Solid State Power Amp Reviews

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Ken Micallef  |  Aug 23, 2018  |  24 comments
Designed in New York City, manufactured in Poland, and barely bigger than a thick paperback, the Brooklyn Amp ($2495) is Mytek's first power amplifier. Like all of their products, it's sleek to behold, with a powerful look that suggests the company's pedigree: in addition to high-end consumer electronics, Mytek makes gear for the pro-audio market, where exceptional build quality and space-saving design are the norm.

Consistent with that last characteristic is the Brooklyn Amp's output architecture: it operates in class-D, a technology that remains controversial.

Michael Fremer  |  Jul 26, 2018  |  50 comments
Not everyone needs a power amplifier that can deliver 888W RMS into 8 ohms or 1776W into 4 ohms. You could say that no one needs one of these—or two, if you want to listen in stereo. Most household AC systems can't even provide enough current to deliver all that power. But Simaudio does build Moon 888 monoblocks, and people do buy them, whether or not they need an amp that weighs about 250 lb each and costs $118,888/pair.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 24, 2018  |  42 comments
It was almost seven years ago that Nelson Pass, whose talks and exhibits I'd covered at many a Bay Area Burning Amp DIY event and audio show, surprised me with a loan of two Pass Laboratories' XA 160.5 class-A monoblock amplifiers. Ten months later, after I'd commented that my system had challenged the XA 160.5s in the bass department, he sent me a pair of XA200.5 monos. I connected those bigger babies to Wilson Audio Sophia 3 loudspeakers and some now-discontinued digital components with Nordost Odin 1 interconnects and speaker cables. Then came my way, toward the end of 2016, the XA200.8 monoblocks ($42,000/pair).

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  |  10 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.
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.

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