Weiliang A60+ Power Amp Review: Accuphase-wannabe amplifier from Hong King

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by Vtory, Aug 10, 2019.

  1. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Geez, there are too many Chi-fi's in the house..

    Weiliang A60+ Review

    Pros: euphoric tone, very musical presentation, elegant and effortless highs+mids, eye-pleasing vu panels, mostly operates like class A, insane value proposition
    Cons: light and meatless bass, a bit compressed depth localization, doubtful temp/current protection, mediocre speed, some may find this too colored

    Roughly three weeks ago, an AliExpress ad spam popped up showing me various clones or replicas of power amps. To my coincidence, I was looking for a second power amp just then, because I wanted to use Vidar for the speakers (Tekton Lore). After glancing pages of products, an order placed on a whim as my self-birthday present. A few days later a big package was delivered to my place (from Hong Kong). And.. what's in the box sounded surprisingly good.


    Associated Gears
    • Gustard DAC-X26 + U16
    • Schiit Vidar and Aegir (on a loan)
    • JBL NanoPatch+ and Schiit Loki
    • Raal SR1a

    Is this a knock-off?

    Yes and no. Maybe in-between (60-70%). Let me explain why.

    The appearance has some shared design languages such as golden front panel or stereo VU meters. But it doesn’t look like Accuphase. Much uglier. There are some products intending to purely clone/imitate, which is not the case for the Weiliang’s amplifier.

    [​IMG]

    Top left: Original Accuphase A-60
    Top right: Weiliang A60+
    Bottom left: Original Accuphase A-65
    Bottom right: A-65 clone (actually sold by Queenway Store in AliExpress)


    Internally, Weiliang A60+ 's circuit quite resembles Accuphase A-60 whose schematic is on the catalog. Parallel input summing and voltage gain stages look noticeably similar (but not identical). Output stage largely departs from the original, which resulted in quite different amplifier specifications (Accuphase: class A rated 60Wpc; Weiling: class AB 200Wpc).

    Copy products (e.g., A-65 clone above) more closely rip off the original. https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32441707991.html
    (the seller explains about specific steps of ripping off. lol)

    My conjecture is that Asian DIY folk(s) or community developed an amp based on publicly available A-60 schematic and perhaps reverse engineered to some extent. Then half-assembled DIY parts (amp pcbs also sold separately) or fully-assembled products are commercialised by various small companies such as Weiliang Audio. This might be unethical in that those companies were unlikely to pay fair intellectual property royalty or give proper credits to the original contributor(s). But less blatant than complete copy products.

    Anyway, does this amp sound like Accuphase?

    I don’t know. I’ve only heard a couple of accuphase amps many years ago -- with completely different speakers and upstream, unfamiliar tracks, and in show condition. I just remember it was very good, but hard to say anything more. Circuit similarity may result in somewhat Accuphase-ish sounding.. but only minimal at best. Just my guess.


    First impressions

    Build quality is in line with JLH amp sold in Ebay or AliExpress (indeed it seems to have a similar process of commercialization). Not great but mostly acceptable.

    Stereo VU panels on the front panels were honestly the primary reason I pulled the trigger. They don’t look as beautiful as big boys' artful products. (Accuphase, Luxman, Mcintosh, etc.) But definitely gives me pleasure to stare. Accuracy is pretty poor, by the way.

    Weiliang A60+ (henceforth referred to as A60 for convenience) is claimed to have maximum outputs of 40W (class A operation) and 200W (class B) at 8 ohm. For SR1a use, it mostly seems to operate in class A range. I don’t know if this is true. But this amp definitely consumes more power than Aegir and gets hotter. Also couldn’t hear any hint of amplitude-dependent sort distortions.

    It’s the heaviest amp I’ve ever owned in the house -- weighs around 47 lbs in my measurements. But it’s much lighter than big boy power amps spec’d similarly.

    With no signal, A60 was dead silent so that I couldn’t hear any noise (preamp volume maximized). It didn’t have any pop noises in turning on and off, either.

    Although this amp sounded quite good right after turned on, it relaxed a bit more over time. It seems that the amp reaches its max performance roughly after 15-20 minutes. But the improvement was only subtle if any (I also suspect the placebo effect). It sounded golden from the start. Indeed all three power amps (A60, Vidar, Aegir loaner) in the house had this more or less.

