QINPU A1.0X INTEGRATED AMP
100 watts per channel - solid state
One of Stereomojo’s stated goals is to bring to the attention of audiophiles new products that are not commonly reviewed by other publications. In addition, in our reviews we try to emulate the consumer’s experience as much as possible. Toward that end, when a product or company is very new, we may opt to do a unsolicited review, meaning the product is purchased at retail just as you would with the seller not informed that the product was purchased as the subject of a review. As far as they know, we’re just another customer.
Since we also are prone to hang out on audio boards such as Audio Asylum and Audiogon in order to keep abreast of what audiophiles are thinking and saying, it couldn’t help but be noticed that two Qinpu products were advertised heavily and regularly. One was the A8000 MKII at $1,695, which had been reviewed favorably quite a bit, and the A1.0x at $699 for which we could find no reviews.
A good candidate? We thought yes, so a Qinpu A-1.0X was purchased from Hawaii Audio for $699 plus shipping of $45.
The solid state Qinpu is rated at 100 wpc @ 8 ohms. As you can see in the picture, other than two oversized chrome colored knobs - one for volume the other for input selection and two other smaller knobs for bass & treble - the Qinpu A-1.0x is your basic black box. Note that the picture from Qinpu’s site has a yellowish “glow”, perhaps to suggest warmth, that makes the knobs appear a golden color. They are however, indeed chrome colored.
Note that a small button enables the user to bypass the bass & treble. There is also an on/off button, but no standby. A standard headphone jack is available in front.
The Qinpu has no phono section, so if you have a turntable you will need an additional preamp, and if you have a tape machine there are no loops available. There are four line inputs which should be adequate for most people and a stereo pre-out. There are only tone set of speaker terminals on the back of the cheapy plastic type, but the standard power cable is not captive in the event you would like to upgrade.
What you will notice immediately is that there is one single blue LED power indicator on the front panel. However, that one blue light is bright enough to light up a large room. If you install the amp at eye level it may be an annoyance. Or, if you listen in the dark as do I, the light will be a problem. I've never seen an electronic device with so piercingly bright a light. I called the vendor to see if there was a way to dim it or turn if off completely. I was told that others had complained about the light but there was currently no way to dim or extinguish it. I ended up putting a piece of black electrician's tape over it rather than risking a warranty violation of just clipping it from the inside.
The Qinpu A-1.0x does come with a remote control, but it's only function is volume up and down. It's very small, lightweight, plastic and flimsy feeling. It is also so thin that it kept disappearing into the space at the side of the chair’s cushion. If you want to change inputs or adjust bass & treble (there is no balance control on the remote or on the unit) you'll have to get up and do it manually.
Right out of the box the Qinpu A-1.0x was bright and congested with a very small soundstage. This is not unusual for a never-plugged-in-solid-state amp so I didn't panic. I left it running with a CD on repeat for a week since any new amp should never be judged before a full week of burn-in. It is critically important to point out that the seller’s policy is for a 10 day audition only. For an internet seller, this is treacherously short for the audiophile since the burn-in required will take up most of that time. Most reputable dealers offer at least a 30 day home trial which is much more realistic.
My first listening session began with a CD of Flim & the BB's Tricycle. This is a DMP recording with audiophile recording techniques. It is an extremely dynamic jazz CD with sudden and loud bursts or “hits” of piano, bass, guitar, sax, drums and synth. following very ppp passages – the jazz equivalent of Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony. The story goes that Pappa Haydn was annoyed by his aristocrat audiences falling asleep during his concerts, so he composed a symphony designed to wake them up with unexpected loud bursts. It has been reported that the royals didn’t appreciate the humor. Pappa Haydn was a real scamp. Who knew.
