono version has only single-channel connections, on both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA sockets.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 12, 2020
hfnoutstandingWith some sensible internal revisions, the German company has made its heavyweight preamplifier even more precise and detailed, without sacrificing any of the music's soul

You can tell a lot about a company from the title it takes for itself – from the name of the founder to classical or musical allusions to the equivalent of go-faster stripes, every brand seems to set out its stall in a somewhat different way. German manufacturer T+A elektroakustik is no exception, except here the name – the initials stand for 'Theorie und Anwendung', Theory and Application – is saying 'we're no-nonsense, and led by engineering'. Or, as the company puts it in a brief bio, 'Actually we're scientists…'.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 05, 2020
hfncommendedWith remarkable power on tap, and very little lost to heat, Emotiva's XPA HC-1 monoblock promises exceptional performance-per-pound. Is it the bargain it seems?

American brand Emotiva's mission statement puts affordability front and centre. Claiming that 'the price of sonic nirvana' had begun to slip out of the reach of many audio fans, it launched in the early 2000s with the goal of dragging it back, using founder Dan Kaufman's previous experience as an OEM supplier as its foundation. This XPA HC-1 monoblock amp is a perfect example of the Emotiva ethos, promising serious power without the serious price. Just £799, in fact.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 24, 2020
hfncommendedMasters of retro chic, Yamaha has evolved its one-time flagship A-S3000 integrated amplifier into a fully-fledged pre/power. And there's not a digital input in sight...

Talk to audiophiles that grew up through the 1990s and the chances are they associate brands such as Sony, Yamaha, Onkyo, Pioneer and Denon with meaty AV receivers and, possibly, mini systems. The reason is that it was around this time that the major Japanese corporations began directing their energies into developing products for the burgeoning home cinema market, meaning these younger hi-fi enthusiasts never really saw them flex their design muscles in the stereo arena.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 13, 2020
hfncommendedWith multiple inputs, streaming functionality and plenty of power, this elegant and compact system promises consummate convenience and super sound. Does it deliver?

Since 1993, Lindemann has been making distinctive products, all with an accent on design and technology. Although the company has also sold loudspeakers in its 27-year history, electronics have formed the staple of the product portfolio – and it has shown a particular interest in digital technology. The D680 of 2001, for example, was the first German SACD player, while the original Musicbook was an early example of a highly advanced streaming front-end [HFN Jun '14]. Lindemann's thinking has been eerily prescient, as other brands have since scrambled to get similarly elegant so-called 'style systems' into their ranges…

Review and Lab: Paul Miller, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 02, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe Chord Ultima range has grown from a single pre and power amp, as the tech becomes more affordable. The Ultima 2 models might just give the flagships a scare

Never let it be said that the Chord Electronics range isn't distinctive in its styling: all the way up from the tiny Mojo DAC [HFN Jan '16] to the flagship Ultima reference preamplifier [HFN Feb '19], the company's products look like nothing else on the market, as if to emphasise that what's going on inside them involves no shortage of proprietary technology, too.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 03, 2020
hfnoutstandingA sleek new look heralds the return of Rotel's premier sub-brand, and its new control amplifier – or preamp – and stereo power amp have the wherewithal to succeed

Michi is back: last marketed in the 1990s, Rotel's elite sub-brand has rejoined the hi-fi fray after a three-year development project, and the establishment of a dedicated facility within the company's factory to hand-build the new products. And I have to admit to a pang of nostalgia for I reviewed the company's RHCD-10 player, slimline RHA-10 preamp and substantial RHB-10 power amp back in the dim and distant, and it was a case of lust at first listen, not to mention sight of the high-quality metalwork with its red-lacquered wooden side-cheeks.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 27, 2020
hfncommendedThis entry-level combination from US brand PS Audio combines proprietary technology with some tried-and-tested solutions in a preamp/DAC and brace of mono power amps

Colorado-based PS Audio is known for a number of things: its products are handmade in its own US facilities and, as of last year, it only sells direct to its US customers. Here in the UK, PS Audio's equipment is sold more conventionally, through distributor Signature Audio Systems, which premiered the company's Stellar Phono Amplifier at the Hi-Fi Show Live at Ascot in October last year. That product, along with the Power Plant 3 AC regenerator [HFN Jan '20], is part of the new entry-level range from the company.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 21, 2020
hfnoutstandingWhile we await the Relentless Preamp the 'HD' remains D'Agostino's top model, with its Bluetooth remote and raft of subtle enhancements culled from the MLife integrated

Ordinarily, I prefer to ignore the vexing topic of prices. My attitude is simple: if I can't afford something, I don't take it out on the world. I can't afford a Bugatti T57SC Atlantic, but I don't hate Ralph Lauren for owning one. So let's get two things out of the way, the first being that the D'Agostino Momentum HD Preamplifier costs £47,998, making it one of the most expensive control units on the planet.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 19, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe ultimate expression of PrimaLuna's EvoLution amplifiers not only accommodates a raft of different output tubes but also offers triode/ultralinear switching on the fly

Shortly after the turn of the new millennium, PrimaLuna began manufacturing valve amplifiers for buyers hankering for an alternative to the stereotypical solid-state sound. The Netherlands-based company launched accessible tube designs with up-to-the-minute styling, starting with the ProLogue and then DiaLogue ranges. These played an important part in proselytising the joys of 'glass audio' to a new generation. Now, the company's new EvoLution range – EVO for short – has taken over the mantle, with 100, 200, 300 and 400 levels. The EVO 400 pre/power amplifier combination you see here (£4150 apiece) is the company's third-generation flagship.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 14, 2020
hfnoutstandingContinuing its modern take on traditional Japanese purist amplification, Luxman finally offers a MM/MC phono/line preamp partner for its ultra-retro MQ-300 valve amplifier

Just over three years ago I had my first taste of cost-no-object Luxman [HFN Nov '16] in an achingly long time. The company has had its ups-and-downs, but fortunately its new owners – IAG, home to Quad, Wharfedale, Audiolab and Castle Acoustics – realise what a plum brand Luxman is, so it was expected that the flagship MQ-300 power amplifier which so charmed me would be followed by a worthy preamp. Enter the alluring CL-1000, at £16,000 a grand more than the power amp and looking every penny of its price.

Review: Paul Miller with Ken Kessler and Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 07, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe culmination of one man's 'relentless' quest to develop his 'dream amplifier – an amplifier without any limits' is revealed in this special six-page, in-depth review...

It is not unusual for products featured in Hi-Fi News to rival a family car for cost. But a pair of monoblocks that weigh as much as a car and cost as much as a house? While that is surely breaking new territory for us all, the prospect of 'stretching the envelope' in power output, industrial design and sheer audio performance was clearly uppermost in CEO Dan D'Agostino's mind as he contemplated the next step on from his 400W/8ohm Momentum monoblocks [HFN Oct '16].

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 28, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe REF160M monoblocks were a radical change for the venerable Reference Series, and now they have been 'cut 'n pasted' into a single, spectacular stereo chassis

This should have been the simplest, swiftest review for me to undertake: I would simply drop the stereo version of the Audio Research Reference 160M [HFN Aug '18] into my system in place of the Reference 75SE. Double the number of KT150s and double the power, a price tag of two quid shy of twenty grand, fond memories of the monoblocks still tugging at me after 18 months: the Audio Research Reference 160S should have been a doddle, easy to anticipate. But it wasn't.

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