Home Theater Review

 

Stereo, Mono and Audiophile Amplifier Reviews

Welcome to the world of power amps. Below and on the additional pages, you will find hundreds of reviews of audiophile grade power amps, including everything from affordable integrated amps to the most expensive tube and solid state amps. You'll absolutely be able to find the right amp for your floorstanding speakers or your bookshelf speakers. These pages of reviews cover every brand you could want: Audio Research, Krell, Mark Levinson, Cello, McIntosh, and dozens more.

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Red Dragon Audio S500 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

Red Dragon Audio S500 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

By Bob Barrett

Overall Rating
5 Stars
 

Bob Barrett reviews the $1,999 S500 stereo amplifier from Red Dragon Audio. This small 12-pound amplifier uses an S-Pro2 Class D amplifier module and is rated at 2 x 250 watts at eight ohms. Read on to see what Bob thought of its performance. Read More

 
Magnus Audio MA-400 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

Magnus Audio MA-400 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

By Terry London

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

At the beginning of last year, I reviewed the superlative-sounding Canary Audio reference KD-2000 DSD tube DAC. Canary Audio designs and builds tube-based equipment. However, the company also has a solid-state division that is called Magnus Audio. All of Canary/Magnus... Read More

 
Home Theater Review's Best of 2015 Awards

Home Theater Review's Best of 2015 Awards

By HomeTheaterReview.com

Overall Rating
0 Stars
 

It's that time of year again--time for the HomeTheaterReview.com staff to pick the products that we feel represent the best of the best from all of our 2015 reviews. We've covered a variety of categories and price points. See if your faves made the list. Read More

 
Paradigm Premium Wireless Series PW AMP Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

Paradigm Premium Wireless Series PW AMP Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

By Dennis Burger

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Paradigm has thrown its support behind the DTS Play-Fi wireless multi-room audio platform with the introduction of the new Premium Wireless Series. Dennis Burger reviews the PW AMP, a small stereo amplifier that features Play-Fi and Anthem Room Correction. Read More

 
Pro-ject Audio Systems MaiA Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Pro-ject Audio Systems MaiA Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

By Greg Handy

Overall Rating
5 Stars
 

Greg Handy reviews the micro-sized MaiA from Pro-Ject Audio Systems, a fully featured integrated amplifier/DAC/streamer that costs just $499. Read More

 
Pass Labs X250.8 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

Pass Labs X250.8 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

By Terry London

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Terry London reviews the X250.8 Class AB stereo amplifier from Pass Labs, a 100-pound beauty that's rated at 250 watts into eight ohms. Read More

 
Parasound Halo Integrated 2.1-Channel Amplifier Reviewed

Parasound Halo Integrated 2.1-Channel Amplifier Reviewed

By Dennis Burger

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Dennis Burger reviews Parasound's $2,495 Halo Integrated amplifier, which combines a number of worthy features in one attractive, well-built chassis. Read More

 
First Watt SIT 2 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

First Watt SIT 2 Stereo Amplifier Reviewed

By Terry London

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Terry London explores the SIT 2 stereo amplifier from Nelson Pass' First Watt lab. This $5,000 Class A solid-state amp uses a Static Induction Transistor to produce some of the sonic characteristics of SET tube amplifiers. Read More

 
Rogue Audio Pharaoh Tube Hybrid Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Rogue Audio Pharaoh Tube Hybrid Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

By Greg Handy

Overall Rating
4 Stars
 

Greg Handy reviews the Pharaoh integrated amplifier from Rogue Audio, which combines a tube preamp with a Hypex Class D amplifier and adds a tube headphone amp for good measure. How does this $3,500 integrated amp perform? Follow the link to find out. Read More

 
Yamaha A-S2100 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Yamaha A-S2100 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

By Bob Barrett

Overall Rating
4.5 Stars
 

Bob Barrett explores the A-S2100 integrated amplifier from Yamaha's HiFi component line. This $3,999 90-wpc integrated amp has exceptional build quality and can accommodate a variety of sources. How does it perform? Read on to find out... Read More

 

