Cafad

Integrated Amps: An Addicts Guide.

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Spollchuck is the NZ version of spell check. It is being marketed by Duck Smuth the well known NZ entrepreneur,helicopter pilot and peanut butter maker

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Leave me alone - I'm busy :(

From my photo's you can deduce I also have fat fingers that get in the way. :P I should not be posting on the run!

I will take greater care in future or it could be this :hiccup

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Hi Zipstart, do Technical Brain make an integrated? I can't find any info on it on their website

Can't see it on their website either. The one I heard was in a HK clients home.

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@ Cafad

I use the Australian dictionary add-on with firefox, works on most sites.

Edited by datafone

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Geez Cafad, I think you need to put an offer in on that Kandy.

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I need to sell a few things to loosen up some cash!

I wonder if I should have a boxing day sale?

I do want to Koloss but I'm having to tightly ration my coins at this point, I also have other audio areas I'm playing with at the moment and I've already lashed out and got hold of a Burson PP 160 to try with the ML1s. I'll get back to this thread before the end of the year (I've still got 4 amps on hand that I have yet to fire up!) but for now I'm sort of vacationing in Lenehan Land.

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Well, it was only a matter of time until my love of integrateds came to the fore once more. 

 

Don't worry, I'm still working on the power amp thread idea but this new amp showed up, and it was all shiny and new and I just had to plug it in and hit play.  It is an addicts thread, after all!

 

Does anyone remember John Darko mentioning the QLS QA100 "Full Digital Amplifier" a while back?  Well I investigated a little further and bought myself one back on the 9th.   It is currently running in.  The same idea as the NADC390DD and NuForce DA100 but where the NAD costs $3k and the NuForce $650 this little QLS tips the scales at $450 (delivered to your door).  Since I have heard both the NAD and the NuForce it seemed to make sense that I should hear this one too (and the fact that it was fairly cheap didn't hurt either!).   I know the Xindac A08 and the Primare I22 are not "direct digital amplification" designs but since they can be used in the same way I think it is fair to compare the QLS with them as well (remember, both of them retail at about $2k).

 

Early days yet of course, it has only had about 7 hours to run in but it already sounds far better than my memories of the NuForce and much more pleasant to listen to than the Xindac.  It is never going to match the power and presence of the NAD but that's allright because it isn't meant to, this is a direct digital amp that sounds very much like a traditional class A/B amp.  I'll have to wait a few days before I can write up a full review but I am already thinking that this puppy teamed with a pair of Usher S520s and a cheap cd player would give great sound for under $1k (and since it comes with a digital cable all you need to buy are speaker cables!).  It also comes with a remote control and has adjustable channel outputs.  Pretty damn good for a price southwards of $500.

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C'mon Cafad you know the deal: Pictures please!

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OK, OK, pictures by request.

 

post-130663-0-94079700-1358592656_thumb. post-130663-0-33712100-1358592609_thumb. post-130663-0-95543100-1358592713_thumb.

post-130663-0-01479600-1358592760_thumb. post-130663-0-21256000-1358592813_thumb. post-130663-0-14782500-1358592913_thumb.

 

The PCB shots are pretty glarey but that's what I get for having LED strip lighting along one wall.

 

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Looks like I am not the only one who rates the Primare I22. From The Absolute Sound CES REPORT: SOLID STATE ELECTRONICS UNDER $12,000, see:

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/ces-report-solid-state-electronics-under-12000/

"Best Sound (for the lowest price)

At a system price of $7000 (sans cabling) for a Primare I22 integrated amp/DAC (80W), CD22 CD player and a pair of Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grant (Sic, should be Grand I think) Symphony Edition speakers, the sound was pretty darn nice."

Edited by Telecine

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So this QA100 is a direct digital amp, which is a sort of subclass of class D.  It uses 2 Texas Instruments chips which have some very impressive stats.

 

see here for details on the chips.  tas5162 chip in QLS QA100.pdf

 

And it is a variant of class D that uses MOSFETs!!!  Neat.

 

So how does this rather interesting variant of a subclass of amps that until now have a distinct "love them or hate them" reputation sound?  Pretty damn good as a matter of fact!  These chips can put out 210 watts max, but by keeping the voltage low (about 30 volts, see the graph on the pdf) QLS ensure decent THD figures.  I don't know if these chips can be run in "dual differential" mode like DACs but I suspect they can, and are.  Very impressive output figures since most of us are still used to seeing Tamps that put out 25 watts maximum.

