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JohnnyB

A high end amp for a mid-fi price

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I don't know if this model is being discontinued, Audio Advisor is dropping the line, or if a new product line is coming soon.

Whatever the situation, Audio Advisor has a $1299 wide bandwidth power amp (freq. response 20-80Khz) that is very highly reviewed by a very picky audiophile magazine. Sale price is $499. That's about 62% off.

$499 seem too expensive to you? Consider that in 1972, the "golden age of stereo," adjusted for inflation $499 translates to $85.62, which would have been a crap 15 wpc Radio Shack unit. This amp would probably redefine speed, clarity, inner detail, and linearity for many of us.

Qualifies for Audio Advisor's free shipping and includes a 30-day return policy. 2-year factory warranty.

Although the unit is compact (13.9” x 8.8” x 3.4”) and light (13.86 lbs.), it is a class AB amp, not class D, and puts out 80 wpc into 8 ohms.  

Factory product page

Specs

User Manual

 

 

 

Edited by JohnnyB
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If you want it, go for it. I am not really into "hi-fi" that much, but I do know that the speakers you use are at least as important as the power amp.

For a while I wanted to get a nice tube hi-fi power amp, maybe running in superlinear mode, but honestly the noise floor on the solid state power amps is unbeatable, as is the dynamic response.

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8 hours ago, tbonesullivan said:

If you want it, go for it.

I'm in good shape for amps. I pass these bargains on to the HFC as opportunities to make a quantum leap upgrade for not much money and little risk. Several here have gotten a Boston Acoustic surround system, quality subwoofers, integrated amps, etc. for > 50-70% off. They are always low risk with minimal or free shipping, 30 day return periods, and factory warranties. 

I am not really into "hi-fi" that much, but I do know that the speakers you use are at least as important as the power amp.

Because most speakers are a reactive load, i.e., the resistance changes with frequency, they need an amplifier that has high reserves of current to keep the voltage constant (Ohm's law). When you have a speaker that dips below 4 ohms at certain frequencies (pretty common), low current amps wimp out on delivering full volume at those frequencies because they lack the ability to deliver the current required. You can also hear a difference with an amp with lower distortion and higher signal-to-noise ratio, both of which this amp has--less than .03% total harmonic distortion and a signal-to-noise ratio at 100 dB, which is phenomenal. Another trait of this amp is its wide power bandwidth--out to 80Khz. The higher the bandwidth, the faster the rise time. You can't hear an 80Khz tone, but you can hear its effect on clarity of multiple voices and more realistic timing, an essential of musical values. 

This amp is a dual mono design, which translates into better stereo separation, which produces a more realistic 3D soundstage. Speakers alone can't do that; the quality of signal separation must be there before it reaches the speakers.

For a while I wanted to get a nice tube hi-fi power amp, maybe running in superlinear mode, but honestly the noise floor on the solid state power amps is unbeatable, as is the dynamic response.

Yep, and the -100dB for this amp is insane for the money. It would be a step up for most people here, if the amp has the power they need. It's 80 wpc; some need more, but many don't. 

To get the magic of tubes and the brute speaker control of solid state, I use all-tube preamps (phono stage and line stage). The line stage then drives a MOSFET solid state amp, which has a liquid musicality similar to a tube amp, but the wide bandwidth, speed, low noise floor, and high current delivery typical of a good SS amp. Best of both worlds.

--JB

 

Edited by JohnnyB
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What kind of preamps/receivers do you use? My home "stereo" is being driven by a 30+ year old Pioneer solid state receiver. I've never dealt with getting any additional speakers, as I have some "hi-fi" speakers my dad has had since the 70s.

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In my experience speakers are generally the limiting factor in any system. If you are using a turntable the cartridge may also be a weakness.  Speaker and cartridges are transducers that change one form of energy into another. The engineering to do this in a linear fashion is challenging.

ArnieZ

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4 hours ago, tbonesullivan said:

What kind of preamps/receivers do you use? My home "stereo" is being driven by a 30+ year old Pioneer solid state receiver. I've never dealt with getting any additional speakers, as I have some "hi-fi" speakers my dad has had since the 70s.

