Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 27, 2020
hfncommendedThis entry-level combination from US brand PS Audio combines proprietary technology with some tried-and-tested solutions in a preamp/DAC and brace of mono power amps

Colorado-based PS Audio is known for a number of things: its products are handmade in its own US facilities and, as of last year, it only sells direct to its US customers. Here in the UK, PS Audio's equipment is sold more conventionally, through distributor Signature Audio Systems, which premiered the company's Stellar Phono Amplifier at the Hi-Fi Show Live at Ascot in October last year. That product, along with the Power Plant 3 AC regenerator [HFN Jan '20], is part of the new entry-level range from the company.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 21, 2020
hfnoutstandingWhile we await the Relentless Preamp the 'HD' remains D'Agostino's top model, with its Bluetooth remote and raft of subtle enhancements culled from the MLife integrated

Ordinarily, I prefer to ignore the vexing topic of prices. My attitude is simple: if I can't afford something, I don't take it out on the world. I can't afford a Bugatti T57SC Atlantic, but I don't hate Ralph Lauren for owning one. So let's get two things out of the way, the first being that the D'Agostino Momentum HD Preamplifier costs £47,998, making it one of the most expensive control units on the planet.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 19, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe ultimate expression of PrimaLuna's EvoLution amplifiers not only accommodates a raft of different output tubes but also offers triode/ultralinear switching on the fly

Shortly after the turn of the new millennium, PrimaLuna began manufacturing valve amplifiers for buyers hankering for an alternative to the stereotypical solid-state sound. The Netherlands-based company launched accessible tube designs with up-to-the-minute styling, starting with the ProLogue and then DiaLogue ranges. These played an important part in proselytising the joys of 'glass audio' to a new generation. Now, the company's new EvoLution range – EVO for short – has taken over the mantle, with 100, 200, 300 and 400 levels. The EVO 400 pre/power amplifier combination you see here (£4150 apiece) is the company's third-generation flagship.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 14, 2020
hfnoutstandingContinuing its modern take on traditional Japanese purist amplification, Luxman finally offers a MM/MC phono/line preamp partner for its ultra-retro MQ-300 valve amplifier

Just over three years ago I had my first taste of cost-no-object Luxman [HFN Nov '16] in an achingly long time. The company has had its ups-and-downs, but fortunately its new owners – IAG, home to Quad, Wharfedale, Audiolab and Castle Acoustics – realise what a plum brand Luxman is, so it was expected that the flagship MQ-300 power amplifier which so charmed me would be followed by a worthy preamp. Enter the alluring CL-1000, at £16,000 a grand more than the power amp and looking every penny of its price.

Review: Paul Miller with Ken Kessler and Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 07, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe culmination of one man's 'relentless' quest to develop his 'dream amplifier – an amplifier without any limits' is revealed in this special six-page, in-depth review...

It is not unusual for products featured in Hi-Fi News to rival a family car for cost. But a pair of monoblocks that weigh as much as a car and cost as much as a house? While that is surely breaking new territory for us all, the prospect of 'stretching the envelope' in power output, industrial design and sheer audio performance was clearly uppermost in CEO Dan D'Agostino's mind as he contemplated the next step on from his 400W/8ohm Momentum monoblocks [HFN Oct '16].

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 28, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe REF160M monoblocks were a radical change for the venerable Reference Series, and now they have been 'cut 'n pasted' into a single, spectacular stereo chassis

This should have been the simplest, swiftest review for me to undertake: I would simply drop the stereo version of the Audio Research Reference 160M [HFN Aug '18] into my system in place of the Reference 75SE. Double the number of KT150s and double the power, a price tag of two quid shy of twenty grand, fond memories of the monoblocks still tugging at me after 18 months: the Audio Research Reference 160S should have been a doddle, easy to anticipate. But it wasn't.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 14, 2020
hfncommendedWhile the industrial design is familiar, the Bellini preamp and Donizetti power amp boast entirely reworked internals for this 'Anniversary' guise. And power is prodigious!

It was back in 1995 that the Italian brand, Audio Analogue, launched its first product – the Puccini amplifier. A no-nonsense stripped-down integrated, it offered little more than an input selector and a volume knob, yet its no-frills approach won many fans. Subsequently the company has built a well-deserved reputation for providing a range of fine-sounding and stylish-looking amplifiers, and has also taken to the CD player market with models such as the Maestro and Crescendo.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 26, 2020
hfnoutstandingIn one swipe, the long-awaited 860A v2 replaces Simaudio's 860A, 870A and 880A power amplifiers and promises 870A performance. We pair it with the 740P preamp

There's something very 'old school' about Simaudio's latest MOON pre/power combination: both units certainly look the part in their combination of black fascias and exposed metalwork, though you can also have them in all-silver or all-black, where they have an air about them of being stripped for action. The £7800 740P preamp, for example, eschews the current trend for digital inputs and network streaming capability, and is a simple, direct, all-analogue line-only affair.

