Pass Labs Aleph 30, Ecosse Interconnects,
And Denon AVR 3803 Receiver
Article by Karl Lozier
Click here to e-mail reviewer
As a repeat, starting off this month with three requests:
Request 1 - I need some more input from our readers that have had experience with the main types of mini tubes (6DJ8, 12AX7, etc.) that are being currently manufactured or distributed for sale in the United States. Comparison with the older well-known brands as listed two months ago would be appreciated.
Request 2 - Do any of our readers have some background information on the sound track album "Body Heat"? Much of the filming was done a mile from my home. I had heard that the album was almost rare and usually had a plain white cover. Now I find it as a 45
r.p.m. album with pictures on front and back cover. Is this common, a rarity or a late remastered production?
Request 3 - A repeat, we seriously request your input, comments, suggestions and questions and particularly so for Karl's Korner
Pass Labs Aleph 30 Stereo Amplifier
Once again I have been fortunate to audition another of Senior Editor Dick Olsher's rave review products. His complete review is viewable by clicking on our Equipment Archive section and scrolling to Volksamp Aleph 30. Basically Dick said that this relatively small stereo amplifier is the best solid-state unit he has ever heard. Furthermore it sounded almost like a very good tubed amplifier. It is rather unique for a solid-state unit in that it is an extremely simple and straightforward design as with some tubed amplifiers. In this case it is a pair of single ended transistor amplifiers on one chassis. It operates in a pure class A mode never shifting into a higher output mode such as class B. It runs hot, as it must in this design, and everything has been designed with that in mind. There is nothing to adjust for best performance.
The design is an upgraded version of the older well-reviewed Aleph 3 design in a simpler chassis. It will drive most speakers of average or above average efficiency to uncomfortably high output levels belying its modest power rating. Dick was comparing it to very good tubed amplifiers which I had none available for comparison. I did have the latest upgraded version of Herron monoblock M-150 amplifiers on hand. Though certainly not identical sounding there was a great deal of similarities between the two, they are definitely more alike than different. The uniquely (in a different manner) designed Herron amplifiers are cool running and much more powerfully rated. In the bass range the Aleph offers a very slight added fullness or bloom. Who knows which is right, but a less than two-inch movement of my speakers can compensate in either direction. I had expected a greater difference but these newest Herron amplifiers are quite exceptional. In the extreme high end, at times, the Aleph sounded just a bit cleaner or sweeter than the Herron's. After extensive comparison I was unable to decide whether that was true or if the Herron's response was a bit more extended and revealing of less than ideal source material or distortions. The fact remained that there was a very slight difference at times.
Briefly that is the good news, and to top it off they can be purchased for the unbelievably low price of $1,299 plus $50 shipping from Audio Video
Logic www.audiovideologic.com. This is probably the biggest amplification bargain of the past decade. The bad news is that this is a discounted closeout price and there will be no more when these are gone. Production was halted many months ago and its possible that a few may remain at some other dealers. There is a rare model Aleph 60 (none available anywhere) that is reputed to offer identically pure reproduction as with the Aleph 30 with double the power output as a monoblock design. Reputably no other model currently available is quite able to achieve the purity of response of these two models. Once again, absolute quality loses out to perceived quality, marketing, promotion and image? Be forewarned that initial break-in or burn-in is necessary with a new unit. Even after that it takes an hour or two to reach their absolute maximum quality of reproduction - they will not disappoint.
The New (For The U.S.A.) Ecosse Interconnects
I recently received a call from Frank Stuppel, perhaps best known as the importer/distributor of the outstanding tubed Heart CD players. He asked if I would like to review some moderately priced interconnects ($100 for one meter U.S.). I replied that I really did not want to. Then he said "would you review them?" I replied that yes I would review them but was not looking forward to it as I had very recently reviewed some bargain priced cables. I also noted that editor Steve Rochlin almost demands that cables reviewed have to be directly compared to at least one other cable. I further told him that I had access to some of the latest Monster brand cables for comparison purposes.
It was now his turn to be negative. "No," he replied, "these are not meant to be considered along with bargain or mid-fi cables." "They are designed to compete with any cables. They may not be the best, but should hold their own in listening evaluations against any others". "Okay, okay, you were right about some other things including the Heart CD player, go ahead and send them, I'll listen".
It seemed like only a few hours before they arrived accompanied by the Ecosse ES 23 Loudspeaker cables. They and the MK11 interconnects have supposedly won many awards and top rankings in their respective price categories in various U.K. and other European magazines. Check out their web site at
www.Ecossecables.co.uk. I've burned in the interconnects completely, but have only started listening tests (with them only, not the loudspeaker cables yet).
Consider holding off on any interconnect cable purchases until I finish what will have to be very extensive review evaluations. Surprisingly, so far they seem to be comparable to my reference cables in many respects. No, at fifteen times the price, my reference interconnects (Kimber Select) are better but this Ecosse MK11 interconnect is performing at a level well beyond its moderate price! Hopefully I will have a detailed review on it and possibly the loudspeaker cables also in next month's equipment review section. Frank
Stuppel Frank@fsaudioweb.com is the U.S.A. agent.
Denon's New Moderately Priced Receiver AVR 3803
I have just received their latest model, the AVR 3803, basically an updated or upgraded version of their previous model #3300. It seems as if nearly all aspects of performance have been noticeably, either audibly or visibly, improved. Not all specifications have been upgraded, but performance is all that counts, right? Borrowing from its almost universally acclaimed sibling, the AVR 5803, its moderate price offers performance far beyond the $200 price increase over the older model 3300. These economic "trickle down" theories are even affecting audio components.
Do you really think the very best amplifiers made today can be significantly improved? It is much easier to do that with more moderately priced gear. As a result some companies such as Denon have almost ever improving products such as the new AVR 3803. Whether the top of the line 5803 can be significantly improved might be questionable.
In the here and now, if like me, you do not want to go overboard financially with your "home theater" system give very serious consideration to this new Denon model #3803 audio-visual receiver. It is good enough that you will probably want to spend some of the money saved on better cables to let your loudspeakers be heard at their best in your home theater setup. Remember not to scrimp on that center channel loudspeaker, it can be more important to your long term listening pleasure than you might have ever imagined. That goes for its cables also of course. For mainly listening to movies on your system, while keeping the level down a bit, try the surround speakers relatively near you and near the side walls. For serious listening such as to "help place you in a concert hall or night club setting", move the speakers much further back behind your listening seat. Keep the listening volume for them moderately low, however when you then turn off the rear speakers your thoughts should almost instantly be "what happened to the music". It should then no longer sound as nearly real or room filling.
This Denon can aid immensely with those surround loudspeakers, as you will find out from its instruction manual or looking over the rear panel. I guess I love to hate remote controls. The one with the
3803 is an improvement on the one that came with the model 3300. I still don't really like it, particularly the too small buttons
crowded together - too close together and with the smallest viewing screen in recent memory. The unit itself (the AVR 3803) is something else and elicits no negative comments from me.
Happy New Year to all our Enjoy the Music.com readers!