Bel Canto Ref 1000 vs. Spectron Musician III Mk 2


Has anyone compared in their own systems the Bel Canto Ref 1000 Mk II with the Spectron Musician III Mk2? If so, what was your preference and why?

I'm presently using a Cary SLP-05 pre. The speakers are Martin Logan CLX. I have had the Bel Canto in my system previously and thought quite highly of it. No dealers to request a Spectron from to try so interested in forum members view of the latest version.
kiwi_1282001
I have not compared them one on one, but I have had both in my system, granted there were a few amps between them as I was testing out amps.

I preffered the Bel Canto, I thought it had more lower end slam, and a bit more "sparkle" on the top. I was using Maggies and Spectron sounded a bit on the bright side to me.

Underwood HiFi, through Parts Connexion, offers an upgrade on the Bel Canto's. Given how great their other mods are I would love to hear this modification.

Good luck.
Hello Macdadtexas,

Your is first post ever that proclaimed Bel Canto to be better then Spectron and particualrly using Maggie. I have no doubt in your observation what so ever - but I want to understand why is it. What Spectron model did you use?

Somebody I know has Maggies 20.1 and comparison of the latest Bel Canto he owned and Spectron forced him quickly sell his BC and buy Spectron.

Simon Thacher, one of Spectron designer has also full range ribbons Audio Analyses and tuned up this amp accordingly...

Hello Kiwi,
I know what practically all Martin Logan Hybrids have very low impedance at the top and one needs tremenous amount of peak power to drive it WELL. CLX of course is pure electrostatic but I doubt if its behaivor at 20 kHz is different - call them ask ask for MINIMUM impedance - or may be its on their web site. They are honest in that regard.

You can try Spectron for 30 days home trial, they have this program and bring Bel Canto from the dealer and compare yourself.

Let best amp win!

Cheers
Dob, it doesn't sound like you have ever heard either but are going by what others say?

I had the amps discussed in the thread. My system is listed with my response, but in case you missed it: Maggie 3.6r's and Cary SLP98p F-1 preamp.
"Dob, it doesn't sound like you have ever heard either "

I heard both and moreover, I own Spectron. However, my speakers (B&W 802D) are not planar like yours (ribbons) and Kiwi (electrostatics) and I felt its more appropriate to discuss interaction with these speakers as you do not test amplfiier in the vacuum.

Maggie 3.6r's - I know ,at least, iSanchez own these with Spectron but I don't know if he heard Bel Canto. I am sure other do too and may choose to post here.

I sugggested to Kiwi to compare both amps in his own system (any any third amp he wishes as well) and I believe that his choice will be easy one - but its up to him.

Cheers
Hi Macdadtexas,

Thanks for your comments. Whats your take on the Bel Canto Ref 1000 vs. The Cary MB 500's you are presently using?

Hi Dob,

Thanks for your comments to. I'm not US resident so doubt home trial of the Spectron will be an option. Good observation on the challenges of driving ESL's.
Kiwi, I since you have an SLP-05 I should also tell you that I tried many, many amps before I ended up with my current amps, the Cary Audio CAD 500 MB. I use them with Maggies, so how they react with your ML ClX's could be different.

These are the amps I used/tried in the order I ranked them:

1) Cary Audio CAD 500 MB

2) Innersound ESL (now Sanders Sound)

3) Bryston 7Bsst (not the new 2 version)

4) Parasound Halo JC-1

5) Bel Canto Ref 1000 (not the new version)

6) Bryston 4bsst (great sound, but not enough power for the Maggies)

7) Spectron Musician III MK2,

8) McIntosh 501's (great amp, but didn't match with Maggies, they sound great with a buddies 802's)

There were actually a couple more, but they these are the ones I spent the most time with.

I have not had the Wyred4Sound mono blocks, but I hear nothing but great things about them, and I have also heard from similar planar/electrostatic users that the new Sanders Sound amps, while similar to the Innersound amps are actually even better.

Good luck, lots of good options.

Hi,

I also own Spectron Musician III Mk2 Monoblocks with all options and remote sense cables. I have to say they are very impressive. My oldest brother plays guitar and has been in a few bands in the past. He and a couple of his friends heard my stereo and were very impressed. They commented that what they heard sounded so real. I take that as very high praise. I can say that the Spectrons take a long time to break in and it only gets better as time goes on. Please take a listen, you will not be disappointed.

