Solid-State Power Amp Adventures

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by purr1n, Jan 24, 2017.

  1. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    ATC specs out their products either very honestly or super conservatively. The amps can hit 100w and 300w RMS at the advertised super low distortion. They have competition but none of its cheap.
     
  2. Collusion

    Collusion Friend

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    Quick n' Dirty impressions of a couple of amps. Impressions are mostly based on listening to them with Quad Z3 floorstanding speakers (some listening have been done with Raal SR1a's too).

    First, some impressions of the Quad's for those who are interested:
    The Quad's have a sound signature which I'd describe as slightly bright, perhaps a tad dry on the upper band and slightly warm on the midrange (and lower frequencies) There's plenty of plankton in the treble with a miniscule amount of peakyness - stating this because experience tells me peakyness gets more audible with more revealing amplifiers and in this case it might be relevant. I've detected similar treble in many Mark&Daniel speakers (like in Maximus Monitor and Ruby, especially in the AMT models) but as a whole the Quad's sound more even in the treble and also more coherent between treble and midrange. Timbre overall is pretty good - Quad's have a pleasant texture on the midrange, sounding slighty like good paper cones but slighty more vibrant, if this makes any sense. A feature of glass fiber drivers? Otherwise the overall tone is very British, midrange is slightly dipped or less prominent than you'd find in a "studio neutral" speaker. This yields a sound stage that doesn't really pop out of the speakers, but more like renders between them or maybe even slightly behind them. Tend to work better the louder you play them. B&W-esque, one might say.

    Hegel H200:
    - Bright sounding amplifier and I'm not talking only about the treble - everything starting from the male vocal range seems to be slightly pronounced or more forward that I'm used to - but in a more broad and even way you might think. As such the brightness is not a completely undesirable quality. There's almost an impeccable sense of clarity and/or purity and perhaps of all the amps I've ever properly tested, Hegel has the airiest sound stage. Switching back to Hegel after auditioning the Moon Neo Ace my two first observations were: 1. Wow, the soundstage really pops out of the speakers! 2. Bass is now much more prominent. So, is this the amp of my dreams? When listening to Hegel more closely, I discovered the clarity comes at the expense of microdetail and pure/natural timbre. Dynamically Hegel is very capable, in both micro and macro realms and from top to bottom. Bass has good heft and speed, though it might sound just a little too round. Ultimately it just doesn't have that much detail to play with. There also a very subtle yet discernible metallic kind of quality to the overall sound in the upper midrange, which robs some naturalness from the presentation, though one could still describe the sound having some liquidness. Very distinct and non-neutral sounding amplifier. This must be the DM CV-2 of the amplifier world, try before buy.

    Random observations/thoughts:
    - Perfectly capable of driving Raal's, but the presentation is too much in your face (or in this case to be more exact, 'in your head') and the aforementioned shortcomings are (clearly) audible
    - Some intermittent transformer hum, might be related to other interference sources on my power grid

    SPL Performer S800 power amp (+ Phonitor 2 as pre)
    Preface: Having owned the Phonitor 2 for a year and a half, I finally decided to bite the bullet and blindly purchase an s800 power amp for Raal SR1a's hoping it would sound just like the Phonitor 2, but just in power amplifier form. Those of you who don't know how the Phonitor 2/X/E series sounds, read here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/spl-phonitor-x-e.3574/page-4#post-219127

    Okay, to put it bluntly: You get something and lose something. The neutrality associated with the Phonitor series is present on pretty much all fronts. Tone seems pretty even, neutral and certainly not thin sounding. Dynamically everything is okay, s800 doesn't overshoot transients nor sound laid back, but isn't state-of-the art either. Soundstage has adequate depth. Sound doesn't really have any sweetness or 'glow', but s800 still manages to sound non-clinical or mostly non-sterilizing of the upstream components. So, what gives?

    Perhaps the first time I came into realization of a shortcoming s800 has was when I was comparing it to the Hegel H200. Hegel has this almost liquidlike quality which in contrast made the s800 sound very slightly sibilant. In defence, this was something I wasn't able to discern that easily in isolation. Whereas Hegel may be described as having slightly glossed over or polished type of sound, there's none of that here. S800 just plainly puts out everything it cans and calls it a day, without putting lipstick on a pig. Perhaps due to this the absolute resolution leaves something to be desired. It might just edge out the Hegel, or this might be my interpretation of the situation due to more neutral type of delivery otherwise. To put it on a scale, we a talking a 'good' level of performance here, instead of excellent (or mediocre). Regardless, the SPL combination gets more listening hours and is still in my equipment rack, when Hegel has already changed ownership. Is S800 worth 3k$+? Audition one and decide for yourself.

    Random observations/thoughts:
    - Even if there are some shortcomings with the sound, I've managed to live quite long with this one without that much griping

    Moon Neo Ace MiND 1 (same dac/amplifier section as in Neo 240i)
    My impulse buy, which I thought could replace a Hegel H200 + Bifrost 2 + Bluesound Node 2i stack in my small living room. As the familiar story goes, the one that dreams of an all-in-one solution trumping a set of carefully selected separates soon gets a reality check.

    Using the internal MiND streaming solution, for example with Tidal as a source, you get a warmish, slightly laid-back type of sound without that much of air. I'd even dare to say there has been clearly a goal to achieve a certain type of smooth and coherent type of rendering here, as telling this one and something that truly aims to be 'neutral' apart from each other is quite elementary. I do have to admit I still found this configuration slightly dull and lifeless, not really evoking any kind of emotions regardless of the type of music playing, even if I could appreciate some aspects of the chosen tuning. There was also some 'squareness' evident and perhaps the treble was very slightly glarey in some parts, but as a whole it was mostly listenable. In terms of resolution it was surprisingly acceptable. However, in the end it failed to make my foot tap. (BTW: the internal dac is based on ESS ES9010K2M chipset, it seems).

    Forgetting the internal streaming solution and DAC, and substituting them with Bifrost 2 and Bluesound Node 2i made things to turn for the better. Although the overall tonal balance stayed mostly the same, Bifrost 2 managed to blow some life into the presantation. There was now some sweetness or 'musicality', if you will, and both micro and macrodynamics took a step up. The squareness went away and what was before a slightly glarey treble is now more smooth and even. Soundstage also gained an additional layer of depth. With Soekris dac2541 as a dac I was actually able to confirm that the Moon Neo Ace is more detailed than the aforementioned SPL s800 power amplifier the upper we proceed on the frequency range. Where it loses though, is the impactfulness on the bottom end and other technicalities, such as dynamics. As an amplifier only this thing is very capable of rendering enjoyable and easy-going sound and I thought for a some time about keeping it. In the end, I decided it would be better to replace it with an all-analogue model from Moon.

    Randoms observations/thoughts:
    - Was able to drive Raal SR1a's better than I anticipated based on the specifications (50 @8ohm, [email protected]), but sometimes sounded slightly shouty / 'hard' with some bass heavy music
    - Overall resolution quite good with a revealing external dac
    - As a whole does not represent good value (IMO)
     
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  3. gepardcv

    gepardcv Almost "Made"

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    @Psalmanazar: What’s your take on the ATC SIA2-150 integrated? Or do you just like ATC’s pro stuff?
     
  4. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Never heard it. The pro stuff is brilliant. It’s probably fine.
     
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  5. Abhishek Chowdhary

    Abhishek Chowdhary Friend

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    [​IMG]

    Effortless, explosive, depth,timing,immense power and control....what an amp!
     
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