I bought my first receiver in 1972. In 1976 I sold it and never looked back. My current "receiver" consists of:

  • MAGI Phonomenal phono preamp
  • MAGI line stage preamp
  • Perreaux PMF1150B power amp

This is my phono preamp (or one like it):

MAGIPhonomenalorig_zpsa5ca6d82.jpg?14914

My line stage preamp is like this one. The two can work in other systems but were designed to be very compatible with each other.

magiprefront_zpseb94b768.jpg?14914264023

They don't look like much, but boy do they sing. All tubes are NOS and many/most are military surplus, so they're extra quiet and rugged. The phono stage has a quad of Soviet military surplus 6N1P tubes (6Dj8/6922/7308 type) and they are dead quiet with explosive dynamics. I was very lucky to get these. The maker is just one guy and he's not easy to track down. I was able to buy mine used from the drummer for the band I was in. He's constantly swapping out his gear and speakers.

My power amp is a 1982 unit from New Zealand.

$_1.JPG

It's 100 wpc into 8 ohms (but probably close to 200 into 4 ohms, which is my speaker's rating). The amp's rated distortion is <0.003% THD and IM. Bandwidth is from 10Hz-3MHz, risetime is 1 microsecond, unweighted signal-to-noise is 100 dB (not bad for 1982). It was produced in 1982 for $1150 retail (equivalent to $2900 today). I picked up a used on in Aug. 2013 for around $475 and I consider it one of my best audio bargains. 35 years old and so far it hasn't needed any work. 

I worked at some audio stores in Southern California in the mid-70s. What speakers did your dad have (that you now have)?

 

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A pair of Scott S-15 speakers, and a pair of Dynaco speakers made in Denmark. I think the Dynacos may be A25s, but they did not have a marking on the back indicating the model.Lately he's been digging in his LP collection, and I'm looking to maybe get him a more "magical"  sounding setup.

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On 4/5/2017 at 9:26 AM, ArnieZ said:

In my experience speakers are generally the limiting factor in any system. If you are using a turntable the cartridge may also be a weakness.  Speaker and cartridges are transducers that change one form of energy into another. The engineering to do this in a linear fashion is challenging.

ArnieZ

Yes. The cartridge, turntable, tonearm, and speakers are all electromechanical devices. The cartridge and speakers (except electrostatics) are also magnetic/mechanical devices. By nature the mechanical aspect of cartridges and speakers introduces nonlinearities into the signal chain, though the best (and most expensive) of them keep this to a minimum via very close tolerances and resonance and vibration control. Another and much less expensive way to control resonances in speakers is to use an open baffle (boxless) design. You can't have boxy resonances if you don't have a box.

I have boxless planar magnetic panel speakers, and their clarity and musicality is reminiscent of the electronics driving them.

Even electronics are prone to some vibration. Any component with an on-chassis transformer is subject to vibration, and capacitors and microphonic preamp tubes can pick this up and amplify it.

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On 4/5/2017 at 6:40 PM, tbonesullivan said:

A pair of Scott S-15 speakers, and a pair of Dynaco speakers made in Denmark. I think the Dynacos may be A25s, but they did not have a marking on the back indicating the model.Lately he's been digging in his LP collection, and I'm looking to maybe get him a more "magical"  sounding setup.

What is the cartridge and turntable at this point? And is this plugged into an '80s Pioneer receiver to drive the Dynaco or Scott speakers?

Generally the '70s and '80s turntables, with the exception of some higher end models from Kenwood, Denon, etc. and Micro-Seiki, the entry-level to mid-line turntables sucked the life out of the records and not many knew how to do phono stages like they do now (though there are some legendary exceptions).

When I know your/your dad's current turntable, cartridge, and electronics, I can better address where to put your money first to up the "magic" factor. 

Edited by JohnnyB

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The pioneer is the current "receiver" in use.  I've also got to balance sound needs with my father being old school. I had floated the idea of getting some planar speakers, but he wants to keep his wood cabinet speakers.

The turntable is a Sony something. He used to have a Technics one from way back, but it developed issues. I will edit this when I find out what model of turn table we have, and what cartridge is in it.

EDIT: Receiver is a Pioneer SX-40. Turntable is a Sony PS-8750. Cartridge is marked GRADO M1+.

Edited by tbonesullivan

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On 4/7/2017 at 0:40 PM, tbonesullivan said:

The pioneer is the current "receiver" in use.  I've also got to balance sound needs with my father being old school. I had floated the idea of getting some planar speakers, but he wants to keep his wood cabinet speakers.

The turntable is a Sony something. He used to have a Technics one from way back, but it developed issues. I will edit this when I find out what model of turn table we have, and what cartridge is in it.

EDIT: Receiver is a Pioneer SX-40. Turntable is a Sony PS-8750. Cartridge is marked GRADO M1+.