    [​IMG]
    (Picture taken by the seller I contacted)


    Sound

    Disclaimer: (1) all my impressions only apply to SR1a, not sure about any extrapolations; (2) honey-moon bias highly likely

    To me, the sound of A60 is best described with “golden”. And yes, I mean this amp sound a little COLORED, it’s definitely not the kind of “a wire with gain” style amps. Its tone and timbre have something shimmering and.. goldenly glowing, which has been mesmerizing me from day 1. Definitely warmer and more distorted than Vidar (and automatically than Aegir). This perceptual distortion is possibly dominated by the 2nd order, as it has nothing to do with harshness and roughness. It had a good bloom which I don’t usually expect from solid states. Honestly I will be surprised if A60’s harmonic distortion measures any lower than the Schiit power amps.

    Overall tonal balance is a little on the dark and warm side. It actually enabled me to turn Loki’s 8k eq knob a bit clockwise than where I used to set (Vidar around 9’oclock).

    The top end is where A60 had considerable success to my taste. While I admit it the sin of commission, higher frequencies shimmered enough to make me believe hearing songs and performances in the real theaters and concert halls. I kinda feel some sense of ‘goldenness’ in live performances, which is successfully faked through the combo of A60 and SR1a. I couldn’t recognize the same level of wow with either Vidar or Aegir. (Other headphone-based combinations doing this similarly well include ECP DSHA-3F+ZMF Verite or Leptoni DT-Alpha+Senn HD800 from my first hand experience.) I think the highs just gorgeous with A60, especially when heard through a ribbon transducer.

    The ability to retrieve ambiance from tracks is one of the benefits of having such elegant highs. Listening to Nancy Wilson’s Lush Life and Rickie Lee Jones’ debut album with A60+SR1a, I was hallucinated as if I heard the recording studio surrounding the singer -- definitely false positives because those must be closely mic'd lol. Anyway I had no reservation about A60’s handling of the treble. I generally prefer a system that can deliver overtone structure, and A60+SR1a didn’t disappoint me by any means. Time after time, I found myself mesmerized as a whole range of overtones that weren’t quite evident before. A huge plus in my book.

    Good treble ability filtered down into the midrange as well. The midrange benefited by simply presenting voices and instruments with no particular emphasis. Voices sounded more lovely and sweet through the A60 than Vidar. Aegir could be close. But like I wrote in the Aegir review, single Aegir wasn’t enough to be competitive. I’m curious how Aegir x2 could stack against A60 though. Whatever, its reproduction of the human voice was one of the A60’s strongest points.

    By contrast, bass ability is a little mixed bag. A60 could do the bass well enough when it comes to nuance, texture, definition, and articulation. However, it had less of the sense of weight that I am accustomed to with the Schiit. In this criterion, Vidar was exceedingly good at providing a sense of power, weight, and dynamics, which I found lacking in A60. No matter how I EQed lower frequencies, I found myself longing for more midbass kick, grunt, and solidity. On Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Bela Fleck’s Flights Of The Cosmic Hippo, the basses were very well defined in space but seemed a bit ethereal with A60. Testing A60 and Vidar side by side, I found Vidar superior regarding the authority of a certain weightiness, meatiness, and impact.

    The overall golden and transparent presentation of A60 let me hear not only instruments but also music flow. For example, on Lush Life, I could clearly hear the piano sound flowing smoothly, the notes linked in one solid, smooth, and continuous line -- as if pro idsd included in the chain (that dac has this trait in its pcm mode). A60 was convincingly musical and involving enough to make me speechless and just listen. In this respect, A60 feels like an antithesis of some highly technical amplifiers I’ve auditioned so far with SR1a. (the Benchmark’s one included)

    If I nitpick, the layering of the rows of players had something to be desired. I clearly heard that some sounds were farther away than others, but it seemed as if the rows themselves were a bit compressed from front to back -- as if the players were sitting much closer to each other. Not a showstopper bad. But Aegir, regardless of its lacking power in my situation, did it noticeably better than A60. Not to mention it’s a genre dependent and recording dependent matter.


