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Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Astin Trew AT1000/AT5000 - £650/£850 Confident duo packs a punch with all types of music, but is less subtle with more complex melodies Astin Trew is a young company which we’ve watched develop with increasing admiration. We’ll come to the all-important sound performance in a few paragraphs, of course, but we would be remiss if we didn’t praise the company for the highly professional look and finish of its amplifiers: these are really very smartly made units that, clichés aside, genuinely transcend their price tag. Most of the manufacturing process is carried out in China, but AT has done its homework and attended to all sorts of details. And the insides have hardly been skimped on, either.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 26, 2010  |  0 comments
Binary beauty US valve stalwart Audio Research has launched its first Class D power amp and as Jimmy Hughes reports, its 450 watts prove addictive Given its penchant for producing large, heavy, behemoths, Audio Research’s launching of a Class D power amp is more than slightly surprising. While Pure Class A still sets a benchmark when the highest quality results take precedence, there are many practical drawbacks – excessive heat, large size, high price, massive power consumption – need one go on? The DS450, on the other hand, features an analogue-based Class D pulse-width modulated switching output stage. High output power, low-running temperature, low-power consumption and excellent sound quality are promised. But can such clever technology really challenge Class A’s sonic supremacy? Up the stakes Like most power amps, the DS450 is fairly simple.
 |  Jan 26, 2015  |  0 comments
Somewhere around the turn of the millennium, hi-fi started getting interesting again – with DVD-Audio and SACD arriving, MP3 going gangbusters and computer audio taking hold. Then asynchronous USB conferred hi-res capability on Macs and PCs, and now easy wireless has come of age thanks to aptX Bluetooth. Cambridge Audio’s new flagship DAC is a product of all this. Packed with most of the functionality that has popped up over the past decade, it purports to be a ‘greatest hits of digital’ in one convenient package.
Ed Selley  |  Mar 28, 2011  |  0 comments
Cayin and able Jimmy Hughes auditions newcomer Cayin and its retro-inspired pre/power that's giving the high- end establishment a run for its money Cayin is the brand name of Zuhai Spark Electronic Equipment Co. – a Chinese company making good-value, high-end electronic products. The unashamedly retro- looking SP-30S and SP-40M tube pre/power amp is one of its tastier offerings, with the promise of excellent performance at a realistic price. But, what should one expect from an amplifier like this? It used to be oh-so simple; tube amps sounded rich, warm and friendly, while solid-state types were lean, mean, and bitingly sharp.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
Cyrus Pre XP D/8 power - £1,350/£875 A traditional-sounding pre/power amp combi from Cyrus, that works hard to establish itself against the competition Built, as ever, into the famous Cyrus diecast chassis, these units are picked from among the comprehensive range of pre and power amplifiers in the company’s catalogue. To some extent we’ve chosen an unusual pairing as the preamp significantly exceeds the power amp in price and its usual partner would be the X Power, but apart from anything else, Cyrus offers an upgrade path to take the 8 to X status, so the model chosen initially matters less than usual. In addition, the preamp includes DAC functions so its price can fairly be thought of as including a DAC, as well as an analogue pre. We mentioned upgrades and this is a major attraction of Cyrus.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Densen B-200/B-310 Densen plays it cool, Scandinavian style, though very flexibly – but does the sound quite match? There’s no denying that these two units look uncommonly smart and timeless with their perfectly rectangular looks. And also worthy of honourable mention is the impressive remote control, all metal and streets ahead of most of its breed. The basic specification isn’t too unusual, the power amp putting out a notional 80 watts into the usual eight-ohm load, while the preamp has effectively six line inputs. There’s an unusually prolific array of phono sockets, though, not least because there are no less than four preamp outputs.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Sep 11, 2018  |  0 comments
This new ‘Anniversary Edition’ of Leema’s well-regarded Hydra II power amplifier marks 10 years since the original amp made its debut. Company co-founder Lee Taylor has sought to improve and update the design, seeing what extra magic could be achieved with new, modern components and approaches, without changing the qualities reached a decade ago. 
 The Hydra II Anniversary Edition is an intelligent and flexible stereo power amplifier that can also be bridged for use as a monoblock, should you lust for even more power. Rated at 148W power output per channel into 8ohm, it may not appear overly muscular but it is claimed to tolerate even the most recalcitrant of loudspeakers.
