Adcom GFA-565 monoblock power amplifier Sam Tellig page 4

Speaking of the Gindian, Lars read me his first review in TAS. Some business about his Jadis JA-500 amplifiers being magicians that can pull rabbits out of hats—I mean, speakers. I guess.

"Funny," I said to Lars, "I was over the Gindian's and the sound was really good. Still, I didn't hear no rabbits."

It was a good afternoon, because everyone was pleased. Lars was pleased with what he had achieved with his system—proof, as I said to Lou while we walked out the door, that you can achieve good results with almost anything if you try hard enough. Lou had enyoyed himself. And all of us were impressed both with the Krell—that wasn't news—and with the Adcom—that was news.

Of course, there was more fun to be had. Lou has a pair of Apogee Stages—a purchase which I helped to engineer. I got Lou all fired up about the Stages, so he would buy them and then I would have easy access to a pair without having to own them. Diabolical, huh? Lou's wife, Anita, does not like to let me into the house. "Here comes trouble," she says when she sees me.

The Stages are said to be amplifier-unfriendly—tough to get along with, ampwise. Strangely, I have not found this to be the case. Maybe I've had good luck. Lou, for instance, drives the stages quite well with a Croft tube preamp and a pair of 105Wpc Croft OTL tube amplifiers. The Stages also did quite well with the B&K M-200 monoblocks, as you'll remember from last month.

This time it was the Adcoms' turn with the Stages.

Once again, the Adcoms did very well—controlling the bass of the Stages with greater solidity and authority than either the Croft OTL tube amps or the B&K M-200 solid-state monoblocks. On the whole, I preferred the Adcoms on the Stages to the B&K, but it was a closer call than it was with the Spendors, where the bass authority tilted the scale, for me, decisively in favor of the Adcoms. Here, with the Stages, the treble sweetness and the added apparent dimensionality—or spaciousness—of the B&K amps had a definite appeal. Especially for Lou.

The Adcoms sounded more authoritative than the B&Ks, but leaner, saved from sterility and dryness, perhaps by the presence of the Croft tube preamplifier in Lou's system. Lou liked the Adcoms but wasn't sure he preferred them to the B&K M-200s...on the Stages (footnote 4). Still, the Adcoms are another item on the list of amps which can be made to work well with the Stages. If you have Stages, or plan to get them, this is where I'd start my search for affordable amplification: B&K M-200 monoblocks and Adcom GFA-565 monos (footnote 5).

Lou agrees with me about the relative performance of the two amps in the bass. Lou thinks the difference between the amps may have a lot to do with power supply. Each GFA-565 has a very large transformer feeding a storage bank of 70,000µF of filter capacitance. I'm sure you don't want to hear from me any of the technotalk that Adcom provided. My eyes glaze over when I read, "The output stage, driver, and pre-driver are in a triple-Darlington configuration." One point is worth noting, I think: all internal point-to-point wiring is oxygen-free copper. Also, high-quality film capacitors have been used in the "specially critical" circuits. I do not think there would be any benefit whatsoever in having your GFA-565 worked on by any of the many mod services.

Lou was headed off to the opera that night, lucky Lou, so I left early, intending to take the amps directly home. I figured, though, that I had time to stop off at the Wolf Man's before dinner. You haven't met the Wolf Man yet.

No sooner had I arrived at Wolf Man's than I bumped into my buddy Howie Hyperfy. Howie invited me over to hear his new Avalon Eclipses, just arrived.

"Fine, I have the new Adcom monos in the car."

The Avalons were barely 24 hours old and obviously not broken in. Moreover, Howie had not had opportunity to experiment with speaker placement and all the other tweaks, including cable changes, which can make such a difference in speaker performance. Nor did Howie yet have his Jadis JA-200 amps.

The sound of the Adcoms on the Avalons was not promising—although I shall be paying Howie a return visit. As Howie said, "The sound is dry." However, as JA has already pointed out, this is a speaker which seems to demand a tube amp. The Adcoms weren't terrible on the Avalons; the sound was somewhat clinical, cold, not enough body. Not enough weight, either. Again, I think it's the speakers, not the amps.

"Howie is living in hi-fi hell," said Wolf Man a few days later.

Tentatively, then, I would say that the Adcoms are ideally matched with a speaker which is already endowed with some of its own body, warmth, and sweetness. The Adcoms with the Spendor S100s is one of the great combinations of hi-fi. I would imagine that the Vandersteen 2Ci and B&W 801 Matrix mate well with the Adcoms, although I have not yet had the chance to check out these combinations.

What's noteworthy about the Adcoms, aside from bang for the buck, is the combination of delicacy with authority. These are no slash-and-burn amplifiers—impressive at first, then boring when you notice a lack of delicacy and detail. They are as neutral as can be, and totally free from any graininess. I found these amplifiers to be virtually unflappable. Also, they don't run hot or buzz or consume gobs of electricity when quiescent.

They warm up fast, sounding quite good even cold, and close to their best after about an hour. Leaving them on all the time—not out of the question since they consume less than 100 watts each when idling and do not run hot—makes them sound perhaps only slightly sweeter and smoother. Victor maintains there is no improvement at all after the amps are on for an hour or so. I leave my amps on when I'm home and turn them off when I go out.

When Lou heard the GFA-565s on his Apogee Stages, he said, "They have closed the gap between the low end and the high end."

I agree with Victor: the Adcom GFA-565 may be the best amp that he's ever heard.

Judge for yourself. Be sure to audition both the B&K and the Adcom amps—preferably with the speakers you own or intend to buy. Don't run out and buy a small but expensive single-chassis stereo amp before you hear what Adcom and B&K can give you for less (footnote 6).

And Tony Cordesman, I apologize. The Adcom amps are as good as you said they were. Maybe even better (footnote 7).

I sold the B&K monos to my good friend Scott and made the Adcoms my reference. Yes, the Adcoms were "better"—for me, with my Spendors, for my tastes. I repeat: this does not mean the Adcoms will be "better" for you.—Sam Tellig

Footnote 4: If a tube sound is what you're after, take a tube preamp like the Audible Illusions Modulus and run it through the B&Ks or the Adcoms. Of the two, the B&Ks will sound more "tubelike."

Footnote 5: Too bad I didn't have access to a pair of MartinLogan electrostatics. These have tended to do particularly well on B&K amps, which seem to ameliorate what may be the hyper-detailed quality of the speakers. B&K amps have also tended to do very well on speakers equipped with bleeding-ears, metal-dome tweeters. Do not assume that just because I preferred the Adcoms on my Spendors, you will prefer the Adcoms on the speakers of your choice. Listen to both pairs of amps and decide for yourself.

Footnote 6: You might consider Forté Audio, too. They have a new pair of class-A monoblocks—the Model 7—retailing for $2590/pair. If these amps are as good as the Forté Model 2 preamp, one of my favorites, then they, too, are contenders to be reckoned with.

Footnote 7: Since I'm keeping this pair of Adcom amps, a separate pair is being sent to Santa Fe. I'm sure these amps will make "Recommended Components." The question is, where? John, if you put them in borderline Class A, which is where I feel they belong, won't people think they're nuts to consider the other, more expensive Class A–rated brands? Heh-heh.