POWER AMPLIFIER REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 03, 2014 3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,395

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Outstanding dynamics and headroom
Equal power to all channels
Seven-year transferable warranty
Minus
Very, very heavy
Recommended for two independent 20-Ampere power outlets

THE VERDICT
This amp never broke a sweat driving my 4-ohm speakers at insanely loud levels.

There are quite a few people in the audio world who have become household names, at least among audiophiles. I’m talking about legends like Paul Klipsch, Amar Bose, Saul Marantz, Henry Kloss, Bob Carver. But these aren’t the only influential contributors to the business and history of hi-fi. Among the lesser-known audio icons is Morris Kessler, the founder of ATI.

David Vaughn Posted: Jan 02, 2014 6 comments

CX-A5000 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
MX-A5000 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE CX-A5000, $3,000; MX-A5000, $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Audiophile pre/pro sound quality
Impeccable build quality
Apple AirPlay support
Minus
Amp performance merely competent
Limited network interface

THE VERDICT
Yamaha’s new pre/pro is a surefire contender, though its matching 11-channel amplifier wasn’t quite the same caliber.

If you’re in the market for a new AVR, you can spend countless hours researching all of the various manufacturers’ Websites and, when all is said and done, still have 20 or more models to choose from that have all the bells and whistles you want. The same can’t be said for the surround processor market, which is extremely limited by comparison.

Most companies offer only one model—if that—and it’s generally a reconstruction of their flagship AVR minus the amp section. Don’t expect a discounted price, though; with such a limited audience for pre/pros, you can expect to pay top dollar even when the amps are absent. That said, this isn’t such a bad deal because you can then choose an amplifier that mates well with your particular speakers. Furthermore, by having the electronically noisy amps in a separate enclosure, energized by their own dedicated power supply, you can theoretically enjoy improved audio quality. Of course, you also get an increased footprint in your rack with additional black boxes. The quest for audio nirvana certainly isn’t easy.

Brent Butterworth Posted: Aug 05, 2013 0 comments

"You test … amplifiers?" the lovely brunette MBA said to me from across the couch in the lobby of a hipster L.A. hotel. Sadly, my reply - "There are people who care about this stuff!" - didn't convince her of the value of my work. On some level, though, I'm in sympathy with her sentiment. While I do, on occasion, test amplifiers, I'm really a speaker and headphone reviewer.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 25, 2013 0 comments

Emotiva. The name sounds like the latest cure-all marketed by Big Pharma on the evening news programs. (Remember “restless leg?”) It is, in fact the consumer-audio brand of Tennessee’s Jade Designs. And Jade Designs, in turn, is the direct-to-consumer brand founded by a longtime veteran of the rough-and-tumble electronics OEM (original equipment manufacturing) world.

Kris Deering Posted: Mar 20, 2013 4 comments
PT-7030 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
PA 7-350 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: PT-7030, $1,799; PA 7-350, $2,799 At A Glance: Audiophile focus • Great dynamics • Lacks some bells and whistles

We’ve all heard the old saying, “less is more”, but that doesn’t always translate well to audio surround processors. While audiophile processors of yesteryear concentrated more on core components for the best possible sound quality and less on crazy surround modes and other digital processing, today’s market seems to demand these features.

David Vaughn Posted: Feb 20, 2013 12 comments

AV8801 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
MM8077 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: AV8801, $3,599; MM8077, $2,399 At a Glance: Up to 11.2-channel playback with Audyssey DSX and DTS Neo:X Audyssey MultEQ XT32 and Sub EQ HT Apple AirPlay support

As A/V enthusiasts, we are constantly on the lookout for the best audio and video we can find, and when we reach that state of nirvana, we enjoy our equipment until the next CES or CEDIA when we then hear about something new and begin to worry that our system will soon be second best. Writing for Home Theater makes me an unwilling accomplice in this never-ending cycle of upgrade-itis, but truth be told, I’m just as affected by this as the rest of you. Thankfully, I’m able to get my fix by having lots of equipment moving through my rack, but every now and then, I fall in love with a piece and don’t want it to leave my possession.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Jan 06, 2013 1 comments

SP3 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
9B SST² Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $17,595 At A Glance: No-compromise musicality in a home theater • Clean and powerful • No-frills design

If you’ve ever spent an afternoon at a big-box store courting eye strain and knee pain comparing the lineup of AVRs, then you’ve doubtless discovered that, superficially at least, the offerings have more in common than not. Sure, the more you spend, the more buzzwords are silk-screened across the front panel, the more HDMI connections you find around back, and, when it comes to power, the more exaggeration you get. One thing about Bryston and power—it’s not within theirs to lie. My first audiophile speakers, Magnepan MG-IIIa speakers, didn’t turn amazing until they met a Bryston 4B amp. If current is what your speakers crave, a Bryston amp could be their best friend.