 

The NAD C390DD has power and detail and clarity but it sounds like a class D amp, which means it is a bit "digital" in that it can be said to sound harsh due to it sounding so clear.  It can also be said to contain digital glare and maybe a touch of brightness as well, personally I liked the NAD (alot!) but I can understand why some people don't and if you don't like the sound of the NAD then you won't like the sound of the NuForce DDA100 as it sounds fairly typical of class D as well.  It would be difficult to mistake the NAD or Nuforce direct digital amps for a more main stream class A/B amp, but not for the QA100.  I would say on 4 songs out of 5 it is dead easy to forget that the amp is class D, or direct digital, because it sounds alot like a less bright Rotel RA1520 or a less bassy Emotiva Mini-X, personally I think it leaves both those amps for dead but that is the quickest way I can think of to describe the sonic signature.  And on song 5 of 5 it doesn't sound hard, or glarey or bright it just sounds a class A/B amp that is sounding a "bit class D-ish" rather than the other way around.

 

I'm going to print out some note pages and give this QA100 a complete write up over the next couple of days (just because I like to make things difficult for myself) following a similar layout to my intended power amps thread so I won't say too much more now.  I'll just finish by saying that this $450 amp (including postage) does a far better job of bridging the class divide than the DDA100 has, having heard it and going by the sound quality I could understand if QLS were asking twice the price for this little wonder, maybe even three times the price!

 

I can't wait to hear what the next generation of direct digital amps can do!  Exciting times await us.

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Cables:  LBP Taranui speaker cables with a Choseal digital cable supplied with the amp.

Preamp:  N/A

Source:  cd120

Speakers:  Osborn Eclipse floorstanders

 

Name:  QLS QA-100 Direct Digital Integrated Amp

 

Physical Details

Weight,                        3kg                 

construction details,      Steel case

 

Info from website:

ï‚·  Digital input: RCA Coaxial, BNC Coaxial, Optical, EBU/AES, I2S

ï‚·  Digital format: 16bit to 24bit, 32K to 192K Stereo (sampling rate and bit adaptive)

ï‚·  Power Stage chip: TAS5162 *2

ï‚·  Master Volume: 0 ~ 80;  L/R Volume Trim: -5 ~ +5;

ï‚·  Use 2PPM TCXO Crystal for ASRC (crystal JITTER is below 10PS) .

ï‚·  Total harmonic distortion (-2.5dBFS, 8 Ω) <0.06 %

ï‚·  Dynamic Range, a-weighted 101 dB

ï‚·  S/N ratio, a-weighted 102 dB

ï‚·  Channel separation 92 dB

ï‚·  Frequency response, audio range (20Hz - 20kHz) +/-0.5dB, 8 Ω

ï‚·  Power: AC 90V ~ 240V 50/60Hz

ï‚·  Speaker Impedance range: 2-8 Ω

ï‚·  Power output, 4 Ω  100W  * 2CH
Power output, 8 Ω  60W * 2CH

ï‚·  Dimensions approx. 11.4" x 9.45" x 2.4" (with all the sockets)

ï‚·  Package weight: 3kg

ï‚·  Package Dimension: L440 X W300 X H110(mm)              

                       

looks    Love the big red letters of the LCD display, the old school look is a nice counterpoint to the technology inside.              

 

Music.

Highs:    Very pleasant and expansive, a little breakup and harshness was experienced initially but disappeared after 50 hours or so of run in, there is a “class D ting†barely noticeable on some high pitched piano notes, triangles were very clear with no metallic harshness to be heard, nice snap (not as nice as the Burson but pretty good none-the-less)

7.5

 

Mids:    Friendly to the ear, flows and images well with a nice sense of space around voices and instruments, could use a little crispness but other than that no complaints.

7.5

 

Bass:    Wide and deep but also well controlled without being tight, enough detail comes through that differences in depth of instruments are easily heard, acoustic bass sounds very natural, good strength and depth, strong impact with a smooth and clear decay, very nice detail within the bass frequencies.

8.0

 

Vocals:  Very clear, no break up on any S or T sounds, female vocals sound nicely extended without ever being harsh, probably rolled off in the highs but done so very well, male throaty and strained vocals come through exactly as they should.

8.0

 

2D Soundstaging:          Good but not exceptional (though to be fair the Osborns do smooth out the placement of instruments a bit)

6.5

3D Soundstaging:          Good but not exceptional (as above)

6.5

 

Overall performance Integration:   including Foot Tapping Factor and PRAT.

Instrument and vocal separation and integration is excellent, a very loyal performance of which the artist could be proud.  Brass instruments really sound like brass instruments, loved Wagners Ride of the Valkyries.

8.0

 

Ability to Emote:  Far better than it should be considering the Class D design.

