integrated amplifier

Virtue Audio Sensation M451 Integrated Amplifier and Piano M1 CD Player

Virtue Audio Sensation M451 Integrated Amplifier and Piano M1 CD Player

Curiosity is an interesting thing. As an engineer I find myself drawn to new ways of building a standard design. Virtue Audio products may not be
completely “out-of-the-box” but at the very least the Sensation M451 and Piano M1 offer a fresh perspective. This past July I was visiting with the founder of Affordable$$Audio Mark Marcantonio. and as we were each savoring a bottle of Fat Tire beer and listening (myself transfixed) to a pair of modified Magnepan 1.6’s with Skiing Ninja crossovers I spied a half-sized black piece of gear in his rack. After an offer to pay for the pizza that would soon arrive I was able to secure the Virtue Audio Sensation M451 integrated amplifier for a weekend audition. Those two days have turned into four fascinating months.

Staff writer Stew Nelless (in italics) had already written up his impressions of the M451 as well as the Piano M1 compact disc player. After securing a Piano M1 myself the review morphed into a twofer, with the perspectives of both Stew and myself. read more…

Miniwatt S-1 Integrated Amplifier

Miniwatt S-1 Integrated Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Power Output: 2.5W+2.5W @ 8 ohms
  • Frequency Response: 30-20Khz (+-1db) Sensitivity = 500mV
  • Gain = 18dB
  • Residual Noise < 0.8mVac
  • Output Impedance: 8 ohms (Japan Z11- EI48*24
  • Output Transformers)
  • Input AC Voltage: 85-132Vac or 176-265Vac
  • Dimensions: 130 x 100mm
  • Weight: 1.5kg Input: RCA Jacks Output: Banana Jacks
  • AC: Standard IEC Jack with Fuse protection (2A Fuse)
  • Price: $229

I know I’m more passionate about affordable products then most people. I get both praise and ridicule for my attitude. Obviously as a writer for this magazine I’ve gotten over it from both perspectives. I still never thought I would have a $229 integrated tube amp in my system the big shock though is that I never thought I could enjoy it this much. I honestly thought that all the hype from Audio Circle and other forums was just fluff, I just knew that this little device wouldn’t memorize me as it has all these other audiophiles; well I guess I got fluffed too! It generally isn’t my style to let the cat out of the bag right off the bat, but this is a smoking piece of gear! read more…

Vista Audio i34 Integrated Tube Amplifier

Vista Audio i34 Integrated Tube Amplifier

Specifications: 

  • Power: 35Wpc Bandwidth: 15Hz-35kHz
  • Inputs: CD, Tuner, Aux.
  • Outputs: 4 and 8 ohm
  • Input sensitivity: 0.6Vrms
  • Tubes: 2xECC832, 4x E34L Toroidal transformers
  • Gold plated terminals Stainless steel chassis
  • Price: $980

When I was a kid I remember going down to main street with my grandfather to the appliance store. Inside was a vacuum tube testing machine, there he would plug in a couple of tubes from the console television in an attempt to be handy and save my parents a few dollars. To his credit and my thrill he pulled up a chair to the machine and had me stand on the cushion. From that point I was able to assist him in picking the proper socket for each tube. Had this occurred today I can imagine the horror of tube fanatics as we handled each tube without gloves. The most exciting part was watching the tubes glow after pushing the “test” button.

Some thirty years later with the help of the Vista Audio i34 integrated amplifier I have rediscovered my fascination for vacuum tubes. I’ve always been a solid state audio fan, but over the years I would occasionally wonder about a piece of tube gear in an advertisement. But it never went past a fleeting wishful moment…..until now. The Vista Audio i34 has definitely opened my eyes. read more…

Yamaha A1000 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Yamaha A1000 Integrated Stereo Amplifier

Specifications:

  • POWER OUTPUT: 120 WPC INTO 8
  • OHMS FROM 20 – 20,OOO HZ.
  • RATED DISTORTION: < 0.005% T.H.D. < 0.002% I.M.D.
  • RATED IHF DYNAMIC POWER: 320 WPC INTO 4 OHMS; 340 WPC INTO 3 OHMS
  • AMPLIFIER CLASS: CLASS AB OR AUTO CLASS A TO 10W / CLASS AB (SWITCHABLE)
  • DAMPING FACTOR: 90 ( 1 kHz, 8 ohms)
  • POWER BANDWIDTH: 10 – 100,000 Hz ( ½ power, 0.03% THD, 8 ohms) S/N RATIO: -106 dB (line inputs)
  • (IHF A NETWORK) -80dB PHONO MC -94 dB PHONO MM
  • DIMENSIONS: 17 1/8” W X 5 3/4” H X 16 3/4” D
  • WEIGHT: 28 LBS. 10 OZ.
  • PURCHASE PRICE: $600 IN 1984