Michael Fremer Posted: Nov 02, 2012 7 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,500 At A Glance: Enormous power output • Remarkably compact • Class D

Class D amplification has a narcotic-like hold on the audio electronics industry. These switching-mode designs mesmerize with a dazzling array of advantages: high efficiency, high power output, low weight, compact dimensions, and depending on implementation, enormous cost savings.

Kris Deering Posted: May 31, 2012 3 comments

Halo P 7 Multichannel Preamplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
A 51 Multichannel Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
JC 1 Single-Channel Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: P 7: $2,000, A 51: $4,500, JC 1: $4,500 At A Glance: Analog-audio-only preamp supports up to seven channels • Flexible hookup options • Halo amps deliver staggering performance

One of the few lessons that was ingrained into me during my time in the Navy was, “Keep it simple.” I admit it wasn’t phrased quite so politically correctly, but the point is still the same. It’s a motto I apply to just about everything I do in my daily life, and when I received the Parasound Halo P 7 multichannel preamplifier ($2,000) for review, it appeared that Parasound sticks to the same philosophy. The strictly analog preamp shrugs off digitaldecoding duties to your source components, shunning any dirty digital processing while providing a high-end, multichannel, analog preamp stage to feed into your amps. With the right front-end source components, this makes for a spectacular two-channel and multichannel listening experience.

Michael Fremer Posted: May 18, 2012 13 comments
Do you dream in surround sound? Since you’re reading this magazine, the answer is probably yes. Psychiatrists say dreaming is good for you. Thumb through any issue of Home Theater and you’re more likely than not to encounter components, systems, and lavish, dedicated rooms equipped with the latest 4K projectors and high-powered, surround-sound systems that most of us can only dream about.
Daniel Kumin Posted: Apr 10, 2012 0 comments

I am of the school that believes that more power is always better than less power. That school also professes that amplifiers, while operating within their linear abilities (a big “if”), are not generally distinct in their sonics.

Daniel Kumin Posted: Mar 22, 2012 0 comments

It’s a fact of modern life. The higher you climb in the high end of anything, the less, at least in one sense, you will get. You will find, I believe, few gargoyles on buildings designed by I.M. Pei, and even fewer rear-seat DVD screens in Paganis.

Fred Manteghian Posted: Jan 27, 2012 2 comments

Cinema 12 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
Model 7.125 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $8,990 At A Glance: Excellent detail and resolution • Music jumps alive • No video processing

Over a decade ago, while writing for a now-defunct audio magazine, my editor shipped me a pair of monoblock Cary tube amps he’d never gotten around to reviewing. Something must have shook loose during transit, because instead of music, all I got when I powered them up was a wisp of smoke as one monoblock sadly committed hara-kiri! The Cary Cinema 12 and Model 7.125 are an eternity of light years away from those fragile forays into bottle socketry. They exude an air of quality and reliability that physically and musically justify their significant price.

Call me weird, but I get excited when I see XLR connectors on my audio gear. Time spent in my fledgling home studio has taught me why pros prefer them. The Cinema 12 offers both single-ended RCA and true, differentially balanced XLR outputs, an arrangement and circuit design mirrored on the Model 7.125 amplifier. The Cinema 12 even offers a pair of stereo analog XLR inputs and a single balanced digital input beyond the roster of seven single-ended analog input pairs. Audio purists will appreciate the fact that you can bypass all digital conversions for your analog sources, including the 7.1 analog input you might use with an SACD player.

Kris Deering Posted: Dec 29, 2011 4 comments

DHC-80.3 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
DTA-70.1 Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $4,400 At A Glance: 4K scaling • Reference-quality video processing • Audyssey MultEQ XT32 ups the ante for room EQ • Nine channels of THX Ultra2 amplification

I don’t know what’s more impressive, the fact that Integra can produce a new state-of-the-art surround processor each year, or that the company can find new audio/video processing modes to add to its already ridiculous list of features. The Integra DHC-80.3 is the latest home run from Integra, with some of the most future-proofing features the company’s delivered yet. I can’t imagine adding much more to a surround processor, but I’m sure Integra will pull some new surprises out of the bag next year.

I’ve reviewed several of the past incarnations of Integra’s A/V processor, but this time up, Integra also sent out its nine-channel THX Ultra2–certified amp, the DTA-70.1. This monster delivers 150 watts per channel and sports balanced inputs and a gorgeous solid-aluminum front panel that matches the DHC-80.3 perfectly.

James K. Willcox Posted: Aug 19, 2011 0 comments

When it comes to tubes, I guess you could say I'm, well, biased. I like the way tube amps look, I like the way they sound, I like being able to swap tubes to get different sounds, and I especially like hearing my British friends call tubes valves.

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