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Amplifier Reviews

PrimaLuna DiaLogue Two Stereo Integrated Tube Amplifier

primaluna-dialogue-two-amplifier-teaser

The PrimaLuna brand needs no introduction to the tube-loving community, but I do (did). Though I've heard plenty of good sounding tube gear at shops, at various friends' houses and of course at shows, I generally listen to solid state equipment. So, having the PrimaLuna Dialogue Two here for review was a new, and very pleasant experience.

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Rotel RMB-1575 Five-Channel Class D Power Amplifier

Rotel RMB-1575

Class D switching amplifiers are more and more common. Manufactures have made great strides in overcoming the high-frequency shortcomings found in the early models. Rotel in particular has been involved with this technology for a few years, with a significant portion of their line-up now using this.

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Pass Labs XA30.5 Stereo Power Amplifier

Pass Labs XA30.5 Stereo Power Amplifier

What do a 30 watt stereo solid-state amplifier and a 500 watt solid-state monoblock have in common? A lot, it turns out. The seemingly diminutive Pass Labs XA30.5 weighs 75 pounds, has an enormous toroidal power transformer, and uses 20 output transistors to deliver 30 watts of pure class A power. It turns out these specs are similar, or in some cases, better than my recently reviewed Emotiva XPA-1 monoblocks. The XA30.5 proves that rated power is by no means everything. In fact, if you have speakers of even moderately high sensitivity, the XA30.5 renders any discussion of power output irrelevant. When paired with the right speakers, this may be one of the best amplifiers there is, regardless of price.

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McCormack LD-2 Preamplifier and DNA-250 Stereo Power Amplifier

McCormack LD-2 and DNA-250

In 1997, McCormack Audio was purchased by Conrad-Johnson, known primarily for their fine tube amps and preamps. They have the same high quality and value that Steve McCormack put into his designs in California, but these current products are basically an entirely new line (and are built in Virginia). In this review, we take a look at one of their line-stage preamps, and a stereo (two-channel) power amplifier.

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Marantz PM8003 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Marantz PM8003 Integrated Amplifier

Marantz is a name that has been around for a long time; refreshingly they continue to produce quality two channel gear despite branching out into both budget and high-end home theater. My own listening experiences have found their budget home theater receivers to be the most musical for the price. Where other budget offerings can do movies well, most make for mundane music reproduction.

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Emotiva USP-1 Stereo Preamplifier

emotiva-usp-1-preamplifier-teaserEmotiva's new USP-1 stereo preamplifier, at $399, sets a new standard in performance in low priced components. Besides the standard full range outputs, this preamp offers a split output where you can adjust the low-pass frequency for one (which goes to your subwoofer) and the high-pass frequency for the other (which goes to your main power amplifier). This allows you to essentially bi-amplify, and with the low frequencies removed from the high-passed output, your power amplifier will run more efficiantly, not having to waste power on low frequencies that your speakers cannot reproduce. And, they toss in a phono stage that has both MC and MM settings. This may mark the beginning of phono stages being a standard part of stereo preamplifiers, rather than having to purchase an outboard phono stage. Long live LP's! Oh, there's a headphone jack too.

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Bel Canto S500 Stereo Power Amplifier

Bel Canto S500 Power Amplifier

Let me first state "I like this amp, I really do." What does "Class A, A/B, D, ICEpower" mean to the average audiophile? Will there be an audible benefit by upgrading to the newer technology? If I am making an initial purchase will this technology satisfy me? Does the amp du jour really make a difference in the listening experience for the average listener?

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Bryston 4B SST2 Stereo Power Amplifier

Bryston 4B SST2 C-SERIES

Bryston Ltd. is a Canadian company which has been designing and manufacturing audio equipment for over 35 Years. While there are many companies competing in their market, Bryston's gear is coveted by enthusiasts and professionals alike. They have earned the reputation of providing bullet-proof reliability, high performance and value. Byston's value is not due to a bargain basement price. It's the sound and their 20 year guarantee of high performance that can make a Bryston purchase a value. This remarkable warranty speaks to Bryston's confidence in their own quality standards, and it is definitely the exception versus the rule in the A/V industry.

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Parasound Halo P7 Preamplifier

Parasound Halo P7 Preamplifier

The Parasound Halo P 7 Preamp is a problem solver. The problem is the gap between home theater systems and hi-end stereo systems. Many home theater buyers are fond of the stereo systems that they already own (and paid big bucks for), those that don't already have a stereo might find that they can afford a lot more two channel gear than 7.1 channel gear and since 90-100% of their music collection is two channel.. well, you get the idea. But unless you are a hifi nut like me, you don't have a room dedicated to the stereo and another dedicated to the home theater.

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conrad-johnson Classic Vacuum Tube Preamplifier with Phono Stage

conrad-johnson Classic Preamplifier with Phono Stage

conrad-johnson (lower case c and j) was formed in the mid-seventies, shortly after I became seriously interested in audio gear. I'm sure the two events were entirely unrelated. Their first product, a preamplifier, was immediately recognized as "state of the art," and so their storied history began. I encourage you to visit their website for more details. There, they provide a long list of products that have been reviewed as "Best of Class", and even "Best in the World."

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Emotiva XPA-1 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Emotiva XPA-1 Monoblock Power Amplifier

ADDENDUM - 4/1/09 I (JEJ) was so impressed with Chris' review of the XPA-1 (published in January, 2009), I asked Emotiva to send me one so I could run some of my own tests. I borrowed a different power amplifier from a friend that cost more than 6 times the price of the XPA-1, which I will call Amplifier "X" here. I ran the same tests on both amplifiers. Click on the photo to see the results (go to Page 4: Emotiva XPA-1 On the Bench, and my results are down near the bottom of the page).

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