The Yamaha A1000 integrated amp was their top model from 1982-1984, and offered almost all of the flexibility and performance of separates at a very attractive price. The fact that I still use it daily 25 years later speaks volumes for its build quality and durability*. In today’s market, an integrated amp with this level of performance would cost $2,000 or more. read more…

Tweak City Audio Gizmo V1.0M Integrated mini-amplifier

Tweak City Audio Gizmo V1.0M Integrated mini-amplifier

Specifications

  • Output Connections: L/R channel speakers
  • Subwoofer out (RCA connection) Power Rating: 25WPC x 2 @ 4 ohms Class D amplifier
  • Voltage: 110V/220V
  • Shipping weight: 7 lbs (approx) Dimensions: 8″D x 2.5″H x 4.5″W Additional Features:
  • Digital Display
  • Separate Bass and Treble Controls
  • Subwoofer out
  • Rosewood cap
  • True 100 Hz crossover built-in
  • Volume +/-, Mute, Standby and Bass/Treble controls
  • Price: $119

Class D amplification has, in all honesty, a love/hate relationship in the audio community. On one hand, it is admired for what it can do with subwoofers, and in spaces where room is at a premium, i.e. the office. At the same time it is ripped by those who feel that power from a silicon chip has all the subtlety of a redneck neighbor. I’ll be the first to admit, that I don’t have a preference either way, I just want to hear the best sound possible for the dollars that have been exchanged. A month ago, I was presented with one of the more unique-looking integrated amps on the market, the Gizmo V1.0M. The amp is collaboration between Craig Chase and designer Doug Goldberg. It is the first product for Craig’s new company, Tweak City Audio. Some of you may recognize the screen moniker “Craigsub” on various forums, yes, it’s the same guy. Long time readers of A$$A may remember Craig as the guest writer and host of the blind speaker shootout printed some two years ago in the October issue. read more…

Pathos Acoustics Classic One MKIII integrated Hybrid Amplifier

Pathos Acoustics Classic One MKIII integrated Hybrid Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Type: Integrated amplifier with remote in Class A/AB, hybrid circuit with input tube stage, bridgeable
  • Output Power: 2 x 70W @ 8 Ohm, 2 x 130W @ 4 Ohm, 270W in bridged mode (mono)
  • Inputs: 5 line, including one balanced (XLR) Frequency response: 2Hz ÷ 100kHz
  • THD: <0.05% Signal/noise ratio: 90dB Input impedance: 100kOhm Retail Price: $2995
  • Warranty: Three years parts and labor (check with manufacturer for details)

U.S. Distributor:

  • Musical Surroundings
  • 5662 Shattuck Ave. Oakland, CA 94609 phone: 510.547.5006 fax: 510.547.5009

Italy is well known for its Ancient Roman architecture, rolling hills, fine wines, exquisite paintings, exotic cars, movie directors, clothing designers, incredible cities, romantic language, and friendly down to earth people. You may now add Pathos Acoustics to that illustrious list. Since I’m Italian, my wife has been after me for years to take some time off to fly our family over to Italy. When I do I will try my best to visit the city of Vicenza and hopefully meet with Gaetano Zanini, Gianni Borinato, and Paul Andriolo, the founders of Pathos Acoustics. They are building a new factory that will be five times as large as their existing one. The research laboratory will now be much larger allowing for the various production departments such as woodworking and metal craftsman to have their own spaces in which to work. The city of Vicenza is in the northeastern part of Italy 50 meters above sea level surrounded by hills and mountains. It has a population of about 119,000 people and is less than a one hours drive from Venice’s Marco Polo airport. Vicenza is well known for its ancient churches, palaces and other buildings as well as a wall that is still partially standing and at one time surrounded the entire city. If you get the chance go online and see the many beautiful pictures of the city of Vicenza. Peder Beckman of Musical Surroundings, their US distributor, sent me this picture of the Teatro Olimpico or “Olympic Theatre”, designed by Andrea Palladio. This was his last work, built in 1585, and is today the oldest surviving Renaissance Theater. I mention all this to give you an idea of the environment of a longstanding tradition of excellence in which Pathos Acoustics is working under. Knowing this it should be no surprise when you see this glorious integrated amplifier that is not only functional but also created with an eye towards beauty as well. Pathos Acoustics produces audio gear with looks that are magnificently inspired like an ancient palace, or an old stone church done in the tradition of the old renaissance masters.

