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May 2014
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Temple Audio Monoblock Amplifiers
Light in weight, strong in performance.
Review By Clive Meakins

 

Temple Audio Monoblock Amplifiers  This is not just another T-amp review. For starters the Temple Audio Monoblock amplifiers are not strictly T-amps as they are not designed for Tripath silicon. Maybe the 'T' in class T means Temple in this case so this could be a T-amp review after all! I used both Monoblock and Stereo versions of the Temple Audio amplifiers but focused mainly on the Monoblocks. The intent behind this article to relay some real world experience about getting the best out of these mini-powerhouses and to cover the power options I tried. I can't promise that in your system you'll hear exactly what I heard but it will give some pointers as to what you can try for yourself.

Just about everyone will be familiar with T-amps - amplifiers based around Tripath chips. Tripath folded in 2007 though supplies of the chips are still available, it's not clear if someone is still producing the Tripath silicon range as supply is plentiful. Temple Audio takes their own route by using an Analogue Devices chip at the heart of their amplifiers. Another unusual Temple Audio aspect is that these amplifiers are not sourced from the Far East; they are developed and manufactured in the UK including locally produced powder coated metalwork and high quality circuit boards.

The Monoblocks are not surprisingly only available as power amps; they are priced at £329.99 (around $532 USD) for a pair. There is a Stereo amplifier version named the Bantam Gold, this is available with volume control for £189.99 (around $306) or without volume control for £179.99 (around $290). All amplifiers are single input and at these prices come with a switched mode power supply but they can be purchased for a small saving without the power supply. According to Temple Audio the switched mode power supplies are very carefully chosen for low noise and good power delivery.

The stereo Bantam Gold is rated at 25 Watts per channel with 0.005% distortion running from a 15 Volt power supply. It has two input sensitivities; the low sensitivity setting is 1V for full output with the high sensitivity setting being 125mV. The Monoblocks run off 18V and are rated at 40 Watts @ 0.005% distortion; they are implemented to give greater power than the stereo amplifier and for their party trick they can drive loads as low as 2 Ohms, Quad ESL owners take note! Some monoblock T-amps are simply one channel of a stereo chip; Temple goes the extra mile by properly paralleling the two channels on the chip. The Monoblock has four input sensitivity levels with the lowest and the highest settings being the same as those of the Bantam Gold, so the Monoblocks have an extra two settings between the Gold's two extremes. The amplifiers are sensibly optimized for a 6 Ohm load. The amplifiers are very diminutive and solid too. The chassis is powder coated and hard wearing, the Monoblocks are a little smaller than the Gold.

The objective was to run a few configurations of the Temple Audio amplifiers with my high sensitivity open baffle speakers and well as with some more "normal" speakers. I've run the stereo Bantam Gold on and off for around a year, comparing it to a 300B SE amplifier equipped with fabled Western Electric tubes. I compared the Temples with some other tube and solid-state amplifiers I had to hand but the 300B amplifiers I feel are the most useful comparison . The equipment I had available was:

Two Monoblock amplifiers
Two Bantam Gold stereo amplifiers (power amplifier version)
Two  Temple Audio 18V switched mode power supplies
Two  Temple Audio 15V switched mode power supplies
Ordo (Muse) linear power supply
Two  sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries , 7Ah each + chargers

As you can see from the above list that I had quite a number of combinations to try.

 

Supplying The Power
First up are the standard switched mode power supplies. Temple tell me they very carefully select their switched mode power supplies. This class of devices often gets a bad press as the worst of them are unreliable and they can generate lots of radio frequency interference. The best switched mode power supplies can be rather good so we mustn't pre-judge the Temple ones. Using the Monoblocks with their 18V power supply gave very good results with a rich and detailed sound; results I'd have been happy to live with but of course had more options to try. The Bantam Gold amplifier with its matching 15V power supply gave very good results too, if the power supply had been of the nasty variety I would have expected to be greeted with a bright, tizzy sound. The sound was rich and full sounding and if anything it was a little laid back. Swapping the 15V and 18V power supplies around told me the 18V power supply is the better one but both give good results.

Time now to experiment with non-standard power supplies. I had been using the stereo Bantam Gold on and off for over a year, this was mostly with the Ordo linear regulated power supply which has an adjustable regulator which will reach around 14V. The Ordo made the sound lusher with improved soundstage and better resolution so this was perfect in my mind…but my mind does tend to wonder what other possibilities exist. One possibility I didn't get to try was a non-regulated linear supply. You can DIY this easily with a hefty transformer, hi-spec diodes and capacitors. One thing to watch is that the power supply outputs the intended voltage. The transformer you choose has a big impact on the final voltage due to its regulation specification so please to be careful to research this if you go down this route. Two transformers with the same secondary voltage specification can give quite different voltages if their regulation specification differs; the final voltage depends on the load they see. Don't exceed 18V supplying a Bantam Gold or Monoblocks, I believe the absolute maximum for the chip is 20V but this is based on Temple's experience, there will be no warranty for over 18V.

