DATE: March 22,1999

Steve:

My SE84B (#146) was waiting for me when I arrived home from a business trip on March 4th. Upon opening the box, I was pleased to see the amp was solidly constructed and of excellent quality.

My trusty Adcom GFA-5300 (80 wpc) solid state amplifier was removed and #146 was inserted in it's place. My observations are based on about 2 1/2 weeks of listening. Nothing in my system was changed except for the amplifiers.

As a "real world" audiophile, I have assembled a system based on components which offer great "bang for the buck" and work well together to produce music in my 11' x 13' x 9' listening room. My system consists of a Marantz CD-63MkII (used as a transport) feeding a MSB 24/96 Link DAC front end; a Creek OHB-12 passive remote control "pre-amp", a TDS II harmonic enhancer and Digital Phase AP-1 tower speakers.

All components are plugged into a Brickwall power conditioner. Cables are home made from expanded Teflon dielectric based on the principles outlined in Allen Wright's Super Cable Cookbook and are superior to the majority of overpriced wires on the market. The system is carefully set-up.

My main concern before receiving #146 was how well it would work with my speakers. My AP-1 speakers are 87dB/2.83v/meter efficient with a fairly difficult phase angle (+45 degrees, -55 degrees) and 8 ohm nominal impedance. I was not only concerned about how loud the music would get in my listening room, but also how the tonal balance of the speaker would be affected due to the AP-1's large impedance variations (5 to 35 ohms).

This is not normally a concern with solid state amplifiers with low output impedance, but can be with SE amps which typically have high output impedance's of 2 to 3 ohms. The SE84B has the lowest output impedance of any SE amp (.8 ohms) I have seen specifications for and is even lower than some push-pull tube amps.

I consider the sound of my system with the Adcom to be quite good. The main drawback of this amplifier is the grain that accompanies vocals, particularly female vocals. In the past I have also used a Linn Majik (Stereophile class B) and Dynaco ST70 in my system and found the Adcom superior to both in all aspects. I had been reading for quite some time about SE amps in the various high end journals and the "magic" they are able to produce. With limited money to spend, I began searching for a "budget" SE amp that could power my system. Well, there is nothing "budget" about the SE84B. I find #146 to be absolutely transparent, tonally neutral (even with my speakers), grain free, and reasonably dynamic with gobs of SE "magic".

In my small listening room the SE84B is able to drive my speakers to surprising listening levels. Bass is tight, tunefulI and deep; rhythm & pace is excellent. I once had a discussion regarding SE amps with a audio salon owner, who said that "they were great for certain types of music, but they couldn't play CCR". This may be the case with other SE amps, but within it's power band, I find that #146 will play any type of music, including rock and dynamic soundtracks such as Braveheart.

I prefer the low gain setting on the amp; I find that the high gain position to be more aggressive sounding and easier to overdrive. Perhaps this would change with more efficient speakers. With the exception of dynamics and SPL, the SE84B is superior to the Adcom on all fronts. With the Adcom, my speakers would disappear, with #146, the room seems to disappear. You would have to spend a lot more money on a amplifier to improve upon the performance of the SE84B. The bottom line is that I currently have no desire to "tweak the system" to wring more performance out of it. Perhaps in the future I will purchase more efficient speakers, but at the present I am quite satisfied and find that I am enjoying the music more than I ever have before. I walk away from each listening session shaking my head in amazement at the music produced by #146.

Thanks for designing such a superb amplifier. Your selling them WAY too cheap!

-Bob Savitsky, Westfield IN.

 

 

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