7.5

 

Electric Guitar Test:    The equal of any integrated I have heard to date.  Joe Satriani was a definite pass.

8.0

 

80's Rock Test:    Often when playing older recordings they come out sounding softer and emptier than I remember them, not so here, loved the amp so much I worked my way through The Miracle, Alanah Myles Rockinghorse and then Twisted Sisters Greatest Hits.

I could go through my entire collection on this thing and love every minute of it. 

8.5

 

Personality Summary:

An excellent amp that conveys a performance that is very true to the artist.  It sits on the neutral side of expressive, not the expressive side of neutral.  It could use a little more pep but then it wouldn’t sound so natural.  The more I listen to it the more I like it.

 

Pros:  Accuracy and detail without sacrificing enjoyment, no need for a DAC, supplied with its own digital cable (a $16 Choseal which I used for this review), can be used with TV optical out to watch TV shows, universal power supply

Cons:  No analog in, soft pops through speakers whenever the cd player spins up a disc.

 

Pics in previous post.

 

Final Score:  76

 

So the first amp to have a complete work up comes in at 76, which brings me to the scale explanation.

 

Scale:

1 to 3 means a performance below par with one being somewhere in the vicinity of fingernails on a blackboard while a poorly tuned AM radio shrieks out static in the background and 3 being just bearable.

4 to 6 is average, listenable but nothing noteworthy, 4 being a bit messy or harsh and 6 being pretty good but nothing to write home about.

7 to 9 is better than you would expect then to be, with 7 being a good performance, 8 being an exceptional performance and 9 being the best you are ever likely to hear.

And it is pretty damn unlikely that I will ever award a 10 because that would mean it is the best of the best of the best.

(Multiply them all by 10 for an idea of what the final score means, and remember from 30 to 60 you can go from an absolute stinker to an amp that is pretty good at what it does, anything above 60 is likely to be something worth investigating)

 

For the sake of comparison I would rate the Exposure 2010S bass performance as a 9 or an 8.5 and the Myryad Z142 as an 8.5 or an 8 (I don’t have either on hand to refresh my memory so that is as good as I can do at the moment) the 2010S smooth character would also give it a good score in ability to emote I think, probably an 8.0.  Most of my current top 10 favorites would probably rate a final score somewhere between 70 and 85.  Which means the QA100 is definitely in the top 10, probably 4, 5 or 6ish.

 

So the QA100 is far cheaper than either of those two amps and it rates bang in the middle of “better than expected†and an “exceptional piece of gearâ€.  I plan to keep the rating all about the music/sound/emotion rather than about the $$, having said that I will certainly mention the price but I’m not going to adjust the scale to correct for it.

 

Edit:

One thing I forgot to mention is that the QA100 contains 2 clocks so it looks like they take their jitter reduction (and or reclocking) very seriously.

Edited by Cafad
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So this QA100 is a direct digital amp, which is a sort of subclass of class D.  It uses 2 Texas Instruments chips which have some very impressive stats.

 

see here for details on the chips.  attachicon.giftas5162 chip in QLS QA100.pdf

 

And it is a variant of class D that uses MOSFETs!!!  Neat.

 

I'm no expert, but I think it is a very straightforward standard Class D amp module. The use of MOSFETS is also normal practice IIRC.

 

I'm not too keen on the fairly high distortion at low power (5W to 10W) into 4 ohms. That is a typical home audio listening situation.

 

Also not too keen on what looks like non-linear gain at loads less than 8 ohms, due to thermal effects.

 

Love your review, though, well done.  :thumb:

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I'm no expert, but I think it is a very straightforward standard Class D amp module. The use of MOSFETS is also normal practice IIRC.

 

I'm not too keen on the fairly high distortion at low power (5W to 10W) into 4 ohms. That is a typical home audio listening situation.

 

I didn't realize it was normal practice, this is the first chip datasheet that thows the whole MOSFET idea in you face so I couldn't help but notice, I'll have to go back and look at the other chip datasheets now.

That second point is a good one, the distortion heard through my easily driven Osborns is going to be much lower than the distortion that an owner of more stubborn speakers would have to put up with, so even though the manual says that 2 Ohms speakers are just fine to connect to the amp it doesn't mean they will sound the same as 8 Ohm speakers.  Potential buyers beware on that!

 

In my case though, the Osborns bottom out at 5.8 and the ML1s about 6, so everything works out just fine.

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Loving the reviews Caf, but are you keeping everything else the same when you start making comparisons between amps?

I mean, it would be plain silly to make a comparison of the bass control or slam, the extension of the highs or the expansiveness and accuracy of the soundstage between amplifier A and amplifier B if you used different speakers for each review (or changed preamps, source, or even source material).