I did a bit of Googling and research, and your Sony turntable appears to be one of those nicer direct drive turntables from the late '70s & early '80s, the kind that Gtrdaddy collects. I saw one on Reverb for $1200 plus shipping, but I think the fact that it's from the estate of the late Frank Sinatra Jr. has something to do with that. Some of them do seem to hit $300-500 if in really good shape.

So anyway, I think it's worthwhile to keep your turntable, but you might want to take it to a good tech to get it "freshened up", particularly to get the spindle bearing oiled and have it checked over in general.

Second, I'd also hang onto your cartridge. I had one of those top line Grados from that era (a Z3+ maybe?) and it was fabulous on my Hitachi direct drive. It was their top line cartridge at $150 in 1976 ($643 AFI) until Grado introduced their Joe Grado signature series at $300 per. The best news is that you can get an authentic Grado replacement stylus at LP Gear. I highly recommend you do that; a styus like that should be replaced after around 2,000 hrs. playing time, which you two have no doubt accumulated in 40 years.

Since your dad likes his speakers, and those Dynaco A25s, being Scandinavia-sourced, were somewhat ahead of their time, are still held in high regard. But you might want to get Pirateflynn's opinion, because he has/had a pair and has moved on to some Monitor Audio standmount speakers plus a subwoofer, which he likes a lot.

That brings us to the receiver. There were actually two different Pioneer SX-40s, a 20 wpc tube unit from (I'm guessing) the '60s, and the "computer-controlled" solid state unit from (probably) the early '80s. I'll admit that I haven't heard that one, but in general I'm not a fan of solid state receivers from the early '80s when they were built more to satisfy the FTC-mandated specs than to power through the fluctuating impedances of real speaker loads.

Anyway, I think it's the weak link and is the one I'd replace. I don't know how much budget you and your dad would be willing to put in, but I'd recommend getting an integrated amp with built-in phono stage and more power and current delivery than your 38 wpc Pioneer. Also, several of the current integrated amps have a built-in DAC and state-of-the-art digital inputs as well--coax, Toslink, USB, and Bluetooth. 

Price range would run from $399 for the 50 wpc Emotiva TA-100 (which even has an FM tuner) to a range of offerings from NAD to those from Marantz and also Yamaha.

The Yamaha A-S701 and A-S801 offer a lot of power (100 wpc), current (4-ohm capable), and features (phono stage, USB (801 only), coax, Toslink, and Bluetooth (701 requires adapter) digital inputs). Both have a mono subwoofer output as well.

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What exactly is a built-in phono stage? Is that what it means by " You can connect a turntable with a MM phono cartridge to play vinyl records. Get the best of both worlds whether listening to analog vinyl or the latest digital technology. " from the yamaha " and a high quality phono input that supports both moving coil and moving magnet cartridges. " from the Emotiva?

How does that differ from the standard inputs on most receivers? I'm a total newb on this part.

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You've been plugging the Sony turntable into that Pioneer SX-40 receiver. Assuming that you connected the turntable to the "Phono" input on the back of the Pioneer, you were plugging it into the Pioneer's phono stage.

So what's a phono stage?  A phono stage is different from the standard "line level" inputs that are used for tuners, tape decks, and CD players.

A phono stage provides special handling for the output needs of a phono cartridge. These needs are twofold: 1) Provide a very low noise, high gain circuit to handle the very low output of a phono cartridge (much lower than that of a "line level" source such as a CD player or a tape deck), and 2) Apply reverse equalization to the signal coming off the LP.

Concerning output: The output of a cartridge is very low because the signal is generated by a tiny coils being moved through a magnetic field (moving coil cartridge), or vice-versa--moving tiny magnetic fields back and forth across tiny coils. It's a passively generated signal. The phono stage must have the low enough noise and high enough gain to amplifiy the signal from the physical oscillations in the cartridge so the amplifier can use it to make sound come out of the speakers.

The other part is equalization. To explain RIAA equalization I refer you to this article from Stereophile. In addition to amplifying the very weak signal put out by a phono cartridge, the phono stage applies an equalization curve that boosts the bass and cuts the treble.

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Just revisiting this a bit, as I'm probably looking to get the stuff for my dad for Xmas or sometime sooner.

The Emotiva actually has a switch for Moving magnet vs moving coil, and they have a separate phono preamps that also have a bunch of DIP switches for the resistance settings, I guess for optimal matching to the phonograph in use.