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Audio Space Reference 3.1 Integrated Tube Amplifier

Audio Space Reference 3.1 Integrated Tube Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Input Impedance: >56K ohm (RCA/Direct In) Output Impedance: 4, 8, 16 ohm
  • Output Power: 22W/ch in Triode; 40W/ch in Ultralinear (Class-A push-pull) T.H.D.: < 1%
  • Input Sensitivity: >200mV, 3-5mV (mm phono in) S/N Ratio: > 80dB (hum noise < 3mV)
  • Tube Compliment: 4 x KT-88, , 2 x 6SN7, 4 x 12AX7 (ECC83) 
  • Dimension: 18.5″ x 16″ x 8″ (DxWxH), Weight: 65 lbs
  • Price: $3,390

Audio Space is an established Hong Kong-based manufacturer of tube amplifiers whose products are gaining increasing attention in the mainstream US audio press following generally positive but sporadic reviews over the last five years, and the sort of teasing one-liners one finds in articles summarizing reviewers’ experiences at various audio shows. After reading that Albert Von Schweikert himself felt these amps mated particularly well with his speakers, and as an owner of a pair of VR5s, I was delighted to have the opportunity, courtesy of the ever-en-couraging Alfie Lew of Audio Space, to place a Ref 3.1 integrated in my system. read more…

Xindak MT-3 Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Xindak MT-3 Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Specifications:

  • Tube: EL34*4, 12AX7*1, 6N8P (6SN7GT)*2
  • Output power: 18wpc (Triode), 40wpc (Pentode) THD: 0.2%(1KHz)
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz~70KHz
  • SNR: 89dB
  • Input Switch: 3 Groups Input Sensitivity: 400mV Input Impedance: 50 Kohm
  • Output Impedance: 4ohm, 8ohm
  • Consume Power: 300W (Pentode)
  • Dimension: 358mm (W)*321mm(D)*197mm(H) Weight: 41 lbs (18.5Kg)
  • Price: $830
  • Manufacturer: Chengdu Xindak Electronic Co., LTD. China.
  • Lotus Audio Imports is the exclusive U.S. distributor of Xindak Electronic

Chengdu is the capitol of Sichuan province in the southwest part of China. The fact that it has one of the lowest sunshine rates in all of China, even more so than even London, makes you wonder what people in Chengdu do on such dreary days. Well if you work for Chengdu Xindak Audio & lighting Equipment Factory you might just make Xindak audio equipment. Xindak has been making audio components since 1988 and has a lineup that includes, stereo power amplifiers, mono block amps, integrated amps, hybrid integrated amps, preamps, CD players, dacs, interconnects, digital interconnects, power cords, power conditioners, output transformers, wall outlets, silver fuses, ipod docs, vibration tuning devices and even a moving-coil cartridge transformer module. Now that is enough to make the sun shine through on even the cloudiest of days. .

Xindak offers a wide range of audio gear with prices ranging from the very inexpensive upwards, but with nothing too highly priced. Looking at their website I made a list of products for potential review. When Lotus Audio Imports, their US distributor, sent me their price list I was in shock. No not the type of sticker shock you get when you walk into a new car showroom and realize that you are priced out of the market for that shiny little sports car you saw on the freeway, but just the reverse. For the most part you can buy more than you thought for even less then you were thinking. Still don’t be surprised because some of their gear does get pricey as they offer the absolutely stunning CS6.0 integrated amplifier for $3600 or their V60 mono block amplifiers with 2A3C and 6SN7GT tubes for $5000, but these and a few others are the exception. For this review I was considering the V30 integrated amplifier with two 12AX7(ECC83), two 6N8P(6SN7) and four KT88 (6550) tubes for the low price of about $1500. I had also inquired about their XA6800SE and XA6950 integrated amps around $1350 each. Please go check out their website and look into these products to see what I am talking about, they appear to be a very good value. As of yet I have not auditioned the others but I am looking forward to doing so soon. Xindak is well known in China and appears to be spreading its wings around the world. Besides China they have distributors in 23 other different countries worldwide including the one in America (Lotus Audio Imports in Oakland California). Their distributors can be found in places such as Malaysia, Austria, Greece, Australia, France, Russia, Israel and Costa Rica to name just a few.

