Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 12, 2023
hfnoutstandingPS Audio grows its hybrid tube/MOSFET amplifier range with a new flagship that's the crowning achievement of the late and hugely respected designer Bascom H King

Until this year, the flagship power amplifier in PS Audio's stable was the BHK Signature 300 [HFN Jul '16]. Still on sale, it bears the initials of Bascom H King, the veteran designer (Infinity, Constellation Audio and more) who was given license by the Colorado-based company to engineer a high-output monoblock amp around his favoured tube/solid-state hybrid topology. Six years on from launch, the '300 model has been relegated to second-tier status, replaced by the PerfectWave BHK M600.

Ken Kessler  |  Jan 06, 2023  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2002
hfnvintageHere's an amplifier that doesn't just look different, it's different through and through. Ken Kessler hears a potent powerhouse from Down Under

There are two piles of magazines, some 150cm tall, sitting in my lounge. They consist mainly of hi-fi titles that I can't read until they're 'out of date'. Why? Because I don't want to be influenced by the reviews, and I don't always know whether or not I'll be reviewing a component I've just seen slammed or praised. Thus it was that I tried to avoid whispers about the Halcro amplifiers from Australia. Even so, I kept hearing about these 'amazing amps' from all and sundry.

Martin Colloms  |  Dec 16, 2022  |  First Published: May 01, 1997
hfnvintageThe no-compromise 2010 preamp and 2020 DAC are part of the US manufacturer's ongoing 2000 series project. Martin Colloms listens

Boulder's founder and chief engineer Jeff Nelson gained his first audio engineering experience with studio mixing desks and the design of a professional cartridge tape unit. This led to a constructive interchange with the late Deane Jensen, the audio transformer wizard and the originator of a classic 'operational amplifier'. This was not an integrated circuit but one implemented at good power and wide bandwidth via the use of discrete devices.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 12, 2022
hfnoutstandingReplacing the outgoing 3010 series with trickledown experience from the costlier 5010 range, Exposure's 3510 stable just got busier with the launch of a new pre/power

Who remembers the Stella Artois ad that proclaimed its lager was 'reassuringly expensive'? A slightly odd slogan, if you ask me, but it came to mind when setting up Exposure's 3510 pre/power pairing, only substituting the word 'expensive' for 'simple'. Here are two hi-fi products where simplicity has been elevated almost to an art form, reflected in the casework, choice of connections and user experience. And at £1590 a piece, these recently launched models aren't outrageously expensive.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 21, 2022
hfnoutstandingStrip out the digital inputs, BluOS streaming module and preamp stage from NAD's M33 and we get a 'purist' implementation of Purifi's groundbreaking Eigentakt Class D tech

Unlike the traffic on the motorway for which this stereo amplifier is definitely not named, Canadian manufacturer NAD is rolling along at pace. The M23 auditioned here, available in just a silver finish, is its latest amp to feature high-performance Purifi Eigentakt Class D technology, following in the footsteps of the £3999 M33 BluOS-capable integrated [HFN Aug '20], the seven-channel £4499 M28 power amp, and the more affordable £1749 C 298 stereo amp [HFN Oct '21]. That NAD should have chosen to adopt Eigentakt modules for a trio of models before upgrading its flagship two-channel Masters series power amp is perhaps something of a surprise. But it proves to have been worth waiting for.

Ken Kessler  |  Oct 25, 2022  |  First Published: Jun 01, 1993
hfnvintageAn old circuit with a modern look versus a new design with retro styling as Ken Kessler hears valve amps from Papworth and Sonic Frontiers

Contrary to the practices of most specialist companies, some still believe that small is beautiful. Despite the continuing displays of excess from across the Pond, enough manufacturers realise that the only way to get quality sound into certain homes is to 'down-size'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 10, 2022
hfnoutstandingGermany's 'Sound Performance Laboratory' has launched its largest stereo power amp yet. We pair the s1200 with SPL's Elector preamp for a big-hearted, all-analogue system

Based some 40 minutes west of Düsseldorf, SPL sounds like an attractive prospect for those who like their music loud – though in this case the name has nothing to do with Sound Pressure Level, standing instead for 'Sound Performance Laboratory'. Mind you, the promise of room-shaking raises its head again with the new flagship power amplifier in the company's domestic – or 'Professional Fidelity' – range, which promises 'Mastering Grade Listening'. The new Performer s1200 (£6499) may only measure a smidge under 28cm wide and a little over 20cm tall, making it a tiddler in the pantheon of high-end stereo power amps, but it's still capable of a claimed 300W/8ohm, rising to 520W/4ohm. This should be more than enough for even the most demanding speakers and level-hungry listeners.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 03, 2022
hfnoutstandingEngström's pursuit of the 'pure Scandinavian Sound' reaches its peak in the ARNE amplifier – a triode tube amplifier that takes aim at solid-state competition

