Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 24, 2024
hfncommendedInspired by Leema Acoustics' flagship Constellation series, this pre/power combination is the first fruit of the Welsh brand's new Quantum range. Does the Graviton have gravitas?

The tone of the announcement of the new Leema Acoustics Quantum range has the air of a Hollywood blockbuster: '25 years in the making…' it begins. But perhaps this hyperbole can be forgiven as this is the Welsh company's first new range in more than ten years and sees the technology of its flagship lineup simplified to reach more affordable prices. Here we have the first two Quantum arrivals, both available in silver or black – the Neutron preamp, with 13 inputs including a built-in DAC, is £1500, as is the Graviton stereo power amp, rated at 150W/8ohm. Buy the two together and you save £200, bringing the package price down to £2800.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 20, 2024
hfnoutstandingComplete with a new streaming module, T+A's latest network-attached DAC/preamp is the perfect partner for its PA 3100 HV integrated and A 3000 HV power amplifiers

Tipping the scales at a hefty 26kg, measuring a portly 46cm deep and 17cm tall, and selling for £14,900, T+A's PSD 3100 HV appears every inch the flagship DAC/streamer/preamp. Except that it isn't – that accolade is reserved for the German brand's SDV 3100 HV [HFN Oct '19], which has been deemed its 'reference' model since its arrival in 2019 and remains available for £26,040.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 23, 2024
hfnvintageRising phoenix-like from the ashes of Deltec Precision Audio in 1992, the 'continuity brand' DPA retained designer Robert Watts' flair for innovation. How does it fare today?

The story of DPA is not uncommon among small and specialised hi-fi manufacturers. Arriving in 1992, it actually represented the second iteration of a company co-founded by Robert Watts (who has since gone on to be digital design consultant at Chord Electronics). And while Deltec Precision Audio, which debuted in 1984 with its CTA80 preamplifier, had ultimately shut up shop in the early '90s, the ideas behind its original models clearly had some merit – it was soon back with Watts onboard, albeit under a slightly different name.

Review: Mark Craven, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 07, 2024
hfnoutstandingLess is very much more in BAT's flagship stereo power amp where its third-generation 'SuperPak+' PSU meets a fully balanced output stage featuring N-channel MOSFETs

Here's a fun game to play: look through the product catalogue of US manufacturer Balanced Audio Technology and try to spot the odd one out. It should only take you a matter of seconds because all of its current models, bar one, employ tubes in either their power or preamp stages. And if you still haven't realised I'm talking about the new REX 500 power amplifier, it's the one that's roughly twice as big as all the others.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 15, 2024
hfnoutstandingTaking both aesthetic and design cues from the flagship 159 monoblocks, the 218 power amp is the German marque's newest model, teamed here with the 077 preamp

Never accuse Berlin-based Burmester of timidity... In an interview published to mark the launch of its 216 and 218 power amplifiers, its Team Leader for Quality Management, Thomas Schneider, says, 'We have thought in exactly the right direction'. The 216 amplifier is part of what the company calls its Top Line, and while the 218 may look similar it's actually in the upper tier Reference Line, one step below the Signature Line that features the flagship 159 monoblocks and near-2m-tall BC350 speakers, yours for £233,000 a pair.

Review: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 04, 2023
hfnoutstandingThe second phase of Naim's 'New Classics' launch brings a new streamer, a preamp and monoblock power amps, all in redesigned slender casework. Are they true 'classics'?

At times of late, it seems Salisbury's Naim Audio is wilfully courting controversy. It's been causing ripples with the brand's faithful fans ever since it launched its all-in-one Mu-so systems and second-generation Uniti products. It wasn't that these arrivals were on a mission to make hi-fi simpler for all, eschewing the tweakery and 'black magic' once suggested as a prerequisite for realising its true potential – no, what broke the usually calm surface was the fact the Naim logo, for decades lit in green, had turned white. Cue Naim aficionados fanning themselves like Edwardian grandes dames with a fit of the vapours.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 24, 2023
hfnoutstandingBuilt into an enhanced H590 chassis but featuring 'sound tuning' from the P30A/H30A pre/power, Hegel's fully-networked flagship integrated gets off to a flying start

After an extended period of Covid and component shortage-related calm, Oslo-based Hegel has seemingly shifted into overdrive, launching multiple new products in just half a year. First up in 2023 was a major update to its flagship pre/power system in the form of the P30A and H30A [HFN Jun '23], followed by the Viking CD player [HFN Sep '23]. The third act is the launch of the H600, which takes over from Hegel's popular, top-tier H590 integrated streaming amp, and sells for £10,500 in a very dark grey, almost matt black finish.

