INTRODUCTION

 

First, let me thank the companies that sent their amplifiers for this shootout. It takes a lot of confidence in their products and trust in Stereomojo’s integrity and honesty for them to participate. We would also like to thank those readers who donated their personal property to be part of the test. Stereomojo encourages input from our readers on all levels because we exist to serve you – our fellow audio enthusiasts.

Special thanks also to those

who gave so unselfishly of their time to participate as judges, including the Stereomojo staff. Art Smuck and his lovely wife Kathy deserve singular thanks for their gracious hosting of the event. And last but not least, very special thanks to guru Danny Richie and GR Research for the inspiration and perspiration of organizing and co-ordinating the daunting logistics of such a massive undertaking. Our heartiest gratitude and congratulations for a job well done.

We at Stereomojo understand that there are flaws inherent in a single blind type test,

just as there are in any type of evaluation. As you will see, every possible step was taken to make sure the shootout was as fair and scientific as possible. Components of the highest caliber were used as a reference system to aid in the evaluations. Even so, we believe that the best test is your own ears in your own home in your own system. As with any test or review, it should be used as just one piece of your overall buying decision. We think the more honest and unbiased information a buyer has, the better equipped he is to make important decisions.

Lastly, the publisher, partly by time and cost constraints and partly by design, did not attend the actual shootouts which took place over two consecutive weekends in Texas. This allows me to read, evaluate and comment on the results without bias since I will read them exactly as if I were you - the reader.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome and encouraged.

James L. Darby

Publisher - Stereomojo

The setup

 

Methodology

by Art Smuck

Two rounds of listening to every amplifier were used to draw down to a final four, which then led to a final pairing, and as expected, a preferred amplifier at the end of the day

All amplifiers were assigned an identifying letter for each round of the competition

Blind draws were made for the first round and then the letters segregated so as not to repeat match-ups in the second round.

Prior to the second round all amplifiers were assigned a new letter and once again blind draws made for pairings.  This was intended to prevent reviewers from keying in on a specific letter of amp and then making assumptions about it in the following rounds.

When the field was narrowed down to 4 amps, they were again assigned new letters and the final two pairings were again blind drawn.

The two finalists were again assigned new letters.

During the first two rounds a win was worth one point, a tie worth zero points, and a loss resulted in a deduction of one point.  Criteria for an amp moving ahead to the final four were overall points.  As we had an odd number of judges for the Integrated, there were no ties on head-to-head, and any ties to get into the final four were determined by a head to head shootout.  This did occur for 2 amps, they were compared using the same music, and one was selected to move into the final four.  For power amps, we had an even number of judges, and while there were ties in head-to-head matches, there were no total score ties at the end so the final four was clear-cut.

Judges were asked to listen in silence, did not discuss the amplifiers in between plays or rounds, and were asked to comment on the following in their note taking:

 

A 4’ high tarp was strung between the speakers and supported by 2 rigid fiberglass tubes in the middle; there was zero visibility for the reviewers as to what was being played.

As a secondary precaution, during switching of cables between amplifiers a double switch was made so no one would be able to listen for specific sounds related to any type of binding posts, power cords or connectors.

All amplifiers, unless otherwise instructed by their user guide, were left running warmed up for 24 hours prior to the listening events.

All amplifiers were used with one of two types of power connection – if it came with a wall-wart style plug or fixed cord that was what was used, if it came with a detachable cord all used the Volex 17604 power cord

The same speaker cables and interconnects were used every time.

All amps were evaluated while drawing power off a dedicated 15amp line with nothing else plugged into it.  Front ends were all powered on a separate dedicated line, as were the amps on standby and in warm up.

While being compared to another amp, all amplifiers were kept warm between uses by staying plugged in and powered up on a separate circuit using a 100kOhm resistor

Three selections of music were listened to for reviewing purposes.

They were selected for containing dynamics, vocals, frequency extension, complexity, and spatial cues.  All selections were level set at 75-76 db as a base for comparison with peak db into the low and mid 80’s depending on source material.

The judges listened to all the selections a few times prior to commencing the reviewing using an amplifier not being reviewed.

Different selections were used each weekend to prevent the facilitator and reviewers from going insane listening to the same selections repeatedly over two weekends.

Since we all had some experience with shootouts, we decided to not play all three selections on one amp and rely on memory for how they sounded as the next amp went through the same lineup.  We switched between amps on each selection as follows to allow for closest comparisons in performance:

Song 1 – Amp A

Song 1 – Amp B

Song 2 – Amp B

Song 2 – Amp A

Song 3 – Amp A

Song 3 – Amp B

Reviewers could, and did, ask to hear some parts of selections again to allow for follow up on an amp.

Finally, after listening and completing their notes, a show of hands vote was taken and the scoring validate against their sheets to capture results.