Joe
IMO, all of the ICE based amps have more similarities than differences.
The Spectron, which I've not heard offers the best chance of change....for better or worse TBD.

4bsst not enough juice for Maggies? OUCH! at 500x2 into 4ohms, I'd suspect there are other problems....maybe an over damped room? And, Bryston will deliver into all sorts of weird loads. Which the Maggie certainly is not.
I know that Bryston makes some monster Monoblocks which if given there own circuit, each, should 'bout do it.
Kiwi,

I owned the Spectrons (monoblocks with bybee and v-caps) with my CLX's. They were very nice with my ML ReQuests, but with the enormous resolving power of the CLX's I found the Spectrons were brittle, lacking in depth and sounding strained. With my dealer we did a side by side comparison with my Plinius SA-250 and frankly is was no contest, the Plinius won hands down, especially in weight, nuance and texture.

We thought that the Spectrons were challenged to deliver current across the impedance curve of the speakers, although the CLX's are not that hard to drive. I used to be a big supporter of Spectrons, and they sound very transparent at first blush, but after a while I realized they lack substance when driving electrostatics or ribbons.

Now my dealer has Bel Canto's with Soundlabs at home (he needs to get the CLX's!) and that combo is very nice - and based on that listening experience I would reank the Bel Canto's ahead of the Spectrons.

In any event, I would not recommend the Spectrons with CLX's, you will either sell the amps or the speakers!

Steve
MagFan, look up the list, the Bryston 7bsst is on there too. It was much better, stellar in fact. Yes, the 4Bsst did not have enough juice compared to most of the others on that list, did not open up the speakers. No problem with the room, changing the amps did the trick.
I too have had he spectron (bybees & v-caps), the B Cantos and the Cary 500mbs. I ended with the Cary's. You have to listen and make a decision for your self. By the way, based on history, any open minded written response against the Spectron will be met with a strong opposition by the "Spectron police". U have been warned.
I own the latest Spectron with bybee and V-caps. I also owned the Bel Canto Ref 1000. The Bel Canto Ref 1000 amps would not work with my speakers. My speakers are mainly 8 ohm speakers not 4 so the Bel Canto amps are a weak 500 watts amp not 1000 watts. They did not have enough power or bass. The top end was not there. The mid range was the only good part on my speakers. I tried the Bel Canto amps with 3 different preamps. I do run a pair of Spectrons as mono blocks. I have not run them any other way as mine are bridged internally. The Spectrons are the best amps I have tried with my speakers the Eggleston Savoys. I am sure the big XA Pass amps would also be good but heat is a problem so I have not tried them.
>>07-19-10: Coxhaus
My speakers are mainly 8 ohm speakers not 4 so the Bel Canto amps are a weak 500 watts amp not 1000 watts.<<

A "weak 500 watts".

Very interesting. Reviewing the Savoy specs indicates that should be more than enough power. However........

I have an old Plymouth with a weak 390 horsepower so I can identify with your dilemma.

:-)))
I do have Spectron Musician III Mk 2's with the Bybees and V-Caps. My speakers are separate panels and woofer modules. The lower mid driver does drop down to 3.3 ohm, but the speakers are not otherwise particularly challenging to drive. They do seem to present very favorably with higher level amplification. I originally used a Spectron channel for the panel and a channel for the module for each amp. Sound quality was much better than what I had experienced with ATI, Cinepro, and Gemstone amps on these speakers. I then tried the older legacy Wyred Class monos for the bass modules, and used the Spectrons in mono for the panels. Unfortunately, the woofers sounded muffled and congested. Lots of folks really like Wyred amps, and I wish it had worked for me, but did not. I have since gone fully active with the speakers--4-ways with Cary Cinema amps (Cinema 2 and Cinema 5)and the Spectrons. The gain is slightly higher on the Carys. I can adjust the gain on the woofer modules. I initially had planned on the Carys for the tweeter and woofer module, but the best sound has actually been the Spectrons on tweeter and mid, with Cary on lower mid and woofer. The upper range transparency, not etched, but smoothly detailed, extending into vocal range is very enjoyable.

I have not had the opportunity of auditioning the Cary 500MB's. I have read multiple high praise reports on them. I also have not auditioned the Bel Canto amps. Again, there seem to be many happy owners, especially on the newer models.

