Pre/Power Amplifiers

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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.

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: 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.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 13, 2022
hfnoutstandingWith no fewer than eight channels (bridgeable to four), Primare's most powerful amp to date will service the most ambitious bi-, tri- or quad-amp loudspeaker solutions

It goes without saying that an eight-channel power amplifier is unusual. In the hi-fi world, two channels is the default, and even in multichannel home cinemas the trend is to start with five or seven and then, if you must, add more in pairs. Furthermore, the A35.8, priced £4500, arrives not from a specialist custom install brand, or an audio company with pro studio leanings, but from Primare.

Review: Ken Kessler, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 04, 2022
hfnoutstandingIt's taken three years, but it was worth the wait: D'Agostino's Relentless Preamplifier has arrived, and it's as much of a revelation as the matching power amplifiers

You gotta love items with absolutely perfect names: 'Land Rover Defender', 'Rolex Explorer', 'Fender Jazzmaster'. When founder and chief engineer, Dan D'Agostino, dubbed his assault on the high-end 'Relentless', with cost-no-object flagship monoblock power amps [HFN Mar '20], he might have been referring to himself, as that is how he approached the task. With this matching three-chassis Relentless Preamplifier (£159,500), he's raised the bar once more.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 04, 2022
hfnoutstandingHandbuilt in Berlin, this preamp and monoblock power amp defies the industrial look, favouring instead an exquisite finish. And the sound more than lives up to the style

By any standards, the Noble series from Berlin-based MBL is a looker. The components aren't massive – in place of slabby high-end units wearing their audio prowess on their sleeve, as it were, both the £11,500 N11 preamplifier and the N15 mono power amplifiers, at £13,900 apiece, are relatively slender units. They are also immaculately finished in a choice of gloss black or white, with accents for the control elements available in either polished gold or palinux (silver), with black detailing also offered if you go for the white main colour.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 21, 2022
hfnvintageThey're British and they're obscure, but can these pre/power amplifiers lay claim to classic status when it comes to their all-out performance? It's time to find out...

British company Crimson Elektrik started life in the mid 1970s as a manufacturer of ready-built power amplifier modules. Using these, a home constructor could assemble a fairly decent and up-to-date piece of kit, needing only to add a power supply, connections and a cabinet. Complete amps followed in 1979, initially in kit form and later fully assembled. The latter, which were similar to the 1200 series amps seen here, were reviewed in the June '80 issue of HFN.

Martin Colloms  |  Jan 25, 2022
hfnvintageMartin Colloms hears a power amp setting the pace for the 21st century

The development of this completely new power amplifier has been a major undertaking for Naim. Up to now, its designs have been variants on the late Julian Vereker's founding concept, which led to the first NAP 250 stereo chassis some 25 years ago. Even now, the company's biggest current model, the NAP 135, is a monoblock variant of the '250, with more generous power supplies allocated to the separated channels.

Review: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 03, 2022
hfnoutstandingLook beyond the ostentatious livery and tongue-in-cheek labelling, and darTZeel's flagships are revealed as sensational amplifiers, with a sound as imperious as it is refined

If you want an amplifier with a face, not a fascia, start saving up for a darTZeel. Designer Hervé Delétraz has a sense of humour – turning an on/off button into a 'nose' with selector/volume knobs as bulbous eyes and grinning LEDs beneath. Then there's this Swiss manufacturer's mix of golden fascias and red casework, already iconic as the brand's house style over its two decade timeline.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 22, 2021
hfnoutstandingNAD's M33 BluOS streaming amplifier was the first to utilise Purifi's groundbreaking Eigentakt Class D modules. Now they are in a stripped-back 'purist' power amp...

We sometimes hear a hi-fi component described as 'a wolf in sheep's clothing', but the idiom seems particularly apt for NAD's C 298. From the outside, there's little to distinguish this £1700 power amp from market rivals – indeed, its general demeanour is so nondescript it would likely struggle to standout from flashier competition. But NAD, a company that's no stranger to high-tech design style elsewhere in its stable, has opted to keep the chassis simple and make the amp's story about what's going on inside.

Review: Andrew Everard, Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2021
hfnoutstandingWith radical styling, serious room-heating ability and possibly the highest price per Watt ever seen in these pages, these Swedish power amps are the result of a family obsession

To misquote Sly & The Family Stone just a little, Swedish hi-fi company Engström – it only makes tube amplifiers – is a family affair. Founded by engineer Lars Engström and his industrial designer nephew Timo as recently as 2008, the company is based in Lund, just northeast of Malmö, and has its R&D HQ some 600km away in Nacka, south of Uppsala on the Baltic Sea coast. The division of labour in the company sees Lars Engström as chief engineer, having given up work in fields as diverse as navigation, microcomputing and railway signalling systems in 2001 to concentrate on amplifier development, while his nephew is responsible for the look of the products, and the company operations.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 30, 2021
hfnoutstandingThe no-nonsense mountain-inspired aesthetic is unmistakable, but despite the heady pricing this pre/power amp combo is from one of Boulder's more affordable ranges

It's the style of the Boulder 1100 series amplification that grabs you first – very different from the common image of US-made high-end hi-fi, even if the £30,000 1160 stereo power amp lives up to at least some of the stereotype with its 61.2kg mass. Instead of the usual scattergun buttons, grab-handles and menacing – not to mention finger-slicing – heatsinks so common in products of this type, seemingly built with no concession to domestic acceptability, the Boulder power amp and its matching £22,500 1110 line-only preamp have a much softer look.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 24, 2021
hfnvintageAn outlier in its day, this preamp was marketed as a match for products from rival brands yet its real purpose was to drive the company's MFB speakers. We fire it up...

The Philips Motional Feedback loudspeaker was one of the great advances in audio technology. Launched in 1975, the series would eventually encompass four distinct generations and remain in production for over a decade, its key technologies jealously guarded by Philips patents [HFN Jul '13]. However, the partnering equipment designed to help these speakers perform at their best is less well known, arguably due to Philips endorsing the use of third-party sources and amplifiers.

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