For a long time their products have sold well in China and have received awards and some very good press in their home country as well as abroad. One thing Xindak is quite famous for is their cable, some of which can get very expensive and innovative. New this year they have come out with a carbon-fibre digital interconnect. Xindak claims that carbon-fibre imparts no “skineffect” and therefore emits a purer sound, that does not change over time, as carbon is stable and does not tarnish. Of further interest is their Gold Series Cables. Yes they actually make cables using different amounts of gold foil mixed with other metals. The more gold involved obviously the higher the price of the cable. The Gold Series cables are made for Loudspeaker, Interconnect and Power Cords. While not low priced per say they are a good bargain price-wise considering the amount of precious metals they use. I was able to get my hands on a pair of the Gold Series interconnects which I was quite impressed with and will been sad to return.

My first review of Xindak products will be the MT-3 tube integrated amplifier. This is an auto-biasing amp by the way to make adjustment a thing of the past for those not so inclined as to bias your own tubes. The MT-3 is a 40 watt tube integrated amplifier that can switch from standard pentode to18 watt triode mode with a flip of two toggle switches (one for each channel), and does it all for only $830. Now of course EL34 tubes are not triodes but they can however be wired to work in triode mode. The EL34’s sounds so good in triode because of the sweet natural engaging characteristics of the tube. Xindak states that the reason to go triode is’ “decreasing the distortion, widening frequency response and increasing dynamic range”. For this review I was able to use the triode mode because of my high efficiency Klipsch Klipschorn speakers. I found that the MT-3 in triode a better match for my Klipschorn’s than when used in the pentode mode. Since the Klipschorn speakers have a sensitivity of 104db 18-watts triode is plenty of power for my room. If you want more juice though just switch over to pentode and power up to a full 40-watts. In pentode I was able to drive the Legacy Focus 20/20/s which are high efficiency speakers, but not of course as efficient as my Klipschorns.

Xindak MT-3 Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier review2

I was immediately taken by the fact that this amplifier was quite heavy (41 lbs). I guess I just did not expect a $830 tube integrated amplifier from China to feel so sturdy. My next surprise came when I opened the box. Sitting on top of the Styrofoam that encased the amplifier were three things. First was a nice cloth tote bag with a string to close off the end, to use if you want to protect the MT-3 during any moving process. Next to that was a pair of cloth white gloves for when you actually need to handle the tubes so as not to get the oil from your hands and fingers on them. It was a nice touch to get these small gifts with the MT-3 especially since it was an unannounced surprise. Thirdly, under the two of these was the owner’s manual. This was short, concise and to the point. I liked that. Of course there is the normal warning about what to do and what not to do with the MT-3 so read it before you play.

On the front of the MT-3 is a power on/off button with a blue light indicating when it is on. To the right of that is the source knob and again to its right the volume control. The MT-3 comes equipped with a sturdy cage to protect the tubes. You will also find two toggle switches (next to the EL34 tubes) for changing modes. You need to switch both, one for each channel, to go from pentode to triode or triode back to pentode. I do recommend though that you do so when the amp is off. If the amplifier is still on when you flip the switches it will make a loud noise through the speakers even with the volume turned all the way down. The three transformers located behind the tubes to the rear of the unit were never hot to the touch even though the tubes did get hot rather quickly. Still to be on the safe side always be careful when touching any part of the amplifier after it has warmed up. I ran the amp for seven hours straight, inside my salamander rack with no back enclosure and a front door with a perforated screen, so ventilation was very good. Peaking around to the rear of the MT-3 you will find an IEC connector where you may use the supplied standard power cord or upgrade to your hearts delight with others of your own choosing. Also there are three sets of speaker terminals. One set is for the negative speaker connections and the other two are for 4 or 8ohm speaker connections. Finally there are three inputs for whatever pleases you. I used only two; one for CD and the other for my Whest phono stage so I could spin my vinyl. Since the MT-3 does not have a phono stage you must buy one if you want to listen to records, which of course I hope you do.