All specifications listed are by the provider.

 


 - About the reference speakers –

 

The reference speakers used for the shootout are prototypes of the most hotly anticipated speakers in recent memory – the AV123 LS6. Due to be released soon, the speakers have already sold hundreds by way of preorders – people buying them without ever hearing them. For good reason – our own Technical Editor Danny Richie is the designer. Danny has reputation as being one of the most brilliant designers in the industry and has a track record of producing insanely great speakers at insanely great prices.
 

 

INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER SHOOTOUT

(The power amplifier shootout was held seperately.

See the link at page bottom)

 

- Songs used: -

“Azul” from the disc “Gravity” by Jesse Cook

“March to the Scaffold” from “Symphonie Fantastique” by

Berlioz  as conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

 

“Eric’s Song” from the disc “Waking Hour” by Vienna Teng

 

- The Contenders -

 

 

 

 

Round 1 Match up

Sonneteer Vs. Panasonic

 

SONNETEER BRONTE

Class D

150watts per ch.into 4ohms

Includes remote control

DC and overload protection

>90% efficiency.

LIST: $2,295



Panasonic SAXR-55

Class D

This unit is a HOME THEATER RECEIVER rather than an integrated amplifier. As such, it provides 7 channels of power,

a tuner and all the bells and whistles associated with video reproduction and DSP. Includes remote.

Output Power - Stereo Mode 100W per channel (20Hz - 20kHz, 6 ohms, 0.09% THD)

LIST: $299


Sonneteer Strength Comments

 

Sonneteer weakness comments

 

Preferred Sonneteer because:

 

Panasonic Strength comments

 

Panasonic weakness comments

 

Preferred Panasonic because:

 

Sonneteer is preferred by a vote of 4 to 3

1 reviewer noted this was a very difficult decision and he would be happy with either

Publisher’s note – The Panasonic is a full Home Theater Receiver with gobs of video and DSP involved- and a tuner.

It also is capable of full digital input. In addition, the Panasonic has seven channels of amplification.

 

Round 1 Match up #2

NuForce vs Sonic Impact Super-T

 

NuForce IA-7

Class D

Power Output:100W x 2 with 24,000uF of capacitance using 200W SMPS

Power Bandwidth: 100Hz to 20kHz +/- 0.3 dB; 20Hz -0.9 dB; 80kHz -3 dB

THD+N < 0.05% from 20Hz to 20kHz @ 10W, 8-ohm load

Damping Factor > 4000 at any audio frequency

Remote input selection and volume control with memory (last selection, volume level)

Digitally-controlled switched attenuator. Volume Range: +30dB to –70dB with 0.5dB steps

Audio Inputs:  4 sets of RCA inputs (1 set can be configured as pre-out)

Audio Outputs: 1 set of RCA preamp output jacks (only 3 sets of RCA inputs are available if this is configured)

Speaker Binding Posts accept spade lugs or banana plugs 

LIST: $1,195

 

NuForce strength comments:

NuForce weakness comments:

 

Preferred NuForce because:

Sonic Impact Super T

Class T

REAR CONNECTORS: 1) Left and Right audio input channels. DC 12V in for wall adapter or optional portable power supply. Left and Right audio output channels.CONTROL PANEL: 1) Power Button: Power on or power off the Super T Amp. 2) Blue Led: The Led on/off indicates power on/off. 3) Volume control knob Class-T architecture Single Supply Operation; High Power; Single Supply Operation 15W @4 Ohm,10% THD+N

Audiophile Quality Sound 10W @ 8 Ohm,10% THD+N; 0.04% THD+N @ 9W,4 Ohm; High Efficiency; 0.18% IHF-IM @ 1W,4 Ohm 81% @ 5W,4 Ohm; 11W @ 4 Ohm,0.1% THD+N 88% @ 10W,8 6W @ 8 Ohm,0.1% THD+N; Dynamic Range=98dB

PRICE:$139

 

Sonic Impact strength comments:

 

Sonic Impact weakness comments:

 

Preferred Sonic Impact because:

 

NuForce is preferred by a vote of 4 to 3

2 reviewers noted difficulty in deciding due to close performance

Publisher’s note – the Super T has 10 watts of output per channel vs. the NuForce’s 100. The Super T’s volume was maxed out while the NuForce was probably barely idling.


