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Due to financial constraints I have been unable to continue my 'run' of integrated amps over in the addicts guide thread so I thought I might take a little time to consider what to aim at when (please let it be when, and not if!) my financial self becomes liquid once again. I'll number them for the sake of keeping track but the number doesn't necessarily directly represent my interest level (well... it does, sort of, but only for the top 10 or so), the amps are likely to show up on an "as discovered when finances are available" basis anyway, so, numbers just for the sake of ID (except for the top 10!). One of the good things about this audio hobby is that, even if you can't afford to buy gear, you can still have some fun talking about it. 1. Redgum RGi120 ENR. Discussions have already been entered into between myself and Redgum on this subject so unless I win the lotto or an amp falls off the back of a truck in front of me or something this will be the next amp to show up in my listening room. 2. An Exposure 3010S2, I've been wanting to know just how similar this puppy is to its 2010S2 brother for quite a while now. I'm hoping it's a step up, but even a step sideways would be worth hearing. 3. An Eloquence series integrated from Perreaux, I'm not likely to ever be able to find or buy one of these but I would like to be able to hear one, even if only briefly. 4. I asked Burson if they had any plans to produce an integrated amp in their Musicians series a while back, over 12 months ago, and while they didn't exactly say no I did get the impression that it wasn't in their future plans. I guess if they are targeting the desktop crowd then an integrated amp wouldn't make much sense unless they made a stand alone DAC to go with it. Anyway, if they ever change their mind then that integrated amp will slot in here. I'm a big fan of Burson, but I'd be a bigger fan if they made an integrated amp again. 5. An NAD C375 BEE (or equivalent model). I've heard a modded (had its caps ripped out and replaced and one or two other mods) version of an NAD on my old Osborns and it was extremely good, so I'd love to hear a standard model on the Lenehans. 6. An Accuphase model, not too fussy on which one since they are pretty pricey and it's about as likely to happen as the Perreaux amps at number 3 but there's no point in giving up just because it's difficult. 7. Plinius, a 9200 or Hautonga, I've only heard an older Plinius power amp so no real idea what these puppies sound like. 8. Consonance Calaf, I've been lusting after one of these for a while now, one of the Chinese brands that can actually mix it with the rest of the world. I'm pretty much over most of the other chinese brands. Or a Jungson JA88 D, almost forgot that one. 9. Heed Obelisk, I keep putting this one off. I've had the chance to get one on a loner program and all but at the time I was just too interested in other things. The easy opportunity has passed but the amp is not forgotten. 10. An Arcam amp, I've passed over Arcam amps at least twice in the past because something else caught my eye at the same time, well, no more, they have made the top ten. Are there any models out there that anyone else feels should be on my list? Remember I'm a solid state only kind of guy, no tubes (not that I'm completely against them as such, some of my friends have tube amps, I'm just not that fussed on them, that's all) and it has to be an "integrated" amp (so a volume control of some form is a must). Other than that it's open slather. Oh, some companies are just a given, Dartzeel, Leben and Gryphon for example I'd love to hear but they are so rare and so expensive that it isn't likely I'll ever be able to afford one, even second hand, so I'll put them, and others like them, on a 'targets of opportunity' list and group them in at number 11. They can't be forgotten, but they can't really be expected to show up either. So, now it's open slather. Edit: Updates include. 11. The big exotics, Dartzeel, Leben, Gryphon, Yammy AS3000, Rega Osiris, Musical Fidelity XA-1, Karan KA I 180, Vitus, Devialet, etcâ€¦ 12. Modwright, KWI200 13. Roksan Kandy or Caspian 14. BMC C1 15. NAD D3020 16. Electrocompaniet ECI-3 17. Rega Elicit R 18. Musical Fidelity A5 19. Hegel H300 20. NAKSA 80 21. Conrad Johnson CA200 22. Audio GD Master 10 23. Densen integrated. 24. Harman Kardon HK990 25. Quasimodo
Well itâ€™s been a long time in coming but itâ€™s finally here. Part of the reason it took so long was that itâ€™s difficult to start a project like this because that first amp is both evaluated and stipulated at the same time. So if I give amp number 1 a seven for its bass performance then Iâ€™m saying that it has very good bass performance and that every amp that follows will be compared to that level of bass that is now stipulated (ie: set in stone) as a seven. You could say that Iâ€™ve declared that level of bass as a seven rather than evaluated it as a seven. In a way you have to listen to several amps to get an idea of the level of variety you expect before that first amp can actually be evaluated. Anyway, I have managed to wrap my oblong noggin around the concept so here we go with the very first Power Amp entry. 