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Loving the reviews Caf, but are you keeping everything else the same when you start making comparisons between amps?

I mean, it would be plain silly to make a comparison of the bass control or slam, the extension of the highs or the expansiveness and accuracy of the soundstage between amplifier A and amplifier B if you used different speakers for each review (or changed preamps, source, or even source material).

 

It's often difficult for us hobby reviewers to maintain a reference system over a sufficient period of time to ensure all reviews are performed in a consistent manner. However, unlike speakers (where differences are probably more prevalent and easily identifiable), amplifiers I imagine would present their different character traits on a much smaller scale; thus heightening the importance of keeping the rest of the system the same across reviews.

Edited by twwen2

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I agree wholeheartedly guys, but that's why I put the cables, preamp, speakers info up the top of the review so if I do change anything it is noted down for everyone to read (hopefully with a note from me saying why I changed something).  I am going to stick as close to a standard as I can WRT cables and source but things will inevitably vary, eg; when you have a direct digital amp then things like ICs don't come into it at all and I am thinking the source wouldn't have a huge effect either.

 

But if I do find an amp that doesn't work on the Osborns, or doesn't like LBP cables (a Myryad for example! :confused: ) then I have alternatives to try to see if I can get a decent performance out of it.   All that should happen prior to a review being written and would be mentioned as part of it so not all changes are bad.

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Looks like I am not the only one who rates the Primare I22. From The Absolute Sound CES REPORT: SOLID STATE ELECTRONICS UNDER $12,000, see:

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/ces-report-solid-state-electronics-under-12000/

"Best Sound (for the lowest price)

At a system price of $7000 (sans cabling) for a Primare I22 integrated amp/DAC (80W), CD22 CD player and a pair of Vienna Acoustics Mozart Grant (Sic, should be Grand I think) Symphony Edition speakers, the sound was pretty darn nice."

 

I think i would like that.  I liked the primare at the GTG and others have rated the VA very highly.

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Great work CAFAD...fantastic read and review...seems to me this little amp would be great as a desk top amp for a computer setup.

 

Bring on the Power Amp Reviews...oh and best of luck with securing some employment...Rob

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I'll get to the power amps Rob, but I have had some integrateds sitting around for so long I really feel I should push them through and get them over and done with.  The SonofaGum and NAD 3120 are among them, so a few more integrateds to go before I get to the power amps.  Then when I do get to the power amps I have a couple of ICs that have been leant to me to try out.  It's going to be a busy February I think.

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I am already thinking that this puppy teamed with a pair of Usher S520s and a cheap cd player would give great sound for under $1k (and since it comes with a digital cable all you need to buy are speaker cables!).  It also comes with a remote control and has adjustable channel outputs.  Pretty damn good for a price southwards of $500.

 

Have you had a chance to try this combination? I'm looking to grab a pair of cheap bookshelves to have a second system in my bedroom for late nights and rainy mornings, would be keen to hear your thoughts on how the QA100 performs in a sub-$1000 setup.

 

Great work on the thread, it's a fantastic read from start to finish!

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Thanks for that mcstain, that is worth knowing.  That certainly pushes the value for money aspect further in the right direction.

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 Name:  Rotel RA820BX Integrated Amp

 

Cables:  LBP Taranui speaker cables with Redgum ICs.

Preamp:  N/A

Source:  cd120

Speakers:  Osborn Eclipse floorstanders

 

Physical Details

Weight,                        3kg                 

construction details:     Steel case, light but solid.

Power:                         35 x 2 into 8 Ohms  170 watts maximum.

Inputs:                         3 line level plus phono and tape out.

Approx 25 years old with no TLC apart from a few blows out with compressed air (I had to get the dust out somehow!).

 

Music.

Highs:    Fair but not greatly extended, slightly thin, reasonable amount of snap but brings a touch of glare with it, metallic decay is reasonable, no air around the highs, bit of breakup on Norahs voice when she wails.

5.5

 

Mids:    Not particularly fast on the transients but sounds nicely balanced across the mid range, ever so slightly bright acoustic guitar.  Get a song going that stays in the mids and this is a very nice amp to listen to, it only has issues when it goes into the highs and lows.

7.0

 

Bass:    Nice impact but lacking a bit in depth and body on drums which can lead to the drums sounding a bit hollow on occasion, bass performance varies from song to song so bass control is not very good.

5.5

 

Vocals:  Male vocals a little light 5.5, Female vocals thin-ish and lacking some emotion, particularly in the highs 4.5

5.0

 

2D Soundstaging:          OK, but no real sense of height.