 

 

Round 1 Match up #3

Onkyo A-9555 vs. Little Dot

 

ONKYO A-9555

Exclusive Vector Linear (VL) Digital technology /Optimum Gain Volume Circuitry / Pure Stream Power Supply / All discrete output stage circuitry / Low-impedance, thick bus plateAudiophile-grade capacitor / Precision motor-driven volume control / Tone control (Bass, Treble, Loudness On/Off) / Pure direct mode / Discrete phono equalizer circuitry6 audio inputs and 2 outputs / Phono input / High-rigidity, anti-resonant chassis / Aluminum volume and selector knobs / Speaker A/B posts / Banana plug-compatible speaker posts / Headphone jack / Heavy-duty power cord (inlet type) / Compatible with Remote Interactive Dock for the iPod / RI (Remote Interactive) remote control

AMPLIFIER SECTION - Power Output 85 W/Ch (8 ohms, 0.5 %, FTC) / Dynamic Power 230 W + 230 W (3 ohms, Front) 200 W + 200 W (4 ohms, Front) / 120 W + 120 W (8 ohms, Front)Total Harmonic Distortion 0.08 % / Damping Factor 25 (Front, 1 kHz, 8 ohms) / Input Sensitivity and Impedance - Phono MM 2.5 mV/50 k-ohms / CD 200 mV/50 k-ohms

$799 LIST

Onkyo strength comments:

 

Onkyo weakness comments:

 

Preferred Onkyo because:

 

 

Little Dot T 100

Class T

 

• Based on the Tripath TA2022 Class T • Continuous Maximum Output: 2x100W @ 4 ohms, 2x60 @ 8 ohms • Frequency Response: 9 hz - 93 Khz (+/- 5db) • THD+N: 0.02% • Micro-chip switching from four different sources • 0 to -63 digital volume control (degree of distortion < 0.002%) • Samsung digital (VFD) display • Speaker surge protection: 200VA • Infrared remote control • Dimensions: 14"L x 10'W x 3"H • Weight: 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs) • Includes Upgraded Tube Pre-stage PCB with EF92/CV131 vacuum tubes

• Price: $399

 

Little Dot strength comments:

 

Little Dot weakness comments:

 

Preferred Little Dot because:

 

Onkyo is preferred by a vote of 5 to 2

2 reviewers noted difficulty in deciding due to close performance

Publisher’s note – I wonder how good the Onkyo’s phono section is…


 

 

Round 1 Match up #4

Trends Micro vs. Flying Mole

Trends Audio TA-10

Class T

 

Output Power2 x 15W @ 4ohm 2 x 10W @ 8ohm

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) 98dB

Dynamic Range 98dB

IHF-IM Distortion 0.10% @ 1W, 4ohm

THD+Noise0.03% @ 9W, 4ohm 0.1% @ 11W 4ohm 0.1% @ 6W 8ohm 10% @ 15W 4ohm 10% @ 10W 8ohmInput

Audio IN RCA (Left/Right) x 1

Output

Speaker OUT (Left) x 1 pair (+ / -)

Speaker OUT (Right) x 1 pair (+ / -)

Power Supply

DC 12V~13.2V(max.)

PRICE: $129.95

 

  

Trends strength comments:

 

Trends weakness comments:

 

Preferred Trends because:

 

Flying Mole CAS-10 Integrated

CLASS D

 

100 Watts per channel dual mono design

Rated Output

100W ×2 / 8Ohms

160W ×2 / 4Ohms

T.H.D.0.05% ?@50W/8Ohms/1kHz?

Frequency Characteristics

DC -20kHz? +0dB/-0.5dB??/ 8Ohms?

DC -50kHz? +0dB/-3dB??/ 8Ohms?

Channel Separation

>70dB ?20kHz?

S/N Ratio120 dB (Revised Input Short)

Residual Noise25 μV Input Sensitivity

PRICE: $1,795

 

Flying Mole strength comments:

 

Flying Mole weakness comments:

 

Preferred Flying Mole because:

Trends is preferred by a vote of 6 to 1

3 reviewers noted difficulty in deciding due to close performance

Publisher’s note – The Trends has only one input and no remote. Does the Mole come with remote?

As with the Super T, the Trends was run wide open. The Mole has much more power if that is a consideration for you.


 

THIS IS THE END OF ROUND ONE

ROUND 2 BEGINS


 

Round 2 Match up #1

Sonneteer Vs. Onkyo

 

Sonneteer Strength Comments

 

Sonneteer weakness comments

 

Preferred Sonneteer because:

 

Onkyo Strength comments

 

Onkyo weakness comments

 

Preferred Onkyo because:

 

Onkyo is preferred by a vote of 3 to 2

3 reviewers noted this was a very close decision

 

Publisher’s note -

Just wondering – was the Sonneteer broken in enough? Description sounds like it could have used more time.

We know the Onkyo was used quite a bit by it’s owner who loaned it to us.

