Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $3,800 AT A GLANCE Plus Muscular Class A/B amp PC-USB and phono inputs Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 7.1.4 decoding Minus No auto setup Limited access to seven-channel amp for Atmos/DTS:X THE VERDICT Rotel returns to analog amplification for their latest top-of-the-line home theater machine&mdash;and the results are golden. Is the Rotel RAP-1580 the surround receiver that dares not speak its name? In keeping with the two-channel distinction between stereo receivers and integrated amplifiers, Rotel calls it a surround amplified processor because it doesn&rsquo;t include an AM/FM tuner. But to my mind, the defining trait of a surround receiver is that it combines a surround preamp/processor and a multichannel amp in one box. So I prefer to call this an audiophile receiver. You say tomato... [Editor&rsquo;s Note: I&rsquo;d call it a surround amplifier, and I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s the last of this type we&rsquo;ll be seeing...but, whatever.&mdash;RS]
Audio Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,800, $2,950 AT A GLANCE Plus High power in compact, Class D package Dynamic, uncolored sound Runs relatively cool Minus Channel configurations not ideal for typical surround layouts THE VERDICT All the power most will ever need, with the sound quality you want in a slim, cool-running package. Power amplifiers are God&rsquo;s gift to the long-suffering audio reviewer, his (or her) compensation for all those A/V receivers, smart-streamers, net-connected speakers, and assorted other CPU-centric components that gray and thin our hair. No arcane MAC or IP addresses for the power amp; no obfuscatory wireless setup routines, stubbornly mute computer connections for auto-EQ procedures, or HDMI ports that refuse to shake hands with other HDMI ports. Whatever its provenance, the power amp demands little more than audio inputs, speaker outputs, and a power cord and calls it good.
AT527NC Amplifier Performance Features Ergonomics Value AT524NC Amplifier Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $3,695, $2,595 AT A GLANCE Plus Very powerful Natural and balanced Made in the U.S.A. Minus LEDs are too bright THE VERDICT The days of looking down on Class D amps are over. Two and a half years ago, I reviewed my first ATI amplifier, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. The ATI Signature AT6005 five-channel amp set a new benchmark for its designer, Morris Kessler&mdash;to the point where he put his John Hancock on the faceplate. Last year, S&amp;V editor-at-large Bob Ankosko sat down with Kessler to talk about his design philosophy over the years, and the subject of Class D amps was broached. Kessler mentioned that his current designs were all Class A/B, but he was following the developments of Class D very closely&mdash;though the initial efforts in this area didn&rsquo;t meet his high standards because frequency response varied greatly as the impedance of the speaker changed. He hinted at the time that he may have finally found a Class D solution that he could deem acceptable, which turned out to be the latest Hypex Ncore modules.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $1,499 AT A GLANCE Plus Class A/B design Impressive sound quality Equal power to all channels Minus Very heavy Lacks balanced inputs THE VERDICT At $1,499, this amp is an incredible steal. While it doesn&rsquo;t quite reach the heights of its more expensive competition, it still offers a helluva view. My introduction to Monoprice happened about 10 years ago when I needed some interconnects for a system I had designed for someone on a tight budget. I&rsquo;d read how great a value the company&rsquo;s offerings were and decided to take the leap. Not only was my friend happy to save a few bucks from the store brands, he didn&rsquo;t sacrifice any of the quality, either. From day one, the interconnects worked like a charm. Since then, Monoprice has been my go-to source for home theater cables.
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $9,500 AT A GLANCE Plus A new take on amplifier classes with iBias Superb dynamics and soundstage Ethernet capability for system monitoring Minus LED illumination too bright Extremely heavy THE VERDICT Krell&rsquo;s iBias technology has allowed them to deliver the benefits of a Class A multichannel amplifier in a way that will have audiophiles grinning from ear to ear. Do you remember what it was like sitting for your high school or college lessons? Well, get ready for a trip down memory lane, because to give the Krell Chorus 7200 the praise it&rsquo;s due and explain just how much this &ldquo;little&rdquo;-amplifier-that-could is going to change the audio industry, we&rsquo;ll need to start with a short class in &ldquo;classes.&rdquo;
Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE $6,395 AT A GLANCE Plus Outstanding dynamics and headroom Equal power to all channels Seven-year transferable warranty Minus Very, very heavy Recommended for two independent 20-Ampere power outlets THE VERDICT This amp never broke a sweat driving my 4-ohm speakers at insanely loud levels. There are quite a few people in the audio world who have become household names, at least among audiophiles. I&rsquo;m talking about legends like Paul Klipsch, Amar Bose, Saul Marantz, Henry Kloss, Bob Carver. But these aren&rsquo;t the only influential contributors to the business and history of hi-fi. Among the lesser-known audio icons is Morris Kessler, the founder of ATI.
CX-A5000 Surround Processor Audio Performance Video Performance Features Ergonomics Value MX-A5000 Amplifier Performance Features Ergonomics Value PRICE CX-A5000, $3,000; MX-A5000, $3,000 AT A GLANCE Plus Audiophile pre/pro sound quality Impeccable build quality Apple AirPlay support Minus Amp performance merely competent Limited network interface THE VERDICT Yamaha&rsquo;s new pre/pro is a surefire contender, though its matching 11-channel amplifier wasn&rsquo;t quite the same caliber. If you&rsquo;re in the market for a new AVR, you can spend countless hours researching all of the various manufacturers&rsquo; Websites and, when all is said and done, still have 20 or more models to choose from that have all the bells and whistles you want. The same can&rsquo;t be said for the surround processor market, which is extremely limited by comparison. Most companies offer only one model&mdash;if that&mdash;and it&rsquo;s generally a reconstruction of their flagship AVR minus the amp section. Don&rsquo;t expect a discounted price, though; with such a limited audience for pre/pros, you can expect to pay top dollar even when the amps are absent. That said, this isn&rsquo;t such a bad deal because you can then choose an amplifier that mates well with your particular speakers. Furthermore, by having the electronically noisy amps in a separate enclosure, energized by their own dedicated power supply, you can theoretically enjoy improved audio quality. Of course, you also get an increased footprint in your rack with additional black boxes. The quest for audio nirvana certainly isn&rsquo;t easy.
"You test … amplifiers?" the lovely brunette MBA said to me from across the couch in the lobby of a hipster L.A. hotel. Sadly, my reply - "There are people who care about this stuff!" - didn't convince her of the value of my work. On some level, though, I'm in sympathy with her sentiment. While I do, on occasion, test amplifiers, I'm really a speaker and headphone reviewer.
Emotiva. The name sounds like the latest cure-all marketed by Big Pharma on the evening news programs. (Remember “restless leg?”) It is, in fact the consumer-audio brand of Tennessee’s Jade Designs. And Jade Designs, in turn, is the direct-to-consumer brand founded by a longtime veteran of the rough-and-tumble electronics OEM (original equipment manufacturing) world.
PT-7030 Surround Processor Audio Performance Video Performance Features Ergonomics Value &nbsp; PA 7-350 Amplifier Performance Features Ergonomics Value Price: PT-7030, $1,799; PA 7-350, $2,799 At A Glance: Audiophile focus &bull; Great dynamics &bull; Lacks some bells and whistles We’ve all heard the old saying, “less is more”, but that doesn’t always translate well to audio surround processors. While audiophile processors of yesteryear concentrated more on core components for the best possible sound quality and less on crazy surround modes and other digital processing, today’s market seems to demand these features.