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Newport 2016: Ampsandsound hand-makes gear for the masses

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Ampsandsound may be missing a few spaces in its name, but a visit to its room at T.H.E. Show in Newport revealed the company wasn’t lacking much else.

Indeed, the business founded by medical social worker Justin Weber seems to be making strides in establishing a strong line of components. Weber says Ampsandsound’s goals is to offer hand-built, carefully designed and reliable products offering the highest parts quality at lower prices than a buyer might otherwise encounter for similar gear.

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Toward that end, Ampsandsound was showing its Casablanca amp, a 60 watt-per-channel monoblock that uses KT88s ($3,995 a pair) and its Agartha integrated, a 300B SET unit that doubles as a headphone amp ($3,600). Also in use was a VPI Avenger turntable with Zu Audio DL-103R cartridge ($9,995), an LH Labs Vi DAC and a Mac mini running Amarra Symphony software. Cable was by AudioQuest.

The most expensive part of the system was the speakers, which were Ampsandsound’s three-way, horn-loaded Hudson model ($30,000 a pair). The Hudsons featured a 15-inch woofer, 2-inch compression midrange and 1-inch compression tweeter. Such large-woofer, horn-tweeter designs were something of a trend in Newport.

The idea behind the Hudsons, a rep told me, was to create a “domestically friendly” horn loudspeaker. Indeed, a test of the transducers using a rockin’ Lynyrd Skynyrd track proved they could stay composed, even at headbanging volume. Bass was fairly tight and the compression tweeter avoided sounding aggressive, even when the band kicked into overdrive.

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Also worthy of kudos was the Amarra Symphony software ($649) from Sonic Studio, which displayed an intuitive interface and made song selection a simple task. The sophisticated application included room correction and mastering EQ.

Overall, the exhibit showed Ampsandsound has a lot more going on than amps and unusual punctuation. If custom-made boutique gear is in your price range, this company deserves to be on your demo list.

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