Earthquake Sound Cinénova Grande Five-Channel Amplifier

A new value-driven benchmark in high-performance theater.

I've been sitting here at my computer for over an hour without typing a word. I'm showing signs of terminal writer's block, but I wish I were that lucky. In truth, I'm just speechless, and the Cinénova Grande amplifier from Earthquake Sound Corporation is the reason why. Several weeks ago, a massive wooden crate stamped "heavy" arrived at our sound lab in Woodland Hills. I had seen crates like this during my stint in the military—they usually contained Patriot missile warheads. We gathered around it like cavemen observing fire, poking at it and wondering what it might be. Finally, I worked up the nerve to open it up.

Inside was Earthquake's Cinénova Grande five-channel power amplifier. I'd been hearing rumors about this amp for quite some time and was anxious to give it a listen. Something that has always gotten my goat is when a manufacturer's measurements stray really far from what we actually measure in the lab. When I read the specs for the Cinénova Grande, I shook my head in disappointment, expecting just such an occurrence. Earthquake lists the specifications of the Cinénova Grande as follows: 300 watts by five channels into 8 ohms, with no more than 0.003 percent total harmonic distortion (THD); 600 watts by five channels into 4 ohms, with no more than 0.006 percent THD; and a whopping 1,000 watts by five channels into 2 ohms, with no more than 0.006 percent THD. When I read through the rest of the specifications, I was just as shocked. It's not that specs this good are impossible; they're just unheard of in the realm of home theater, especially for an amp with a price point of $4,000.

Typically, I listen to gear before I measure it. With the Cinénova Grande, however, I couldn't wait to dissect it. When I opened up the top cover, several things were noticeable right away. One, the Cinénova is a true monaural design with five discrete blocks, each with its own power supply and a 15-ampere capability. Two, it's not made in a sweatshop overseas. Three, it's built to last.

Each of the amp's five discrete EZXS amplifier boards can be removed and replaced in minutes without completely disassembling the amplifier. This may be irrelevant to anyone using it solely for home theater but is certainly beneficial to anyone using it for professional applications. Keep in mind that the Cinénova earns the Grande in its title by weighing a hefty 125 pounds.

Each of the five monaural blocks also features a built-in low-pass/high-pass variable filter with a range of 20 hertz to 5 kilohertz. A three-way switch controls the operation of the filter between full-range, high-pass, or low-pass mode. There are binding posts for speaker connectivity, RCA inputs on each board, and a parallel port that houses all five RCA inputs. Many view this as the port of choice for the future.

The Cinénova Grande measures 9.25 by 18 by 21 inches. The front plate features a rather clean, simple design, with five small LEDs that indicate which channels are active. There are also two large handles on the front, which (in my opinion) aren't nearly large enough for the amount of hands that should be used to move this amp.

Once I got the Cinénova Grande on the measuring bench, I was even more astounded—it measured exactly as Earthquake had specified. (Take a look at the chart for yourself.) The harder I pushed the amp, the less distortion I got!

Moving right along, it was time for the listening evaluation. I began as I do with all my audio reviews—music first. I inserted my Trisha Yearwood Songbook CD. Track 2 of the disc ("The Song Remembers When") is one of the most revealing tracks I've heard. Within the first 13 seconds of the song, there are several very subtle details that only the best amps, preamps, and speakers can uncover. The Cinénova Grande unveiled them all. The soundstage was enormous and equally transparent. At times, I thought I could feel Trisha's breath coming out of my Mirage HDT speakers. After hours of listening enjoyment, I retired the Cinénova and gathered my notes.

Earthquake Sound
Cinénova Grande Five-Channel Amplifier
(650) 327-3003