Review: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 20, 2023
hfnoutstandingDeveloped to celebrate Krell's 40th anniversary, the KSA-i400 combines all the brand's proprietary circuit ideas in one very powerful amplifier. We partner it with the Illusion II

Over time, most hi-fi brands develop an image: ask any audiophile and you'll be told this one is warm, that one is all about rhythm and timing, and another is 'bright and detailed, but I could never live with it'. Of such generalisations, myths are born, and I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that most enthusiasts 'know' what Krell is all about – big, heavy, and massively powerful American amps, with the ability to drive just about any speaker to any level you want, or could imagine.

Ken Kessler  |  Oct 20, 2023
hfnvintageAt last, an output transformerless tube amplifier that needn't play second fiddle to transistors, says Ken Kessler, as he hears the GM 200

Given that few people will defend tube/transistor hybrids, how do you go about satisfying the valve-oriented consumer who wants his or her amp to have everything under one cage? And without simply adding to the buttonry? Italian company GRAAF (Gruppo Richerche Audio Alta Fidelta) has as its slogan 'II Suono Fatto A Mano', which I think translates into 'Hand-Made Sound'. This is about as cool a way of saying 'Lunatic purism' as I can imagine.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 16, 2023
hfnoutstandingPurist 'analogue only' headphone amps have a new champion in the form of iFi Audio's flagship iCAN Phantom, designed for in-ears to electrostatics and all 'phones inbetween

When you state your headphone amplifier is the 'Rolls-Royce of flagships' you must be very confident that it's a clear cut above rival high-end devices. But that's exactly what iFi Audio is doing with the iCAN Phantom, shown for the first time at High End Munich in May '23. This £3749 analogue headphone amplifier is positioned above all its previous efforts, including the erstwhile flagship Pro iCAN Signature headphone amplifier, which remains on sale at £2299.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 05, 2023
hfnoutstandingCelebrating a legacy that stretches back 50 years, the Norwegian brand stamps its authority with the heavyweight AW 800 M flagship amplifier – a solid cube of power!

There's a classical simplicity about this flagship pre/power amplifier combination from Electrocompaniet. The style – realised here with clear-on-black acrylic fascias with gold detailing – harks back to its first amp, 'The 2 Channel Audio Amplifier' [HFN Dec '11], based on Dr Matti Otala's tackling of 'Transient Intermodulation (TIM)' distortion, shortly after it began operations in 1973.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 14, 2023
hfnoutstandingThis Polish tech brand has already made waves with its OOR headphone amp and DAC-equipped ERCO. Now comes its most sophisticated digital offering yet – the Wandla

Does the world really need another DAC? Considering the ample offerings from traditional and emerging Asian hi-fi brands, you might be tempted to say, 'not really'. However, Poland's Ferrum Audio combines experience with a flair for innovation – its parent company HEM has been an OEM contractor for other manufacturers, possibly inciting its engineers to go one better for their own brand.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2023
hfnoutstandingLong-awaited, while the monoblock version of Exposure's 3510 amplifier series looks just like its Stereo and Integrated models, in practice it is a new and highly refined amp

When Exposure launched its 3510 series in 2021, as a replacement for the venerable 3010 range, attention was first given, perhaps unsurprisingly, to the integrated amplifier [HFN Nov '21]. One year later it was joined by a stereo power amp and partnering preamp [HFN Nov '22], and a year after that we witness the arrival of the 3510 Mono, tested here. Such an approach is not unusual for a boutique brand – a fair description of the Sussex-based company – but it's perhaps also indicative of the hidden differences between Exposure's amplifier designs.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 17, 2023
hfnoutstandingTaking inspiration from the industrial design and key circuit features of D'Agostino's Momentum series, this second-gen Progression amplifier may upset its own applecart

It struck me, around halfway through the first track, that designer/CEO Dan D'Agostino was emulating the way supercar companies delineate their model ranges. Hey, I needed something to explain why the new Progression S350 Stereo power amplifier at £34,998 costs just over half that of the Momentum S250 MxV's £54,998, and yet it is over two times the size and rated at 100W more per channel: 350W vs 250W. Also, at 454x230x584mm (whd) against a Momentum's 318x133x546mm, the Progression S350 dwarfs the dearer unit. It was like the comedy Twins, with Schwarzenegger standing next to DeVito.

Review: Jamie Biesemans, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 03, 2023
hfnoutstandingDubbed 'The Conductor' and 'The Orchestra', respectively, Hegel's replacements for the decade-old P30/H30 pre/power amplifiers are flagships worthy of their names

By all accounts Hegel has been very busy over the last few years, which is a notion that might raise some eyebrows because – understandably – the Norwegian company went a little quiet during and after 2020. In fact, the V10 phono preamplifier [HFN Mar '21] has been about the only piece of hardware to escape the drawing board of Hegel's owner and master engineer Bent Holter since Covid. However, as industry insiders and the company's user base well knew, Hegel was battling the angry gods of software development to make its major integrated amplifiers Roon Ready.

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