The Allnic A-2000 25th (website) joins the L-8000 DHT as another of a host of products from this South Korean company that has passed through my room. The ever-generous John Ketcham of Kevalin Audio and David Beetles of Allnic’s North American distributor, Hammertone Audio, have been superb to work with every time. I can’t recommend them enough if you’re interested in anything from Allnic. And interested you should be, because we have another very special piece of gear from Mr. Kang Su Park.
Words and Photos by Grover Neville
The Allnic A-2000 25th Anniversary Edition is actually the full and proper appellation for this power amp. It has a few tweaks and upgrades from the non-anniversary edition, the main change being from KT88s to KT150s, along with a higher performance output transformer and some smaller modifications to allow greater circuit stability and longer tube life. While I haven’t heard the original A-2000, I did converse with John Ketcham and David Beetles on the phone about Kang Su Park’s process, and I have no doubt the changes were made after extensive listening and testing. My impression is that he is very much a master of art and science in equal measure—no pun intended.
To start with, the Allnic A-2000 25th mimics the L-8000 DHT in that it is one of the most ergonomically thorough amplifiers to come through my system. Inputs and outputs are simple: one pair of balanced line inputs, one set of RCA inputs, and one set of speaker binding posts, with a pair of switches for the inputs. Usefully each input, left and right, have their own switch, so if one wanted to use it as a poor man’s mute switch, or for some reason have one input running balanced and one running single-ended, this is possible. I can see this coming quite in handy when auditioning new gear or diagnosing system issues that may be isolated to one channel. Allnic’s’ impeccable ergonomic sense strikes again. The front is even simpler with just a power switch and a triode/pentode switch.
As a safety note, though no harm will come to any equipment if you forget, just some unpleasant noise—make sure to always power the unit up and shut it off in pentode mode. In practice this never presented an issue for me, and was an easy direction to follow, and I made plenty use of this feature, especially whilst comparing to my Manley Snappers which feature a similar triode/pentode switch.
Like the L-8000 DHT the chassis is beautiful and flawless, with not a hint of panel gaps, ugly bolts or any manufacturing flaws. The build quality to my eyes is more in line with units costing upwards of twenty or thirty thousand dollars, and yet Allnic is only asking $9,900 USD for the A-2000. Even less expensive than the L-8000 DHT, and in a similar neighborhood of price with my Snappers. I was more than looking forward to the comparison.
Reinforcing Allnic’s dedication to heirloom quality build, the weight of the unit is what I can only describe as substantial. Thankfully, unlike some solid-state amplifiers I’ve had with sharp heat sinks and considerable payloads, the Allnic had very thoughtfully placed handles. The handles were not simply thrown at the front or back of the unit, however, but placed on the rear and top rear of the unit, ideally located for counterbalancing the transformers on the back of the amplifier, where most of the weight is concentrated. While it is quite heavy, I found transporting the amp into my system was actually a cinch because of this, and from a pride of ownership and longevity standpoint, this is huge in my mind. Kang Su Park has made living with and moving the unit as easy as is possible given the unavoidable weight of all that iron.
Speaking of the iron, the Allnic A-2000 25th comes equipped with some huge output transformers with nickel cores, which tend to have a different effect and sound in my experience than iron cores. I was quite impressed by the L-8000 DHT’s partially nickel Permalloy cores, and my experience with nickel cores in pro audio has been positive as well, so I was excited to see how these would fair, as I can’t recall the last nickel core output transformer I’ve heard in hi-fi.
Power output from the large KT150s and these beefy transformers is rated at 100W in pentode mode, and 50W in triode mode, though I daresay this amp far exceeded my expectations of what a 100W per channel amp is capable of. Some recent gear that has come through my system from Naim and Ampsandsound have proven that great power supplies and current delivery, rather than pure wattage actually may have more to do with the bass capabilities and dynamic grip of a line amp.
Putting the unit to the test, my first listening session was revelatory—this does not feel like a 100W amp at all. It feels more like a 250 or 500W amp in fact. Bass reproduction, dynamic slam and general headroom and openness was off the charts, far better than I’ve experienced from a tube amp of this price and wattage class in recent memory. Low end was nearly solid-state in its depth and tightness, descending down into the deepest bottom end notes, yet retaining all the texture and definition one might expect of a tube amp.