The SONY CD player we have with it right now has an optical output, so that would be good so the DAC on the receiver we end up could be used.

Speakers I assume work best with nothing in the way? Would we get the best sound from them being on the floor, a shelf, or are there special speaker stands for hi-fi applications?

I can see how HI-FI enthusiasm can rapidly eat up a bunch of $$$, just like Guitars, Trombones, and Motorcycles.

Edited by tbonesullivan
forgot something

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16 hours ago, tbonesullivan said:

Just revisiting this a bit, as I'm probably looking to get the stuff for my dad for Xmas or sometime sooner.

The Emotiva actually has a switch for Moving magnet vs moving coil, and they have a separate phono preamps that also have a bunch of DIP switches for the resistance settings, I guess for optimal matching to the phonograph in use.

Optimal matching for the cartridge in use. Moving coil cartridges' performance depend on the resistance load; moving magnet cartridges depend on the capacitance load. The adjustable impedance/capacitance settings are there to optimize the sound of the cartridge. The mfrs' specs for the cartridges usually tell what the optimum ranges are.

The SONY CD player we have with it right now has an optical output, so that would be good so the DAC on the receiver we end up could be used.

Yep.

Speakers I assume work best with nothing in the way? Would we get the best sound from them being on the floor, a shelf, or are there special speaker stands for hi-fi applications?

It depends on the speaker--manufacturers' intentions and form factor. Floorstanding speakers belong on the floor. Smaller speakers--previously called bookshelf speakers--belong on stands. Rule of thumb is that the stand should position the tweeter at ear level for the customary listening position. This often comes out to around 28" when the listener is sitting in a chair of some sort.

I can see how HI-FI enthusiasm can rapidly eat up a bunch of $$$, just like Guitars, Trombones, and Motorcycles.

Every hobby has its enthusiasts and higher priced specialty items. Consider bicyclists, who spend big money on carbon fiber components and $150+ for a titanium seat post.

And ... just sayin' ... the better the components, the more the speakers reveal the effects of better cables and components. After all, audio is all about signal transfer, and a lot of that is handled by cables.

 

Edited by JohnnyB

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11 hours ago, tbonesullivan said:

I can see how HI-FI enthusiasm can rapidly eat up a bunch of $$$, just like Guitars, Trombones, and Motorcycles.

To it doesn't make sense to buy Hamers and original amps while at the same time streaming professionally made music low-fi on the mobile.

Anyways, I have become a fan of the UK originated Myryad amps and CD players. The resale value is fairly low for a high-end quality. Kind of the Hamer of...

For the US, I'd take a look at Ohm Acoustics. They make some fine speakers.

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I can say I am always amazed when I listen to music with headphones, and pick up on all the detail that is lost through the systems most people use to reproduce the sound. I also dislike how many of these "remastered" albums sound like someone just turned every knob up two notches, resulting in a more compressed sound.

I am probably going to visit this place in the coming weeks to check out some stuff:

http://www.audionexus.com/

They are definitely well into the super high end, but my guitar teacher goes there for his stuff, and says the owner knows just about everything about Hi-Fi systems. They also do have more budget friendly things available.

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On 12/24/2017 at 7:23 PM, The Shark said:

20hz to 80khz?  A dog can't hear 80khz!!!

You don't have to hear an 80 Khz test tone to appreciate the musical benefits of a wide bandwidth design. There is a direct relationship between high frequency response and the "speed" of an amplifier--how short the rise time is. Short rise time makes for clean, articulate sound, richer fuller overtones (which define the character of an instrument's sound) and make it easier to hear all the voices and instrument of a recording. No one can he 80 Khz, but just about anybody can hear and appreciate the speed and articulation of an amp that is linear out to 80 Khz and beyond.

This is the measured frequency response curve of the Audionet Max monoblock amplifier. Into an 8-ohm load, it is down only 1dB at 200 Khz!

717AudiMaxfig02.jpg

... and here is the Audionet Max's measured square wave response. The less slop to the vertical sections, the faster the rise time, with its associated benefits:

717AudiMaxfig03.jpg

 

Here's the frequency response curve of the 2006 RR2150 receiver from Outlaw Audio. It's rated at the typical 20-20,000 Hz frequency response:

306OUTFIG02.jpg

... and here is the RR2150's square wave response. Note the slower (i.e., less vertical) rise times and the rounding of the corners.

306Outfig03.jpg

Again, wider bandwidth creates faster rise times, and just about anyone can notice the increase in clarity, detail, pace and rhythm.

