Adcom GFA-565 monoblock power amplifier Sam Tellig page 3

Because the Adcoms have such detail, they reveal the differences among recordings quite readily. If a recording is overbright, shrill, watch out—the Adcoms will let you know. If a recording is too densely packed, over-reverberant, too laid-back, the Adcoms will let you know that. If the imaging is confusing, confusion is what you'll hear. If a recording is magnificent, on the other hand, the Adcoms will reveal the recording in its full glory—assuming you have a good enough speaker. I found that the B&K M-200 monos were less revealing of recording quality differences. On the other hand, you might say that the B&K monos are more forgiving.

On the Spendors, particularly, I prefer the Adcoms. Because there is such excellent resolution of low-level detail, the Adcoms are almost always interesting to listen to. By contrast, the B&Ks tend to cover the music with a slight haze—or whale, as Lars calls it, perhaps being a vestige of the infamous MOSFET mist (footnote 2). This is not something I become overly aware of or irritated by—until I compare the B&Ks with the Adcoms.

"Get ready to sell your Krell," I advised Lars, proud owner of a pair of WATT/Puppies and a Krell KSA-250. "When you hear what the Adcoms can do, you'll want to sell your amp, buy these, and pocket the change."

"Okay, bring over the amps," chimed Lars. "Lou can be the final arbiter."

Lars helped me bring the amps from the driveway into the house.

"So small. Not like Krell. One person can carry them without suffering a rupture. They can't be any good."

"Shut up, Lars. Yust listen."

We warmed up the amps and drank beers, with music in the background. Cables and interconnects were the Aqueous Maximums from Jim Aud, of Purist Audio Design—the "Texas water cables," which some say are the best thing from the Lone Star State since the Chainsaw Massacre. Digital source was Mike Moffat's big Theta Generation II processor.

Soon we began our serious listening—starting with the Shostakovich First Symphony with Leonard Bernstein and the Chicago Symphony on DG. Other goodies followed, including some awful jazz that only a Swede could love, and Wilson Audio's CD version of Winds of War and Peace. Lars also played some CDs he had just bought at the new Tower Records store in "Jonkers."

"Jonkers?" questioned Lou.

"Yonkers, Yonkers," I said. "It's this crazy Y and J business. Don't ask me why."

You can see what we did. We put the Adcoms on $10,000 speakers, replacing an amplifier which cost nearly three times the price. Then we threw on the most demanding source material we could find. In other words, we tried to get the Adcoms to poop out or distort or overheat...or do something that would reveal their limitations. (I didn't have time to try the B&K M-200 monos on Lars's system.)

"Not bad," said Lou, as the Adcoms sailed—or sledded—through the Shostakovich.

Lars grunted.

"Crank it up," I yelled.

Lars did so, but it was obvious not that the amps were straining but that the music was just too loud. Lars scaled back a bit. On disc after disc, the Adcom played without the slightest hint of being overtaxed. The soundstage was excellent, as it can be with the WATT/Puppies at their best—deep and wide, and not shrinking when the music gets loud.

Lars now signaled his approval. "These are very good amps, amazingly good for the price. But we'll have to see whether they are as good as the Krell KSA-250."

"Who cares? They cost roughly a third the price. And they won't heat up the listening room in summer." It's true. Despite running the amps as hard as we could into the WATT/Puppies, the amps got no more than slightly warm. I can't imagine anyone actually needing the optional cooling fans for regular home use.

"These amps really dig down in the bass," said Lou.

"Balls!" I roared. "Krell balls in an Adcom amp!"

"We'll see about Krell balls," said Lars, as he poured another round of New England Brewing Atlantic Amber Beer, brewed in Norwalk, Connecticut—probably the best American-brewed beer I have ever tasted.

We switched the Adcom amps for Lars's resident Krell.

And yes—as I mentioned to C. Victor Campos—the Krell was better. Noticeably so. Lars, Lou, and I agreed. But the three of us also agreed that the difference, while noticeable, was not very great. Like they say on Wall Street, the spread was very narrow.

"I could live with the WATT/Puppies and the Adcom amps very nicely," said Lou.

"Me, too," I chimed in. "Wanna sell the Krell, Lars?"

Lars emitted a strange Scandinavian snort. This was mischief, and he knew it.

Compared with the Adcom monoblocks, the big Krell stereo amp had even more authority and weight—not a lot, but enough to be noticeable. Also, transients were slightly more convincing with the Krell—crisper, cleaner, more lifelike. Again, the difference was slight and subtle...but there. Finally, the Krell was slightly smoother, more creamy-textured, richer than the slightly threadbare (by comparison) Adcoms (footnote 3).

Still, this was astonishing performance—roughly 90%, maybe 92% of the performance of the Krell for a little over 1/3 the price.

"Soundstage is good. No collapse. Tonality is excellent," opined Lars. "The amps are neutral. And their authority, their control, is almost as impressive as the Krells."

"You save $3700," I said, "and you don't have to listen in your underwear during Yune, Yuly, and August."

Lars turned to Lou: "This guy never stops."

"Lars," I said. "You know how this pains me. If I could hear something wrong with your system, I would pounce." I hesitated. "No, I would slowly, surely, plant seeds of uncertainty and insecurity in your mind, the way I do with the Brass Ear, to the point where he starts going insane. I would love to do this, but I can't. Your system is absolutely superb, and the Krell KSA-250 is a killer amp."

"Thank you," said Lars, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I waited a moment before turning to Lou.

"It's amazing what Lars can do with one hand tied behind his back," I said.

"Now what does that mean?" inquired Lars.

"No analog. Only digital. Yust think what you could achieve with analog. Why, you'd have even more followers than you have now; you'd have a whole army of disciples, like the Gindian." (Lars—and the Gindian—take their roles as gurus very seriously.)

Footnote 2: I know I told you that the B&K M-200s do a good job of letting go of the notes. They do. The Adcoms on the Spendors are even better: cleaner, crisper. But the Adcoms will not satisfy someone looking for a solid-state substitute for tube-amp sound.

Footnote 3: Lou thought that the B&K amps have some of the creamy-textured richness the Adcoms seem to lack. Lou also thought that the slightly cleaner, crisper, clearer transients of the Krell, over the Adcom, may have a lot to do with the Krell amp's pure class-A operation.