February 27, 2021 § Leave a comment

Lights abound, whether you like them or not… In addition to the white-lighted “Black Ice Audio” script on the amplifier’s front panel, and the lighted Black Ice logo on the same panel (that doubles as the on/standby switch), an additional pilot light is placed atop the transformer cover box. Even in standby mode, the on/off logo, pilot light, and “Black Ice Audio” logo remains lit. I find this distracting when the amp is not even playing and wish these lights were defeatable, but many won’t care. As delivered, the only way to turn off all amplifier lighting is to use the on/off switch on the back of the amplifier that may be less than readily accessible in some equipment racks.

Willsenton R8 Tube Integrated Amplifier 2 Review

February 25, 2021 § Leave a comment

Classé Audio Delta Mono Amplifiers $21,998 Review

February 24, 2021 § Leave a comment

The Classé Delta Mono balanced the audible advantages of tubed and solid-state amplification better than has any other amp for south of $30,000 that I’ve reviewed. It conveyed all of the qualities of sound I love in the McIntosh MC1.25KW—e.g., the latter’s robust, punchy bass and beautifully fluid midrange—but expertly balanced them with some of what I love about the Simaudio Moon Evolution W-7M: high levels of resolution, transparency, power, focus, and unrelenting drive. And the Delta Mono is cheaper than either.

The Delta Mono fell short in the materials of which its case is made. The McIntosh MC1.25KW, with its thick faceplate of solid glass, huge backlit wattmeter, massive rack handles of solid aluminum, and elaborate case of stamped and polished stainless steel, is one of the most robust-looking amplifiers on the market. Similarly, the Moon Evolution W-7M and all its successors have 1/2″-thick faceplates, huge corner posts machined from billet, 1.5ʺ-thick heatsinks, and beautifully milled and textured top panels—all of solid aluminum. While Classé’s Delta Mono, with its 3/4″-thick wraparound front plate, may look robust, closer examination reveals thicknesses of little more than 1/8″ everywhere else on the case. But while the Delta Mono may not feel as robust or as vault-like as the others mentioned here, as one who’s lived with these amps for over three months now, I urge you not to judge a book by its cover.

Denon DCD-A110/PMA-A110 SACD Player/Amplifier Review

February 14, 2021 § Leave a comment

Make no mistake, both elements of this pairing are exceptional, and I can see the DCD-A110 having appeal to those wanting a final disc player with minimal frills – it certainly has a simplicity of purpose to match the solidity of its build. But it’s the PMA-A110 amp that’s the star turn here, whether you use its analogue inputs (including the fine phono stage) or digital connections.

Denon’s engineers have again kept things simple, concentrating their efforts where they will have maximal impact on the sound. It’s this thinking that’s so apparent in the way these products perform.

NAD Masters M28 Seven-Channel Power Amplifier Review

February 12, 2021 § Leave a comment

But how would the NAD compare with a well-regarded separate class-A/B amp in the same two-channel, no- subwoofer setup? For that I turned to the Parasound Halo A 52+, a five-channel amp I’ve used in many of my recent audio reviews. At matched levels, my back-and-forth listening comparisons favored the NAD by a hair. The Parasound was slightly darker and warmer (though not by much), and the NAD dryer, with more incisive leading edges on high frequency transients. Any given listener’s preference here might easily shift depending on the system. I ultimately leaned in the direction of the NAD but could live happily live with the Parasound (and have for some time now). The five-channel Parasound does have a $2,000 price advantage ($3,000, or $600/channel), while the NAD offers a premium cosmetic design and seven channels ($4,999, or $714/channel).

Yamaha A-S3200 Integrated Amplifier $7499 Review

February 11, 2021 § Leave a comment

There’s much to be said for simple elegance, whether in a graceful haiku or Yamaha’s exquisite A-S3200. With the latter, you simply connect your turntable and CD player, or any source with analog outputs, connect your speakers, sit back, and enjoy impeccably musical sound. There’s no app to install, no digital inputs to configure, no calibration to be done. To sound its best it needs quite a bit of burn-in, as well as time to warm up each time it’s turned on—but as I sat there watching the needles of its beautiful level meters dancing along in time to the sublimely reproduced music, I knew it was worth the wait. The A-S3200 isn’t cheap, but considering the quality of its construction, the uniqueness of its handsome, classic visual design, and the quality of its sound, it’s a stunning integrated amplifier that I’d be proud to own and prominently display in my audio system.

Moonriver 404 Reference integrated amplifier $4995 Review

February 10, 2021 § Leave a comment

For more longevity, he made the 404 Reference easily serviceable: It has a removable bottom that gives access to both sides. “When you have through-hole components rather than surface-mount components, and you have access to both sides of the PCB [printed circuit board], you can service the amplifier very easily,” he said. “The chip I use has a very short signal path and doesn’t have crosstalk or interference between the discrete transistors that are usually used in a power amplifier. It also includes essential protection circuits that guard against damage from overheating, short circuits, and voltage spikes. This creates the kind of transparency that only single-ended amplifiers have.

PrimaLuna EVO 100 Integrated Amplifier Review

February 9, 2021 § Leave a comment

The different sonic characters available with different tubes, is more than another article, so perhaps we’ll pick that up in an upcoming article or video, so stay tuned. Either way, this is another aspect of PrimaLuna ownership that really ups the fun factor. With it so easy to swap tubes, both small signal and output – it’s easy to fine tune your EVO100 exactly to your taste. Me, I’m not a big tube roller anymore, and vintage NOS EL34s are prohibitively expensive. But if you have to go down that rabbit hole, it can be as long of a journey as you’d like it to be. Not to mention Kevin Deal and Upscale Audio have the biggest stash of tubes on the planet, so their staff can help you with your journey.

Vinnie Rossi L2i Signature Edition Integrated Amplifier-DAC Review

February 4, 2021 § Leave a comment

Finding a suitable point of comparison for the L2i Signature Edition was difficult, given its uniqueness. No one will be cross-shopping the far-more-boutique Vinnie Rossi against my reference integrated amp-DAC, Hegel’s H590, with its whopping 301Wpc (8 ohms) output and its Scandinavian minimalism. The same goes for other high-priced integrateds I’ve recently reviewed, such as Simaudio’s Moon 700i V2 and Constellation Audio’s Inspiration Integrated 1.0. As good as those amps are, they’re not, well, special.

Gryphon Audio Designs’ Diablo 300 ($15,990), by contrast, is special. Like the Vinnie Rossi, this massive integrated can be ordered with an optional DAC ($5990) or phono ($2250) stage—but unlike the L2i-SE, not with both. The powerful Diablo boasts 300/600/900Wpc into 8/4/2 ohms, and is nominally class-AB but biased into class-A for the first 10W. It’s been several years since I’ve had the Gryphon in my listening room, but it made a strong impression on me. Its obvious power advantage means that it can be paired with any speakers in any room. It was a current monster, with staggering control of the bass, and its sound through its optional digital inputs was similar to the L2i-SE’s. But the Diablo’s appearance, best described as gothic noir, is the opposite of classy or elegant—it looks like an amp that demands respect, speaking more to the owner’s fight-or-flight response than does the Vinnie Rossi’s greater décor-friendliness.

Pass Labs INT-25 – CLASS A Review

February 2, 2021 § Leave a comment

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