Until recently, Class A equipment cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but today the ice has broken – and great-sounding amps can be bought for much less. Read our analysis of the selection of power amplifiers priced from five to ten thousand dollars.
1. Manley Laboratories Mahi
Price: $ 6,599
Pros – velvety sound
Cons – not suitable for low impedance speakers
Verdict – it’s hard not to fall in love with such a tube sound
A tube classic “for all time” – the Manley Laboratories Mahi uses four EL84 pentodes, the power of the model is 14 – 41 W depending on the type of switching (in triode and ultralinear modes, respectively) and the speaker impedance (the device is ideally suited for working with a load with a resistance of 6 ohms and is not recommended for speakers with impedance significantly lower than 4 ohms). Despite all the limitations, if the device is installed correctly, it can hit you in the heart, offering an incredible seamless, “mercurial” sound.
2. Ayre VX-8
Price – 6,800 US dollars
Pros – JFET amplification, solid design
Cons – relatively high price
Verdict – a step forward for Ayre
The younger Ayre VX-8 uses developments from the company’s top line of current amplifiers (JFET amplification); there is also linear power regulation with zero feedback and a Double Diamond output stage. The printed circuit boards are also our own, made of fiberglass and resin, thick and made to last – in general, everything literally screams about quality. Despite only 100 W at 8 ohms of power, the sound of the model amazes with its detail, enthusiasm and sparkle.
3. PS Audio Stellar M1200
Price: $ 6,998
Pros – the combination of lamps and D-class works effectively!
Cons – microdynamics are not ideal
Verdict – a device that will rock any speakers with “one left hand”
The compact PS Audio Stellar M1200 visually contrasts strongly with the older “fat boys” from the company – well, it uses a cascade based on a Psvane 12AU7-TII lamp and a class D assembly from ICEpower. This is a real beast – the power is 600 W at 8 Ohms and 1,200 W at 4 Ohms! The device’s ability to control “crowbar” speakers is fantastic, but the best part is that in the pursuit of “power” they didn’t throw out the baby – the temporal accuracy of the device seems excellent, except that by the standards of a true High End it is slightly lacking in microdynamics.
4. Feliks Audio Arioso
Price – $ 7,495
Pros – 3D sound
Cons – 8 W amplification “not for everyone”
Verdict – tube breakthrough of the year
Small Polish tube amplifier – only 8 W per channel with Electro-Harmonix EH Gold 300B tubes. It would seem that against the background of modern mastodons it should give in, but the device copes even with speakers with a resistance of 4 Ohms and provides an incredible amount of sound information, simply “completing” the sound picture in comparison with many competitors. Lamp apparatus of the XXI century!
5. Rotel Michi S5
Price: $ 7,499
Pros – stunning power, fantastic dynamics
Cons – the scene depth is a little lacking
Verdict – An amplifier that is worth every penny invested
Rotel’s new Michi series takes the stars out of the sky – if you’re shopping for a power amplifier, the S5 may well be the end point. 500 W per channel at 8 ohms and 800 W per channel at 4 ohms, natural temporal picture, surprisingly tangible stage (albeit not as huge as on devices with a price ten times more), clear and coherent performance on any genre – praises you can sing for a long time. For your money – just a gift.
6. LKV Research Veros PWR+
Price – 10,000 US dollars
Pros – the combination of a kilowatt power supply and combined D-amplification has paid off
Cons – none
Verdict – don’t believe in class D? Check out LKV Research Veros PWR+!
The top model from LKV Research, the Veros PWR+ power amplifier combines a discrete Class A assembly, Purifi Class D modules and a three-transformer amplification circuit (with a central kilowatt toroidal trans). Something similar is used in the French Devialet components, only they use a switching power supply. LKV Research Veros PWR+ is completely devoid of the “patina” of digital amplification. It sounds like a genuine Class A mastodon – warm, rich and gentle. And 221 W at 8 Ohms will satisfy even the most demanding audiophiles.
7. McIntosh MC462
Price – 10,000 US dollars
Pros – a genre-bending device with luxurious presentation
Cons – nothing
Verdict – this amplifier “with arrows” is a benchmark in its price
McIntosh’s most powerful stereo driver, the new MC462 delivers 450 watts per channel into 2, 4, or 8 ohms. The amplifier “with arrows” operates in the AB class, but in a very tricky way – each individual phase of the signal is amplified by a full push-pull output section (in fact, two full-fledged push-pull amplifiers work in each channel, and their outputs are combined using autoformers). The sound of the McIntosh MC462 gives no reason for criticism – this mastodon flaunts excellent dynamics and outstanding detail.