The unit that I used for this review was brand new and not a review sample tweaked in any way just especially for the reviewer. It came to me through the US distributor wrapped up inside an unopened factory box. Because of this though I did have to wait a bit to break-in the amplifier, with it’s tubes and standard power cord. No problem though because right out of the box the MT-3 sounded just fine. In fact I was quite surprised how good it did sound without any break-in whatsoever. The stock tubes supplied were Electro Harmonix EL34’s and 12AX7’s as well as two 6SN7GT tubes of Chinese origin.

Xindak MT-3 Tube Amplifier front

Using my Whest phono stage, playing through the MT-3, I listened to three different records. Mirror Puzzle is a wonderful jazz record cut on 180gram vinyl with pianist and composer Kei Akagi. It is very difficult getting a stereo to reproduce a full sized instrument, like a piano, in ones own living area yet the MT-3 did a good job of it. On “Lester Left Town” Kei Alago glides through piano scales rather quickly and the MT-3 was able to keep up with him and at the same time providing the listener with just the right amount of decay to each note. The sound of Rick Margitza on sax was pleasing as were Charles Fambrough on bass with Willie Jones III on drums. While I found that the MT-3 did a great job overall I felt it did lack ultimate authority in the lower bass with my system and speakers. Remember though this integrated amplifier is priced at only $830. So I really could not expect everything from a product priced so low. What it did though, it did very well and it certainly was a pleasure to listen to.

I also had on hand my vinyl copy of the Original Master Recording version of Al Stewart’s Year Of The Cat. Before you ask, there is no year of the cat on the Chinese calendar. There are twelve animals but the cat did not make it (maybe he overslept?). The title song has a nice guitar and also saxophone solo. The MT-3 had a lot of fun with both of those as it can reproduce single instruments with ease. Listening to Al Stewart’s distinct yet clear voice was also a pleasure with the MT-3.

Before leaving my vinyl rig behind I had to listen to my Original Master Recording of Billie Holiday’s Body and Soul  album recorded on 200 grams of high definition vinyl. “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” is a great song and the MT-3 really gets this blues performance right. One thing this little amp does is let the feeling of the performer shine through. Again nice sax in the background and Billie Holiday’s magical voice is reproduced quite well allowing you to enjoy her performance within the feeling of an intimate setting.

Moving forward now to my CD collection we have Dire Straits, Brother In Arms, and their famous song “Walk Of Life”. The MT-3 gives us a presentation that is a little bit more 9th row rather than 7th. Things appear relaxed and not thrown at you in your face 5th row, as some solidstate amps have done. The soundstage was nice and wide with individual instruments and performers easily heard within it. This song was fun, as it was intended to be, and the MT-3 made sure you enjoyed it that way.

Xindak MT-3 Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Alan Jackson has a great big country western voice and I had to hear him sing, “Here In The Real World”, from the CD with the same name. I had a feeling the MT-3 would do a great job here and it did. His voice was deep and clear while the guitar and violins were also a pleasure to listen to. The MT-3 with its tube sound took just enough edge off the violins to make it even more pleasurable.

I was beginning to get the feel now for what the MT-3 could do and do very well. It just loved vocals, male or female, string instrument and piano solos. If you want to hear an eerie song listen to Sting’s The Dream Of The Blue Turtles CD and the song called “Russians”. This has a very haunting message. Couple this song with the MT-3’s knack for revealing the essence of a performance and you are in for a real treat. Those of us who grew up with the cold war threat between Russian and America will have a better grasp of the songs meanings. Hearing the words “I hope the Russians love their children too” expresses the hope that Sting believed would prevail to prevent a war between the two countries. You must listen to this song, every line is packed with thoughts that are universal and ring true even today. Once again the Xindak MT-3 did a good job with the musical passages and was a great pleasure to hear.

Next up I put on the CD, Body & Soul, a Time Life Music production with 24 sensual songs by various artists. “Sexual Healing”, done by Marvin Gaye was astounding. It starts out with Marvin whispering to his lover “get up, get up, get up, get up, wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up.” This song continues to be very popular and for good reason as it playfully expresses the universal emotions that exist between two lovers. Add that to the MT-3’s ability to produce intimacy and you have a winner all the way around.

