POWER AMPLIFIER REVIEWS

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Kris Deering  |  May 31, 2012  |  4 comments

Halo P 7 Multichannel Preamplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
 
A 51 Multichannel Amplifier
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JC 1 Single-Channel Amplifier
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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  |  May 18, 2012  |  12 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  |  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  |  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.

Michael Trei  |  Feb 22, 2012  |  0 comments

Few audio companies are as closely associated with a single individual as Pass Laboratories is with its founder Nelson Pass, a man who has always blazed his own path when it comes to designing audio gear. Pass founded Threshold Electronics back in the early 1970s, but when he wanted to explore new, simpler circuit topologies in the early 1990s, he created Pass Labs as a way to market his latest creations.

The two integrated amps in the Pass Labs line, the INT-150 and INT-30A, are a good example of his less-than-conventional approach, seeing as both appear to be  identical except for the critical question of output power. Physically the two amps are indistinguishable, with exactly the same functions, weight, dimensions, and even price tag. It's only when you take a peek at the spec sheet that the differences become apparent, with the INT-150 delivering a healthy 150 watts per-channel, while the INT-30A tops out at just one-fifth that amount.

So what gives? Why would anyone buy an inline four when they're offering you the V-12 for the same money?

Fred Manteghian  |  Jan 27, 2012  |  2 comments

Cinema 12 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
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Model 7.125 Amplifier
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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  |  Dec 29, 2011  |  4 comments

DHC-80.3 Surround Processor
Audio Performance
Video Performance
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DTA-70.1 Amplifier
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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  |  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.

Michael Berk  |  Aug 03, 2011  |  0 comments

In a sure sign that the low-cost DAC is finding its place as an object of mass consumer desire, NuForce has released a 24-karat gold plated version of their uDAC-2 converter-and-headphone-amp combo unit

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 04, 2011  |  10 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,700 At A Glance: Receiver priced, separates performance and power • Next-gen Internet connectivity and versatility • Sophisticated sonics, simplified setup

Everybody’s Been Burned

Are you weighed down by a boat anchor of an expensive, powerful, but obsolete A/V receiver that doesn’t have HDMI inputs or processing for the latest lossless audio formats? You’re not alone. Everybody’s been burned by fast-moving technological change. You could unload your boat anchor for a few hundred dollars on eBay or AudiogoN and start over. But should you? Consider that today’s cost-conscious race-to-the-bottom A/V receivers and even some separates seem to be getting cheaper but worse sounding, not better. But if Marantz’s AV7005 surround processor and MM7055 amplifier are as good as the hype suggests, this could be the way to go. And in case of future obsolescence, at least now you’re into separates, which makes upgrades a less pricey proposition.

Michael Fremer  |  Oct 20, 2010  |  2 comments
Price: $4,998 At A Glance: Superior surround processor sonics • Excellent ergonomics • Cool-running ICEpower amp lacks definition

The Ladder to the High End

You’ve got to have sympathy for sound- and build-quality-oriented A/V electronics manufacturers like Rotel. You can go online, and for four hundred bucks and change buy a “630-watt” 7.1-channel AVR from a big-name manufacturer with all the latest lossless audio decoding from Dolby and DTS, video processing, 1080p HDMI switching, upconversion, and more. Since many people these days don’t care about good sound and because they’ve never actually heard it, they think, “Everything sounds the same.” And they think they should get it all for a pittance.

Fred Manteghian  |  Sep 21, 2010  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $18,000 At A Glance: Audio is smooth yet highly detailed • Amp has power to drive cattle • Great ergonomics • Spartan video

HT editor Shane Buettner laughed at me when I told him I spent two months strength training before the Revel Salon2 speakers arrived at my home last year.

Michael Fremer  |  Apr 12, 2010  |  0 comments

Cinema 11a Surround Processor
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Features
Ergonomics
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Model 7.125 Amplifier
Performance
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Ergonomics
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Price: $8,000 At A Glance: Minimal video-switching capabilities • Maximum sound quality • Amplifier made in America

Core Audiophile Values

During the last decade or so, specialty audio manufacturers have seen the marriage of home theater and high-performance audio become contentious at best and life threatening at worst. These days, companies have fewer financial resources and longer R&D lead times. Relatively small audiophile-oriented companies that sought the A/V path have been overwhelmed. Sometimes, fast-moving, shelf-life-shortening developments­—such as the adaptation of new audio and video formats—have burned these companies outright.

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