5.0

3D Soundstaging:          Can show decent depth but is inconsistent in showing it.

5.5

 

Overall performance Integration:   including Foot Tapping Factor and PRAT.

A decent performance within the mid range, stay in the mids and things are good, but when the highs and the bass come along it is lacking.  (using compressed remasters might just be able to bump this up to a 7.0!)

5.0

 

Ability to Emote:  Decent, it carries a nice rhythm with fair harmonics provided it sticks to its strengths (ie mid range)

6.0

 

Electric Guitar Test:    Passable but lacking a bit in depth and decay, soundstage also sounds a bit small.

5.5

 

80's Rock Test:    Allows several of the standard weaknesses of 80s rock to stand out, lack of depth in the bass, thin vocals and flatish guitar.  Some would say that this is how stereotypical 80s rock should sound but it sounds a bit more stereotypical than I feel is acceptable.

5.5

 

Personality Summary:

Well is an amp from the 80s that was built to a price point and it still gained quite a reputation, because it has that nice mid range and does a fair job outside of it.  If the music strays outside its comfort zone it just does its best and keeps going because it knows the overall performance it provides is still pretty good.

 

Pros:  Build quality!  Decent grunt as those watts are bigger than they seem, cheap as chips back when they were new, excellent value for money.

Cons:  After 25 or so years one of the buttons is missing and the red power LED is dead, no remote (not that you would expect one at the price).

 

Pics in previous post.

 

Final Score:  55.5

 

I think it is safe to say that this amp would have scored 58 or 59 when new, excellent value when you consider it was about $250.

 

Scale:

1 to 3 means a performance below par with one being somewhere in the vicinity of fingernails on a blackboard while a poorly tuned AM radio shrieks out static in the background and 3 being just bearable.

4 to 6 is average, listenable but nothing noteworthy, 4 being a bit messy or harsh and 6 being pretty good but nothing to write home about.

7 to 9 is better than you would expect then to be, with 7 being a good performance, 8 being an exceptional performance and 9 being the best you are ever likely to hear.

And it is pretty damn unlikely that I will ever award a 10 because that would mean it is the best of the best of the best.

(Multiply them all by 10 for an idea of what the final score means, and remember from 30 to 60 you can go from an absolute stinker to an amp that is pretty good at what it does, anything above 60 is likely to be something worth investigating)

 

So why did I choose the little Rotel as my next amp?  Well this little thing was my very first amp, I picked it up from the pawnbrokers in Mount Isa with a pair of Bose 301s (series 3s) for around $350 in 1997.  It has yet to fail so it holds a special place in my audio memories.  I still remember how good the guitar riffs sounded while I played Mechwarrior 2 on the original Playstation.  Now that I have a scoring system I really wanted to see how this piece of history scored.  All things considered I think it did well.

 

post-130663-0-05790500-1359376967_thumb.

post-130663-0-67275400-1359377020_thumb.

post-130663-0-07205200-1359377096_thumb.

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    • By Cafad
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      The first thing I noticed was that the amp runs slightly hotter than your average pie warmer, not only should it not be placed in an enclosed cabinet I wouldn’t even place it under a shelf.  However, if placed on a surface with plenty of space above and around it then it does seem to be pretty happy with running hot (in other words my custom cooling fan is not actually required). 
      The second thing I noticed was that its gain settings are slightly lower than I am used to, 9 o’clock on the volume dial on most amps will require the Ragnarok to be turned to between 12 and 1 o’clock.  It isn’t really a big thing, but it is something you will definitely notice.
       
      On the specs front we have 5 inputs, 2 balanced and 3 RCA and one of each for the preamp output stage.  60wpc into 8 Ohms should drive 98% of speakers so no great concerns there (and I’ve found 3 separate cases on the web where testers have used the Ragnarok to power KEF LS50s, they require serious current, so this figure may well be on the low side of the actual number of watts on tap), nicely done Schiit.  I also notice that Schiit do not list an input impedance for the Ragnarok, odd, but again, no big thing.
       
      I was using my Consonance cd120 as a source, feeding into the Ragnarok via Aurealis R1 interconnects and then into my Lenehan/ETI S2R speakers via Redgum  speaker cables. 
       