 


 

 

Round 2 Match up #2

Sonic Impact vs. Trends

 

Sonic Impact strength comments:

 

Sonic Impact weakness comments:

 

Preferred Sonic Impact because:

 

Trends strength comments:

 

Trends weakness comments:

 

Preferred Trends because:

 

Trends is preferred by a vote of 3 to 2

1 reviewer noted difficulty in deciding due to close performance

 

Publisher’s note -

Oooo..what a squeaker! Descriptions of both reveal the shortcomings of limited output, I think.

  

 

Round 2 Match up #3

Little Dot vs. Flying Mole

 

Little Dot strength comments:

 

Little Dot weakness comments:

 

Preferred Little Dot because:

 

Flying Mole strength comments:

 

Flying Mole weakness comments:

 

Preferred Flying Mole because:

 

Little Dot is preferred by a vote of 3 to 2

3 reviewers noted difficulty in deciding due to close performance


 

 

Round 2 Match up #4

NuForce vs. Panasonic

 

NuForce strength comments:

 

NuForce weakness comments:

 

Preferred NuForce because:

 

Panasonic strength comments:

 

Panasonic weakness comments:

 

Preferred Panasonic because:

NONE

 

NuForce is preferred by a vote of 5 to 0

 


Overall Scorecard after Two Rounds

Win = +1 point / Tie = 0 points / Loss = (1) point

 

INTEGRATED

Round 1

Round 2

Overall

Trends

1

1

2

Onkyo

1

1

2

NuForce

1

1

2

Sonneteer

1

-1

0

Little Dot

-1

1

0

Flying Mole

-1

-1

-2

Sonic Impact

-1

-1

-2

Panasonic

-1

-1

-2

Trends, Onkyo and NuForce all move on to the Final Four. 

There was a runoff session to determine the final member, due to a tie between the Little Dot and Sonneteer.


 

Runoff Session Match up

Sonneteer Vs. Little Dot

 

Sonneteer Strength Comments

 

Sonneteer weakness comments

 

Preferred Sonneteer because:

 

Little Dot Strength comments

 

Little Dot weakness comments

 

Preferred Little Dot because:

 

Little Dot is preferred by a vote of 5 to 0

1 reviewer noted this was a very difficult decision


THE FINAL FOUR

Semi-Final Match up

The excitement builds!

NuForce vs. Onkyo

 

NuForce strength comments:

 

NuForce weakness comments:

 

Preferred NuForce because:

 

Onkyo strength comments:

 

Onkyo weakness comments:

 

Preferred Onkyo because:

 

 

Onkyo is preferred by a vote of 3 to 2

The reviewers would later discuss how difficult this choice was, both amps sounded very good and the margin of difference was negligible

 

Publisher’s note – We know that the NuForce is very touchy when it comes to reliability – one failed on us and had to be replaced. The manual is replete with cautions about things NOT to do or you will damage it. I personally know nothing about the Onkyo in this regard. Someone wanna read the manual? Just a FYI, FWIW.


 

 

Semi-Final Match Up

 

Trends vs. Little Dot

Trends strength comments:

 

Trends weakness comments:

 

Preferred Trends because:

 

Little Dot strength comments:

 

Little Dot weakness comments:

 

Preferred Little Dot because:

 

Trends is preferred by a vote of 3 to 2

Again, all the reviewers noted difficulty in deciding due to very close performance

 

Publisher’s note –Just some observations: Interesting that both are Tripath based. The LD has 60 wpc vs. 10 for the Trends, 4 inputs vs. 1 and includes a remote where the Trends does not. The LD also comes with a tube pre-stage. I wonder if the panel knew all that if the result would be different. Good subject for discussion on Audio Circle!

 


FINAL MATCHUP

Trends vs. Onkyo

Trends strength comments:

 

Trends weakness comments:

 

Preferred Trends because:

 

Onkyo strength comments:

 

Onkyo weakness comments:

 

Preferred Onkyo because:

 

Trends is preferred by a vote of 4 to 1

 

 

 

 

TRENDS Link

Congratulations !

As winner of the INTEGRATED AMP shootout

The TRENDS MICRO TA 10.1

is awarded our

 

Publisher’s comments

This is not to minimize the Trend’s well-deserved victory, but our first allegiance is to our readers, so a small “heads up” is in order here.  I know many of you may be tempted to order the Trends right away, but bear in mind some things before you do:

First, the Trends was run wide open – volume all the way up to achieve the 74db baseline.

If you like to listen to at anything above moderate levels in anything larger than a small room, you should take this into consideration.

There is no headphone jack.

Also, there is no remote control.

The Trends has only 1 input. If you have more than one source, you will be changing cables quite a bit.

If those factors work for you, go for it!

Trends Audio Link

A full review of the Trends is now in progress.

Discussion of this shootout:

GR Research Forum at Audio Circle

 James Darby

 

NEXT UP…The POWER AMP SHOOTOUT!

Click to go there now