Audio Note Gaku-On Monoblock Power Amp

When you consider the price of a power amp, it's interesting to calculate the cost per watt. In that light, the Gaku-On monoblock from British maker Audio Note and distributed in the US by Audio Federation is the most expensive power amp I know of.

The Gaku-On's output is relatively high for a tube-based amplifier—45 watts, which might seem skimpy compared with big solid-state amps, but it's more than enough to get plenty of volume from high-efficiency speakers. The directly heated single-ended triode (SET) design operates in class A mode, which means the entire waveform is amplified by the same compliment of tubes—in this case, two NOS VT4-C/211s per channel operating in parallel.

One of the beauties of SET amps is their simplicity, an approach that is fully embraced in the Gaku-On. Its zero-feedback, transformer-coupled circuit topology uses custom-designed transformers that are hand wound with Audio Note's silver wire, and the other components are the highest quality available with as few as possible in the signal path.

At $185,000/pair, the price per watt comes to $2056, which is almost double the result of the same calculation for the Wavac SH-833 ($350,000 for two channels of 150W each, or $1167 per watt). Which is better? I'm sure it's a highly subjective call. If you're planning to drop that much coin on power amps, you'd better give both a careful audition with the speakers you intend to use with them to determine which one you prefer.