Electrocompaniet EC 4.8 MKII/AW 800 M Pre/Power Amplifier Page 2

Switching on the AW 800 M from standby, during which it shows a red illumination of the front panel switch and logo, will turn the lighting to blue, and then you can select whether the lights stay on or are defeated when playing music. Your choice is made via a little button hidden under the fascia while another button nearby enables an automatic powering-down after 30 minutes of no signal. Otherwise, there's no remote switching of the power amp from the preamp – the former has 12V trigger switching, but the latter doesn't.

sqnote Easy Listening
Hooked up between the dCS Vivaldi APEX DAC [HFN Jun '22] and new Bowers & Wilkins 801 D4 Signature floorstanders, the EC 4.8 MKII/AW 800 M combination immediately confirms itself as an entirely compelling listen, if one hiding its considerable abilities behind supreme ease of listening. With the familiar SACD release of Elton John's Goodbye Yellow Brick Road [Mercury/Rocket Record 981 320-5], the amp handles superbly the changing levels and tempi of the opening 'Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding' sequence. It opens up the character of Elton's piano and the lush backing, while still making clear the tight, gutsy contribution of the 'power trio' of Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson, plus Ray Cooper's percussion, all revealed by the exemplary, epic production from Gus Dudgeon.


The preamp has two balanced (XLR) and three single-ended (RCA) ins, a line/rec out, and one balanced (XLR) output per side.

The AW 800 M will run as loud as anyone could ever want, really getting the 801 D4 Signature speakers moving. It's just as convincing, though, with the simple soundstaging of the remastered Yusuf/Cat Stevens album Tea For The Tillerman [Island/Cat-O-Log 0602508820359], where the no-frills, often acoustic instrumentation, and the clarity with which the voice is captured, is entirely delightful.

There's an appealing warmth about the sound here, pitching the AW 800 M a long way from those high-end amplifiers seemingly capable – and keen – to rearrange the listener's fillings. In this instance, that richness and scale is never at the expense of detail. Instead, this amp manages to sound full-scale and weighty without any detriment to the openness and ambience on offer.

Sense Of Occasion
That's much in evidence with the live recording of the 2023 Vienna 'Summer Night Concert' [Sony Classical 19658818942; 96kHz/24-bit]. The Vienna Philharmonic is on sparkling form under Yannick Nézet-Séguin, delivering a programme concluding with a stately, but relentless, reading of Ravel's 'Boléro', and then a joyous Strauss 'Wiener Blut Waltz'. There's a palpable sense of occasion and performance, the amplification driving the big speakers to deliver real scale and presence. This is repeated with the Merton College, Oxford/Britten Sinfonia recording of Vaughan Williams' 'Te Deum', from the recent Orchestral Anthems release [Delphian DCD34291], where the appeal of the soaring choral voices in the reverberant church space of All Hallows', Gospel Oak, is more than matched by the drama and power of the orchestra. It's a wonderfully detailed and uplifting sound, and the Electrocompaniet duo thrives on it.


Power amp has switchable stereo/bridged mono inputs with daisy chain outs, all on XLRs. Two sets of 4mm speaker binding posts are offered per channel

The system flows beautifully through the Hallé/Barbirolli performance of 'The Walk To The Paradise Garden', from Delius: Orchestral Works [Warner Classics 9029519214; 96kHz/24-bit]. This recording, now old enough to get its bus pass having been released in 1957, has an attractive 'of a piece' sound to it, rather than attempting to spotlight everything, all at once. This Electrocompaniet pre/power responds so well to this kind of production: it remains easy to hear the various performances contributing to the whole, but it's just as easy to get carried away in the lovely, rich sweep of the music.

But will this amplifier rock and slam? Oh yes... playing the extended mix of 'Oumma Alaresso', from the 2008 remaster/re-release of Thompson Twins' debut album A Product Of... [Edsel EDSD 2026], the multiple percussion lines are delivered crisply, the bass has both scale and serious impetus, and the vocals enjoy fine projection. Yes, it's undeniably a period piece, but with everything this Electrocompaniet duo brings, plus the new-found definition of the B&W 801 D4 Signatures, it's a riotous, attention-grabbing track.

Fits And Starts
Similarly, with the complex mixes of To The Moon And Back, the tribute album to composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto [Milan 19658737982], the amplification delivers an insightful, detailed view of the music, from the lightweight Electro Youth take on 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence' to David Sylvain's heartfelt 'Grains' and the just plain odd Otomo Yoshihide remodel of 'With Snow And Moonlight'. That last track is all juddering electronica, fits and starts and switch-thumps – certainly not an 'easy' listen, even for die-hard fans of Sakamoto, but an intriguing one in the hands of this accomplished Norwegian pre/power.


Generic IR remote caters for input selection and volume here but has the facilities to service all Electrocompaniet products, now and in the future!

Glorious Power
Push the limits of the amp with the dramatic 'A Call To Arms', which opens the James Horner score for the 1989 film Glory [La-La Land Records; LLLCD 1560], and it pulls together the angelic high trebles of The Boys Choir of Harlem and the room-shaking bass of the orchestration to spine-tingling effect. The consistent sense of effortless power that just keeps on giving is undiminished by playing this demanding track at high levels. But then that's what this remarkable power amplifier – and its preamp partner – brings to everything played: effortless enjoyment.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
There are larger high-end power amps, and more than a few that are smaller, just as there are many that cost more. Yet, the sheer flexibility of the Electrocompaniet AW 800 M is hard to beat. Use it in stereo, then upgrade to mono if you wish, and add the partnering preamp for a big-hearted, refined sound. This system is an excellent buy, capable of a hugely entertaining listen with almost any music.

Electrocompaniet AS
Supplied by: Elite Audio UK, Fife, Scotland
01334 570 666