I was quite happy with the sound just using the Spectrons alone on the speakers, but curiosity and the quest was upon me. Sound quality is better now, but at considerably more expense and complexity. I'm also sure I will eventually do something different with the system, which may mean changes in amplification as well--so many options, so little time.

Will
What I mean by a weak 500 watts is my Classe CAM 350 amps had a lot better bass and control over the woofers than the Bel Canto amps. Just by hearing them you would think the Classe amps had more power. My wife listened to the Bel Cantos with my speakers and thought they sounded 1 dimension and that was her comment. They just did not match well with my speakers. Of course the Classe amps sounded veiled in the mid range compared to the Bel Cantos.
Coxhaus. I am considering the Spectron monos (bybee, v-cap, etc.) to replace 350's driving Aerial 9s. How do the Classe and Spectron's compare?

Sorry about the hijacking.
I think the Classe CAM 350 amps are showing their age. They are very musical in my opinion but not up to the standards of the new amps. The Spectrons bridged as mono blocks do everything better than the older Classe CAM 350 mono blocks with my speakers.
I just am infatuated with the mid range with class D amps. It seems so real to me over other amps. The low heat output in Texas is also a plus.
The fact is that Spectrons are power cord dependable and if you will going to use, let say Acoustic Zen Absolute than you will have bright sound, Harmonix will give you already reasonable sound toward the best from Elrod. The fact is also that Spectrons and planar speakers are great match ie planars finally can become alive after so many years and so many tries. All planars good and well known features simply explode.

Combination planar speakers / fully upgraded Spectrons (2 or 4 monoblocks) + remote sense speaker cables / Joule Electra pre / Elrod power cords works!

Best regards
Coxhaus, what does 1 dimension sounds like? Do you mean 2 dimensional?

Your Classe is probably higher current so better control of the bass.
My wife’s comment was 1 dimension. I assume she meant flat. My wife is a tenor sax musician. We have to go with her comment otherwise it is my words.
I agree with Guma15. I have Spectron amps, Joule Electra pre, Elrod power cords, and remote sense speaker cables. This is a great combo for making music.
I've never heard Spectron but the bass with BC ref1000mk2 is interesting. When I first heard them compared to my prior amp, a Musical Fidelity A3CR, I wondered where the bass was. It turned out it was there more than ever just so tight and controlled and 3 dimensional that it was disorienting at first.

For me nowadays the bass is just right. Its all there, tight and articulate yet powerful. It does not mask or overpower the midrange and allows that to come through nicely. Top end is slightly recessed compared to the MF I believe, but is still all there and non-fatiguing.

07-19-10: Mapman
I've never heard Spectron but the bass with BC ref1000mk2 is interesting. When I first heard them compared to my prior amp, a Musical Fidelity A3CR, I wondered where the bass was. It turned out it was there more than ever just so tight and controlled and 3 dimensional that it was disorienting at first.

I think this is an insightful observation Mapman. An amplifiers control (or lack of) over speakers will have a profound impact on observations concerning the bass. With my Eminent Tech Planars (about 83db sensitivity and impedance dip to 4 ohm) the Bel Canto Ref 1000 MKii monoblocs excelled, so for that matter did the Jeff Rowland Continuum C500.

ESL's however are even more demanding to drive as impedance can typically range from 1 ohm (or less) to 150 ohm (or above) depending on manufacturer and model.

Simon Thacher has dropped me a note saying he'd be prepared to give me a home trial which is very generous considering i live 20 hours flying time from the US. I'll try the Spectron with my ESL's, Ribbon Planars and Dynamic speakers (Raidho Acoustics) and observe what transpires.

Really appreciate the comments made to date. Keen to hear any other veiws on the BC Ref 1000 mk ii vs. Musician III mk 2.

07-18-10: Radicalsteve
Kiwi,

I owned the Spectrons (monoblocks with bybee and v-caps) with my CLX's. They were very nice with my ML ReQuests, but with the enormous resolving power of the CLX's I found the Spectrons were brittle, lacking in depth and sounding strained. With my dealer we did a side by side comparison with my Plinius SA-250 and frankly is was no contest, the Plinius won hands down, especially in weight, nuance and texture.