    Conclusion

    Conservatively speaking, Weiliang A60+ is a very satisfying sidegrade of Vidar, if not upgrade. It’s downright outstanding in some respects I prioritize in audio. Stupidly low price ($600 excl. shipping) turns the amp’s limitations and weaknesses into nearly non-issue.

    Do I recommend this to everyone? Not really. I don’t fully trust safety and protection features implemented in this amp. It’s nowhere close to microcomputer-monitored protections or equivalents. Due to its nature handling huge current and high temperature, such definitely requires owners take all relevant safety risks seriously -- along with product failure, product variation, and credit risk not unusual in AliExpress or Ebay sellers.

    That said, despite all such demerits, I’m really happy with A60’s elegant musical presentation when paired with SR1a, over anything else I heard to date. If possible, I’d like to explore matching with other speakers or headphones such as HE-6 variants later.
     

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  2. direstraitsfan98

    direstraitsfan98 D2Girls v2.0

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    Thank you for going out on a limb to buy this and posting your comprehensive listening impressions, Vtory. Do you have any plans or are you able to listen to the amp with speakers? I checked out the aliexpress listing and it looks like shipping on this thing is nearly as much as the amp itself. The Accuphase a-65 knockoff is pretty interesting too. That thing retailed for over $17,000USD brand new, so if he's able to somehow recreate the sound for 10% of that, that's not bad at all.

    I'm not sure if I've ever heard anyone describe Accuphase as having exaggerated warmth or bloom, or having a particular colored sound. I'm thinking that there might be significant deviations from the real deal Accuphase compared to the Chinese clones. If it's too good to be true, it probably is...
     
  3. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    I definitely want some opportunities to test this amplifier with some speakers. Planning to test two sets of passive loudspeakers in the house (Tekton Lore OG and JBL 4408a) but afraid that they might not be resolving enough. I'm betting any loudspeakers with bright highs and decent efficiency (neither too efficient nor too inefficient) could work well with A60 though.

    My statements may differ from previous Accuphase impressions .. but there can be lots of factors and considerations.
    • My neutrality reference point is Schiit power amps. I am recognizing Vidar mostly neutral but a bit warm. Aegir is more neutral to me. I'm not sure whether this sense of neutrality applies to other reviewers.
    • Like I said, Weiliang one didn't seem to imitate the original Accuphase closely. If Accuphase sounding is really the destination, the second best is to go for replicas, not to mention the best is buying the original Accuphase. lol.
    • As usual, there's no free lunch. Haha.
     
  4. ÅkosG

    ÅkosG Rando

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    Thanks for the review. So have you finally hooked up this amp to a loudspeaker? If so what was your experience?
     
  5. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Yes I've -- for both elac vela 403 (stand monitors) and spatial m3 turbo s (floorstanders). Indeed, my amp is currently serving only for speakers. HE6s also like this amp, but they are not prioritized.

    I maintain all the assessments I stated in the original review. And not surprisingly, the amp shines when high power is called for. Among the two speakers I am having, I think elacs benefit better from this perhaps because of their low sensitivity, they address or don't worsen the amp's weaknesses (or to the extent I just don't care) while strengths of the two components generate a beautiful synergy.

    I don't have any second thoughts (to pursue others) for now. Within my reachable budget range, I can hardly think of clearly superior candidates.
     
  6. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    I absolutely love these type of "out of nowhere" products that can actually deliver.

    Was a good read.
     
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    Last edited: May 20, 2020
  7. ÅkosG

    ÅkosG Rando

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    That is great to hear! I have just ordered one. What preamplifier are you using with it? Is there any sort of self-protection circuit? How do you know that you don’t overload the amp with the preamp? Is there any distortion occurs at a higher volume?
     
  8. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @ÅkosG

    I don't find any hint of protection circuits on this amp. So, users should be extremely careful. That's the most major shortcoming of this amp, too.

    On the preamp front, I like to use passive ones -- Schiit Sys and JBL Nanopatch. Also currently Asgard 3 is doing the preamp duty.

    Honestly I can't crank up the volume as an apartment dweller. That said, within my volume range, no negative distortions such as clipping,
     
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