This isn't our first encounter with the valve amplification from Swedish company Engström, the ERIC Encore power amps [HFN Oct '21] lighting our blue touch paper of interest. The ARNE integrated amplifier, its 'entry-level' offering, is quite possibly an amp best suited to what comedy writer Danny Robins made famous as 'The Cold Swedish Winter', it also doubling as potent heat source. The curvaceous glass cover protecting the pairs of power triodes gets very warm indeed, so this amp needs plenty of 'fresh air'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 22, 2022
hfncommendedNow in mkII guise, Lindemann's network-attached DAC and analogue preamp sees a raft of internal updates and the promise of 'production secured for upcoming years'

Look at the latest iteration of Lindemann's network music player, the £3450 Musicbook Source II, and you'd be forgiven for thinking that nothing much has changed [HFN Jun '20]. This is still a compact unit, just 28cm wide and a mere 6.3cm tall, with nothing much on show save a power/standby button sunk into one end of the top-plate and an edge-mounted volume control, with a push-to-mute function, at the other.

Ken Kessler  |  Sep 16, 2022  |  First Published: Dec 01, 2001
hfnvintageLooks like valves, smells like valves, uses transistors – Ken Kessler hears 100W of single-ended MOSFET power from the pen of Tim de Paravicini

Statement amps are nothing new to Tim de Paravicini, his original EAR 509s and 549s hardly being minor projects. Neither were the first amps to bear the Yoshino names, a pair of designs showing that single-ended topology could be applied to both valves and transistors. But the latter, while Tim was able to voice it to ape the tubes, ran just as hot as the valves, and proved just as inefficient as all single-ended designs are known to be, so why bother? Damned if I know, for Tim's latest is a huge mutha of a single-ended amp... and it's solid-state.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 02, 2022
hfnoutstandingA bigger PSU, more power transistors and a new input/driver stage – all inspired by the 'Relentless experience' – gives D'Agostino's M400MxV monoblocks more Momentum!

Avoirdupois aside, Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems' Momentum M400MxV monoblock just may be the least fussy or fiddly power amp one can aspire to in the extreme high-end. Of course, something cute and tiny like a PS Audio Sprout [HFN Feb '15] or Quad Vena [HFN Jan '15] can be lifted with one hand and requires no degrees in electronics, but that's 'real world' gear. At £90,000 per pair, the M400MxVs are as exclusive as it gets, and such a strong physical presence is de rigueur.

Ken Kessler  |  Aug 19, 2022
hfnvintageKen Kessler explains why he believes Audio Research's Reference 1 preamp and Reference 600 power amplifiers are in a class of their own

Whatever your response to once-in-a-generation revelations, the Audio Research Reference 600 monoblock amplifiers and the matching Reference 1 preamp will render all who hear them something akin to 'gob-smacked'.

Review: Ian Harris, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 22, 2022  |  First Published: Aug 01, 2003
hfnvintageIan Harris and Paul Miller hear the amps that crown MF's 20th anniversary

The kW and kWP are the final models in Musical Fidelity's 20th anniversary Tri-Vista series, and are intended to be the ultimate expression of the company's skills as amplifier builders. In contrast to the nominally 'real world' SACD player and integrated amp, the pre and power amps have been built on a totally cost-no-object basis – to borrow MF's own words, they're 'simply the very best we can do'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 23, 2022
hfnoutstandingThis Polish hotshot brand broke onto the audiophile scene with its programmable DC PSU, followed by the OOR headphone amp. Now, with DAC onboard, comes the ERCO

The name of this new product from Polish company HEM, selling under its Ferrum brand, is spelt ERCO, but pronounced 'ertso'. Apparently it's Esperanto for 'ore', and so follows on from the mineral-based brand-identity – Ferrum, OOR – you get the idea. What's also not immediately apparent, given that all the Ferrum products basically look the same, is that the £2395 ERCO is perhaps the most comprehensively equipped model the company has made to date.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 16, 2022
hfnoutstandingNow a full quartet, T+A's compact but beautifully formed Series 200 has expanded to include a media player, DAC/preamp and Purifi Eigentakt Class D stereo power amp

Siegfried Amft, founder and MD of T+A, declares the intent of the brand's Series 200 is to 'combine the appearance of a Midi system with a high-end performance'. Midi, of course, is a word that evokes memories of 1980s/'90s hi-fi, so I'm surprised to see the term attached to a range that's rather more aspirational in its technology. You might think something has been lost in translation, T+A being a German manufacturer, until you lay eyes on the DAC 200 and its button-heavy compact chassis. From the appearance side, at least, the 'Midi' mission has been accomplished.

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