More Power!

In this blog, I often focus on products that are at home in a home theater, but when a press release about the new Perreaux éloquence 250i reached my inbox, I was intrigued. It claims to be the world's most powerful Class AB stereo integrated amp, so I had to investigate further.

As it's model number implies, the 250i is rated to deliver 250 watts/channel into 8Ω. But wait a minute—the Perreaux website says it can output up to 360Wpc into 8Ω. In reply to my query about this discrepancy, a representative from the New Zealand-based company explained that 250Wpc is a very conservative rating per Perreaux's standard operating procedure, but the amp can actually deliver 360Wpc continuously into 8Ω just before clipping while remaining within the THD (total harmonic distortion) spec of 0.002% at 1kHz or 0.010% from 20Hz to 20kHz. Of course, the power into 4Ω is even more impressive—500Wpc rated, 530Wpc max continuous, though the THD is not specified in this case.

The amp's other specs are equally remarkable. For example, the frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz deviates from flat by no more than –0.15dB, and the response from 5Hz to 60kHz deviates by no more than –0.50dB. That's ruler-flat by most standards.

How does the amp achieve such exemplary performance? Three separate transformers feed four independent power supplies, which in turn drive high-power MOSFET output transistors. The whole shebang is controlled and protected from overloading and overheating by an advanced microprocessor that is isolated from the audio signal path.

Of course, this is an integrated amp, which means it includes a preamp section with inputs for your stereo sources. It provides one pair of balanced XLR connectors and four pairs of unbalanced RCA connectors as well as an iPod input on the front panel. The 250i also offers a pass-through mode that lets it act as a straightforward 2-channel power amp in a home-theater setup when it's not being used for music listening—a nice touch.

Optional features include a digital-to-analog converter module with two optical and two coax inputs that can accept up to 24-bit/192kHz signals as well as one USB port that can handle up to 16-bit/48kHz. Another option is a phono module for moving-magnet or moving-coil photo cartridges.

You'd think that the world's most powerful anything would be expensive, and you'd be right. List price for the basic 250i will be $8500 in the United States when it ships in a month or two; the DAC module will be around $1500, and the phono module will be around $1000. That's a lot to pay for a 2-channel integrated amp, but from what I've heard of Perreaux products, it'll be money well spent.