POWER AMPLIFIER REVIEWS

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Steven Stone  |  Oct 15, 2004  |  0 comments

Most power amplifiers are primarily differentiated by their size and color. Eventually, even an amplifier fetishist grows weary of digging for the minute variations that make each amplifier special. Perhaps that's why it's so refreshing to discover an amp that embraces some truly unique new technology. Bel Canto, a small company located in darkest Minnesota, has managed to find a way to manufacture a digital amplifier, dubbed the eVo2, whose performance rivals that of more conventional analog designs.

Barry Willis  |  Sep 21, 2004  |  0 comments

Adcom first appeared on the technophile radar in 1979, with the introduction of the GFA-1 power amplifier—the beginning of a long series of affordable, high-performance audio products. Then based in New Jersey, Adcom hit its stride in the mid- to late 1980s with its GFA-555 and GFA-565 power amplifiers and GTP-555 and GTP-565 preamplifiers, all of which were well received by reviewers and music lovers alike. Solidly built, extremely reliable, and musically satisfying, these products earned Adcom a reputation for quality that reviews of its more recent products continue to confirm.

Chris Lewis  |  Sep 18, 2004  |  First Published: Sep 01, 2004  |  0 comments
High-end home theater for the rest of us.

Home theater in 2004 is like America in the 1950s, with a middle class that has steadily been building momentum and now finds itself in the midst of a major breakout. The same philosophy of the good life at a better price that spawned a culture of suburbs and credit-card debt in the '50s is spawning an unprecedented emergence of high-end home theater components at mid-level prices in the '00s.

Fred Manteghian  |  May 16, 2004  |  0 comments

The Stage One is Aragon's second-generation surround processor, replacing and retiring the original Stage. The Stage One combines a strikingly machined front panel with the latest thinking in surround processing, including no processing at all for us vinyl buffs. And in a concession to those who think there might still be something on the public airwaves worth listening to in this ClearChannel world, the Stage One also throws in an AM/FM tuner. Visually, the robust 5-channel Aragon 3005 and 2-channel 3002 amps share the Mondial-inspired "M" design with the Stage One.

Chris Lewis  |  Apr 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Lexicon's CX-7 is ready for its due.

No matter the dollar amount involved, it happens to everyone: You get locked on to something new, you watch the glowing reviews and awards pile up, and you consider pulling the trigger when either financial reality or conservatism kicks in. You ultimately think, "If only it were a few hundred (or thousand, or hundred thousand) dollars less." Patience usually pays off, though. That's as clear in the A/V world as it is anywhere, especially in the high end. It's only natural that, when a manufacturer rolls out a new design or line, they start with their best foot forward, which usually ends up being the more-expensive foot. However, most manufacturers will eventually give those of you who are limited to lower price brackets—either by choice or necessity—a taste with lower-priced models. With the legitimate companies, the gap in price between models is almost always significantly greater than the gap in performance.

Robert Deutsch  |  Mar 21, 2004  |  0 comments

For a country with a population of fewer than 6 million, Denmark has an amazingly high profile when it comes to manufacturers of audio and home theater products. Bang & Olufsen, Dynaudio, Vifa, Peerless, Jamo, Gryphon, Ortofon, Thule, Dali, TacT—the list goes on and on. According to the folks at US importer Sumiko, Primare (pronounced "prime-AIR") has been around since the 1980s, and their products combine outstanding industrial design with an emphasis on sound quality. In the late '90s, the Primare team was joined by Michael Bladelius, well-known for his analog and digital design work for Threshold, Classé, and Pass Labs. Primare products are now manufactured in Sweden, while the head office and design center remain in Denmark.

Thomas J. Norton  |  Mar 07, 2004  |  0 comments

The Dreadnaught (reviewed in our Oct-ober 2000 issue) was the first power amplifier from Theta Digital, a company previously known for its D/A converters, CD and DVD transports, and surround processors. But it wasn't to be the last. The Dreadnaught II is now a member of a growing family of Theta amplifiers—the premier multichannel design in a line that also includes high-end monoblocks.