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6 hours ago, JohnnyB said:

You don't have to hear an 80 Khz test tone to appreciate the musical benefits of a wide bandwidth design. There is a direct relationship between high frequency response and the "speed" of an amplifier--how short the rise time is. Short rise time makes for clean, articulate sound, richer fuller overtones (which define the character of an instrument's sound) and make it easier to hear all the voices and instrument of a recording. No one can he 80 Khz, but just about anybody can hear and appreciate the speed and articulation of an amp that is linear out to 80 Khz and beyond.

This is the measured frequency response curve of the Audionet Max monoblock amplifier. Into an 8-ohm load, it is down only 1dB at 200 Khz!

717AudiMaxfig02.jpg

... and here is the Audionet Max's measured square wave response. The less slop to the vertical sections, the faster the rise time, with its associated benefits:

717AudiMaxfig03.jpg

 

Here's the frequency response curve of the 2006 RR2150 receiver from Outlaw Audio. It's rated at the typical 20-20,000 Hz frequency response:

306OUTFIG02.jpg

... and here is the RR2150's square wave response. Note the slower (i.e., less vertical) rise times and the rounding of the corners.

306Outfig03.jpg

Again, wider bandwidth creates faster rise times, and just about anyone can notice the increase in clarity, detail, pace and rhythm.

Some just don't get my humor.  Seriously though, I'll put my vintage McIntosh 275 amp up against anything.  It's the sweetest sounding amp I've ever heard.  But my ears have significantly "aged" over the years.  And I only use analog sources with that "rig".  My "record player" and my "tape player".  I think the tube stuff sounds better as I age.  Using Polk Audio towers from the eighties right now.  UFO Strangers in the Night was on while I wrapped gifts on Christmas eve.  It was fantastic.  Just can't get excited about recent advancements in audio reproduction.  I only hear so good.

Edited by The Shark

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10 hours ago, The Shark said:

Some just don't get my humor.  Seriously though, I'll put my vintage McIntosh 275 amp up against anything.  It's the sweetest sounding amp I've ever heard.  But my ears have significantly "aged" over the years.  And I only use analog sources with that "rig".  My "record player" and my "tape player".  I think the tube stuff sounds better as I age.  Using Polk Audio towers from the eighties right now.  UFO Strangers in the Night was on while I wrapped gifts on Christmas eve.  It was fantastic.  Just can't get excited about recent advancements in audio reproduction.  I only hear so good.

If I had a Mac 275, I'd feel the same way. An updated version is still in production, and it still draws enthusiastic reviews.

MC275_Angle_Warmup_600.gif

But then, we're talking about a timeless (57-year old) design made of proprietary, top quality parts, and a retail price of $5500-7500, quite a bit more than the NuForce, but a lot less than many boutique tube amps. It's a national treasure. Stereophile measured its bandwidth into 8 ohms all the way out to 200 Khz. Here are its 1kHz and 10kHz square wave responses. These are unusually clean and fast for any amp, let alone an all-tube amp.

1010Macfig05.jpg1010Macfig04.jpg

Edited by JohnnyB

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1 hour ago, JohnnyB said:

If I had a Mac 275, I'd feel the same way. An updated version is still in production, and it still draws enthusiastic reviews.

MC275_Angle_Warmup_600.gif

But then, we're talking about a timeless (57-year old) design made of proprietary, top quality parts, and a retail price of $5500-7500, quite a bit more than the NuForce, but a lot less than many boutique tube amps. It's a national treasure. Stereophile measured its bandwidth into 8 ohms all the way out to 200 Khz. Here are its 1kHz and 10kHz square wave responses. These are unusually clean and fast for any amp, let alone an all-tube amp.

1010Macfig05.jpg1010Macfig04.jpg

I found it in a pawn shop in 1991.  Literally talked the guy down from $400 to $275!  I first used it to play my ADA MP-1 into a pair of Marshall 4x12 cabs.  It breathed!

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5 hours ago, The Shark said:

I found it in a pawn shop in 1991.  Literally talked the guy down from $400 to $275!  I first used it to play my ADA MP-1 into a pair of Marshall 4x12 cabs.  It breathed!

 

:o!

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DANG. That's one heck of a power amp.  I wonder if the tubes are being run in "ultra-linear' mode. I think that allows Pentodes to achieve extremely low levels of distortion.

Those square waves are impressive. If you like classical music, which is much more dynamic than a lot of rock music, definitely a good thing to have.

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