Ed Selley  |  Nov 12, 2010  |  0 comments
Universal panacea Can a preamplifier costing as much as a small car really make a difference? Jason Kennedy ponders the accepted order What better time than the new era of austerity for us to discover how much difference a really good preamplifier can make to an already impressive high-end system. Mark Levinson was one of the first to build seriously engineered high-end amplifiers. We don’t mean excessively large or massively powerful, although it was ahead of the power game, we mean Rolls Royce or SME-style build quality. It’s unusual for us to review a preamplifier on its own, but the new No.
Hi-Fi Choice  |  Feb 04, 2019  |  0 comments
There’s much debate about the direction the UK economy will take post-Brexit, but we’re already seeing a shift to things being made in Britain again. With this in mind, it’s good to discover that this flagship pre/power amplifier combination is made here in Blighty. While we expect Bremont watches and Aston Martin cars to be manufactured here, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Mitchell & Johnson is turning out this £2,598 amplifier combo from a factory based in the Midlands. As the first two pieces in the company’s new top-of-the range 800 Series, they are entirely designed, engineered and built in the UK and company boss David Johnson says that making its top series here means better control of product quality.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Britain has the X-Factor Jimmy Hughes auditions Musical Fidelity’s 260-watt M6 pre/power and thinks its place in the grand final is guaranteed Musical Fidelity is taking on the high end at its own game, whilst lowering the price of entry. Take the new M6PRE and M6PRX preamp and power amp combo, for example: balanced inputs and outputs (including USB); high-quality MM/MC phono inputs; 260 watts per channel; a regulated power supply system and (claimed) low distortion levels are impressive credits indeed. And, unlike similar products, this duo is ‘high end’ at a more realistic price. Well, okay, they’re not exactly cheap, but look around at the high end and you’ll see that there’s a lot on offer here.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 15, 2010  |  0 comments
NAD C165BEE/C275BEE £650/£900 NAD's budget combi looks very promising, but while looks can be deceiving the listening test reveals all From the original kings of budget audiophilia, comes a particularly well-equipped preamp and a strikingly powerful power amp, all tastefully presented in traditional NAD charcoal black. NAD is one of only very few brands to include tone controls, although as our Marantz news feature on p8 shows, they might be making a comeback! There’s also a subwoofer output which we don’t imagine too many stereo folks using, but the rest of the facilities are very useful. We’re particularly impressed with the flexible phono stage, which caters for both MM and MC cartridge and even has adjustable loading. The C275 BEE power amp is a chunky beast with the option to be used in bridged mode if its normal 150 watts isn’t enough for you.
 |  Jan 21, 2015  |  0 comments
If you’re a dyed-in-the-grain hi-fi aficionado, you’ll remember the classic Nytech CTA252 receiveras something of a giant killer ableto better some far more expensive pre-power amp combinations. It was launched by Richard Hay in the early seventies; a man who had served his audio apprenticeship at Radford Electronics. His company made respected, middle-market equipment for around 15 years. Phil Balaam was Nytech’s original test engineer, and worked closelywith Hay, learning every aspect of the company’s fine-sounding designs.
Ed Selley  |  May 16, 2011  |  0 comments
Triumphant return Get ready - Onkyo is back in 'serious' hi-fi after a 20-year gap and HFC's Ed Selley reckons this new pre/power is a real tour de force Onkyo has been out of the high-end hi-fi market for almost twenty years – long enough for us to believe that they had left it for good. But the brand is back and it has come out shooting. The components you see here are part of a new range of elite, flagship hi-fi products for 2011. This on its own would be good news.
 |  Feb 02, 2015  |  0 comments
Who would have thought it? Obscure manufacturer of decent Chinese optical disc players starts spin-off company (Oppo Digital Inc. ) in California to make high-quality hi-fi products. It’s not a typical tale of hi-fi success, but the story is getting ever more believable with every product launch. Less than a year after the excellent PM-1 headphones were released, the company now has its own matching DAC/preamp/headphone amp too – in the rather pleasing shape of the HA-1.
 |  Jan 19, 2015  |  0 comments
A preamplifier’s life is not a happy one. In the olden days, when mammoths roamed the wild planes and Duran Duran were at number one, its job was clear. A preamp sat in front of the power amp, because without it there was no way of getting music from your sound source. Music came from vinyl, and its meagre output was such that plugging it directly into a power amplifier would have produced all the power, as Captain Blackadder once said, of an asthmatic ant.

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