In the past I’ve reviewed lots of power amplifiers. Once I even had a dream that I was twenty feet tall with a Krell 160 monoblock under each arm striding across the urban landscape yelling, “I am Amp Man!” (imagine Godzilla, only prettier). Luckily I had that dream only once. But with the advent of compact and lightweight switching amplifiers such as the REF600M no audiophile need experience the “pleasures” of lugging around a 60-plus-pound amplifier because it was the only device that could deliver the power and finesse needed to drive a top-echelon system.
How good is the REF600M? To my ears it’s good enough to qualify as the best all-around power amplifier I’ve heard to date, regardless of technology or circuit topology. Its combination of extremely low noise (that makes it suitable to drive even highly sensitive loudspeakers), precision three-dimensional imaging, relaxed and natural harmonic balance, and power capability makes for a potent package. Couple all its sonic achievements with its relatively modest price, and you have a power amplifier that could well be a benchmark reference for many audiophiles for years to come.
Specs & Pricing
Output power: 600W into 4 ohms, 300W into 8 ohms
Inputs: Single-ended RCA or balanced XLR
Input impedance: 100k ohms/200k ohms
Output impedance: <8 milliohms at 100Hz
Dimensions: 216mm x 88mm x 305mm
Weight: 15.4 lbs.
Price: $2495 each
Bel Canto Design. Ltd.
221 North 1st Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Source devices: A 2010 Mac Mini with 8GB of memory and OS 10.11.1, running iTunes 12.3.3 and Amarra Symphony 3.3, Pure Music 3.0.1, Audirvana+ 2.5, Roon 1.2, and Tidal 1.3; QNAP TS-251, Cary Audio DMC-600SE
Analog sources: VPI TNT III w/Graham 1.1 tonearm and ClearAudio Victory II cart, VPI HW-19 with Souther SLA-3 tonearm and Denon 103/van den Hul cartridge
Phono preamps: Vendetta Research SCP-2B and Rossi LIO
DACs: PS Audio Direct Stream Jr., Cary Audio DMC-600SE Music Hub
Amplifiers: Pass Labs X150.3, April Music S1 monoblocks, NuPrime ST-10
Speakers: AV123 X-Statik modified by Skiing Ninja, Spatial M3 Turbo SE, two JL Audio Fathom f112 subwoofers, one Velodyne DD 10+ subwoofer
Cables and accessories: WireWorld Silver Starlight USB cable, WireWorld Eclipse 7 balanced interconnect, AudioQuest Carbon USB cable; AudioQuest Colorado single-ended RCA interconnect, Kimber KCAG single-ended and balanced interconnect, Audience Speaker AU24e speaker cable, PS Audio Quintet, Dectet, Octet, and Premier power conditioners