Review and Lab: Keith Howard  |  Mar 03, 2020
hfnoutstandingDon't look down your nose at PS Audio's cheapest mains regenerator. Used with low-power source components, pre and headphone amps, it can still be transformative

Back in the late 1970s Bob Stuart of Meridian observed that an amplifier has more inputs than those labelled as such, others being 'output' and 'mains'. It was an idea to which lip-service was widely paid but, on the mains side, nobody really picked up the idea and ran with it until PS Audio introduced its first mains regenerator in 1998. Yes, we'd had mains filters and conditioners of various types before but this was the first device that said that if you want the cleanest mains supply you're going to have to synthesise it from scratch.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 13, 2020
hfncommendedWith wireless streaming, class-leading connectivity and 200W of Class D power, this sophisticated Scandinavian pre/power combination covers all the digital bases

Primare – the company that describes itself as 'the sound and vision of Scandinavia' – is also becoming rather more visible in the UK and rest of Europe thanks, in part, to the boost provided by a couple of EISA awards. Based in Sweden and founded by Danish designer and audiophile Bo Christensen, Primare has found its métier over the past few years. Its Prisma platform brought integrated wireless streaming functionality to the hi-fi world before most – and delivered it with typical Scandinavian panache. Ergonomic excellence is central to the brand's values, and this is surely a concept whose time has come.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 03, 2020
hfnoutstandingEquipping its Centaur amplifier with a power supply from the Reference series Hercules model has done more than boost the output of this mkII – a true high-end heavyweight

At first glance, one might be forgiven for wondering what's going on here – after all, California-based Constellation Audio already has a Centaur II stereo power amplifier on its books, selling for a not inconsiderable £48,000. So the $64,000 question must surely be 'what is this second version, dubbed the Centaur II 500 Stereo, bringing to the party?'.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 02, 2020
hfncommendedLuxman has re-introduced what just may be the dream desktop rig, comprising the new NeoClassico CD player and tube integrated amplifier – or is it much more?

Can we agree that it's possible to love more than one system, as you would savour more than one type of whisky or wine? Masseto and Tignanello are simply not mutually exclusive. Luxman's re-imagined NeoClassico series is appropriately costly but not saddled with a 'high-end' price, so at £2500 for the D-N150 CD/DAC and £3000 for the SQ-N150 integrated amp, it is not an alternative to, nor a substitute for a high-end, high-power system. It is not out to usurp the role of your D'Agostino.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 19, 2019
hfnoutstandingAlways fancied a pair of mighty monoblocks? From Constellation's 'entry-level' Inspiration series, these self-effacing cubes offer power a-plenty and awesome sound

Surprises, at my age, could prove fatal, so I neither invite nor encourage them. Even pleasant ones. Neither do I relish my preconceptions being challenged: 'Old dogs, new tricks...' That said, and despite spending countless hours listening to assorted Constellation systems over the years, I must admit to being unexpectedly bowled over by these Inspiration Mono 1.0 power amplifiers.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 11, 2019
hfncommendedThe iconic visuals belie Musical Fidelity's recent change in ownership – so will this familiar M2 series CD/amp combination still tempt the budget-conscious enthusiast?

In these evolving days of digital music, cloud storage and online streaming, it might seem counter-intuitive for Musical Fidelity to release a line-only amplifier and 'plain vanilla' CD player. The £799 M2si integrated has no inbuilt DAC, no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi and not even a phono stage, or indeed the option of one. And, peer round the rear of the matching £799 M2scd compact disc player, and the only connections you will find are outputs. Once again, it has no digital inputs, no antennae sticking out and no wireless wizardry up its sleeve. What's going on?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 20, 2019
hfncommendedGorgeous looks, superlative build quality, and hailing from Serbia, the Nirvana is a headphone amplifier that oozes luxury. We find out if the sonics match the styling

Having followed Auris Audio from show to show since its 2013 founding, I leapt at the chance to review its stylish Nirvana two-chassis headphone amplifier. I'm no longer shocked by the cost of high-end headphone amps, especially not at a time when £3000 headphones are common, so its £4900 price tag earned a mere 'Meh' from me. After all, I'd be putting it through its paces with, among others, the Audeze LCD-4Z, which sells for £3600.

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