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Newport 2014: Wyred4Sound and the Son of Ampzilla, a SoCal rampage

CT6A6711 hiresnewportlogoforwebRick Cullen and EJ Saramento of Wyred4Sound have a side business. Several, actually, but the one I'm thinking of here has to do with amplifier legend James Bongiorno, perhaps best known for his work with the Spread Spectrum Technologies brand and the Ampzilla line, specifically. That is, W4S is currently making them. In fact, they've been making them for quite some time. James died last year, but his illness was protracted and in the gap, Ampzilla products were produced by the W4S team. Didn't know that? Me neither. But I sure am glad that those chevron'ed amps are still hitting the street -- they're one of my all-time favs. I'm still drooling with the idea of getting my mitts on a set.

Shown here at Newport was the latest to emerge from SST, a prototype of the Thoebe preamplifier, which is schedule to retail for $2,999 when it becomes available in the next month or two. The pre features a remote, tone controls and a MM/MC phono stage. An optional DAC, derived from the Wyred4Sound line, will also be an option. The circuitry and design are said to be derived from the top-of-the-line Ambrosia preamp.

The amplifier used in the demo was a more familiar, but still new, ST1000 Mk2 stereo amplifier. This $1,999 amp cranks up to 725 watts into 4Ω, and was here used to power the bass section on the Emerald Physics EP2.7 open baffle, controlled-dispersion, loudspeakers. More on those in a moment. The upper-half of the bi-amping was handled by a prototype of the Son of Ampzilla Mk2, with 200 watts into 8Ω. More details on both of these units will be available shortly.

A $1,999 Wyred4Sound Server 1 provided the front end for the $2,549 DAC-2DSD Special Edition converter, which now carries Femto clocking.

As for the speakers, those black monoliths are the latest flagship from Emerald Physics. The EP2.7 is a 4-driver, 3-way, speaker that uses an external DSP and crossover to generate a smooth in-room response, and feature their top-of-the-line tweeter/mid drivers pairing. Retail on these speakers, which includes the DSP and crossover, start at $8,995. Performance is said to be ± 1.5dB from 20Hz-20kHz. Since they’re bi-amped, you’re going to need two amps to light them up — keep in mind that the bass section is 4Ω and the upper is 8Ω. Sensitivity is 97dB, but I wouldn’t be reaching for my SET amps. Think “power” and be rewarded.

The sound in this room was a little bass-heavy (as in, “let’s flex the drywall!”), which always kind of fun, but the top-end may well have been the sweetest that I’ve yet heard from an EP loudspeaker.

Altogether, this was yet another set of surprises from the Emerald Physics and the W4S team. Bonus points that SST is still in play, too. Best audio news I heard that weekend!

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About Scot Hull (979 Articles)

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2 Comments on Newport 2014: Wyred4Sound and the Son of Ampzilla, a SoCal rampage

  1. Interesting, since we’ve been keeping the original GAS products alive for the past 35 years. http://www.gasaudio.com and wwww.gasaudio.net.

  2. At its relative price point the $4200 stereo Son of Ampzilla is still one of my most preferred power amps. The amp to which I refer looks like one Ampzilla 2000 mono bloc (released a few years prior to SOA). I and at least one other grizzled high end veteran were intimately familiar with SOA and A2k Mk I. We both preferred SOA overall (I’m personally not familiar enough with A2k Mk II to pass judgement, except that it’s definitely better than A2k.)

    At Las Vegas THE Show, about one year prior to Bongiorno’s passing, he showed me a plain empty black chassis, and said this would eventually be the new “Grandson of Ampzilla” (GOA…Bongiorno’s company in the 70s called GAS/Great American Sound Company sold amps by these same names. To this day Bongiorno’s old amps and preamps are among high end’s cult classics and for good reason. I owned Bongiorno’s 60W rated SAE Mk31B power amp, which played louder than most 200W amps of its day, with bass slam to rival today’s best amps.)

    After Bongiorno passed away, EJ finished GOA, but renamed it SOA II ($3k). EJ told me SOA II follows SOA architecture, with less costly parts where it would least impact performance. Consistent with EJ’s words, comparing SOA next to SOA II, one presumes most of the cost difference is in overall build and cosmetic design. SOA is heavier and tank-like, SOA II is lighter and a more generic but attractive black box.

    I wanted to briefly audition SOA in our room at Newport, because our loudspeaker is so different from any prior SOA audition, plus we had the best amps I ever heard in our room for A-B. But alas EJ did not bring SOA. Stupidly, I did not think of requesting to audition SOA II. SOA II did not pique my interest, partly because it’s so ordinary looking compared to SOA.

    Now I very much regret not hearing SOA II. I’ll make sure to hear it at Denver Rocky Mountain Audio Fest in October. There are many amps priced in the range of SOA II. But if SOA II performs anywhere close to SOA, I presume it’s atop or very close to the top of the food chain in it’s price category.

    A final word: the late Brian Cheney recommended, and Dick Olsher agreed in his review, that the cat’s meow was using one channel each from two stereo SOA (as if they were mono blocs). MSRP for two SOA II is $6k. That is a chunk of change, but worth considering if it offers performance close to two SOA.

    EJ will hate me for recommending this…if you hear two SOA II amps employed as mono blocs (using only one channel in each amp), and love the performance, consider asking EJ to make them each with only one audio channel for some discount off the regular price.

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