AE-25 Super Amp: Class A, Push-Pull Triode Amp
UPS delivered my AudiogoN purchased AE-25 Super Amp Wednesday evening. Since then, I've been living in front of the RF7's basking in a rich, textured, wrap around me kind of sound.
The amp showed up in a rather large box. The box was roughly the same size as the box uBid shipped my LF-10 in. Opening the box revealed styrofoam peanuts around the edges and a huge wad of bubble wrap in the middle of the box. The bubble wrap was wrapped with packing tape. The seller evidently wasn't taking any chances with UPS.
I lifted 'the wad' out of the middle of the box and was surprised at the heft - considering it's size - which is rather small as far as amps go. The seller had wrapped the amp in over a dozen layers and it took a while to get to the object of my desire.
After what seemed like forever - the amp finally appeared. Now, when you see this thing in pictures it appears that some of it is fashioned out of sheet metal. At least, that's what I thought. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is in fact - built like the proverbial tank. In every respect - it exudes quality. Even the RCA jacks are like I've never seen before. They are not the usual gold colored chinzy inputs - but instead, resemble stubby steel gun barrels. They have the look of something built to last forever. This in fact sums up the build quality of the entire amp.
Mine comes wired (point-to-point) in the 15 watt triode configuration. It has the upgraded oil filled caps and is fitted with a volume control knob for directly driving a CD player. This amp came with stock tubes. 4 Chinese KT88's, 2 Russian 6922's, and 2 GE 6GC7's. It also has nice big squishy feet on the bottom - a nice touch.
I wired everything up and powered it up. The Super Amp has a standby switch which I made sure was on before I put power to the amp. I let it sit this way for about 10 minutes. I then flipped the switch from 'standby' to 'operate'. I was greeted by an obnoxious 'POP' through the speakers. I was not happy about this. It continues to do this and though I have already gotten used to it - I would rather it didn't do it.
It gets hot. Very hot. Very, very, hot. You can feel the heat coming off of this thing up to almost a foot away with your hand. Users with small children need to make sure it is out of reach. There is no question it could cause a 2nd degree burn in no time.
Listening was done with both my Anthem CD1 with Amperex 6922 output tube and a Marantz DV7010 DVD/CD player. The speakers are of course - my RF7's. Speaker cables are the slightly dark MIT Biwire 2's. Interconnects are my beloved Monster M550i's. This cable combination works well with Reference.
It's always tough to decide what to play first. I used to like to start out with nice 'audiophile' discs and pick apart the musical spectrum. I now like to start out with CD's that have music I really like. As far as I'm concerned - music is as much an emotional experience as it is a listening experience. I now first listen to the music - and then pick apart later. Basically, I first want to know if the sound moves me.
Most reviewers use music I have never heard of. This is my chance to get even with them.
I started out with the Marantz (because I wanted to try out some movies as well). The first two cuts were 'Cowboys from Hell' and 'Concrete Primal Sledge' by Pantera. I was very pleased. The guitars were thick and chuncky and the double kick drums had weight and a semblance of solidity not even matched by my Bryston. The voices were thrown well past the front baffle of the speaker and hung in the air in front of me. Very cool.
It is difficult to figure out where clipping starts with this amp. I started off with volume control knob at the 12 o'clock position. This was fairly loud and about what I figured 15 watts would sound like. Then I remembered the seller had told me that if I ever decided to use a preamp with it - to turn the volume control knob all the way over to the right. Before I knew it I was at the 3 o'clock position and things were still sounding very good. At a little past 4 o'clock things started to sound a little 'pinchy' or congested. I guess this is what clipping sounds like with this amp - but I really don't know! At any rate - 15 watts sounds quite a bit louder than I expected. A good thing. Typically - I just turn the damn knob until it sounds damn good. It varies with the program material.
Done with Pantera I moved on to some BTO. The first cut, 'Not Fragile' - rocked me pretty good. The bass filled the air and made the membranes in my ears smile. My wife Debbie was surprised when I looked at her and mouthed 'No Sub'. Again, nice rich grinding guitars, and good pace on the drums. Evidently, when people refer to the lack of bass and appropriate associated weight - they are referring to a non-Klipsch experience. Poor devils.
Next I threw on Judas Priest. 'Sad Wings of Destiny' is their best effort and even after 25 years it still holds it own against most metal. It suprised me by sounding a little shrill at the higher volume levels and I thought it would probably sound better on the Anthem CD1. It did. I had a lot of fun listening to the first two cuts, "Victim of Changes", and "The Ripper". I ended up listening to the whole CD. I might have been air guitaring during "Island of Domination" but I'm not sure.
Being completely happy I decided it was time for some picking apart. Al Diamola's 'Elegant Gypsy' is a great CD for this. No voices. Lot's of guitar, both acoustic and electric. Good bass and solid drumming. I was not dissapointed. The 4th cut - 'Race with the Devil' was fairly intense. When Diamola finally breaks loose the sounds from his Les Paul literally jump out from behind the speakers and fill the whole room.
Everything sounds great. Well, almost everything. As with my Anthem combo - movies still sound unimpressive. It sounds good as far as sound goes - but doesn't sound completely right. Music however, is nothing short of fabulous. If one thing sounds better than another - it is because of the source material and nothing more. Musically, this amp is a winner in a major way.
I have now gone from an Anthem Amp1/Pre1L tube combo, to a Bryston 3B-ST/BP-20 solid state combo - to this now AE-25 Super Amp stand alone unit all in less than a month.
I thought the Bryston combo sounded better than the Anthem combo because it was so clean, and it certainly seemed to be easier to listen to for longer periods of time - although the Anthem combo actually did image better. The Bryston combo never seemed to be able to push an image much past the front baffles of the speakers unless driven to the higher SPL's.
The AE-25 Super Amp sounds cleaner than the Bryston and pushes the image further out than the Anthem. On some source material the Super Amp wraps the image completely around you. It also sounds somewhat richer than the EL34 driven Anthem.
If it gets any better than this - I probably can't afford it.
I'm sure to have this amp for a very long time.
This message has been edited by deang on 03-02-2002 at 07:34 PM