Being really rather content with the Ordo regulated linear power supply I hadn't got around to trying battery power until quite some time had passed. I should have tried this fairly well trodden path much sooner. I bought myself a couple of YUASA NP7-12 sealed lead-acid (SLA) 12V batteries. To these I attached a flying leads with 3 Ampere fuse and the required 2.1mm DC plug, the centre of which is the positive connection.

Running now with the SLA batteries (one per amplifier) I gained resolution and yet more authority and presence. If there was a downside it was that any nasties such as spittyness or harsh strings became more apparent. It's not that they are emphasized; it's simply that there is a greater clarity so harshness on recordings can be more exposed. You can have a lower resolution "nice" sound with a lesser power supply or go with SLA battery to hear what a recording is really made of. SLA battery is without doubt my choice and is what I used for the rest of my listening. I found that one battery per amplifier was better than sharing a battery between amplifiers, my guess with that one battery per amplifier keeps grounds apart and this provides a benefit though this will be system dependent. Note that if you need the full 40W of the Monoblocks you will need to provide them with a full 18V, not the 12V of typical SLAs. 18V is possible with batteries but it will take some hunting around to find suitable batteries.

 

The Amplifiers
As an act of fairness I initially compared the stereo Bantam Gold (instead of Monoblocks) to some of the stereo competition. Put up against a couple of amplifiers (Arjen TA2020 mkIII and Topping TP20 mkII) with the Tripath TA2020 chip the Bantam Gold came across as more refined and grown up. The TA2020 amplifiers could perhaps initially seem more exciting but extended listening shows up too much edge and steeliness with the Topping and to a lesser extent with the Arjen which also exhibited a little too much forwardness. The TA2020 amplifiers certainly have a place in the system that needs a little spicing up. Plenty of people use Tripath-based amplifiers with good speakers and are very happy with them, having heard several such amplifiers I find I prefer the more refined Bantam Gold with its Analogue Devices ADAU1592 chip.

The signature of the Bantam Gold and Monoblock configurations was consistent but that's not to say they sound the same; they didn't. Comparing my 300B SE monoblocks I felt these were a little more expressive and smoother in the mid-range than single Bantam Gold. The 300B tubes in use were Western Electric so the Bantam Gold had some really stiff competition, indeed it doesn't get much tougher. In terms of cost I should point out that the 300B amplifiers had within them capacitors each costing about the same about one stereo Bantam Gold. A similar 300B amplifier purchased today would cost around $2000 to $3000 with WE300Bs costing several hundred dollars on top of that, then you have the exotic capacitors. A similar specification 300B amplifier to mine would easily set you back $4000.

The Bantam Golds should be thought as more neutral sounding than the pleasantly euphonic 300Bs. For the mid-range there's arguably a small victory for the 300Bs but this depends on whether you're happy with some euphony versus neutrality. In the bass department there's clear water between the amplifiers with the Bantam Gold easily being the winner with deeper, tighter, more dynamic and fuller sounding bass. This was a resounding victory for the Bantam Gold. The treble was pretty much a dead heat with both being wispy when required and accurate sounding. In terms of mid-range and treble resolution there was little to choose between the amplifiers but in the bass there was significantly greater resolution and texture displayed by the stereo Bantam Gold amplifier.

 

Stereo Amplifiers Bi-Amp'ed
Now we move onto bi-amp'ing; note this is passive bi-amp'ing as there is no line-level crossover involved. Both amplifiers see a full range input signal but are only asked to deliver current where across the range the individual loudspeaker drivers operate over. In my case this corresponds to something like 50 Hz to 10 kHz for the "wideband" driver and 6 kHz to 20 kHz for the tweeter allowing for some overlap between drivers. Bi-amp'ing has a downside in that it gets a little complex in terms of cabling up the amplifiers. For interconnects you need 2 sets and possibly phono splitters if you don't have enough outputs on your preamp.

The gains I heard due to bi-amp'ing with two stereo amps were obvious in my setup, there was greater resolution, I could hear deeper into the mix, and there was also a greater authority and presence. The downside is that the extra resolution can be brutally revealing so be careful what you wish for; the ultimate in resolution is great with excellent recordings but I have plenty of great music which is less than greatly recorded. Considering the low cost of these amplifiers it is sensible to try bi-amp'ing. If you end up with a spare amplifier I'm sure you'll find a use for it. You could easily spend a load more money buying an interconnect or mains cable for far less benefit.