Now it was time to tweak the MT-3 a little. Calvin Tseng, of Lotus Audio Import, the US distributor for Xindak, arranged for me to meet with Dave Kalin. Both Dave Kalin and Jim Pierce are the owners of Solar Winds Audio (solarwindsaudio.com) and are a Xindak dealer located in Milpitas California. Dave Kalin came over to my house bringing with him a stock Xindak MT-3 with upgraded tubes and tube rings. These tubes were cryogenically treated by Cryoset (a company also out of Milpitas California). He used 4 KT77 Reissue Genalex Gold Lion, 2 6SN7 EH ElectroHarmonix Gold Pin and 1 ECC83/12AX7 JJ tube. The tube rings were by Golden Dragon, a total of 7 in all, one for each tube. He sells the MT-3 for $830 and the upgrades are $500 for the tubes and rings, total price $1330 plus tax. This and the fact that you still get to keep the original factory tubes for comparison make this a great way to go if you decide to upgrade.

Xindak MT-3 Tube Stereo Integrated Amplifier back

Dave Kalin explained that his MT-3 had over 400 hours on it and since mine had only 70 plus hours that some of the differences I would hear were because his was fully broken in. However most of the changes would be from the upgraded tubes and the addition of the tube rings. He was right when he said it would almost sound like a different amplifier. Everything took on more weight and right away I could tell I was getting more mid bass response from the MT-3 while the sound opened up and was even smoother than before. You can play with your choice of different tubes and tube rings or give Dave Kalin a call and buy his setup. Either way a lot more quality sound can be coaxed from the already wonderful little MT-3 by just making a few changes. Now he and I did play a little with some power cords, interconnects, power line conditioners and speaker cables that he brought over. Once again the sound jumped up a whole other level but at a cost of many times that of the amplifier itself. Still it sure was fun to see what could be done with the basic Xindak MT-3 tweaked to the max. Hey you have got to expect this when you put two audiophiles in a room full of equipment; no way we are not going to take things to the limit.

Xindak has done a great job with this integrated tube amplifier. You cannot expect everything for $830 and yes it does not seem to do the upper or lower octaves the way amps costing much more can. I must tell you though this amp was extremely quiet in my system. I was very impressed by its silence not only because it is a tube amplifier, but whether tube or solid state this still was one quiet amp. Be careful though to match it with speakers that are efficient and to play it in a small to medium sized room for best results. Do this and you will not only be smiling from the sounds you hear but because of all the money you just saved. This amp, even in stock form, competes with those in the $1000-$2000 range and does so very well. Never would I have guessed that it sells for only $830. It is an attractive tube amp with the ability to play in either pentode or triode mode, comes with a sturdy cage and is both an amplifier and a preamp in one box. If this is an example of Xindak product value then I’ve got to try more. Not only did the Chinese put on an incredible show for the 2008 Summer Olympics, where their athletes were extremely competitive, but they matched this feat by making a highly competitive integrated amplifier in the Xindak MT-3. If you get a chance you should try out the amazing MT-3 and maybe even take a peak at some of their other products as well.

The Listening Environment:

The listening room is 18 feet 8 inches long by 13 feet wide. The room’s cathedral ceiling starts at 8 feet high then slopes upward to 13feet at its peak in the middle. Flooring is a soft hardwood covering with an oriental rug placed dead center in between (but not under) the listener and the audio system. There are no doors that open or shut into other rooms also there are two large openings one facing the speakers and the other to its side and slightly in front of the right speaker. I have a nice snug fireplace opposite this opening and in front of the left speaker. As for my audio equipment it is tucked nicely inside of a Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack.

Review equipment:

  • Sony DVP-S7700 CD/DVD Player (used as transport only)
  • Monarchy Audio Dual 20-Bit D/A Converter
  • Oracle Delphi Mk I turntable with custom made interconnects
  • Grace 707 tonearm with Denon 301 II MC cartridge Whest PhonoStage.20 + MsU.20 power supply Whest phono stage interconnects
  • Xindek Gold Series Interconnects Klipsch Klipschorn speakers Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers
  • Acoustic Revive RTP-4ultimate Power supply box
  • PS Audio Power Port Receptacle Anti-Cable speaker wire 10 foot pair Anti-Jumpers for Legacy speakers Anti-Interconnects (2 pairs)
  • Anti-Digital Interconnect single-shielded 1.5 meters in length
  • Monarchy Audio AC-1 power cord one 6 feet length (2) Blue Circle BC86 MKIII power line pillows (2)
  • Tek Line PC-8 Signature Power Cords 6-foot length
  • Mr-Cable Musician power cord 9 foot length Black Diamond Racing Cones (#3 & #4) Audio Prism IsoBearing (Isolation Globes
  • Cherry Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack

from affordableaudio, By Anthony Nicosia

McIntosh Laboratory MA6300

McIntosh Laboratory MA6300

Specifications:

