The Neil Young album helped show me that the Eclipse amps were not only transparent and tonally accurate, but also excelled at retrieving the passion of the performance. So did another recording, The Kills Live (Third Man Records). I’ve seen The Kills at a few music festivals and they put on an exciting show. I admit their music may be an acquired taste, and the recording quality of this album is good, but not reference. (It was recorded at Jack White’s Third Man record studios and it has a garage quality to it—in a good way). Nevertheless, the Eclipses allowed me to crank this music up to near-ridiculous levels, without issue. I can’t really say how accurately the amps captured the “sound” of The Kills recording session, but without doubt the Eclipse monos succeeded in transporting me back to the excitement and emotion of the music festivals where I had heard The Kills play live. This is what I am looking for and the Atlas amps delivered the goods.
Of all things, I wrapped up my review by listening to some digital music from my computer—a brave new world for me. I’m working on an informational piece about Yarlung Records, a small company with which some of you may be familiar. Yarlung takes that bold step beyond reissuing older recordings: they make new recordings of interesting music with outstanding musicians. They are to be applauded for the effort alone. I have been to a few of their recording sessions and can report that along with the quality of the performance, they take recording and sound quality as their highest priorities. Many of their recordings are available on vinyl and CD, while all of them are available as high-resolution digital downloads. I downloaded many of their recordings to my computer, but for now I listened primarily to a new recording provided to me by Yarlung called Lifeline. Lifeline is a collection of beautiful spirituals recorded by Yarlung at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa, California. The songs are performed by the Lifeline Quartet and feature spirituals from the Civil War era and earlier. The singers are spectacular; in particular, the power and range of Michelle Mayne-Graves will give you goosebumps. On this recording, the Atlas Eclipse monos were able to reproduce the full dynamic range of the singers, each in their individual space, with power and finesse and with no sense of strain or compression. On my Maggie 20.7s, the only other amplifiers that have exhibited the same effortless ability have been much larger all-tube amplifiers, at considerably greater cost than the Atlas.
All in all, my listening experience with the Atlas Eclipse monos was thoroughly enjoyable. They are extremely transparent, thereby curing the major issue I had with earlier versions of the Atlas amps. All music emerges out of a completely black and quiet sonic background, thereby enhancing low-level detail. Further, these amps are very powerful, easily getting the best performance from my inefficient Magnepan 20.7s without any strain or sense of compression. The Eclipse offers many of the sonic advantages of all-tube designs, approaching and sometimes equaling many of those designs in depth and width of soundstage and three-dimensional reproduction of instruments and voices. At the same time, the very extended upper frequencies of the Atlas may seem, on some recordings, not quite as laid-back as some tube amps. Over time it became apparent that these amplifiers do not impose any particular sonic signature upon the music and, far more often than not, reveal air, space, and detail lost on lesser gear. Moreover, in the low frequencies the Eclipse amps seem to exceed the performance of many tube amplifiers in that they exhibit the power and tight control of high-power solid-state amplification, yet without dryness or loss of instrumental texture.
The Eclipse monos are also very user friendly. They are physically extremely quiet and make no noise whatsoever that would intrude into the listening room. They put out very little heat (only becoming slightly warm to the touch) and do not require the owner to periodically replace many tubes. With only one tube to replace every few years or so, they are almost as easy to maintain as a pure solid-state amplifier.
A bonus for many will be that the Eclipse amps also contain a built-in high-pass crossover. For those who use subwoofers with satellite or full-range speakers, the Eclipse can be set up to drive the main loudspeaker while rolling off the low frequencies going to those speakers. With 16 different crossover points on tap, it should be possible to obtain an ideal match of main speaker and subwoofer in almost any combination. In short, proper setup will allow the user to minimize duplication of frequency response in the crossover range covered by both speakers, with the result of greater transparency in that region and less of the heavy quality sometimes associated with subs. When subwoofers (or loudspeakers with self-powered bass drivers, such as Vandersteens) are used, the internal crossover in the Eclipse also eliminates the need for an external crossover and eliminates the need for and expense of an extra set of cables between crossover and amplifier. If you don’t need this crossover feature, the direct inputs of the Atlas completely bypass the crossover circuit, for maximum sonic purity.
To answer the question I posed near the beginning of this review, I believe that while the Eclipse definitely shows Atlas-like strength and power, I no longer believe “Atlas” it is a good name for this amplifier. In my view, it is so sonically superior to its Atlas predecessors, that it deserves a new name. While the Atlas monos are not inexpensive, neither are they overly priced. Competing tube or solid state amplifiers that offer this level of sound quality, with the power to drive almost any loudspeaker, usually cost far more than a pair of Eclipse monos. And there is good news for current owners of earlier versions of the Atlas: their amps are not obsolete. They can be upgraded at the factory to full Eclipse specification.
In short, the Atlas Eclipse monos are highly recommended. They offer elite high-end sound quality, great flexibility and user friendliness at a reasonable cost in today’s market.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Monoblock power amplifier
Power output: 300w into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms
Tubes required: One 6SN7
Frequency response: (-3dB points at full power) 4Hz–150kHz
Inputs: One single-ended and one balanced for direct input; one single-ended and one balanced for crossover input
Input sensitivity: 3.1V RMS for 300 watts into 8 ohms for rated output (balanced)
Input impedance: Direct input: 470K ohms single-ended or balanced for each phase
High-pass crossover: 6 dB/octave, 16 settings from 40Hz to 200Hz in approx. 10Hz increments
Dimensions: 17-7/8" x 7½" x 18"
Weight: 62 lbs. each
Price: $28,000 per pair
AESTHETIX AUDIO CORPORATION
5220 Gabbert Road, Suite A
Moorpark, CA 93021
Kuzma Stabi M turntable with Kuzma 4Point ’arm and Lyra Etna, Koetsu Rosewood Platinum Signature cartridges EMM Labs CD playback system Audio Research REF 10 phonostage; Aesthetix Io Eclipse phonostage Audio Research REF 10 linestage; Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse linestage Aesthetix Atlas Eclipse monoblock amplifiers, Audio Research REF 750 SE Amplifiers Purist Audio Design, Transparent, and Audioquest cabling Sain Line Systems power cables Stillpoint Ultra 6 feet; Stillpoint Aperture acoustic panels