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Review: AE-25 Super Amp


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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

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Dean, great review. Kind of says it all.

Mine doesn't have the volume knob or oil caps, but I am running it off the AE-3 preamp and it's very, very nice. The Chinese tubes were pretty edgey-sounding with the super-sensitive Khorns, so I've put CBS 5692's on the pre, Svetlana EL-34's in place of the Chinese KT-88's, Mullards in the 6922 sockets and Slyvania clear-tops in the remaining. Much smoother sound, although I picked up some mortite today for the squawkers, which still appear to be ringing somewhat.

Wife loves the look of the amp, but she thinks she likes the system in the family room better ... I said, "Honey, there are SIX speakers in there ... and this is pure-tube, two channel ..." She said, "Well, you've spoiled me and turned me into a snob Smile.gif"

Anyway, a great amp's come home to roost!


If you don't like what is coming out, you wouldn't like what is going in." -PWK-



AES AE-25 "Superamp"

AES AE-3 Pre-amp

New Tube 4000 CD Player

1976 Klipschorns (ALK'ed)


Klipsch 1968 ALK Cornwall "II"s (LF/RF)

ALK Belle Klipsch (Center)

Klipsch Heresy (RR/LR)

Klipsch KSW-12 sub

Sonic Frontiers Anthem AMP1 (driving Cornwalls)

Sonic Frontiers Anthem AMP1 (driving Heresy's)

Denon AVR-4800

Toshiba SD-3109 DVD

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Lordy, even I didnt think it would do too well with that initial music selection! Nice job with the review. Also, you hit upon another benefit from the audio fiend world: They take care of the equipment!

From the sound of those RCA inputs they are Kimber. I ended up going to with the phono, CD, and outs on my Cary preamp. It's a great RCA. Dennis Had loves these as well and throws them in on upgrades if you request it.

You will get much better sound with better KT-88 so at least you can look forward to that. I would not think that amp would be the top for head banging delight but it's good to see it attempted to hold its own!


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'Metal' is just like other music in that it sounds better if the midrange is done right.

It's also true that Metal doesn't have to played at ear blistering levels to sound good or to enjoy it. As a matter of fact - it sounds better if it's NOT played too loud.

Back in the late 70's my best friend's brother was doing the 'High End' thing while studying Botony at Oxford University here in Ohio. We would go over to his apartment and listen to his SAE separates and Old Advents - this, while everyone else I knew was buying Cerwin Vegas.

Listening to his system was like an 'event'. Lights out, and a big fat one. He would barely turn up the system. We used to give him such a hard time. He would go off on us about all that "intermodulation distortion". We thought he was nuts.

Years later I heard some Quads and thought they sounded just like those Advents in that apartment!!

At any rate - I got used to listening to Babe Ruth, Edgar Winter Group, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, and the rest at very low volume levels.

I think Metal sounds awesome when you get everything just right.

No one here will agree with me - but the Reference Series has very much in common with those Old Advents. They both have a full, rich midrange with a wide open sound.

There was another line of speakers that I felt had much in common with the magic of the Old Advents. Those folks were A/D/S. Sure, they had the ubiqutous plastic dome tweeter - but they sounded very fine.

I'm currently eyeing a pair of 1992 A/D/S M1590's and am seriously thinking about picking them up and putting them on the Bryston and a Sonic Frontiers SFL1 I have coming next week.

I wanted these speakers 10 years ago but could not afford them at $2600. So I went with the $1500 Magnepan 1.5's. Now those same M1590's are $1000 on AudiogoN and they are mint and 15 miles from my house. It would be an intersting contrast to the sound of the RF7's and Super Amp.



This message has been edited by deang on 03-02-2002 at 06:26 PM

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I agree with you about the volume level...yet I find myself wanting to reach semi-live levels if really letting go. But the sound of good guitar doenst need it.

Funny you mentioned Advents and ADS. I used to own both and still have a pair of ADS 200 which were the small metal case speakers that housed the same tweeter as their larger brethren. I owned the ADS L-620 for over 12 years before I sold them to my brother. He still uses those swine. They did very well on rock with Adcom and the like. One had to be a bit weary of the tweeter ...they tend to run a bit hot on top. I blew about four of them until I got hip and installed a 2amp fuse instead of the 2.5amp. Then the fuse would go during that Hendrix instead of the $50 tweeter!

Christ, I blew those babies many times in High School! The Advents struck me as a warmer sounding speaker with not as extended highs but very, very rich as you said.


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I don't really understand what benefit there is in using it (standby) because the amp is just as hot with it on as it is with it off.

I didn't get a manual with it and so don't really understand what it is doing.

I also just found out the following:

"FWIW--regarding the Standby switch--Kirk at Cary, told me that they found leaving the amp in Standby was actually harder on the tubes. He said that it is okay to have the amp in the Standby mode when first turning it on--just don't leave on Standby for long periods at a time."

So what should I do - just power the amp off when I'm not using it? I listen every day for 2 or 3 hours - so I have been leaving it on.

That popping doesn't really stress the tweeter does it? I mean, if it does - then you better give me your mailing address so I can this thing to you so you can fix it cwm35.gif



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I thought I posted a whole piece on the positives of the standby somewhere in here? It surely is less wear on the tubes when powering it up with the standby engaged and allowing the amp to warm up for two-three minutes before you flip the standby. The is far better than dumpoing the full voltage on startup especially since you dont have the soft start qualities of tube rectification.

As for leaving it on all the time, I would compromise here and leave it on for most of the time if you plan on listening to it off and on during the day. Surely do not turn the unit off and on every time you listen as this REALLY puts a strain on the valves and circuitry. I dont have a standby on my amps that have tube rectification but do on my EL-34 amp with SS rectifiers.

I go though stages of leaving my amps on for days at a time depending. Then again, I listen to music close to 12 hours a day sometimes more and sometimes less. My 2A3 amps stay on for a week at a time after which I turn them off for 8 hours or so. Heat is the killer of all things audio but turn on surges are brutal on tubes (and engines).

I dont think the popping will harm anything but it is annoying depending on how bad it is.


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