Chris Lewis  |  Mar 01, 2004  |  0 comments
Another contender emerges among entry-level separates.

In case you hadn't noticed, the bell has rung, and the blows are flying in the $3,000-to-$5,000 range for electronics systems (i.e., preamplification, processing, and amplification). It's easy to characterize this as a melee between receivers and separates, which is a key component of what we're seeing at this price level. Receivers are sounding better and getting more expensive; separates are getting more user-friendly, offering more features, and dropping in price.

Michael Fremer  |  Feb 22, 2004  |  First Published: Feb 23, 2004  |  0 comments

Though it's a relatively small company, UK-based Arcam has long been known to place heavy emphasis on R&D. When I visited the factory a few years ago, I was shown some of the impressive development work then in progress. This effort, said by Arcam to run well over $1 million, has resulted in some impressive new products, including the FMJ AV8 preamplifier-processor and its companion FMJ P7 power amp.

Barry Willis  |  Nov 30, 2003  |  0 comments

In my student days, I coped with perpetual financial shortfalls in part by moving furniture. After a weekend of toting hide-a-beds and refrigerators to fifth-floor walkups, I would imagine a perfect world in which everything was designed to work with everything else. Not a world of bureaucratic regimentation, but one in which, by common agreement, every sofa would fit into every elevator and every table would slip through every open door.

Robert Deutsch  |  Jul 12, 2003  |  0 comments

For the benefit of those who find it difficult to keep straight all the different manufacturers whose names begin with "Audio," Audio Refinement is the brand name of YBA's affordable line of electronics. YBA itself—if you're really out of the loop—is probably the best-known manufacturer of audio equipment in France. YBA is a family business, the initials standing for the name of the designer, Yves-Bernard André, whose wife, Ariane Morin, is the company's CEO.

Fred Manteghian  |  Jul 12, 2003  |  0 comments

Yippie-i-o-ki-ay, separates-lovers! The Outlaw Model 950 preamplifier-processor is the good five-cent cigar every home-theater bandito has been craving, and the 7-channel Model 770 amplifier is fit to be corralled, cable-tied, and hauled to your mountain hideout as well. The Model 950, in particular, shuns any of the boutique-brand weirdisms you might expect from a mail-order-only outfit like Outlaw. On the contrary, its pleasingly simple front panel conceals a wealth of features that's not a single, solitary letter shy of the latest list of home-theater acronyms. This li'l dogie's got it all!

Michael Fremer  |  Jan 15, 2003  |  0 comments

With A/V receivers now approaching the size, weight, and complexity of small apartment buildings, separating the processing and control functions from the amplification is becoming an attractive alternative for growing numbers of home-theater enthusiasts. While this approach is usually more expensive in the short run, most serious videophiles find that the long-term flexibility and enhanced performance more than offset the added cost.

Chris Lewis  |  Dec 19, 2002  |  First Published: Dec 20, 2002  |  0 comments
Lexicon's MC-12 pre/pro gets a high-powered playmate.

I suppose that I'm starting to sound like a broken record when I talk about the concept of matching in home theater, but how else can I call attention to one of the most important aspects of creating a successful system? After all, matching audio/video equipment is not unlike matching in other areas of our lives. The proper combination of amps, speakers, room characteristics, and, well, everything else can create an exciting, dynamic, and highly satisfying experience for all involved. The wrong combination is usually mundane, lifeless, and, if you will, impotent. Sparks in the listening room come about in a similar way as sparks in other rooms of the house—they require experience and effort. A little bit of passion never hurts, either.

Steven Stone  |  Dec 11, 2002  |  0 comments

In the realm of 2-channel high-end audio, tube power amplifiers are still king&mdash;so you'd expect them to hold court, or at least a decent market share, in the world of high-end home theater as well. Alas, most home theaters are tubeless, except for the cathode-ray tubes in CRT projectors and direct-view monitors. Perhaps the time has come for tube power amplifiers to make an inroad into home theater. Manley Laboratories' new Snapper monoblock&mdash;the first tube-based power amplifier to be reviewed in the <I>Guide</I>&mdash;could be just the unit to pull the sword from the stone.

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