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Decware Zen Triode SE84UFO2 Power Amplifier | REVIEW

by John Richardson in Components

First, a disclaimer. I own this Decware Zen Triode amp and bought it for myself, so it’s not a typical “loaner” that we reviewers normally get to evaluate. Steve Deckert, Decware’s head guy, normally doesn’t believe in supplying reviewers with samples. If I want to review the product, his policy is that I buy it, at full price, just like any other customer. That’s exactly what I did. I let Steve know I was a reviewer, but didn’t ask for any accommodation, nor was I offered one. [...]

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  • Allnic Audio L-8000 DHT Preamplifier | REVIEW

    April 9, 2021 // 2 Comments

    DHT is a magic three-letter acronym that speaks volumes to those in the know, especially when it comes to audio history and tubes. Before I get to the product at hand, the mysterious and magical Allnic Audio L-8000 DHT preamp, I’d like to take a moment to spotlight some of the acronyms behind this review.  DHTs, as mentioned above, stands for Directly Heated Triodes, which are the very first tube type to have been invented. They are simply an anode, cathode and grid in a vacuum sealed glass [...]
  • Bryston Audio 4B³ Power Amplifier | REVIEW

    March 12, 2021 // 5 Comments

      At first it sounded like a great idea. A few months ago, Bryston Audio (website) asked me if I wanted to review the newest version of their truly iconic power amplifier, the 4B. They offered a very intriguing wrinkle to this review of this Bryston Audio 4B³–would I be willing to compare the sound to a perfectly restored early-generation Bryston 4B-ST? “That sounds really interesting,” I replied. “Sure, I’ll do it!” I knew I wanted to revisit with Bryston because I found [...]
  • Mola Mola Makua Preamplifier | REVIEW

    February 28, 2021 // 6 Comments

    The Mola Mola Makua (website), much like the Tambaqui (review) before it, was a device utterly unknown to me before this review. Naming gear after exotic fish isn’t a new concept–I own a pair of Manley Snappers after all–but the gear from Mola Mola is decidedly different than Manley, which prides itself on its “Tubes Rule” motto. By contrast, Mola Mola has Bruno Putzeys and his heritage, an eye towards futuristic functionality and ultra high-end sonic pedigree. I have [...]
  • LFD NCSE Mk. 3 Integrated Amplifier | REVIEW

    February 19, 2021 // 2 Comments

    The LFD NCSE Mk. 3 integrated amplifier (website) has no remote control. Nor does it have XLR inputs or outputs, a home theater bypass switch, 12V trigger operation, a built-in DAC, a wide range of connectivity options nor any of the standard features we usually find in a modern integrated that costs $7,350. I’ve reviewed plenty of integrated amplifiers that cost far less than that, and they have features such as inboard phono stages and headphone amplifiers and more. Heck, the LFD NCSE [...]
  • McIntosh Labs MC1502 Power Amplifier | REVIEW

    January 24, 2021 // 7 Comments

    For a lot of folks, McIntosh Labs gear (website) is the stuff that audiophile dreams are made of. The idea of actually owning and using this gear, especially something as impressive as their new McIntosh Labs MC 1502 amplifier, took me back to my youth.In the days before the internet, people used to actually get together to pass around information and share ideas. Imagine that. When I was a kid, I seemed to gravitate towards people who were older than my usual peers. Some of my best education [...]
  • Four hundred watts per channel. The Jeff Rowland Design Group Continuum S2 (website) has four hundred watts per channel. In over forty years of being an audiophile, including the twenty-plus years I’ve been reviewing hi-fi components, I’ve never had that much power at my disposal before. By modern standards, the Continuum S2 isn’t the most powerful power amplifier out there—I can think of a few four-figure monsters turning heads right now. But I’m the guy whose all-time favorite SET [...]
  • Does a 260-pound loudspeaker that packs an 8- and 10-inch driver need any re-enforcement in the lower octaves? Add in a delicious amplifier that can generate 500 watts at 4 ohms with ease and you are off to the races, right? The engineer in me is always looking for opportunities to continue to move closer to that moment when the music was recorded. The release of a new Wilson Audio ActivXO stereo crossover designed by John Curl tickled my interest. I was fascinated to see what would happen if [...]
  • The Best Integrated Amplifiers | Buyers Guide 2021

    December 5, 2020 // 12 Comments

    The Best Integrated Amplifiers [Editor’s note: Welcome to the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for 2021! This year we decided to mix it up a little by breaking up the Buyers Guide into sections, which makes it a far more manageable read. And oh, we know what you’re thinking–the best integrated amplifiers? No such thing! Separates, man, it’s all about the separates! Let’s clear this up: these are the best integrated amplifiers that we, the PTA team, have heard.] PS [...]
  • The Best Amplifiers | Buyers Guide 2021

    December 5, 2020 // 7 Comments

    The Best Amplifiers [Editor’s note: Welcome to the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for 2021! This year we decided to mix it up a little by breaking up the Buyers Guide into sections, which makes it a far more manageable read. And oh, we know what you’re thinking–the best amplifiers? What are you trying to do, start an insurrection? You’re not even going to separate the tubed ones from the solid-state? Let’s clear this up: these are the best amplifiers that we, [...]
  • The Best Preamplifiers | Buyers Guide 2021

