We’re getting closer to releasing the new power amplifier and soon a preamplifier as well. I thought it time to give this topic its own forum. I’ll try and see if I can move some of the chatter about this amp from the other forums over, but not so sure how that all works.
Here’s a bit of background.
We’ve built a number of power amps and integrateds over the years, many classics loved by thousands: HCA-2, 200C, C250, GSeries, Delta series, and even the tiny Trio series. And then there are the preamps, a product we built our company on, all the models there too many to even list but here’s a few of the classics: IV and IVH, 4.5 and 5, the GSeries.
After installing the Infinity IRSV in Music Room One, and even before with the Maggie system, it became painfully obvious the aging C250 in the room wasn’t up to the task of making music without compromise on those speakers, certainly not after hearing a few examples of the best tube and solid state products on the market, so I endeavored to design a new, state of the art power amp. The preamp was not an issue as I went direct to the amp through the (then) PWD DAC. Later I became convinced to buy the first tube preamp I have ever owned, the fabulous Aesthetix Calypso, which still drives the system to this day.
The original design concept for the new power amplifier would be based on the wonderful Hypex Class D modules, which sound about the best of any class D out there. Three attempts later and several years of hard work, I made the decision to pull the plug on class D for the reference power amp. It sounded fabulous, most visiting Music Room One were stunned at how good it sounded; and yet. It wasn’t meeting my goal of a world class amplifier. No, let me put that another way: the goal of our new power amplifier was to build one better than any power amplifier ever built, by anyone, at any price. To, at a minimum, reach into the lofty stratosphere of amplification to join the top few in the world: those costing $100,000, those with many tubes bristling out of their tops, those with but a single pair of tubes, or massive MOSFET arrays, or single ended bipolars. In short, at my age, given how long I’ve been in this industry, I want to build something that stands for many years as a classic power amplifier that anyone lucky enough to own it would be in heaven when music played; a heaven without compromise of any type.
To do that I finally took two big gulps: I abandoned my own design and I agreed to a tube in the input. These were big moves.
We’ve never suffered under the NIH )Not Invented Here) syndrome, as many companies are, but in fact it’s been rare that someone outside the PS fold was responsible for a design. Then, along came Ted Smith and DirectStream. Ted paved the way, his design chops so far above ours that having him design our new DSAC was a simple no brainer: and look at the results. Perhaps the best DAC in the world.
Bolstered by the success of Ted’s efforts and relaxing my grip on the design wheel, in favor of building something of a level I have never been able to achieve, we engaged famed analog designer Bascom H. King. Bascom’s design credits are long and glorious and, over time, I’ll list those out but among the projects he’s either worked on or been responsible for include: Marantz, Infinity and recently Constellation Audio. Bascom’s one demand: the design would have to include a tube in the front end of the amplifier. In over 40 years of building audio products we have never embraced a vacuum tube in our designs. We’ve loved their sound, but never had the balls to put one in. The only reason I was able to secure Bascom as our lead designer was his equal desire to build and amp/preamp to the level we wished: the best there is. And so, we agreed.
The design we are working on is an all MOSFET output stage, vacuum tube front end, 200 watts per channel into 8, doubling into 4, housed in the beautiful P10 chassis. This amp will also be the single most expensive product we have ever released: $7,000. I have struggled over this price for the very reason it is more than we have ever asked for a product. To some, it is an outrageous bargain: $7K for a power amp besting anything else at any price? To others, unattainable, they must sit on the sidelines wishing they too could own this.
But enough of the background. I have heard the prototype, it is beyond my wildest expectations. More to come.