Even in triode mode the sound on the low end was absolutely massive, transients and notes were clean and defined, again in a way that was almost solid-state but with the texture of tubes. Macrodynamic flow from loud to quiet was superb, and organic, yet the slight halo or upper midrange glow of tubes, expressed itself differently. Rather than a bloomy warmth, the Allnic A-2000 25th offered me an incisive and focused sound, neither forward nor relaxed but pinpoint in its accuracy. I’m used to vacuum tubes making things somewhat more diffuse and somehow more detailed, partially an effect of second harmonic distortion and transfer curves, but the Allnic instead gave me a soundstage with sharper edges and clearer sonic pictures.
That is not to say that it lacked in musicality, and within the mostly invisible tonality, I detected a hint of vibrance and texture that I typically associate with tubes. This was easier to hear in the dynamics, where the ebb and flow had a distinct and increased contrast when compared to even very good solid-state. Solid-state amplifiers punch and slam hard, while tubes seem to shape to the flow of the music’s broader pulse. In this case, the clues to the A-2000’s sonic heritage were in the dynamics.
The overall effect of this kind of pinpoint solid-state type image and tube-like macrodynamic ebb and flow was quite simply a more invisible stereo picture. If I focused very hard, especially in triode mode, I could detect just the hint of warmth or rather a very slight absence of edge in the treble. Otherwise, treble was crystal clear and again sharply defined in a way that I don’t typically associate with tubes and iron. The first seconds of Eight Blackbird‘s album Hand Eye are one of my all-time treble clarity and decay tests, and the Allnic in this regard almost seemed possessed, as if the amplifier had grown legs, stood up and tapped a triangle right there in the room. Vivid, crystalline, dense.
If you can’t tell already, I’m loving the Allnic A-2000 25th, it’s quick, linear and punchy while gripping the speakers in a way that makes the official spec sheet look criminally modest. Midrange is pure and uncolored and the treble emerges from nowhere like a spectral, timbral haunting in my living room. How then does it fare between the two modes, triode and pentode?
For my tastes, triode is almost always the choice, with nicer sounding curves and a less synthetic texture. With the A-2000 I noticed almost no tonal change between the two modes, though triode mode had slightly rounder transients, and a softer, more textured surface. Sounds seemed to have a little more inner glow, especially in the midrange, and the auditory image became a little fuzzier in a pleasing way. Bass remained tight and treble extended, only losing perhaps a scosche to the pentode mode when played at the highest volumes. My preference in this case is actually for pentode mode, as something about the ultra-defined presentation and last iota of bass weight and control spoke to me more than what was on offer in triode mode.
Both are fantastic, but more similar sounding than I expected. A more interesting test might be to try out the triode mode with high sensitivity speakers, as I only had Focal Kanta No 2, ATC SCM20 and Proac D30RS speakers on hand to test with. Those with Klipsch Heritage or Avantgarde Acoustic speakers might find more contrast between the two modes.
Allnic A-2000 25th, Conclusion
The Allnic A-2000 25th is a thoroughly modern tube amp—the sound is a little hard to define if I’m being honest, as it does things one doesn’t typically associate with a tube amp, yet it retains and illuminates things about tubes which are subtler and deeper than simply being more colored or offering less bass. Listening to this amplifier was an exercise in refinement in the same way as the L-8000 DHT. It did away with such pedestrian notions as frequency response, power numbers and grip on the speakers.
I haven’t talked much about those elements because the A-2000 can only be described as flawless in those respects. Instead, the amp’s character revealed itself when I more deeply tuned into the groove and pulse or textural and spectral elements of mixes I’ve listened to many times. Dynamic flow, transient attack and decay and that slightly slippery quality of musical engagement are where the A-2000 shows off what makes it special.
It’s rare for me to review a product like this which is just so thoroughly sorted, and at what I find to be a very fair price. It’s a little more money than my Manley Snappers, but has a much more modern sound than those amps, which offer very pleasing punchy dynamics, density and depth, but aren’t quite as effortlessly linear or precisely timed. While I admit to liking the kind of gutsy, slightly old-school slightly modern sound of the Snappers, the thoroughly modern Allnic A-2000 25th was an absolute thoroughbred, and I’m sure will delight lovers of transparent and revealing top end.
For the $9,900 USD asking price I can’t really think of much that’s in competition with this amp. It does something distinctly different from Octave—a little livelier and with more bass weight—and distinctly different from, say, Airtight, which goes even further into old school territory than my Snappers. If you’re in the market for an amp that does what the modern 100W per channel solid-state stereo amplifier purported to do; power anything big or small, do so quietly and with great character and flat frequency response, I’m here to tell you that you can do one better, and even get those magical glowing vacuum-sealed bottles while you’re at it. If you have an opportunity to lay ears on this amp—don’t miss it.