    December 5, 2020 // 4 Comments

    The Best Preamplifiers [Editor’s note: Welcome to the Part-Time Audiophile Buyers Guide for 2021! This year we decided to mix it up a little by breaking up the Buyers Guide into sections, which makes it a far more manageable read. And oh, we know what you’re thinking–the best preamplifiers? Why, there aren’t even tone controls on some of your picks! Let’s clear this up: these are the best preamplifiers that we, the PTA team, have heard.] Luminous Audio Axiom II w/ [...]
  • Rotel A14 Integrated Amplifier | REVIEW

    November 27, 2020 // 3 Comments

      Why in the world would I want to review the Rotel A14 (website), an integrated amplifier with DAC and phono stage and headphone amplifier all sorts of features for just $1500? What is this, 1985? Am I still in college looking for an optimal amplification match for my Snell Type Js? Look over there, on the racks and around the listening room. I’ve got $10K worth of Rowland over here, and $25K worth of prime Pureaudio amplification over there. I should be set, ready to go, ready to [...]
  • BorderPatrol P21 EXD 300B Amplifier | REVIEW

    November 6, 2020 // 2 Comments

    This one is a bit of a convoluted story, let me tell ya. One sunny day in the early pre-COVID winter, Gary Dews, the head guy at BorderPatrol Audio (website), paid me a visit bearing gifts. While Gary was not exactly appearing as one of the Magi, these were fine gifts indeed: a pair of Living Voice IBX-R3 Auditorium Series speakers, as well as one of his own creations, the BorderPatrol P21 EXD push-pull 300B amplifier. Together, we enjoyed a bright afternoon of lunch, audio banter, and [...]
  • This is a story about that time I joined a cult (or two). In this review I stand to gain nothing and lose everything by telling you how staggeringly capable the Audio by Van Alstine SET 120 Control Amplifier is at delivering all of the musical goods. I am here to confess a rare and simple truth—that true high-end sound does not have to be a luxury. The mere utterance of this truth could shatter the system and render all of our phony-baloney writing jobs into the bin of oblivion. Words and [...]
  • “What are those light bulb things?” My roommate asked that as he bent over the Manley Labs Snapper Monoblock Amplifiers with his camera in hand. The downtown Los Angeles skyline tinted the sky charcoal grey and I had to admit, even in the depths of my current obsession with the Naked and the Bauhas architectures, this scenery made a romantic backdrop for the Snappers. Tubes glowing—delightful, tubes glowing against the evening backdrop of America’s westernmost Art Deco capital. [...]
  • McGary Audio SA2 Power Amplifier | REVIEW

    July 31, 2020 // 4 Comments

    When I first set eyes on the attractive McGary Audio SA2 vacuum tube amplifier, the first thought that entered my head was “stingray.” Anyone who has observed this sea creature will know immediately what I mean: just one look at that front panel tells the story. Anyway, I can’t use that moniker, as it’s been assigned already to Manley Laboratories’ iconic product of the same name. When I was a kid, I greatly enjoyed watching a particular type of ray termed the cownose ray for the [...]
  • Valve Amplification Company Sigma 170i Integrated Amplifier Review by Lee Shelley (Disclaimer: I’m a photographer by profession and I have many clients in the high end audio industry. I have shot for Valve Amplification Company in the past. My impressions and conclusions in the following Valve Amplification Company Sigma 170i Integrated Amplifier review are unaffected by this, but I felt you should know.)  At the 2018 Capital Audiofest, there was a huge buzz about the new $150,000 Statement [...]
  • TIDAL Audio Prisma Preamplifier | REVIEW

    July 24, 2020 // 0 Comments

    Is the absence of any coloration its own signature coloration? During my time with the TIDAL Audio Prisma preamplifier, I found myself asking that very question. People like me who listen to music for a living (including lots of audiophiles I know) have developed a familiarity with the various sonic signatures that any piece of audio electronics contributes to the music passing through it. Whether I’m using certain pieces of gear to master music in my studio or swapping out stuff in my home [...]
  • When Mark Sossa of Well Pleased AV called about dropping off a pair of the excellent QLN Prestige Three speakers for me to review a few months back, he casually mentioned he might also bring along the new Audio Hungary Qualiton APX 200. Sure, I love hearing any audio gear that I’m not yet hip to. A tube amp? Hell yeah, bring that sucker! Words and Photos by Dave McNair Whether you’re a pro audio engineer, audiophile (I like the old school term hifi enthusiast), or most definitely an audio [...]
  • Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple of years, you’re probably aware that Vinnie Rossi has been shaking up the world of high-end audio shows with his tremendous L2 amplification line. I’ve always been a fan of Vinnie’s designs, going back more than a dozen years when I listened to one of his battery-powered Red Wine Audio amps. I used it to review a wonderful pair of WLM loudspeakers from Austria, which Vinnie used to import into the US. Over the last year or so [...]
  • “These ‘uns are a little bit different,” Scot Hull told me in that almost impenetrable Northern Maryland drawl of his. It was almost a warning—he knew I loved the Linear Tube Audio Z10 integrated so much that I gave it an Editor’s Choice Award, and that the LTA ZOTL40 power amplifier and microZOTL preamplifier were cut from a slightly different cloth when it came to the overall sound. The Z10 was agile and exceptionally light on its feet, and Scot believed—after spending some time [...]
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