Lecson Quattra Integrated Amp Reviewed

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It's worth mentioning here that the Lecson has a strange 'volume distribution' throughout the arc of the control knob. You're offered a lot of travel for fine level adjustment from 7 o'clock until 2 or 3 o'clock. Then the amp kicks in with a wallop just when you were about to write it off as gutless. Just make note of this as 'normal', so you won't worry during bouts of loud playback when you may be used to amps which pack most of their punch between the 10 and 2 o'clock points.

Matched to a speaker which will exploit the power capabilities without asking for Hackney-levels of subsidy, the Lecson is a smooth operator. Indeed, it may be too smooth for some, as if the opportunities for nasties to appear have been banished. In most cases this manifests itself as a sweetening of the sound, a freedom from sibilance and a removal of 'edginess'. But the effect, not quite a filtering of the sound, means slightly less transparency than is available from other amplifiers in its price category. The obvious alternatives, less forgiving but more open, include Musical Fidelity and Mission offerings, both of which seem to pursue true audiophile goals rather than an easier, more universal applicability.

In real terms, it means that the Lecson is less sniffy about the gear with which it's partnered, and systems building with this amp at the core will be an easy task. On the other hand, the amplifier will show its limitations more readily when the owner moves down that perilous upgrade path, a Mission Cyrus with the extra power supply, for example, being able to drive speakers way beyond its price category with aplomb, or a Musical Fidelity offering of like price producing not just power but more finely-etched detail. What saves the Lecson in this company -- four amps aside -- is its near-holographic imaging and a consistency from top to bottom which really does compensate for the softness.

Then we get to the wiring option. And here's where the trade-offs enter. With the amp run as a 45-watter, refinement is marginally compromised, but the sense of greater dynamics is undeniable. Sujective loudness remains the same, but the Lecson appears to show less strain when the swings vary at their widest. This was particularly well-illustrated by the deep percussion on the introduction of Willy de Ville's 'Assassin of Love' (the single mix, rather than the truncated LP cut). In 45W mode, the snap (or should I say 'thud'?) had greater impact than it did in bi-amp mode. So, too, were sharply plucked or punchy notes in the mid and upper ranges -- hot brass, electric guitar, rapid synth activity -- in possession of greater attack.

But the bi-wiring offered much which wasn't available in full-range mode. Transparency increased markedly, to a degree comparable to moving from a good cable to a great one, and mid-band clarity benefitted enormously. Listen to the Judds or Emmylou Harris or Nanci Griffith or any clear-voiced yahoo warbler through the Lecson in bi-amp mode vs full range and you'll hear something akin to a change of microphones.

But, and this isn't meant to pee on Lecson's parade, the best sound was a compromise smack in the middle. Running off the 45W taps in bi-wire mode, I heard sound with the best balance of both topologies' virtues and weaknesses. I tell you this because it means that the Lecson comes 'standard' with three levels of operation. Depending on your tastes and priorities, you can run this amp for maximum dynamics at the expense of transparency, for maximum transparency but with slight compression, or -- in bi-wired mode -- somewhere inbetween.

In absolute terms, the Lecson is a fine example of the genre but not one which 'blows away' direct rivals. What it offers, though, in 'quattra' mode is an option that none of its rivals can proffer, and those who wish to exploit or will benefit from four-amp need look no further than this product for optimising a speaker with twinned terminals.

Innovative? You bet. Even if I didn't like the sound -- which I most certainly do -- I'd give Lecson the nod for showing that novelty needn't mean specious crap sprinkled with fairy dust. This is a real alternative to conventional amplifiers, devoid of any con-artistry.

Now, when do we get the ribbed cylindrical power amp?

Additional Resources
• Read more stereo amplifier reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Find an AV receiver to integrate with the amp.
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