  • Power Output into 8 ohms: 100 watts Power Output into 4 ohms: 160 watts Rated Power Band: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.005% from 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Damping Factor: 200 at 8 ohms; 100 at 4 ohms
  • Input Impedance: High Level:20K ohms; Phono: 47k ohms
  • Main output impedance: 50 ohms Dimensions (HxWxD): 7-5/8” x 17-1/2” x 22” Weight: 37lbs net; 55lbs boxed
  • Price: $4000

There is something to be said for reliability, longevity, and consistency. These uncommon attributes are coveted by nearly every respectable company in any given marketplace. This scarcity also means that those virtues are realized by only a select few. In the micro-market of high end audio, McIntosh Laboratory stands as one of those few, bringing forth and continuing a rich heritage that has remained unfettered by time.

Crafting high performance electronics since before my father was in diapers, McIntosh has established a reputation that even non audiophile muggle’s are familiar with – a feat that virtually no one company in the industry can lay clam to. Although McIntosh is often regarded as sourcing some of the best audio components in the business – they are also known for being, well… expensive.

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Tec-on Model “55” Integrated Amp/USB DAC

Tec-on Model “55” Integrated Amp/USB DAC

Specifications

  • RCA single-ended inputs
  • USB DAC (accepts 16-bit 44.1/48kHz)
  • EL84 x 2 output tubes [fitted with 6P14 “Beijing” in current production]
  • 5755 Raytheon NOS driver tube
  • Self-biasing
  • Zero global negative feedback
  • Choke input filter
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) @ 1kHz, 8 Ohm less than 1% at 4.5 Watts
  • Frequency Response: 17Hz – 27kHz (-3 dB); 30Hz – 17 kHz (-1 dB) Input Impedance: 47 KOhms
  • Power Source: 115/230VAC switchable Power Consumption: 80 Watts Dimension: 7 1/2″ (W) x 10″ (D) x 7″ (H) Weight: 13 lbs
  • Price: $749, currently on special for $398 with free shipping in USA

Confessions

Let me start by stating that I am not a tube guy. It’s not that I have anything against the little glass bottles of fire, or that I think sand amps have any inherent sonic benefit. In fact, some of the best systems I’ve heard have been tube based, not to mention that I love the warm glow when listening in the dark. I’ve also dabbled with hybrid power amps in the past, specifically the long-gone Counterpoint designs in which their MOSFET solid-state output probably colored the music more so than the tube input stage. I even toyed with a couple of DIY tube preamps, albeit with mixed results most likely stemming from my all-thumbs abilities with a soldering iron. But for one reason or another, I myself have never ventured headlong down the valve audio path.

Bottom line – I’m no tube guru that will wax rhapsodic about topologies, transformers and rolling the lastest NOS finds from Ebay. On the contrary, my penchant for Magnepan speakers has directed me towards monster-power solid-state amps given that I do not have the wherewithal to invest in the kind of tube power needed to drive these hungry, lowefficiency transducers. More recently, I’ve embraced the new generation of Pulse-Width Modulated (PWM) amps which are more commonly, though perhaps incorrectly, identified as “digital” amps. I love their typically neutral sound (though some may think of it as overly analytical) that is detailed and effortless combined with remarkable bass extension and control. I bring all this up as a point of reference to properly frame the following review. read more…

Grant Fidelity A-534B Integrated Tube Amplifier

Grant Fidelity A-534B Integrated Tube Amplifier

Peas and carrots, beer and pizza, cheese and burger, some things just go together. The Grant Fidelity A534B tube amp sounds so good with women vocalists that it is just like peas and carrots. Rated at 10 watts, using EL34 driver tubes in conjunction with a pair of 300B output tubes, this is obviously not a head banger’s amp. But it reaches the sublime with female vocalists of all types. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

Tube Compliment:

