Carver Research Lightstar Reference power amplifier Review System

Sidebar 3: Review System

Analog sources were the Linn Sondek LP12 with all the accoutrements (Lingo, Cirkus, QR/DNM Design 330 Mk.II Ringmat), Linn Ittok, and AudioQuest AQ7000nsx. Digital sources were PS Audio's Lambda transport, Sonic Frontiers' UltraJitterbug, PS Audio's UltraLink II, and Sonic Frontiers' SFD-2. The preamp used was mostly a Sonic Frontiers SFL-2, with some use also made of a Convergent Audio Technology SL-1 Signature. Reference power amplifiers were the Bryston 7B monoblocks, Krell KSA-100S, and Threshold T-200.

Interconnects, digital links (AES/EBU), and power cables were mostly the latest-generation TARA Labs RSC. The Lightstar manual warns against using power cables other than those supplied, which are specially shielded and able to handle high current, but I obtained better results with TARA Labs RSC. I have The Original Cable Jackets, grounded to a single wire, on all the power cables. My listening room has two dedicated AC lines; the Lightstar was plugged directly into two receptacles (remember: it has two power cables) fed by one of the lines. On the other AC line, the digital components were plugged into a Tice Series II Power Block line-conditioner, the preamp directly into AC. In connecting the SFL-2 to the Lightstar, I tried both balanced and unbalanced connections. The sonic differences (once I compensated for the higher gain in the balanced mode) were fairly minor, the unbalanced mode sounding a touch more open (footnote 1).

Speakers were Dunlavy Audio Labs SC-IVs—first the original pair that formed the basis of my review in April 1994 (Vol.17 No.4), then the revised version discussed in my Follow-Up to that review in March '95 (Vol.18 No.3). The SC-IV has above-average sensitivity (91dB/W/m) and does not present a reactive load. However, its impedance, while extremely even, is in the 5 ohm range, so it is somewhat demanding of current.—Robert Deutsch

Footnote 1: Although the Lightstar has balanced inputs, it's not a fully balanced (differential) design. Jim Croft told me that, during the development of the Lightstar, they also built a fully balanced version, and then worked on improving the unbalanced version until it sounded very close to the balanced protype.
Carver Corporation
Company no longer in existence (2018)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Blinded by the light" :-) ..............

georgehifi's picture

They've gota be the ugliest square waves I've ever seen from a solid state amp. With 1st overshoot ring on the trailing edge!!! What's that all about????

Cheers George

Anton's picture

I would be an avid reader of a column that “reviewed” vintage gear compared to current equipment. Yes, I know it would be tough making sure the gear was up to snuff based on age, but reading a comparison between a Sony CDP 101 and the current Rega would be fascinating.

Sign me up as a reader of the Anachrophile column!

Allen Fant's picture

Beautiful looking amp. While I never had an opportunity to demo a Bob Carver amp per se, I did have a wonderful audition, with his 1st Sunfire amp in 1996.