Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Ed Selley  |  Sep 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Densen B-200/B-310 Densen plays it cool, Scandinavian style, though very flexibly – but does the sound quite match? There’s no denying that these two units look uncommonly smart and timeless with their perfectly rectangular looks. And also worthy of honourable mention is the impressive remote control, all metal and streets ahead of most of its breed. The basic specification isn’t too unusual, the power amp putting out a notional 80 watts into the usual eight-ohm load, while the preamp has effectively six line inputs. There’s an unusually prolific array of phono sockets, though, not least because there are no less than four preamp outputs.
Ed Selley  |  May 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Triumphant return Get ready - Onkyo is back in 'serious' hi-fi after a 20-year gap and HFC's Ed Selley reckons this new pre/power is a real tour de force Onkyo has been out of the high-end hi-fi market for almost twenty years – long enough for us to believe that they had left it for good. But the brand is back and it has come out shooting. The components you see here are part of a new range of elite, flagship hi-fi products for 2011. This on its own would be good news.
Ed Selley  |  Mar 28, 2011  |  0 comments
Cayin and able Jimmy Hughes auditions newcomer Cayin and its retro-inspired pre/power that's giving the high- end establishment a run for its money Cayin is the brand name of Zuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. – a Chinese company making good-value, high-end electronic products. The unashamedly retro- looking SP-30S and SP-40M tube pre/power amp is one of its tastier offerings, with the promise of excellent performance at a realistic price. But, what should one expect from an amplifier like this? It used to be oh-so simple; tube amps sounded rich, warm and friendly, while solid-state types were lean, mean, and bitingly sharp.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Britain has the X-Factor Jimmy Hughes auditions Musical Fidelity’s 260-watt M6 pre/power and thinks its place in the grand final is guaranteed Musical Fidelity is taking on the high end at its own game, whilst lowering the price of entry. Take the new M6PRE and M6PRX preamp and power amp combo, for example: balanced inputs and outputs (including USB); high-quality MM/MC phono inputs; 260 watts per channel; a regulated power supply system and (claimed) low distortion levels are impressive credits indeed. And, unlike similar products, this duo is ‘high end’ at a more realistic price. Well, okay, they’re not exactly cheap, but look around at the high end and you’ll see that there’s a lot on offer here.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 12, 2010  |  0 comments
Universal panacea Can a preamplifier costing as much as a small car really make a difference? Jason Kennedy ponders the accepted order What better time than the new era of austerity for us to discover how much difference a really good preamplifier can make to an already impressive high-end system. Mark Levinson was one of the first to build seriously engineered high-end amplifiers. We don’t mean excessively large or massively powerful, although it was ahead of the power game, we mean Rolls Royce or SME-style build quality. It’s unusual for us to review a preamplifier on its own, but the new No.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 26, 2010  |  0 comments
Binary beauty US valve stalwart Audio Research has launched its first Class D power amp and as Jimmy Hughes reports, its 450 watts prove addictive Given its penchant for producing large, heavy, behemoths, Audio Research’s launching of a Class D power amp is more than slightly surprising. While Pure Class A still sets a benchmark when the highest quality results take precedence, there are many practical drawbacks – excessive heat, large size, high price, massive power consumption – need one go on? The DS450, on the other hand, features an analogue-based Class D pulse-width modulated switching output stage. High output power, low-running temperature, low-power consumption and excellent sound quality are promised. But can such clever technology really challenge Class A’s sonic supremacy? Up the stakes Like most power amps, the DS450 is fairly simple.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Astin Trew AT1000/AT5000 - £650/£850 Confident duo packs a punch with all types of music, but is less subtle with more complex melodies Astin Trew is a young company which we’ve watched develop with increasing admiration. We’ll come to the all-important sound performance in a few paragraphs, of course, but we would be remiss if we didn’t praise the company for the highly professional look and finish of its amplifiers: these are really very smartly made units that, clichés aside, genuinely transcend their price tag. Most of the manufacturing process is carried out in China, but AT has done its homework and attended to all sorts of details. And the insides have hardly been skimped on, either.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Parasound P3/A23 - £800/£900 This pre/power duo boasts a sound performance that adds extra dimension to vocals Parasound is a name which will be familiar to those interested in American audio, but historically it’s not had much visibility in the UK. These two products are part of the company’s ‘Halo’ range, value audiophile products designed in America but built in Taiwan. Very nicely built, too -– the cases are well finished and exceptionally solid, while the look and feel are generally first-rate. The P3 preamp is well equipped with inputs, including a balanced line input and also a phono stage.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Cyrus Pre XP D/8 power - £1,350/£875 A traditional-sounding pre/power amp combi from Cyrus, that works hard to establish itself against the competition Built, as ever, into the famous Cyrus diecast chassis, these units are picked from among the comprehensive range of pre and power amplifiers in the company’s catalogue. To some extent we’ve chosen an unusual pairing as the preamp significantly exceeds the power amp in price and its usual partner would be the X Power, but apart from anything else, Cyrus offers an upgrade path to take the 8 to X status, so the model chosen initially matters less than usual. In addition, the preamp includes DAC functions so its price can fairly be thought of as including a DAC, as well as an analogue pre. We mentioned upgrades and this is a major attraction of Cyrus.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Tsakiridis Devices Alexander/Artemis - £1,450/£1,450 Variations in performance levels are disappointing New to us in the UK it may be, but Tsakiridis Devices is a brand with over two decades of history. A family-run outfit from Greece, it makes valve-based audio with the emphasis very much on affordability. Many of the basic themes will be familiar to valve aficionados, including the use of simple circuits with little or no feedback, thus ensuring that the valves’ character is unchecked, for better or worse. The Artemis power amp comes with a choice of EL34 or KT88 output valves fitted.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Rotel RC1580/RB1582 - £1,000/£1,100 An undisputed badge-winner, Rotel promises a great deal for the money and delivers. . . in spades Like NAD, Rotel has for many years steered a careful course somewhere between the vast multinationals (Sony, Yamaha) and the small specialists, as well as managing to maintain a profile associated with distinctive products of good performance and value.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
NAD C165BEE/C275BEE £650/£900 NAD's budget combi looks very promising, but while looks can be deceiving the listening test reveals all From the original kings of budget audiophilia, comes a particularly well-equipped preamp and a strikingly powerful power amp, all tastefully presented in traditional NAD charcoal black. NAD is one of only very few brands to include tone controls, although as our Marantz news feature on p8 shows, they might be making a comeback! There’s also a subwoofer output which we don’t imagine too many stereo folks using, but the rest of the facilities are very useful. We’re particularly impressed with the flexible phono stage, which caters for both MM and MC cartridge and even has adjustable loading. The C275 BEE power amp is a chunky beast with the option to be used in bridged mode if its normal 150 watts isn’t enough for you.