      Highs: Trumpets are nice and raspy without being hard or harsh, triangles and piano twinkle gloriously and delicately, cymbals and brushes are very crisp but not harsh.  One of the best top ends I have yet heard on an integrated amp.  9.0
       
      Mids:  Clean, clear, uncluttered and beautiful to behold.  Every instrument feels like it is happy to play its part and is given its own space to do so.  Acoustic hang time feels very natural.  It is just fun to listen to!  8.5
       
      Bass:  Very well behaved, articulate and defers to the mids and highs as required.  Also clean and smooth with nice detail.  8.0
       
      Vocals: 
      Female:  9.0  The most natural and pleasantly real vocals I have heard from an integrated amp.    
      Male:  9.0  Personally I’d rather be listening to the ladies than the guys but the Ragnarok makes not such distinctions.  The vocals are given an ever so slight preference over the instruments, the vocals floated just slightly above the centre of my system and none of the instruments was allowed to get too close to them.  The effect was very much like placing the singer out in front and then wrapping the band around them in a semi-circle.  It was a very convincing effect.
       
      2D Soundstaging:  9.0  The instrument separation also extends to stereo effects and placement within the soundstage.   None of the instruments feel like they are locked into place it just feels like they are floating very still. 
       
      Overall Performance Integration: 
      Brilliant clarity and a good sense of rhythm combine with the soundstaging, the vocals, the imaging and the clear top end to present the impression that this amp not only knows how to spell words like “enunciationâ€, “iambic pentameter†and “spatial differentiation†it also understands what they mean and why they are important.  This is one piece of audio componentry that has been put through a very prestigious finishing school.  9.0
       
      Ability to Emote: 
      Once you start to listen it’s got you, you can stop listening if you want to, but why would you do that?  8.0  (as a minimum, it rates higher once the ladies start to sing)
       
      Electric Guitar Test:
      8.0  It’s good, don’t get me wrong it is very good, but it needs the soul of a rebel to do any better than this and it is too refined to be that rebellious.
       
      80’s Rock Test:
      8.0  Again, it’s very good but it’s calm and collected enough that it won’t go above an eight. 
       
      The Ragnarok has impressed me greatly, it is a very detailed amp without a single trace of harshness to its sound.  The vocals are clean, natural and a joy to listen to and instruments are very true to life without being fatiguing. 
       
      Could I live with the Ragnarok long term?  Hell yes!  
       
       
      I've also been playing about with the Ragnarok as a preamp.  I had a session with it feeding the ME580 last night and it was pretty good, more prominent bass (of course!) and a top end that didn't seem to lose anything at all but the vocals just didn't retain their magic and the more prominent bass got in the way (if only slightly) of the mid and upper treble.  I swapped ICs between the Rag and the 580 from Aurealis to Furutech Alphas and got some more breath into the vocals and a little more mid range flesh but I didn't like the effect on the bass or the slight softening of the top end.  All in all it was not a bad combo but not as well put together as the Ragnarok on its lonesome, the boys at Schiit did a very good job of matching the pre and power stages on this puppy.
       
      I've also got the Exposure Classic 28/Ragnarok to try.
      The Exposure/Schiit combo is very interesting, reminds me of a more refined Sansui 5900 in many ways.  It's got that velvety exposure warmth and more breath to the vocals but the instrument separation just isn't there.  It loses some detail and the delicate frequency balance is thrown out too,  even so, it is quite more-ish!  Sounds a little too much like vinyl to me, but I'm sure some would like it.
       
      One thing I have definitely noticed is that the volume dial position is only slightly above where I expect it to be when the Ragnarok is used as a preamp so it seems the power amp section of the Rag' has slightly lower gain than most.  As I've said before it isn't really an issue but it is something that is easily noticed.
       
      I'm running the Ragnarok with my Halcro DM38 right now and the results are astounding, I'll get to the details later but for now let's just go with astounding.  I've found this combo to be quite cable sensitive so it is taking some time to fine tune.
       
      I've yet to get to the Burson Timekeepers, but I will.  Then I'll have to try some different sources too.
    • By Cafad
      I've mentioned the circumstances surrounding the appearance of the RGi35ENR at my place of residence over in the addicts guide thread  (post #95 for those who are curious).  I've re-posted the pics pics above from there, they are the only ones I've got and we can't have a review thread without a few pics.  
       
      You know, sometimes I forget what it is that I’m looking for in an integrated amp.  Am I looking for perfection?  Well… sure… why not, but I’m enough of a realist that I’m not actually expecting to find it. 
      Am I looking for extended highs (because I do like them!), sweet mids, natural mids, sexy vocals, deep bass…   I could go on and on. 
      But I think what I’m looking for is an enjoyable presentation, one that entertains.  And I’m not really that fussy on the details (not until I put on my critical hat and reach for my clipboard anyway) I’m just after an amp that I will enjoy listening to, everything else is secondary.  Most of the amps I’ve managed to get my hands on over the past few years have sounded pretty good, there were only really 3 that I had serious “lack of appreciation†issues with and it wasn't so much that they did things badly it was more that they did things in a way that I really didn’t like.  Listening to them was still a worthwhile learning experience (even if I didn’t choose to do it for very long).  I am happy to say that the ‘35ENR has provided me with another learning experience, and quite a pleasant one to boot.
       