  • 2 Shuguang 300B, 2 Shuguang EL34B
  • 2 Shugang Chinese 12AX7s, 1 Electro Harmonix 5U4GB Output: 10 wpc
  • Weight: 60 lbs
  • Price: $1979

read more…

tec-on audio SE34i Integrated Amplifier

tec-on audio SE34i Integrated Amplifier

Who doesn’t absolutely love the idea of an integrated tube amp for under a grand? What I don’t love is what you usually end up with when you get an integrated tube amp for under a grand. I know the price point is a hard one to hit, especially if you plan to run a business at the same time. So when I was asked to do a review on the tec-on audio SE34i, a $499 integrated amp, I was both excited and a little frightened. In the usual fashion I contacted the manufacturer and coordinated the delivery of the amp. Because of signature and delivery issues, I usually have things like this delivered to work. A couple of days later there was a larger than expected box at my desk clearly labeled “tec-on audio”. Right away, I was impressed by the box, nice heavy weight cardboard with plastic straps (good for lifting the box in to the car). Speaking of lifting, I was surprised to find the box of an 8 watt integrated weighing in at 35 pounds. read more…

Blue Circle DAR Integrated Amplifier

Blue Circle DAR Integrated Amplifier

I’ve always gravitated towards people who approach life from an unconventional perspective. Upon strumming up the first conversation with Gilbert, the head (blue) cheese of Blue Circle Audio, it was apparent that we would get along very well. Although I’ve only been in this reviewing gig for just over a year, I can guarantee that I will never again have a phone conversation with a manufacturer in a make-believe language, or “Chingalish”, as Gilbert likes to call it. “It vewy fun ting. U shud try sumtym.”

As much as I enjoy an eccentric free spirit who, like me, casts blatant disregard for cavalier hi-fi attitude, I wouldn’t be writing this thing if it weren’t for Gilbert’s reputation of creating award-winning, high performance stereo components. Blue Circle Audio has been churning out amps, pre amps, and accessories for well over a decade. More recently, Blue Circle has begun to offer DACs and even nearly-full-range loudspeakers.

As Blue Circle’s palette of goodies continues to expand, the ever-increasing cost of raw materials and a shaky exchange rate have resulted in the discontinuation of a few well-respected pieces. Not too unlike the cycle of life, the death of one creature often bestows life onto another. And so the DAR was born. read more…

Harman Kardon PM665VXi Integrated Amplifier

Harman Kardon PM665VXi Integrated Amplifier

Specifications

Stereo Mode:

  • Continuous Average Power
  • (FTC) per Channel : 150 wpc @ < 0.08% THD into 8 ohms 150 wpc@ < 0.1% THD into 4 ohms
  • High Instantaneous Current Capability (HCC) : +/-80A 

Power Bandwidth:

  • HALF POWER – < 10Hz to 100kHz @ 8 ohms
  • Frequency Response : 0.2Hz to 150kHz (at 1Watt output, +0, -3dB)
  • Damping Factor: 65dB Signal-to-Noise Ratio : PHONOmm – 80dB PHONO MC – 76dB VIDEO & CD – 98dB MAIN-IN – 110dB
  • Input Level/Impedance: PHONOmm – 2.2mV/47k ohms, 125-425pF
  • PHONO MC – 120uV/56ohms VIDEO & CD – 135mV/22k ohms MAIN-IN – 0.8V/22k ohms
  • Phono Overload: MM – 220mV
  • MC – 12mV
  • Tone Control BASS: BASS TURNOVER – 200Hz/400Hz Tone Control TREBLE: TREBLE TURNOVER – 2kHz/6kHz Filter:
  • SUBSONIC – 15Hz, 6dB/octave HIGHCUT – 6Hz, 6dB/octave Loudness Control: +10dB @ 50Hz
  • Phase Shift: <5 degrees (300 – 20kHz) Power Supply: AC 220/240V, 50/60Hz Power Consumption: 350 watts

I’ve always been a bit partial to Harman/Kardon products. My very first decent piece of audio was their well-regarded HK680i receiver that I bought from all my Christmas earnings from working at LaBelle’s Catalogue Showroom. I remember reading over the brochure so many times that I had to tape the center crease to keep the thing together. That receiver survived many dorm stereo wars, winning all but one in beer infused voice votes. A little over a year ago I was looking for a vintage high-power integrated on a generic beer budget. Surfing thru eBay I spotted a black HK PM665VXi that was on auction with a midweek/midday ending time that coincided with a day off from work. I watch the auction and made a last second bid and thankfully won the amp. read more…

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