Everything You Need To Know About Audiophile Amplifiers

1.0 Overview
2.0 Types of Power Amplifiers

2.1 Class A-B Amplifiers

2.2 Class A Amplifiers
2.3 Tube Amplifiers
2.4 Class-D Digital Amplifiers
2.5 Monoblock Amplifiers
2.6 Power Regeneration

1.0 Overview of Stereo Power Amps for Home Theater
Power amplifiers boost the signal from a preamp to levels that a loudspeakers system can use to make a powerful audio experience. There are various technologies of amplifiers that are use. Most amplifiers are stereo amps thus can boost the amplitude of a stereo audio signal. Mono or monoblock amps are one channel amplifiers and are found mostly on the high end of the amplifier food chain.

2.0 Types of Power Amplifiers

2.1 Class AB
Class AB amplifiers are considered to be a traditional amplifier. They can be either a tube or solid state design. They can be balanced (XLR) or unbalanced in operation. In solid state designs are known for their heat sinks, large torioidal transformers and overall weight. Class AB amplifiers are still the preferred choice of audiophiles because of their powerful, clean sound but digital amplifier designs have made significant improvements in the past few years. At the ultimate level, there are now hybrid audiophile grade class AB/digital amps.

2.2 Class A Amplifiers
Class A amplifiers were at one point the audiophile's choice but their low power, ultra-high heat output, often large size and huge incoming power requirements (240 volt is best for class A amps) have seen them fall out of favor. Their pure sound is hard to argue with but they don't easily keep up with the needs of film sound track playback. They also sound best when "warmed up" for hours. They also have no real ability (by design) to do anything but to run at full power thus their draw from the wall is as strong as you can find. The analogy used by many to describe a Class A amplifier is that it is like a faucet that is turned all the way on.

2.3 Tube Amplifiers
Tube amps are the most alluring and sexy of the amp technologies. The glow of the vacuum tubes, the warm analog sound and the overall musicality make a tube amps something every audiophile should own at least once in his life. Tubes have many drawbacks once you get past the siren song of their appeal. They create a lot of heat. They have very little power compared to solid state (class AB) designs for the same money. Tube amps need constant biasing or adjustments or they will perform poorly in a matter of weeks. They need time to warm up to sound good. They need to have the tubes carefully replaced every few hundred hours of operation.

2.4 Class D Digital Amps
Digital Amplifiers are all the rage these days -specifically ones based around the Bang and Olufsen ICE chip. These amps are ultra-quiet and very low distortion. They are small, create barely any heat yet pump out incredible volumes of power compared to more traditional class AB and tube amps. Digital amps are popular in powered subwoofers and even in some receivers. The downside to digital amplifiers is that they tend to lack the musicality and weight of a traditional amp. They are just missing the musical gravitas at this point of their development. Hybrid digital amps like the Mark Levinson No. 53s are showing some new twists that hope to bridge the two designs to provide the best of both worlds even if it costs $25,000 per channel of amplification.

2.5 Monaural (Monoblock Amplifiers)
Monoblock or mono amplifiers are often the preferred choice of audiophiles and used in the most demanding home theater playback systems. Mono refers to the idea that one physical amplifier is designed to power one audio channel. The main advantage of mono amplifiers is the concept that each channel of audio gets its own power supply thus can provide more accurately and effectively the power needed in an audiophile or 7.1 speaker system as the source material demands. Some audiophile brands make dual or even tri-mono amplifiers which house multiple mono amps in the same chassis yet retain the advantages of the mono design. This normally comes at a significant cost premium. Monoblock amplifiers are commonly found in all varieties of amplifier including tube amps, solid state amps and even class D "digital" amplifiers.

2.6 Power Regeneration Inside High end Amplifiers
The highest end amplifiers on the market today offer their own internal AC power regeneration right inside of the amplifier. You do not need a PS Audio or Audiophile APS Pure Power device for your monster audiophile amplifiers. Top amps from the likes of Krell and Mark Levinson are coming with power regeneration right in the amp itself and the results allow for the last level of extreme performance and refinement for the world's most expensive amplifiers.