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May 2024

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Orchard Audio Starkrimson Premium Mono Amplifier Review

A new personal benchmark for value.
Review By Ron Nagle


Orchard Audio Starkrimson Premium Mono Amplifier Review


  It was back in August 2020 that I reviewed the original Orchard Audio Starkcrimson Monoblock Amplifiers for Enjoy the Music.com. At the time I was very curious about their use of Gallium nitride (GaN) transistors. I can recall a time when these transistors created quite a buzz in high-end audio circles. Since then the owner and designer of Orchard Audio Leonid (Leo) Ayzenshtat has continued to improve upon the original TripathGaN monoblock amplifiers. Now in 2024, I see that they have a new amplifier they call Premium Monoblocks for sale at $1,249.95 each ($2,499.90 per pair).

The most obvious physical change from the original is the amplifier's form factor. The body of the new amplifier is much larger, measuring 6" wide 9" deep, and, 3" high. The premium amplifiers are housed in slot-vented aluminum cases anodized dark black. Laser etched into the top cover is the outline of their logo. Orchard Audio has enclosed what was an external power supply and eliminated the umbilical cord that connected it to the amplifier. The new power supply is built into the amplifier chassis. Understand, that this furnishes power to drive the amplifier's onboard circuits.

The original power supply was rated at 250 Watts. The new rating has been increased to 350 Watts and I anticipate that this increase should be able to drive much larger dynamic (bass) contrasts. Understand, the specification for the amplifier's power to drive speakers remains the same 150 Watts into 8 Ohms. In addition, there is a new on/off switch located on the rear panel along with two upgraded five-way speaker binding posts.



Back in 2020, I did ask the designer and founder, Leo Ayzenshtat why he chose such an odd name for his amplifiers. He replied that these are the names of two types of pears. There is some logic in that since these amps are manufactured by Orchard Audio. He went on to say that he originally made an amplifier just for his personal use. Later on, friends asked him to make more so they could own one. The owner, Leo, refers to Orchard Audio as a boutique company offering a variety of quality DACs, streamers, and amplifiers. At this time he only sells his products online direct to the buyer.


The D In Design
This Orchard amplifier is a fully balanced Class D Tripath amplifier. One of the early Triipath amplifiers the TA2020, was named, one of the twenty-five chips that 'shook the world by IEEE Spectrum magazine. Starkrimson amplifiers use the tripath amplifier in a proprietary DC-coupled, fully balanced dual feedback modulator. This allows the amplifier to be completely balanced from input to output, through the use of bridged GaN power stages. Most people mistakenly believe the D means Digital.

Class D indicates that this is a switching amplifier. There is a lot to commend this amplifier. But by far the single most salient design aspect is the effort to keep the Class D circuit as simple as possible. The fact that the amplifier is DC coupled means that there is no phase shift from 0Hz up to 30 kHz and that means audio frequencies can be more tightly controlled. Added to that is the speed of the Gallium Nitride GaNFET transistors.



Gallium Nitride transistors have many listed advantages but basically, they have lower internal resistance, run cooler, and are much faster than more common MOSFET silicon transistors.

Since GaNFET devices can switch faster the dead time is far less than their silicon counterparts. The GaNFET transistor allows the amplifier to switch at frequencies up to 800 kHz. The higher switching frequencies allow a standard LC (inductor and capacitor) filter network to work extremely well. The direct result is that the switching artifacts of the Orchard Amplifier are reduced by a factor of 40 dB.



Above is a simplified functional diagram of the Starkcrimson dual feedback system (patent pending) of the PWM (Pulse Width Modulator) controller. The DC modulator works with the feedback network both pre-and post to essentially eliminate DC offset at the output. The design enjoys the benefits of the highest quality and larger-than-necessary board-mounted components, inductors, and filter capacitors. All of these are placed on a four-layer circuit board. It uses a custom stack-up on a high-end dielectric material with an ENIG (Gold) finish.


Placing the Orchard amplifiers was unusually direct. One adaptation was necessary for me to install the individual components into my system. Since there was no more room on my equipment rack I placed a low table up front between my speakers. Integrating these small amplifiers should not pose a problem for most. I used my best Audioquest Signature 1.5 meter DBS XLR cables ($4,125) from my Parasound P5 preamplifier to feed the Starkrimson Monoblocks. My Aurum Cantus V30M speakers were connected with 10 feet of Kimber Kable 12TC Teflon wiring.



