McGary Audio SA 1 Stereo Vacuum Tube Amplifier
How can something as old as vacuum tubes continue to entrance both manufacturers and listeners, alike? Well, for a start, the newest audio components are created in a way that makes it very hard to appreciate their true lineage. When you can witness an entire rack full of equipment shrunken down onto a single microchip or often full sized components reduced to fit inside a shirt pocket, one cannot actually see the individual elements that make up the circuit... they are so small! For decades, this trend toward miniaturization has consumed technology experts, particularly for consumer and professional audio and video products. Thus, a traditional analog amplifier (tube or solid-state), weighing in at tens of pounds and having a huge physical size accompanying it, is often regarded as antiquated (a boat anchor) in the presence of much smaller, lighter, more modern and often digital-based alternatives. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however.
Take, for example, the case of Mike McGary and his new SA-1 vacuum tube stereo amplifier. Everything about it speaks to an old world charm, with grace and reliability that are invitations to listen and examine music, at length – that is the pleasure of rumination. The sonic quality of amplification through the SA-1 just boarders on euphonic by calling attention to hidden details while subtly enhancing the harmonic structure of the presentation. I did not find this quality of coloration to be at all distracting but rather an asset since it makes everything sound more immediate which caused me to feel more transported into the music; to become a part of it rather than just a remote listener.
So when listening to favorite, time honored selections during the review process (which happened during the course of many wonderful weeks), I easily lapsed into enjoyment rather than critical thinking mode; showcasing a major part of why we often purchase any high-end audio component in the first place: it makes our music sound great! Here, the level of satisfaction I received every time I turned on and spent time listening through the SA-1 easily placed it at the top of my available component list on hand for this year, and beyond. And every time I made a new recording (since I'm a producer and engineer) and brought it back to my studio for a listen, I was amazed at how easily I was transported to the location (venue) where I had just been recording, earlier that day!
Now, if the goal of listening is to be connected (as much as possible) to our music, one can search far and wide and spend way more money to get much less satisfying sound in a pretty case. The McGary Audio SA-1 only spends money in pursuit of the music, the experience of listening, and the sound quality; not merely on superficial cosmetics unless you custom order them in particular. So as money spent for aural satisfaction, musical essence, and point-to-point, hand-selected, soldered and assembled components that yield an amazing level of emotional and sonic enjoyment, you will be hard pressed into finding a better value from a sensationally moving amplification experience!
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