The amp handled the cut well with no signs of clipping or unusual distortion. The presentation was extremely detailed revealing seemingly high levels of resolution. Closed hi-hat taps, stuck out of the mix as did upper registers of the sax and bass. Snare drums snapped and kick drums, well, kicked. The soundstage was wide and deep, but tended to dissolve around the edges much like a TV screen set to channel with only noise. The hash you see in the center is usually pretty sharp, but as you get closer to the edges the visual noise loses focus and becomes a bit ragged.
I’m not sure what “Qinpu” means translated from the Chinese, but perhaps it should be “hyper” because two characteristics jumped out at me. The first was speed. It seemed to grab onto leading edges of percussion and bass quicker than most which added to the sense of detail. Initially, that was a good impression.
The other signature was overall brightness. The well recorded piano had a brittle quality in the upper end, not only in the fundamental frequencies, but also in the overtone or harmonics progression. I double checked the treble knob, but it was centered and bypassed, so the brightness was not attributable to that.
On to female vocal If an amp can't get voices right, it's a non-starter for me. My designated female demo is Linda Ronstadt's "Cry Like A Rainstorm...". No, it’s not an officially sanctioned “audiophile” production, but if a component cannot reproduce standard issue recordings that represent the vast majority of releases, of what value is it? This title features Aaron Neville on a few cuts, so there is a male vocal to boot as soloist and in duets. In addition, the Beach Boys do a wonderful backup on “Adios” that when rendered well is exquisite.
The titles are full of emotional content. Songs that make you feel something. Grief is represented in the poignant “Goodbye My Friend”, sexiness in “Trouble Again” and “So Right, So Wrong (So Good), and probably one of the most heartbreaking tunes ever in Jimmy Webb’s “Shattered”. There’s classic R&B, power ballads, country and rockers, but mostly there is Ronstadt’s voice, capable of going from a silent whisper to full “belt” and back again in a matter of three words. There’s also a large gospel choir in attendance and full orchestra so the musical gamut is covered on just one CD.
Linda does contemporary pop/rock, country, classic rock as well as heart rending ballads. Producer Peter Asher varies each song dramatically from dry, punchy sounds to silky strings and oboes bathed in what might be the most beautiful, layered, lingering, floating, delicate reverb ever recorded. That reverb is also difficult to render and will separate a good component from a lesser one quickly. One can tell a great deal about an amp by how well the reverb trails are rendered in size, length, depth width and clarity. The Qinpu was no slouch in those areas, but the added coloration turned the golden warmness into more of a fluorescent starkness.
The Qinpu placed Linda’s vocal was very upfront and forward, her voice well in front of my monitors. Some might consider this an “in your face” presentation. Neville’s vocal gymnastics were similar and nicely separated from Linda’s when they sang in unison - not an easy feat for any amp. But still that sense of a tilted up mid to upper high end was there.
Let’s see what it does with vinyl.
On “Witches’ Brew” (RCA LSC2225), the trumpets, French horns, and trombones sounded very brassy and metallic. The problem is, so did the strings and woodwinds. Once again the hall ambience was cast in an unnatural sheen rather than an organic richness. One might even say the sound was more CDish than analogue.
I continued to throw recording after recording at the amp with the same results. Basses and violins that were plucked rather than bowed (pizzicato) sounded as if a plastic pick was being used instead of human fingers, but the pick was very dynamic with lots of “pop”.
Overall, the sound was more mechanical than musical, but even worse it was found to be fatiguing and not conducive to extended listening sessions.
Sometimes our "Specific Recommendation" can be positive or negative. In all honesty, we really cannot recommend this amp. Even at $700 we think you would be better off with something from Cambridge, Onix as sold by AV123.com, or how about a tube/ss hybrid? Check out the JD 1501RC by Jolida.
Output:100 watts x 2 (8 ohms)160 watts x 2 (4 ohms) Signal to noise ratio: over 93dB Frequency response: 20Hz to 20kHz +/- 0.5 dbTotal harmonic distortion: 0.2%Damping factor: over 100Crosstalk: over 50dB @ 1kHzInput sensitivity: 500mVDimensions (L x W x H): 400 x 430 x 110 mm
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