The Premium Starkcrimson Amplifier made a lasting impression right after I turned them on manifesting a very dead quiet black background. You could hear finely detailed music layered over nothing but silence. At the risk of repeating myself let me explain the term, Black Background. It describes the absence of non-musical electronic/system noise introduced into the sound by circuit components. This is fundamentally important because it allows the music to breathe and to rise and swell naturally.

It seems to me at this point that what I am hearing establishes a new reference. The Premium Monos seem even quieter, if possible, than the original Starkcrimson Monos. As an audiophile, my heart's desire is a very believable and tangible performance space between my speakers. And that should consist of a dimensional soundstage comprised of height, width, and depth. In a very subtle way, the new Starkcrimson premium Tripath amplifier has a tinge of bass warmth. By that I mean it will not eliminate an instrument's pitch textures if they exist on the recording. This is an unusual trait to ascribe to any switching amplifier. Exactly why that is happening will necessitate a deeper dive into a few of my most critical recordings.

My reference and my preference is and has been the sound of the human voice. Let's hearken back once more to my reference CD, BASIA, Time, and Tide [Epic EK40767]. There are some small details I have not noticed before that are part of this recording even though I have used this recording as a long-term reference. The very first track Promises starts at a low volume and slowly becomes louder. This is similar to an optical zoom effect. The bass portion of this music turns into a powerful driving repetitive pulsing beat. As the British Philes would say this music has a wonderful pace.

The premium's 150 Watt rating seems to be unlimited; as it sounds far more powerful. The reason is total control, the bass starts and stops with millisecond precision. Can it be we are hearing GaN speed? Cue up Enya's Watermark [Reprise 9-26774-2] and I'm amazed at the effects of artificial reverb on this disc. This next little trial is an attempt to listen into a sound mixer's fantasy, the sound of outer space. Enya's voice seems to poke a hole from the deep center through a wall of liquid flowing rippling sound. It's an utterly synthetic electronic illusion of layers of sound filling one end of my room. If depth is important then it very well may be the ultimate test of sound field resolution. Granted this recording may not be natural but the sound is oh so seductive.



Additional Aural Audition
Another long-time favorite of mine is Jennifer Warnes, whom I met at a press conference. A more unassuming person you are not likely to meet. From her album, The Hunter [Private Music, 01005-82089-2] Jennifer Warnes sings, "Somewhere Somebody". I love this cut! Am a big fan of hers and the sound quality is so very crisp and immediate. As I sat and listened I imagined everything I was hearing was set into a visual picture frame. Every individual element had a precise location and every part was clearly defined. The sound field resolution allows you to look deeper at the music minutia contained within that frame.



Bottom Line
At the end of any audio audition, there is one invariable decision you must make. What is ultimately selected depends on your taste. And of course, the same thing applies when it comes to music. As things stand now with most digital audio amplifiers you have an audio presentation with sound based on conventional transistor designs. Compared to conventional silicon MOSFET designs there is more than a subtle difference when compared to this GaN base amplifier. I said it previously and it is worth repeating. I can find no obvious faults in the way Orchard Audio's Starkrimson premium amplifier reproduces music. At the same time, it is not a SET (single-ended triode) amplifier lover's cup of tea. There is no harmonic halo around any element of the music.



The Orchard Audio Starkrimson Premium Mono amplifiers at $2,499.90 per pair set a new personal benchmark for value, laser-like clarity, and inner detail at this price range. The construction is bullet-proof and I can't think of anything that could harm them save a direct short across the output. As I look at these two little black boxes I realize that they turned out to be much more than I expected, they are state-of-the-art. If you prefer to carve out minute details from your recordings then make these amplifiers your end point. If at all possible find and audition the Starkcrimson Premium Amplifiers, highly recommended.

Remember to enjoy the music and from me Semper Hi-Fi.





Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)



Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth

Soundscape Extension Into Room


Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money




Type: Solid-state mono audio amplifier
Frequency Response: DC – 80 kHz
Power: 150 Watts @ 8 Ohm, 200W @ 4 Ohm (400W peak)
Gain: 21.5dB
Sensitivity: 3V in for 150 Watt @ 8 Ohm
SNR: 121dB (A-weighted)
THD @ 10W: <0.0003% (-110dB) for 1kHz into 8 Ohm
THD @ 150W: <0.015% for 20Hz – 20kHz into 4 Ohm
Balanced Input Impedance: 44 kOhm
Damping Factor: >550 @ 1kHz
Dimensions: 11" x 6.1" x 3.1" (HxWxD)
$1,249.95 each ($2,499.90 per pair)




Company Information
Orchard Audio
176 Franklin Avenue
Rockaway, NJ 07866

Voice: (504) 233-3444
Website: OrchardAudio.com















































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