The stock image above can’t really convey how this thing makes you feel. It gives one a nervous sense of foreboding. It’s large. Too large for my rack almost – I’ve deployed some squidgy feet to help it stay put – and it sits there, brooding. Cross with you for deciding to watch some telly. Angry that it’s power is not being enjoyed.. it frightens me. It seems to have all the potential energy of an unexploded universe. So, nervously I click the little plastic remote (practical, not pretty) and it’s power relay clicks.. then the left “eye” starts it’s Cylon death routine.. it’s segments light up and spin as it warms up.. getting ready.. waiting for you to put AC/DC – Back in black into the spinner and wind this beast all the way up to eleven where it will blow the front of your speakers straight through the wall behind you! It’s got 200 Watts available and it’s big and heavy.. what else could it do?
What happens next is the real surprise; It gives you a hug! It’s like climbing into the ring with Mike Tyson and having him just walk over and hug you, while stroking your hair and saying shh shh now, it will all be OK.. And it is, it’s OK, nothing bad is going to happen. Ever. Your music collection has just been rendered untouchable, It’s taken out the mother of all Sicilian “insurance” policies. All the time you keep paying no one gets hurt. Although with this amp you only pay once. Circa £4k in fact. And it pays you back for that investment, with interest..
It reveals your music to you – shows you what’s on the disk, all of it. The detail can be startling, the phrase straight wire with gain is on the tip of my fingers. It delivers in an even handed and powerful way, but without ever losing it’s vice like grip over things. Play AC/DC as loud as you like (I did) and it’s every bit as dynamic and exciting as it should be, but never once is it shrill or bloomy in the bass – It’s always in control. Ben Howard’s beautiful album, every Kingdom, is essayed with such a delicate poise it left me breathless. I knew that the fret screech was coming but on the other hand I also knew it was not going to hurt. The sound stage put everyone and everything in clear space and a defined place. Orbital’s Wonky was fast, pacey, bassy and huge fun. I loved it more than I ever had before. There’s pace and timing here in spades, but without being boom tizz, the mid ranges are sweet and voices project cleanly into the room. There’s no leanness here, perhaps a valve amp would be warmer, but this amp is too honest a broker to add much colour.
I can’t afford this amp- we need a new kitchen, I’m told- but if I could afford it would I buy it? Perhaps, yes. It does all the things I like from an amp. It gives the music space and air, it delivers thunderous bass without losing control. And it grabs your speakers like a pit bull shaking a Barbie doll. Bingo! A lot of fun, a fair bit of bling and a surgical inspection of your music. Not for the feint hearted and I would venture, perhaps not for those with overly bright speakers. I wouldn’t partner this with Focal or Kudos, but with some big Snell’s (as many of us heard at Scalford) or similar speakers, this is a s good as it gets.. Like apple pie and custard on a cold day, it leaves one sated, happy and warm inside.
Seen here with the Big Snells at Scalford. A star of the show:
It has inputs a plenty and optional DAC cards and Phono stages (MC and MM) available. In fact, if you make use of the DAC and the Phono stages it doesn’t look so big after all! I did detect some slight hum from it when idle, but this was gone once the music started. It’s highly practical, connectable and enjoyable. If you are in the market for a £4k integrated, make sure you audition one.
I suppose from such a big amp one might expect a bigger (or longer) review, but truly there is no character to speak of. I really get the feeling that any character you hear when using this amp comes from the source or the speakers. Having been amazed at its transparency at Scalford hall I was equally stunned by it at home. If I were to tell you it was lush or bright or any other “character” I would not be describing the amp. And I would not be being fair on it. The only caveat I would have to a prospective buyer is that it might cost you a few quid when it starts to reveal weaknesses in the rest of your system – as only the best amps can.
Available from Jack at BD Audio.
Discuss the review here
- Power Ratings:
8 ohms (.06% THD) 400W4 ohms (.06% THD)
(3) pairs RCA inputs.
(1) pair XLR inputs.
(1) pair RCA Home Theater Bypass (or preamp-in) inputs.
(1) pair RCA Preamp-ouputs.
(2) 12V Trigger outs.
(2) Pairs 5-way binding posts.
Remote Control: Volume, mute, source, power, trigger, display dim/off.
Optional: DAC with USB (24/192 Asynchronous) and RCA inputs.
Optional: MM/MC Phono with one pair RCA inputs.
Input Impedance: 20K.
Bandwidth: 10Hz – 100Khz
Input Sensitivity: 1 Volt.
Total Capacitance: > 234,000uf.
Max input level: 6Vrms (18V pk-pk).
Dimension: 17.63-W x 17-D x 6-H
Weight: 55lb (62lb shipped)