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Amplifier Reviews

Paradigm Signature S2, Version 3 Bookshelf Speakers and Anthem Integrated 225 Amplifier

Paradigm Signature S2, Version 3 Bookshelf Speakers and Anthem Integrated 225 Amplifier for the Home Theater

The CEDIA Expo isn't really a show for audiophiles. Most of the setups are geared towards in-wall speakers, projectors, and other various forms of home automation, but there are always a few vendors there that have some nice demonstrations. This year, one of my favorite demonstrations came from Paradigm, who had a complete home theater built with their Signature S2, Version 3s as the front speakers.

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Mark Levinson Nº 531H Monoblock Power Amplifier

Mark Levinson Nº 531H Monoblock Home Theater Amplifier

Mark Levinson is one of the world's great high end audio manufacturers. They make a wide variety of electronic components, including pre amps, DACs, CD transports, SACD players as well as a surround sound processor they call a "Media Console". Levinson has also teamed with luxury auto manufacturer, Lexus so you can take their audio products on the road. Nonetheless, Mark Levinson is almost certainly best known for their very large, very powerful and very expensive power amplifiers. They enjoy a well deserved reputation for making some of the best - if not the best - solid state power amps around. The Nº 531H is the subject of the current review, and it delivers 300 watts RMS into 8 ohms.

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Emotiva XPA-3 Three-Channel Power Amplifier

Emotiva XPA-3 Power Amplifier

The term "separates" was once reserved for the upper crust of the home theater world. Only those with the most discerning ears (and fattest wallets) considered purchasing a separate preamp/processor and multi-channel power amplifier. That time has long gone, thanks in part to the rise of Internet-direct firms such as Emotiva. They manufacture monoblocks (single-channel amplifiers) and multi-channel amplifiers, up to the XPA-5 which has five channels. The current review explores their three-channel amplifier, called the XPA-3.

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Harman Kardon HK 990 Integrated Amplifier and HD 990 CD Player

Harman Kardon 990 Integrated Amplifier and HD 990 CD player for the Audiophile

Most likely recognized in today's market as a purveyor of home theater receivers, desktop/PC speakers, iPod docks, and factory-installed automotive sound systems, Harman Kardon is a name that is also well-recognized in traditional 2-channel audio. While the history of the company is quite interesting (see the "about us" link on the company's webpage), one thing has remained constant at Harman Kardon over the years: they produce an aesthetically pleasing product that delivers the high-sound quality sought after by the brand's customers. Here, we review their 990 Integrated Amplifier and HD 990 CD Player.

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Simaudio Moon 700i Integrated Amplifier

Simaudio Moon 700i integrated amplifier

As a Quebec, Canada based company that has spent the last 30 years manufacturing some pretty outstanding gear, Simaudio has (like some other Canadian companies) made its name via its products' performance levels rather than hype and huge marketing spending. The unit reviewed here, the Simaudio Moon 700i Integrated Amplifier maintains that standing.

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Pioneer PD-D6MK2 SACD Player and SX-A9MK2 Integrated Amplifier

Pioneer PD-D6MK2 SACD player and SX-A9MK2 integrated amplifier

The D6 SACD player and A9 integrated stereo amplifier are two of four possible combinations in the Pioneer G-Clef series of SACD players and integrated two channel amplifiers that are sold as a pair. The G-Clef series is tested and approved by AIR Studios in London and are designed for the discriminating stereo lover in mind. As quoted from Pioneer's website, "The AIR Studios quality seal is proof not only of the extraordinary engineering that has gone into these audio units, but also of the exceptionally high quality of their craftsmanship and carefully selected electronic components".

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Classe CA-M600 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Classe CA-M600 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Classé updated their Delta power amplifier series in late 2010, including the CA-M400 which is now the CA-M600. The entire amplification signal passes on a single circuit board, and they have introduced a new cooling system called ICTunnel™, which utilizes a fan on the inside front panel of the amplifier that draws aire into the chassis and over some fins that absorb heat fromt the circuit boards. In use, I found the fan to be whisper quiet, with just a gentle breeze coming from the front amplifier port. This kept the entire chassis cool, but also, the temperature of the circuit board is electronically controlled by adjusting the fan speed, to optimize the performance, which turned out to be stellar.

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Primare A30.7 Seven-Channel Class D Power Amplifier

Primare A30.7 7-Channel Class D Amplifier

This new seven-channel Class D power amplifier comes to us from the Swedish high fidelity brand, Primare. The engineers at Primare designed this amplifier from the ground up with some fresh ideas on how to optimize this burgeoning amplifier topology. Will this compact multi-channel amp be able to muster the chutzpah to power your home theater? Will it be able to deliver this power with the grace that is missing from so many other Class D amps?

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Mark Levinson No 53 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Mark Levinson No 53 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Mark Levinson is a state-of-the-art brand, whose products are purchased by consumers whose bank accounts are also state-of-the-art. Levinson makes no apologies for their prices, nor do they have to justify them. The axiom is simple: If you want the best, it costs a lot. The latest addition to their power amplifier line takes a huge leap from the previous designs, which were Class AB, and which usually were biased well into Class A operation. The Mark Levinson No 53 is a monoblock power amplifier that is a switching design, i.e., the output stage is operated in switching mode, but it is unique in that it interleaves eight switchers to produce a fully balanced output, at a realized switching frequency of 4 MHz.

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Pass Labs XA-100.5 Pure Class A Monoblock Power Amplifier

Pass Labs XA-100.5 Pure Class A Monoblock Power Amplifier

Most amplifier manufacturers produce power amplifiers that are biased as Class AB, meaning that they run a few watts in Class A and the rest in AB. This is usually a push-pull configuration, and the AB moniker refers to a slight overlap in the + portion of the waveform that is delivered by one section of the amplifier with the - portion handled by the other amplifier section.

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ADCOM GFA-555se Stereo Power Amplifier

Adcom GFA-555se amplifier

The original ADCOM GFA-555 stereo power amplifier hit the market in 1985. Standby for math calculation. That's 25 years ago. Enough time for a digital music revolution (maybe peaking now). Enough time for the Rolling Stones to release 11 new records (28 for Neil Young). Enough time for most rock bands to burn out, fade away and then stage a comeback. And, enough time for a hifi manufacturer to come and go as well. Here, we review the latest iteration fo this classic, called the GFA-555se.

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