This is one of the finest stock, single-ended, 300B amplifier that any of us has heard. In fact, this amplifier was originally in our Class A when this list was originally posted in 1999. It is superb right out of the carton. For those who want the basic performance (for better or worse) of the discontinued and modified Golden Tube 300B (in Class B), and without the hassle and the work, this is the closest and easiest approach we know of at this time. However, the obvious and painful downside is the extra cost. The Cardinal does have one sonic and practical advantage over the Golden Tube, in tests in Stereophile, it had the lowest bass per its power rating.
These theoretical amplifiers would not get a "4" or even another "5" (because of their extra cost alone) on the "Value Chart" above, but I believe they would still offer a unique choice, and outstanding value, for those many audiophiles who are looking for high performance, along with drive capability, and without paying a fortune for it. They even be "buy it and forget it" components, that are used and enjoyed for many years and even decades, which, in the end, is just another way to define audiophile "Classics".
I made my semi-annual visit to Toronto, where I lived and worked for more than 30 years. I was there 10 days for mainly business reasons, but I did spend one entire day at an associate's house, where I had a lengthy, fascinating and highly productive listening session. I actually had some unprecedented experiences. One of these experiences, my/our observations and the final results and conclusions are discussed below.
The owner of Coincident, Israel Blume, informed me that he was now using superior coupling capacitors (oil and paper), input transformers and output transformers. These amplifiers should still be used only with high sensitivity and high impedance speakers, like most of the models from Coincident themselves. That's the only type of speakers I have auditioned them with.
This defining experience that WE had (my fellow listeners were also equally amazed by this LP comparison) was something I wish I could have shared with the multitude of fellow audiophliles who are still looking for a perspective, direction and strategy that will not fail them in the long run. Once you find the correct strategy, and I strongly believe that I/we have, the components themselves are much easier to evaluate and eventually become "secondary", which is their proper place to begin with.
There is also another amplifier from Tom Evans, the , which is mono, and has twice the power (55 watts). Hopefully, someone will get a pair of them into their system and report back. did a review of them recently. (Their one potential downside is their more complicated circuit.) There is a link to the Tom Evans Audio Design website below, and also in the Link File. Unfortunately, there is not much information on the site, just the "basics".
I had another audio buddy over yesterday. He has big JM Labs Electra floor-standers, an 80 wpc Unison hybrid and a Linn LP12. Not exactly chopped liver. After an hour of listening, his comment was "This is simply outrageous!" So far the amp has had rave reviews from everyone who has heard it, no matter their level of experience with hi-fi.
After the listening sessions we did play some heavy metal LPs, loud. At high volumes, the 845Ms seemed to be running out of steam. No clipping, but they just could not play as loud as the 845Bs. The manufacturer did state that the 845M has only 75% of the power output of the 845 and 845B. Based on our experience it would appear to be true.
"On the other hand"- Another one of my associates heard the CJ ART linestage and was very impressed with it. He told me that it was the finest and most neutral component he's ever heard from Conrad Johnson. He also preferred it to the Audio Research Reference line stage, which he felt was lean and a little dry. From my perspective, I advise avoiding linestages, but if I didn't, the ART would be near, or even at, the top of those we've heard. (2006)
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The Premier 8 was the worst amplifier of the bunch, by far. The superior amplifiers included not only the Canary Audio CA-339 and ASL Hurricane, but also the Altec/Tutay 1570, and a number of SET designs. The CJ was, in my associate's words; "heavily veiled, rounded, bloated, rolled-off, soft and distorted". He felt it was the kind of amplifier that could sound "pleasant" as long as the speaker required its power and/or the listener never heard or was bothered by its problems. While it may still outperform CJ's older and even more colored and veiled models, it is not a Reference for those audiophiles who are seriously looking for "real live sound", for better or worse.
In the last couple of months, one of my associates received a mint pair of the (recently discontinued) Premier 8 power amps to audition in his home system. He was able to compare them to a number of amplifiers already References on this website. The speaker he was using was the Coincident Total Victory II, totally broken-in, which I've also heard in-depth and have already placed in Class B of our Reference speakers. It is both highly accurate and highly revealing, plus it is sensitive and an easy load for most power amplifiers. This meant that the comparisons would focus on amplifier "quality Vs. quality", since the Premier 8's extra power would not provide an advantage in this particular instance. The results...
To summarize, here's my best memory of my friend's modification of his Premier One;
1. Conversion of the circuit to optimize the use of KT-88 output tubes with wire-wound resistors
2. Conversion from pentode to Triode operation
3. Coupling caps changed to high quality polypropylene (or even Teflon caps for extra money)
4. Film capacitors added in parallel to both the B+ power supply and the decoupling capacitors
5. Critical resisitors replaced with better versions
6. Power cord replaced with heavy duty IEC jack
7. RCA inputs changed to XLR inputs
8. Internal wire changed to VandenHul
9. Bias trim pots changed to film types