 

Monoblock Amplifiers
Time now to move to the Monoblocks. These 40 Watt amplifiers, as with their stereo brothers are optimized for 6 ohm loads, which is a most sensible specification. Due to the twin channels on the chip being paralleled the amplifier is perfectly happy with a low 2 Ohm load, which is something most T-amps can't even dream about. Temple tell me they have very satisfied customers using Quad ESLs, indeed the Monoblocks' 40W output power and low impedance drive capabilities should make this a great ESL match. Not having Quads to hand I used three sets of speakers; Bastanis Atlas open baffles, Alpair 12P based open baffles and Visaton Topaz which are more conventional box speaker yet they are somewhere between ported and transmission line. The Visatons are have low sensitivity, around 82dB/W/m and use a high quality metal cone bass mid driver and magnetostat tweeter. The rest of the system comprised The MQn experimental WAV player on Windows 8.1, a Metrum Octave mkII DAC with iFi iPowerUSB, Trans-Fi Salvation record deck with the recent magnetic bearing upgrade and my trusty London Reference cartridge. I used various phono stages and the preamp was the Bent Audio AVC-1.

A lot of enthusiasts will have heard Tripath TA2020 based amplifiers so it's useful to contrast the Temple Audio Monoblocks with what I regard as the house sound for the low-cost versions of the T-amps in relatively standard guise. The TA2020 amplifiers I find can work rather well with what I would characterize as slightly lazy speakers, the TA2020s spice these up with their inherent speed and attack. In absolute terms my Visaton Topaz speakers are just a little relaxed and benefit somewhat from the TA2020 liveliness which bring attack to the leading edges of notes and impress with their transients. I find though even with the Topaz the TA2020 amps after a while sound over-hyped and strangely over-energetic, too much of a good thing. It's rather like being impressed by bright tweeters at a demo; after while you realize that long-term listening is going to be tiring. The TA2020 effect with my more transparent open baffle speakers was fun for a while with the Arjen being closer to my taste but even this was a little too intense. Of course there are speakers such amplifiers will synergize with well. Injecting the Temple Audio Monoblocks into my system fixed the over-hyped TA2020 sound; these Analogue Devices-based amplifiers are much more balanced and refined. Yes, they are still tight and fast with a remarkably solid bass too but thankfully these characteristics are within the bounds of what a good amplifier should sound like.

I found the Monoblocks a useful step up from the stereo Bantam Gold, they exhibit much the same personality but just more of it and if anything area richer listen plus being a little more direct sounding. The difference is not huge and in some systems the differences will not be noticeable. Comparing the Monoblocks to my 300B SE amplifiers with WE tubes it was clear the Monoblocks were more resolving and neutral with an impressively powerful and tighter bass. The Monos lost none to the texture of the tube amps either. Where I noticed the most difference between tubes and chips was in the soundscape & imaging. The tubes produced bigger individual images with extra presence but lost out in terms of resolution. Some of the Monoblocks' speed was missing with the tubes but I felt this wasn't a big issue. I found that my tube phono stages worked better with the 300B power amplifier and the solid-state iFi iPhono and Ray Samuels Nighthawk phono stages gelled better with the Temple Audio Monoblocks.

 

The Result
If you want the most palpable images go with all tube; if you want vibrant, detailed and precise sounds go with all solid-state. I didn't find mixing solid-state and tube was very successful in that it didn't play to the strengths of either solid-state or tube. That's what I concluded but of course there's a lot more kit out there to try so I don't propose that my findings will be valid in all cases. When starting out with the Temple Audio amplifiers I suggest you use their inexpensive power supplies then try batteries; use the batteries for serious listening if you get on with them – I'd be surprised if anyone finds batteries don't deliver a very worthwhile improvement . When running on batteries I would say that if the Temple Audio Monoblocks were amplifiers costing $3000 I would have no hesitation in saying they perform very well and are definitely worth an audition. At something like $500 they cost one fifth to one sixth the price of their true performance level. The Temple Audio Monoblocks are seriously good and amazing value.

 

Specifications
Type: Solid-state monoblock amplifier
Power Output: Up to 40W power output, stable down to 2 ohms
Distortion: Less than 0.005% THD+N
Efficiency: 90% Power Efficiency
Gain: Four Selectable gain levels
Circuit Board: Nickel gold plated, 4 layer military spec PCB
Enclosure: Hard wearing glossy finish.
Connectors: High quality, high tolerance Gold Plated Connectors.
Front: Illuminated power button with multi colored glow
Price: Price: £189.99 each, two monoblock amplifiers are £329.99
Warranty: 3 years

 

Company Information
Temple Audio LTD
23 James Street
Sale, Cheshire
M33 3GY England

Voice: Telephone: +44 7717 536254
Email: sales@templeaudio.net
Website: www.TempleAudio.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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