Solid State Power Amp Reviews

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Robert Deutsch  |  Jul 05, 2018  |  First Published: May 01, 1995  |  4 comments
When it comes to amplifiers, ya gotcher tubes, yer solid-states, and yer hybrids. Although amplifier manufacturers would have you believe otherwise, the majority of designs within each category are variations on a few fairly-well-known themes. Everyone agrees that the power supply is extremely important. Most designers try to obtain the amplifier's desired frequency response and distortion characteristics with a minimum of negative feedback. It's also agreed—at least among designers of solid-state amps—that the ability to drive a variety of speakers, including those that present a low-impedance and/or reactive load, is an important priority.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 21, 2018  |  35 comments
On the second morning of a recent audio show, I walked into the exhibit room of Bricasti Design.

"How about some Mahler?" asked cofounder and designer Brian Zolner.

"Oh God. Not at 10am!"

Herb Reichert  |  Jun 14, 2018  |  8 comments
An e-mail from an old audiophile pal: "Herb, my buddy owns a recording studio, and he told me one of his $10k reference amplifiers stopped working and the manufacturer said it would take months to be repaired. So he went online and bought this 60W AkitikA solid-state amplifier to use while his big amp was being repaired. The trouble is, the kit cost only $314. (The studio guy bought his assembled and tested for $488.) Now, he likes the AkitikA more than his broke-down reference amp."
Larry Greenhill  |  May 01, 2018  |  13 comments
When I reviewed the Mark Levinson No.536 monoblock, I said that its sound quality was second to none. However, its stratospheric price of $30,000/pair unnerved me—only seven of the 35 top-rated solid-state power amplifiers listed in the April 2017 edition of Stereophile's "Recommended Components" cost more, and a similar number (not the same models) deliver more power into 8 ohms. "But don't despair," I wrote—"Mark Levinson has just released a less expensive version of the No.536: the dual-mono, 350Wpc No.534 stereo amp ($20,000)." I requested a review sample of the No.534, to see if it matched the No.536's outstanding qualities of build and sound.
Kalman Rubinson  |  May 01, 2018  |  4 comments
For some years now, I've tried to free myself from playing physical media and get all my music organized on a server. It's not that I don't enjoy handling and playing discs, but it's almost impossible to keep track of them. When my collection was only a thousand or two LPs, I felt I could remember each one individually. But now I have several times that many silver discs, and I know I can't.
Larry Greenhill  |  Mar 27, 2018  |  18 comments
I've found that some audio amplifiers have sonic signatures so subtle that they emerge only over weeks of listening; yet other amps sound so distinctive—more vivid, more transparent, more dynamic—that their signatures are immediately apparent. Can those latter qualities really be inherent in the recording, or are they colorations produced in the amplifier?
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Mar 22, 2018  |  3 comments
When Michael McCormick, president of Bel Canto Design, suggested that I review their Black ACI 600 integrated amplifier, I accepted without hesitation. As wonderful as my reference system may sound, its dCS digital front end alone comprises four boxes and a web of cables complex enough to send many a spider spinning. Given the choice between connecting that front end to a pair of expensive, enormous monoblocks—with their similarly expensive AC cords and equipment racks/isolation platforms—or to a single, visually elegant, 45-lb box that costs $25,000, produces 300Wpc into 8 ohms, and requires only a single power cord and shelf, I think many an audiophile, even those with lots of money, might gravitate toward the latter.
Herb Reichert  |  Feb 01, 2018  |  44 comments
The XA25 stereo amplifier is the latest addition to Pass Laboratories' XA series of amplifiers and, at $4900, the lowest priced. It weighs only 45 lbs, has single-ended inputs only, and outputs 25Wpc into 8 ohms, 50Wpc into 4 ohms, or 100Wpc (!) into 2 ohms. According the XA25's well-written owner's manual, it will deliver 50W peaks into 2, 4, or 8 ohms—in class-A.
Robert Deutsch  |  Jan 23, 2018  |  26 comments
Although PS Audio's Stellar M700 monoblock power amplifier ($2998/pair) is a brand-new design from a team led by engineer Darren Myers, it draws on the company's extensive experience with class-D amplification. Sam Tellig and Kalman Rubinson reviewed PSA's HCA-2 power amp in, respectively, the October and December 2002 issues, and I reviewed their GCC-100 integrated amp in January 2006. The Stellar M700's input stage is the latest version of PS Audio's Gain Cell, which they describe as a "proprietary, fully differential, zero feedback, discrete, class-A MOSFET circuit.
Jim Austin  |  Nov 22, 2017  |  29 comments
Years ago, when I was young and foolish (instead of old and foolish, as now), I was hanging out with a friend at a strip-mall strip club in a small southeastern city. A youngish lady approached our table in G-string and pasties and did a tableside dance. My friend's jaw scraped the floor; I, noting her lack of enthusiasm, was unmoved. The stripper noted my impassivity and stated, with irony that at the time I somehow missed, "You're a hard man."