      Now I’ve been sent this REDGUM RGi35ENR Black Series (by accident, or possibly due to the wish I made when I saw that shooting star last week) to add to my amp experiences and I am happy to say that I quite like it.  It’s got the kahunas of a paratrooper, more bass than a guitar shop and enough honesty that it could never hope to get itself elected to parliament.  All of these are good things, but I’ve come unstuck in the past a few times now where I’ve discovered that even though I thought an amp performed great in initial listening they turned out to have a serious flaw or two once I put on my chosen test disc and put pen to paper so, let us get down to brass tacks shall we?
       
      The cables in use for this test were Aurealis ICs from source to amp and REDGUM speaker cables.  The source was my usual Consonance cd120 and the speakers were my Lenehan/ETI S2R stand mounts.  The ‘35ENR is rated at 65wpc and sports some pretty decent power claims down into 2 Ohms, if you want all the details I suggest you check out the indiegogo link here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/redgum-black-signature-series-amplifier-project
      Or one of the SNA links, news here:   https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/redgum-black-signature-series-amplifier-project
      And discussion thread here:  http://www.stereo.net.au/forums/index.php?/topic/66328-21-years-of-redgum-so-something-special-had-to-happen/
       
      Highs:
      Triangle is bigger and bolder than ever with a longer ring out (or hang) time, trumpet seems to be ever so slightly smoothed/sweetened (so not quite as raspy as usual) but it retains its identity well (ie it’s still very distinctly a trumpet), Piano is similar, just ever so slightly less crisp and more sweet than I’m used to, not enough of a change to annoy just enough to indicate a distinct personality.  This is the first time I’ve heard ‘slightly sweetened’ upper treble that I actually enjoyed. 
      7.5
      Mids:
      I had a bit of a hard time coming up with words here, eventually I coined the phrase
      ‘naturally, neutrally, pleasant, and just a little bit mellow’
      to describe the mid range presentation of the ‘35ENR.
      7.5
      Bass:
      Provides extra large helpings of Strong, Deep, Fast, Hard and Solid Bass.  At lower volume levels the bass sits happily and unobtrusively in line with the top end and the mids but when you up the volume it really kicks in.  At these higher volume levels it can intrude on the higher frequencies and hide some of the detail of them, however if you are listening at these volumes then it is unlikely that you would be seeking those details and more likely that you would be trying to drive your friends from the room (or possibly your neighbours from the street).  There is a massive amount of bass on tap for an amp of this wattage rating.  Very impressive.
      7.75 (was to be an 8.0 but I marked it down 0.25 due to the occasional bass intrusion)
       
      Vocals: 
      Very much the same as the mid range, the vocals seem to a bit understated but end up being very captivating all the same.  The REDGUM doesn’t seem to exerting an influence over them in any way, they certainly aren’t sweetened, softened or smoothed, they seem untouched.   An example of less is more maybe?  It certainly makes the vocals very hard to score, I’m going to go with a 7.5 as I did with the mid range, but keep in mind that if ‘un-interfered with vocals’ is what you are after then this should be an 8.0 or 8.5.
      7.5
       
      2D Soundstaging:
      I have to make mention of this, the ‘35ENR has a massive level of channel separation, so much so that many vocals and instruments that I am used to hearing ‘smack bang in the middle of the speakers’ migrated to the left or right by up to a meter (for a few songs there I must have looked like I was watching a tennis match, my head was turning left and right so often).   This is a pretty damn cool effect (IMO, obviously), you could almost call it ‘enhanced stereo’.  Now I stopped giving scores for soundstaging a while back, and this is a pity because here the little REDGUM excels.  If I was awarding scores this one would have to be a 9.0.
       
      3D Soundstaging:
      Pretty much as expected, it would score somewhere between 6 and 7, maybe 7.5, which was a bit of a let down after the 2D result above. 
       
