Temple Audio has a strong niche following amongst audiophiles seeking excellent sound at incredibly reasonable prices. In May 2014 I reviewed the Temple Audio Monoblocks. The Monoblocks are ridiculously good regardless of their low price; they are based on an Analogue Devices silicon chip which seems to be uniquely used by Temple Audio for Hi-Fi. My view is that the Temple Monoblocks sound can be optimized by substituting battery or linear power supplies in place of the standard switching power supply. The switching power supply gives a decent enough sound but I'm one to experiment where I can, hence my using batteries with the Monoblocks. Enter the Temple Audio Bantam One which put a stop to my experimenting.
The Temple Audio Bantam One is an integrated stereo amplifier built around the Temple Audio Monoblock design; it has a passive preamp with three relay-switched inputs, a preamp output and a pair of the speaker outputs. The preamp output means there is no issue with accommodating as subwoofer or second power amp for active speaker operation. The Bantam One packs a lot into a small footprint, it is fractionally under 11" (30cm) wide, 8.5" (22cm) deep and under 3" (7cm) high, it's a compact powerhouse. The casework as ever with Temple Audio is bespoke with their machining executed in-house. There are a couple of options for the fascia, Walnut and Light Oak; both are lovely chunky pieces of wood. The fascia carries a volume control and the power button which also lets you switch inputs; there are three LEDs to indicate which input is selected. The controls are machined by Temple, they are not simply parts box sourced and bolted on. The metal control parts are turned and milled from solid aircraft grade aluminum billet. These parts are made to a 0.05mm tolerance and the volume control knob runs in a high quality race bearing to give it a solid but smooth feel. The main chassis is a nicely finished aluminum box which bolts together; it's not a low cost bent metal case. There is also an optional remote control, more of which later.
The Power Supply
It's very apparent there has been a lot of attention given to the dual mono power supply, it is not just any regulated power supply; it uses a pair of pre-regulators to do the hard work of getting the voltage down to the right ballpark for the two rather special LT1963 which have excellent noise characteristics. I'm told a lot of care is needed to get the LT1963 to work optimally, there needing to be a lot of attention to detail with capacitor values and types; also the circuit board traces and ground plane need to be carefully optimized. The proof of the pudding is in the eating... by this I mean the measured performance will demonstrate whether or not Temple has done a good design and implementation job. The Temple measurements show their power supply to have a noise level better than 0.3mV at 1A per channel; it's actually quite tough to measure this sort of level of noise as it is very low indeed. Not only have Temple done a good job, they've done a great job! I should add that in case 1A per channel doesn't sound like a lot of current for a power amplifier, we need to realize these amplifiers are 90% efficient so crazy current levels are not required. There's a good green element to the Bantam One.
The two power amplifier boards are slightly updated versions of the board previously found in the monoblocks; there are beefier power smoothing capacitors and upgraded capacitors on the outputs. The latest Monoblocks also have the output capacitor upgrade nowadays too. These are important components in terms of sound quality.
In the unlikely event you need alter the gain setting, this is easy. Remove the Bantam One lid, there are just four screws to remove. Once you have access to the innards the power lead should be inserted with the power on at the wall but the power switch on the amplifier should not be activated such that the Bantam One is in standby mode. Naturally keep away from any mains voltage areas between the mains input IEC socket and mains transformer, the connections are insulated so this is not something which is dangerous but if you are nervous about this find someone who is experienced with electronics. The two power amp boards have a vertical pad-type switch near the Temple Audio logo. Using a non-conductive tool (I use a chopstick) lightly press the vertical button and hold it in. You'll see a nearby surface mount LED flash on the circuit board, one flash for gain setting 1, twice for gain setting 2... you get the idea. Cycle this until you select the gain setting you require, replace the lid, you are now ready to use the new gain setting.
The Bluetooth Remote Control
The Obvious Comparison
It'll be obvious from my Temple Monoblocks review that I very much like them. The Bantam One without doubt takes a clear step and reaches the next level. This is as you would hope as the Bantam One with its linear power supply, preamp and classy chassis is around double the price of a pair of Monoblocks with switching power supplies and no preamp.
Positioning the Bantam One Sound
I compared my 300B SE amplifiers with the Bantam One. At first I had a surprise, the 300Bs sounded shut in a dull in comparison. A quick delve into my stash of tubes allowed me to replace the 300Bs with some fresher examples, the 300Bs were singing again. It's interesting that it took the Bantam One to make me realize my 300B tubes were past their best. Of course the Bantam One will have no such expense or need replace key and expensive components. The 300B amplifiers have a certain flow to them; the soundstage of the 300Bs and Bantam One are just about identical. The tube amplifiers sound a little less distinct by comparison. Some may prefer the tubes but the precision and authority of the One makes it more universally acceptable and it is the amplifier I can live with better across all genres of music. Possibly with dreamy 1950's jazz the 300Bs are at their best and for that specific case would be my preference but overall the Bantam One is more consistently on song.
The Bantam One wins in terms of separating bass notes. The upright bass being played on Strode Road from Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins exemplified the quality of the bass delivered the One. Not only is there great separation and clarity in the bass, it also achieves what I'd call "walking bass" which is when the notes are so well defined they time perfectly, when the playing is good you really get into the musicianship on display. Switching to a very different vibe, Peter Gabriel Plays Live, on Not One Of Us there is a spoken intro, I've not heard it so distinctly before, there's tremendous clarity without starkness. I classify the Bantam One as sounding fresh and open. Detail is solidly present whereas the 300B more hints at the details which are hidden behind more powerful notes. Peter Gabriel has some very powerful drums in action; I was quite taken aback by the sheer force of the dynamics. Some of this due to my Trans-Fi Salvation turntable and the London Reference cartridge too but the Bantam One took what it was given a delivered several punches in the stomach. Impressive!
The Bantam One sneaks the crown for the more crystalline treble where the treble is well recorded. Where the 300Bs do better is when treble is poorly recorded and then the 300Bs are more listenable whereas the Bantam One lets you know what the recording is really like. I characterise the overall difference as the 300Bs painting the music with a bigger brush which delivers the bones of the music well but misses out some fine detail. The One is more detailed and controlled and uses a finer brush. There's no question the bass from the One is more powerful, defined and realistic; another example being Henry Mancini's Return of the Pink Panther where the double bass stands wonderfully on its own as an instrument. With the 300Bs it still sounds good but is a trifle lost in the mix.
The diminutive Bantam One is a simple yet brilliant integrated amplifier; it's very nicely finished, performs really well and will match a wide range of typical speakers. The amplifier being 90% efficient even has great green credentials.
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