John Atkinson, too, is a hard man, at least when it comes to audio gear. When, in January 2014, he reviewed the Pass Laboratories XA60.5 monoblock amplifier, he concluded, "It is the best-sounding amplifier I have ever used." High praise.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Sep 28, 2017  |  22 comments
For as long as I've known about high-end audio, I've put Dan D'Agostino, co-founder of Krell, on the same pedestal reserved for the likes of Frank McIntosh, Saul Marantz, Avery Fisher, H.H. Scott, and Sidney Harman. The reason is simple: Dan's the man whose achievements at Krell led me from the harsh sound of my first high-end amp into another dimension, one of truly musical sound reproduction.
Martin Colloms  |  Aug 03, 2017  |  First Published: Jul 01, 1991  |  0 comments
There seems to be an inexhaustible supply of amplifiers; it's hard to choose which ones to review. Big-name operators are difficult to ignore, while smaller outfits often complain of neglect. In the case of a new and moderately priced introduction from Krell there's no need to find excuses: it's available, it's likely to be important judging from this company's track record, and we'd all like to see just how well it performs.

This review features the KST-100 stereo power amplifier. Initially this product was differentiated from the more expensive Krell components by having an all-black livery. However, as customers showed a preference for Krell's traditional anthracite finish, the KS series is now also available in this finish.

Herb Reichert  |  Jul 20, 2017  |  40 comments
Have I told you about my objectivist friend—the left-brain audiophile who puts a lot of trust in measurements? He has a high natural intelligence and is an extremely experienced listener, but once he knows a component doesn't measure well, he can never again experience it impartially.

I don't want to embarrass my friend, so in this story I will call him O., for Mr. Objectivity.

Larry Greenhill  |  Jun 22, 2017  |  16 comments
Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman International Industries, was addressing engineers and the audio press in a crowded conference room at the opening of Harman Luxury Audio's new Engineering Center of Excellence (ECOE), in Shelton, Connecticut. Paliwal singled out as the ECOE's first beneficiary the Mark Levinson brand, with the goal of revitalizing it as Harman's flagship marque. (Other brands in the HII stable include Harman Kardon, Infinity, JBL, Crown, AKG, Lexicon, and Revel.) To achieve this, he gave the ECOE team access to Harman's R&D budget of $400 million; brought on Todd Eichenbaum, formerly of Krell, to be its Director; and hired 11 more engineers.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jun 15, 2017  |  12 comments
Three years ago, when I first heard Audionet's Max monoblock power amplifiers, I described their pairing with YG Acoustics Hailey loudspeakers "an absolute winner" and "definitely one of the finer systems at T.H.E. Show Newport Beach." At subsequent audio shows, no fewer than four other Stereophile Contributing Editors enthused about different pairings of YG loudspeakers with Audionet amplification. Herb Reichert, at the 2014 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest: "Everything had a kind of just right quality. Totally impressive!" Sasha Matson, at RMAF 2015: "Marvelous" on vocals, "rockin' and tight" on bass and drums. John Atkinson, at T.H.E. Show 2016: "Duke Ellington's classic Jazz Party in Stereo . . . was reproduced with terrific dynamics." Larry Greenhill at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show on the sound in the YG Acoustics room, which included Audionet's Max monoblocks: "the sound on playback of Jake Shimabukuro's ukulele wizardry came closer to matching his live performance than in most rooms."

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