      Overall Performance Integration:
      Loves its transients, puts out a very dynamic and solid performance that it is generally happy to let the bass take the lead in (at higher volumes anyway), the highs and mids can be surprisingly delicate and detailed at times but the amp does like to remind the listener that it really likes to emphasise its bass performance.  This is one of those amps that loves everything to change, while it doesn’t mind nice mellow flowing music it absolutely loves big dips and crashes.  In some ways it puts me in mind of a 20 year old with a new sports car, he’s always smiling but he’s smiling wider when he’s accelerating, braking or changing direction.
      7.0
       
      Ability to Emote:
      I’m going to split this in two here and award one score for the mids and highs and one for the bass.
      7.0 (mids and highs) a nice light allure that slowly and gently drags you in, that naturalness speaks to you but it does it a bit slowly since it takes a little time to work out exactly what it is you are hearing.
      8.5 (bass) Grabs you by the scruff of the neck, drags you to the end of the pier, wraps a chain around your left foot and then throws you (and the two bricks attached to the other end of the chain) off the end.  Even if you are not a fan of it, you are definitely going to react to that bass!
       
      Electric Guitar Test:
      7.5, very good but that natural mid range doesn’t quite let me hear the ‘feedback edge’ that I like.  Luckily this score increases to 8.0 if you crank the volume over 85db.
       
      80’s Rock Test:
      7.0  Perfectly adequate but just not outstanding.  I may try some other 80’s rock just to confirm.
       
       
      Comments:
      Another amp that is just that little bit different to most.  It’s been a long time between drinks in my chosen hobby lately but at least I can say that those drinks have been ‘strong and interesting’ ones.  Since REDGUM use a passive volume control I was expecting to hear some of that softening of the leading edge of notes that I heard with the ME240 (particularly when I ran it without a low impedance source) and/or the mellow liquid sound/effect of the Exposure 2010S2.  I could hear it (to a lesser extent) with the REDGUM RGM175 system I had previously too, so it was pretty surprising to discover that it just didn’t happen with the ‘35ENR.  Good stuff!
       
      In fact, there is very little about the sonic signature of this amp that reminds me about the RGM175 system that I had recently.  Admittedly it was 5 years old and this amp is about 5 minutes old so that may well explain it.  I will say that I like the ‘35ENR more than the RGM175 though, and I’m not sure that all of that difference can be said to be due to my ‘soft spot’ for integrated amps.  I’m thinking those three initials make quite a difference.
       
      Another thing I discovered was that the amp is sensitive enough to easily display the difference between 2 DACs, I had the REDGUM CD5ENR hooked up and was doing some swapping back and forth between it and my Consonance cd120 and found that the character of the amp changed significantly when I switched between the two, the bass increased by at least 10% with the CD5 ENR, and was pushed out by 2 or 3 feet which separated it (in the soundstage) from the top end and the mids which seemed to stay where they already were, in between the speakers.  Now I know the two players have quite different sounding character but it is rare to find an integrated amp that can display that change in character so vividly (if only they all did then there would be far fewer people walking around claiming that DACs don’t make a difference).  That is a definite feather in the little REDGUM’s cap.
       
      All of this is about in line with what I would expect to get in an integrated amp in the two to two-point-five thousand dollar range (I’m talking Aussie dollars here).  It certainly fits in with many other amps I’ve heard that sit in that price range.  But… it isn’t in that price range… is it?
       
      OK, so now that I’ve typed somewhere around 1700 words about the integrated amp in question, how about I try it out as a power amp?  If I wind the volume pots fully open then I can, and, to my way of thinking, if I can then I really should.   And quickly, before anyone asks for it back.
    • By Cafad
      Item:  One Onkyo 9070 Integrated Amp with only 300 hours on the clock.
      Location:  Bowen Nth Qld
      Price:  $950 including postage to the eastern states
      Item Condition:  As new with manual, remote and original packaging.
      Reason for selling:  Really didn't like the sound of this series of Onkyo amps, far too soft for my liking.
      Payment Method: Pickup - Cash, Paypal, COD, Direct Deposit.
      Extra Info:  Originally bought to use as a bit of a round robin amp to send around so that people can get a comparative idea of how things sound I was hoping that the new Onkyo series could be used as a foundation reference point for my integrated amp comparisons but there is no point in using an amp that I don't like the sound of as a reference point (well, OK, maybe there is, but it wouldn't be much fun, so it's up for sale).  Would work brilliantly on bright or forward speakers since it is a very withdrawn and soft sounding amp.  It is sort of an anti-Rotel.
      Pictures:
       





    • By demoiree
      Item: Yamaha A-S 700 integrated amp
      Location:Melbourne Victoria
      Price: 600 Ono
      Item Condition: great condition with only superficial marks
      Reason for selling: upgrading
      Payment Method: Pickup - Cash, Paypal, COD Only
      Extra Info: http://au.yamaha.com/en/products/audio-visual/hifi-components/amps/a-s700__l/?mode=model&transfer=pc&_ga=1.177908322.630512437.1396869875
      Pictures: 
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