1. Burson PP-160. This is an amp I quite enjoy listening to, Iâ€™ve described Burson gear in the past as sounding crisp, snappy and airy and this amp is no exception. I should probably add detailed to that list as the performance of this amp is very good. It is not an amp to puff up its chest and announce its presence so at times it does seem to be a bit lazy because when the music dies down the music really does die down, but when called on it gives an excellent performance with nicely extended, airy highs (with a very nice â€œtwinkleâ€ effect on the triangle and piano), snappy mids (with transients in between that are very pleasing to the ear) and nicely defined deep and clean bass. Whatâ€™s more Burson gear tends to keep this sound across a wide range of components that it is paired with, I think it may be partly due to the fact that it has a very even representation of the entire frequency range (so it does not emphasize highs, mids or bass). The PP160 is a stereo power amp with 70 watts per channel into 8 ohms and only one RCA input. It does have a booster amp function so that a lowish (sub 25 watt) valve amp can be plugged into it via a pair of â€œspeaker inâ€ binding posts but mine has been disconnected internally so I canâ€™t test that function out. Test Rig. The Burson was fed from a Consonance CD120 via LBP Parapiao ICs into a Burson PRE-160 and then via Ribbonflex ICs into the PP-160. Then via Ribbontek speaker cables into my Lenehan S2Rs on their matched stands. Power was fed to all source and preamp components via a Consonance PS1 power filter board and to the PP-160 via a PS3 power board. Detail Highlights. Highs: Nice twinkle on triangle and piano, less air than there was when used with the Osborns. 7.5 Mids: Good snap, not as crisp as on the Osborns, excellent transients and nice airy space in between each instrument. 7.0 Bass: Deep and clear with distinct impact, depth and decay evident on drum strikes. 7.5 Vocals: Accurate and clear with female vocals clear in top end. F: 7.0 M: 6.5 Average: 6.75 2D and 3D Soundstaging: 7.0 each, instruments nicely separated and placed within the stage. Overall Performance Integration: Doesnâ€™t excite in the short term, but if you stick with it you come to realize just how capable this amp is. An excellent listening amp that does not over emphasize any one part of the performance. It took a swap to another amp to make me realize just how good this one actually is, an excellent listening amp but not really a party amp. I would describe it as subtly brilliant and Iâ€™m giving it an 8.0! Ability to Emote: 6.5 Let down by a slight dryness in the mids, it believes it is up to you to enjoy the music, not it to make you enjoy the music. Electric Guitar Test: 7.5 Very good, very accurate, if it just had a tiny bit of agro energy (and I mean a very, very small bit) it would be a 8.0. 80s Rock Test: Everything is as it should be, including the tape hiss in the background (which is a bit of a mixed blessing). 7.0 Total Score: 71.75 I think this was an excellent amp to start with, it sets the bar a bit high but why not, right? Pics will be added just as soon as I find the charger for the camera. Edit: And I did. At rest. And ready for action. And in the interest of full disclosure. I am a Burson fan, every piece of Burson gear I've heard has been what I would call "above average" in performance and very well built. I have made every effort to conduct this evaluation in a fair and impartial manner. Though not necessarily in a mature one. The chair in use was a recliner of acceptable comfort level with adjacent shelving that is frequently used as a drink stand. The air conditioner was not in use for the review and I suspect this is the reason that the ice in my Pepsi melted long before I was finished. My long haired cat was strangely absent for the review so it worked out well that the room heated up a little as my feet would have been a bit cold otherwise. 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 but still rather messy. 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 them 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. (Add them all up for a final score out of 100, 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) Next up is a stalwart of the power amp industry, the Rotel RB1070 which have on loan from ellrots.
I was asked quite a while back in my "Integrated Amps" thread to start a similar thread for power amps and at the time I said that was not going to happen. Since then I have aquired a power amp or two (and several of the integrateds have separate pre and power stages) so I have reconsidered the idea. The big question though, is how to go about it. twwen2's "Standmount speakers" layout has inspired me to have a go at structuring things a bit more. The Integrated thread has been easy because I only mention the aspects of the performance that stand out as obvious, the thing is with power amps there will be less standing out since the pre will always be the same so the differences should be harder to spot. I was thinking something like this: As standard (these won't change much from contestant to contestant). Cables: As standard I plan to use the Redgum Audio Pipeline ICs and Little Blue Penguins Taranui speaker cables. If the performance is not to my liking I'll chop and change these with whatever else I have on hand and report the effects. Preamp: 2 choices here, I have a Burson PRE 160 and a Halcro DM8. The Burson is a good pre and within the constraints of affordability of most serious audiophiles (though it is now only available second hand) so it is first choice. The Halcro is as transparent as the air at 30,000 feet but amazingly expensive, so it can serve as a backup, just in case I can't wrap my head around what is going on using the Burson. The Halcro also supports balanced in and out where the Burson does not. Source: One Consonance cd120 cd player, still going strong. Speakers: ML1s, with Osborn Eclipses as backups. And the individual reviews. Name: Physical Details: Weight, power rating, construction details, balanced/unbalanced input, max power consumption, transformer rating and anything else about the physical aspects of the amp, including how good or bad it looks. And the music. Highs: Mids: Bass: Vocals: 2D Soundstaging: 3D Soundstaging: Overall performance Enjoyability: How well does it gell everything together. including Foot Tapping Factor and PRAT. Electric Guitar Test: Does it do Joe Satriani, Steve Via, Brian May, Santana and others justice. 80's Rock Test: Does 80's rock still sound like 80's rock. *Extra Test*: All rated from 1 to 10 to give a final score out of 100. Personality Summary: A summary to go along with and/or explain all the above scores. And finally a pic of the front and back. (Now that I've got a gorillapod I'm dangerous with a camera!) Any suggestions for the *Extra Test*? I can't think of one at the moment.