Wavac SE-833 Monoblock Power Amp

As I was looking for products to profile in this blog, I came across something astonishing—a tube-based monoblock power amp that costs $350,000/pair! Hand-built by Japanese boutique maker Wavac Audio Lab, the SH-833 isn't new—it was reviewed in Stereophile in 2004—but when I saw that price tag, I knew I had to include it here.

The SH-833 is what's known as a single-ended, directly heated triode power amp. An explanation of this technology is beyond the scope of this blog; suffice to say that tube-based amplification is generally prized by audiophiles for its warm, clean, analog sound and simple, direct circuitry. The output of most tube amps is relatively low, which is why this amp's power rating of 150W into 4 or 8Ω is so remarkable—in fact, it's claimed to be the world's most powerful such amp. To keep that power super-clean throughout its frequency range from 20Hz to 100kHz, the amp's four functional modules—isolation transformer, power transformer, power supply, and amplifier circuit—are built into separate enclosures for maximum isolation. These enclosures are massive, weighing in at 275 pounds per channel.

My first thought when I found the SH-833 was, "How much for a 5-channel setup?" The answer—$875,000. If that's just a bit too rich for your bank account, you could always drive the surround channels with the HE-833MkII pictured here, which integrates the power supply and transformers into one chassis with a separate amp module while maintaining a rated power output of 150W from 20Hz to 100kHz. At $150,000/pair, that brings the 5-channel price down to $675,000.

As reviewer Michael Fremer concluded of the SH-833, "Only a few lucky audiophiles have pockets deep enough to afford them, and given the amp's distinctive personality, associated components must be chosen with great care. But when everything is right, the Wavac SH-833 will produce magical, musically fulfilling sound that you're not likely to forget." Sounds pretty ultimate to me.