2016 Editors' Choice: Power Amplifiers $3,000 - $6,000

Equipment report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Tubed power amplifiers
Atma-Sphere Music Systems S-30 MK 3.3 OTL,
Balanced Audio VK-55,
Cary Audio Design CAD 120 S II,
Classe Audio CA-D200,
Coincident Speaker Technology Frankenstein II ,
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Seven,
Primare A34.2,
Sanders Sound Magtech,
Van Alstine FET Valve 600R
2016 Editors' Choice: Power Amplifiers $3,000 - $6,000

Primare A34.2
Using Primare’s proprietary UFPD (Ultra Fast Power Device) switching technology, the Primare A34.2 delivers tremendous speed and plenty of power (150Wpc) in a relatively compact, light, and affordable package. Although the A34.2 is certainly capable of slamming hard, driving Magnepan 1.7s with ease, it is also capable of fine resolution and finesse. The stereo A34.2 can be bridged into mono operation for 550W into 8 ohms. Overall, the A34.2 handsomely meets Primare’s design goals for a powerful, ultra-fast, almost noise-free, and pretty neutral amplifier that can easily slip into essentially any stereo or multichannel application.

AVA FET Valve 600R
What sets Frank Van Alstine’s 300Wpc tube/transistor hybrid amp apart from a host of other hybrid designs is its soulful midrange and ability to retrieve music’s drama and tension. Tack on decent spatial delineation, low distortion, superior speed, killer bass, and superb dynamics, and you have world-class power amplification at an affordable price.

Classé Audio CA-D200
The first Class D amp to proudly bear the Classé name, the 200Wpc CA-D200 uses a proprietary-designed switch mode power supply with Power Factor Correction (PFC) and switching amplifier stages. And by employing DSP, says Classé, the result is a lowering of the dreaded the dead-band-time. Sonically this amp typified a character that admirers of top-notch solid-state will immediately cozy up to: tight, crisp, tuneful bass response, a well proportioned midrange, and a top end that seemed to extend skyward. A tremendous value.

Atma-Sphere S30 Mk 3.3
The Mk 3.3 version of this 30Wpc Circlotron OTL amplifier nudges performance higher in dynamics and soundstage transparency. Although guilty of slight timbre alterations and a somewhat dark tonal balance, these acts of commission, likely due to load interactions, point out the need for a compatible loudspeaker and front-end electronics. The S30 strikes an intelligent balance between quality and quantity, focusing as it does on delivering a strong first watt. Its asking price is a small price to pay for a generous slice of musical heaven.

Balanced Audio Technology VK-55
BAT’s 55-watt tube model may not be as revealing as some, but it offers a high degree of harmonic, textural, rhythmic, and ambient information. Tonally, it is a bit warm, with a gorgeous, well-balanced midrange, an easy, natural top end, and quite respectable weight in the bass. A 3-D soundstage and tight focus round out the virtues of this highly musical design.

PrimaLuna DiaLogue Seven
The 70W (40W in triode mode) PrimaLuna DiaLogue Seven monoblock employs a unique output stage—two discrete amplifier channels are paralleled at the loudspeaker terminals. This technique preserves the purity of a low-powered design while imbuing the amplifier with higher current capability. “No tube amplifier I’ve auditioned comes close to its performance for anywhere near its modest price,” said Jim Hannon.

Sanders Magtech
The Magtech “sounds as if it has infinite power into anything with total stability,” says REG. The fully regulated power supply is unusual. The rated power output of 500Wpc into 8 ohms and 900Wpc into 4, coupled with its stability driving capacitive loads, makes it the perfect choice for electrostatics.

Cary Audio CAD 120 S II
This 120Wpc Class AB tube amp offers a sound that emphasizes the natural warmth of the midrange and upper bass, and produces musically natural upper-octave energy without losing the highs you hear in live music. Detail is natural, centerfill is excellent, and imaging is realistic in size.

Coincident Speaker Technology Frankenstein M300B Mk. II
One of the best-sounding 300B SET amps DO has auditioned, Israel Blume’s Frankenstein IIs deliver on the promise of SETs: a midrange to die for, wonderful tonal color saturation, and spectacular imaging. In short, a sensational first watt! Its combination of affordability and performance makes for a screaming buy recommendation with the right speakers.