Sugden v the bottleheads

Gromit

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Sounds like a Yorkshire version of WWF or some oop north Marvel Comic story...anyway...

Been giving my old A21 some use this past week or so and been loving the thing. Rare to find an amp which sounds so good (and musical with it) at low volume - and driving either the Quads or the AX2's it delivers very well. Hell, it even has a very respectable phonostage. Shame I have to use a 2RCA/DIN adapter- it'd be even better with a DIN plug fitted to the arm leads. Still in fact need a DIN/DIN lead for the CDI.

It's got me thinking, as these things do, that I should have a much closer look at Sugden's more modern offerings, either a new A21 Series 2 or perhaps a used A21SE.

I've done some valve-dabbling, notably Icon MC34A and a short spell with a loaned A30, but it really hasn't floated my boat. The Sugden (and we're talking my old steam-powered 12w one here)seems to offer a lot of the valve amps' realism yet it has much more convincing grip and rhythmic prowess.

Getting to the point, has anyone done a comparison between the new 'breed' of affordable valve integrateds ie Prima Luna/Puresound/Icon etc etc and the new A21? From the experience with my old version I'm reckoning the new one must be quite a dark horse.

Edit: If this works out the Exposures will be up for sale in the relatively near future.
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dudywoxer

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Given the comments you have made on your current exposure's, and the valve amps you have tried, having heard the A21SE perform into some BIG spendors you owe it to yourself to hear one at home. Try and borrow the suggy stage one phono amplifier at the same time.

The only down side I can think of is theincreased heat ino your room if we have a summer as warm as last year, cos they do run a touch warm. Less so when pushed a bit, which I gather is a common trait of these class A beasties. Looks stunning in the black finish a well. Sound better than it looks as well.

 

Gromit

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Thanks DW - I know what you mean re the hot-running thing. My old 21 runs at its hottest when left idle, rank up the volume and it runs slightly cooler. The heat doesn't really bother me fortunately as the back of our house is well-ventilated.

Nice thing is that I've found, unlike the Exposures,it doesn't really need leaving switched on - 20 mins or so and it's fully warmed-up from a cold start.

Seems the SE is a rare beast 2ndhand (always a good sign I suppose) so I may go for a new Series 2 A21. I'l check out the stage one phono.

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Alvolake

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Gromit,

Have a listen to the SE first. It doesn´t sound as sweet as the A21a but it gives an impression of infinitely more power despite the supposed 5w extra only. Detail is better all round. Definitely NOT pipe and slippers. Bluff and honest might be nearer to it, but never offensive.

 

musicbox

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I had an A21a for several years, its superb. I had a loan of a fellow wammer's Puresound A30 for a few days, great amp but I found it just a bit too neutral for my taste and I think the A21a has more character. Depends what you want from your amp...

However, there is currently a Lavardin IS on eBay at a very attractive price which you might want to consider as its kind of like the Sugden A21a but even better IMO.

 

yoda900

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The new A21a can come with its own phono stage as well.

More power than the old one too but just as sweet.

Have just run a new one in for 10 days continuous before sending it off to NZ.

It only got up to full temp after 7 days ie all case work (not heatsinks) up to the same temp including the front panel.

Ran it into the Impressions. Probably not identifiable on less full range speakers but the VERY VERY LOW end was a smidgin loose. Played double bass with no probs and able to follow the notes with ease at realistic volume whilst letting the rest of the music get on without interference.

This was noticed only after deliberately trying to find fault with it compared to the Masterclass which of course has oodles more power and ease. It put up a damn good show. Don't dismiss it without trying both in your own system as you may not need the A21SE

Have fun and enjoy but make sure they are both fully run in and hot before listening.

 

Gromit

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Thanks guys for the input.
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I'm after a similar(ish) sound to my old A21 - it's surprisingly neat and tidy into the Quads which are normally quite a bright speaker. I'd like a smidge more low-end control but what I'm hearing at the moment is certainly good enough to be very enjoyable. Best thing is on vocals and wind instruments (saxophone & clarinet funnily enough) it sounds just great; plenty of body with enough overtones to give a decent amount of realism yet little in the way of 'old school' Class A bloom. It can also groove pretty darn well too, although both my TT and CD player are v groovy items anyway which no doubt helps things along.

If I can retain all of the above with a little more powerheadroom I'd be un lapin content.
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Gromit

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Leonard Smalls wrote:

Sounds like A Sugden Masterclass is what your looking for..The integrated is a cracking amp - haven't heard the pre/power though.
Only one problem is that I don't, unfortunately, have Masterclass £££'s
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hifienthusiast

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This is my experience with the Sugden A21a, not the latest A21a series 2. The A21a is a superb integrated amp, although I agree that the bass can be a bit loose. I had it with a pair of Dynaudio 52 speakers once, the midrange is just magic: warm, real, simply fantastic.

The internal phono stage of the A21a is not too hot according to a few zerogain forum members. Search for Sugden in zerogain and you will find many relevant posts.

If you like the warmth & realism of the Sugden but want more grunt, you may like the Unico integrated amp. I have tried the smaller Unico P and it is like the Sugden in some ways, rich midrange and unfatique sound. I guess the Unico or Unico SE will have more drive due to the higher output.

 

JCL

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The A21SE is a sweet amp but I found it a little sort of slow or maybe not especially dynamic sounding compared to the Lavardin. The phono stages in either aren't anything special as other people have said.

 

Gromit

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hifienthusiast wrote:

The internal phono stage of the A21a is not too hot according to a few zerogain forum members. Search for Sugden in zerogain and you will find many relevant posts.
I've also heard this is the case, but I'll be going for a stand-alone phonostage anyway. It'll most likely bea P75 as of all the (sensibly-priced) onesI've heard in the last year or 2 this one has been the one I liked the most, even giving the XI pre's stage a run for its money.

Not heard the Sugden Stage One though...dunno how much it costs either.

 

Gromit

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JCL wrote:

The A21SE is a sweet amp but I found it a little sort of slow or maybe not especially dynamic sounding compared to the Lavardin. The phono stages in either aren't anything special as other people have said.
How does the standard IS compare with the Reference? I've found the IS on eBay - take it from what folk have said this is sort ofthe Gallic version of a Sugden?

Interesting your comments re the SE - my old A21 isn't what one would describe as slow per se, although it's clearly not MotoGP like the Exposures. Perhaps the SE is a more different sounding beast thanone might expect.The old amp's alsorhythmicallystrongenough to notget tripped up easily by complicated rhythms.

 

JCL

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The IS probably lacks the last 5% of the Reference. The Reference is like a mini IT. However they all sound so different to anything I've heard at or near the price range that I think you'd be a complete nutter no to check out that one on eBay.

 

Leonard Smalls

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I'd say the IT is very similar in sound to a Sugden Masterclass!

Very transparant and musical, but not too warm and with good bass grip, even for quite demanding speakers (like my Dittons..)

 

Mr Underhill

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I use a Jungson Class A power amp with an EAR 864 pre - works brilliantly well.

Replaced my much loved Naim amps, for main stereo duties, but I really haven't looked back.

M

 

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