I reviewed this amplifier September 2013 (link),
and awarded it a Blue Note Award as an exceptionally fine-sounding product. In
that review I noted that my primary reservation upon first receiving this
amplifier was its modest power output, 120 Watt per channel. Previously I had
been using bridged Spectron Musician III Mk. 2 amplifiers which could produce
more than 2000 Watts. The Spectrons had been a great match for my
not-very-sensitive Analysis Amphitryon planar/ribbon dipoles, and I had worried
that the Wells amplifier would have trouble driving them to satisfactory volume
levels. Fortunately, the new amplifier confounded my expectations. Although I
could drive it to clipping at very high volumes, this gutsy medium-powered
amplifier was so sonically rewarding that I felt little need for very high
However, I still felt that a bi-amp'ed system
with the Innamoratas could be even more satisfying. Was thinking primarily of
having extra headroom, always useful especially in the classical music I listen
to most of the time. Thus was hoping also for additional gains in soundscaping
and dynamics. I was expecting perhaps a 10% overall improvement in sound.
When the new amplifier arrived, my first decision was how to
configure the system. There was fortunately no need for an electronic crossover.
The outboard crossovers and speaker input terminals of my loudspeakers are set
up for bi-wiring, and since I was using two identical amplifiers, there was no
need to match output levels. The main decision was horizontal or vertical bi-amp'ing.
A horizontal setup would have one amplifier for low frequencies and the other
amplifier for highs. Since the two-way Analysis speakers cross over to the
ribbon at a relatively low 650 Hz, the power demands would be relatively equal
for bass and treble.
Vertical bi-amp'ing uses one amplifier per
speaker, with one channel driving the lows and the other channel driving the
highs. An advantage of this configuration in some systems is that one can use
shorter speaker cables. I was not worried about that, as my Waveform Fidelity
speaker cables could accommodate either configuration. But Jeff Wells and other
technically knowledgeable audiophiles I spoke to generally agreed that the
vertical bi-amp system was the way to go. And since my preamplifier has two sets
of Main Out jacks, there was no need for cable splitters. (For details on
associated equipment, see my Waveform Fidelity review in this issue.)
To Bi-Amped Innamoratas
Just a couple of examples to illustrate what I
mean. The years-old recording of my favorite Rachmaninoff composition, the
Symphonic Dances, by the great recording engineer Tony Faulkner, had always
offered an extraordinary presentation of the woodwind solos in the first
movement, even to the key clicks of the oboe and clarinet. Later recordings of
this piece, even the wonderful Gergiev/ILSO that I so admire, have never quite
equaled that detail. With the bi-amp'ed system I feel almost as if I am sitting
in the orchestra, surrounded by those woodwinds. Another great old recording,
Otto Klemperer's 1962 Mahler "Resurrection" Symphony on EMI LP,
features a bass drum strike throughout the Scherzo that for me no other
recording has equaled. Now the drum strike is virtually subterranean; felt as
much as heard.
These listening "epiphanies" are now
happening to me every time I sit down to listen to music. In all my decades of
seeking audio nirvana, nothing has brought me closer than this change, except
perhaps years ago when I moved from box speakers to my beloved Analysis dipoles.
That change and this one both fundamentally transformed the listening
experience for me. The many other upgrades I have heard over the years have been
rewarding and sometimes startling, but not to such a fundamental degree.