Thanks for your comments. System synergy is everything and your source and room interaction will further either add or substract from the experience. I do understand where you are coming from. I have heard the CLX with uber expensive Ayre Acoustics KX-R with MX-R monos and frankly hated the starkness of it all.
the more I read on this sting, the more I think you neeed Sanders Sound amps.
One of the more telling things about the bass with the BC ref100mk2s is that everything I play is cleaner and more defined and dynamic top to bottom than most anything else I have heard. Even modern loudness wars CDs that contain a lot of energy throughout and often a lot of deliberately muscled up bass are delivered again most tightly and articulately. These and large scale classical recordings that are also delivered best with some muscle combined with refinement are the kinds of recordings that I notice the biggest difference in. Nothing rattles the BC on either of my two pair of OHM speakers. Same true on my smaller monitors, however there more the size of the speaker becomes the bottleneck in regards to overall bass impact and effect. many recordings like these that just never sounded quite right before do now. And the more relaxed acoustic types of music as well as both male and female vocals are still spot on as well. Really hard to find fault.....
Hello Kiwi,
About an year and a half ago, I also posted the same question as you did (my speakers are WATT/Puppy 8 soon to be replaced by Sasha, most power hungry speakers in Wilson line).

The same Ajackson urged me not to buy Spectron, the same Radicalsteve complained on Spectron with his new speakers (Apogee Scintilla and not what he claims today - but who cares, importantly he complained and Plinius 250 he likes is good amp for these who don;t care about its weight and heat).

These boys scared me and I decided not to buy Spectron first without home audition.

To make it short, I tried and fall in love with Spectron stereo then bought another one to run in monoblocks then got all Spectron upgtrades then got Remote Sense cable and finally, Joule-Electra preamp - I cannot be more happy then now. Absoutely in audio heaven.

I looked for many amplifiers and I have tried Bel Canto Ref1000 Mk2. Its good amplifier, don;t want to say a bad word BUT BUT BUT Spectron is in different class whatsoever - its effortless presentation, its midrange etc. I am sucker for midrange and I used to tube amps (last McIntosh 2102) - Spectron is better, more REAL.

Now, as you said Spectron has policy of 30 days home trial so I would use this opportunity - it may be your last amp.
BC ref100mkII is definitely not for those looking for very warm tube sound in an amp.

My experience is it delivers what is fed into it, ie if you use tube pre-amp and/or source, the sound of those will be delivered, but does not deliver any tube-like warmth in of itself.

Having said that, the midrange in my system is sublime along the lines of more neutral sounding tube gear I have heard but I would attribute the midrange to the combination of components not to the BC amp alone itself. it is not a substitute for those who must have a tube amp to be happy or to drive their particular speakers properly if those speakers are designed to work best with tube amps.
07-20-10: Mapman
BC ref100mkII is definitely not for those looking for very warm tube sound in an amp.

My experience is it delivers what is fed into it, ie if you use tube pre-amp and/or source, the sound of those will be delivered, but does not deliver any tube-like warmth in of itself.

IMO an amplifier is doing what is it supposed to when it delivers what it is fed - only with gain. That is the definition of accuracy i.e. the degree to which the output signal from a component or system is perceived as replicating the sonic qualities of its input signal

Your experience mirrors mine. Last year i auditioned the BC Ref 1000's with a Lamm Pre-amp. Indeed the character of the Lamm was passed through. By way of comparison I will be looking for the Spectron to do the same with my Cary Pre-amp.
07-20-10: Macdadtexas
the more I read on this sting, the more I think you neeed Sanders Sound amps


Hi Macdadtexas, the Sanders ESL amplifier is purpose built to deliver the high voltage such speakers need and based on an audition i did a while back with some Kingsound ESL speakers it performs well.
07-20-10: Michael_moskowich
Hello Kiwi,
About an year and a half ago, I also posted the same question as you did (my speakers are WATT/Puppy 8 soon to be replaced by Sasha, most power hungry speakers in Wilson line).

The same Ajackson urged me not to buy Spectron, the same Radicalsteve complained on Spectron with his new speakers (Apogee Scintilla and not what he claims today - but who cares, importantly he complained and Plinius 250 he likes is good amp for these who don;t care about its weight and heat).

Thanks Michael. Forums are about opinions and i'm happy to read them all - which is after all the reason for asking. At the end of the day i will form my own opinion. Radicalsteve's Plinius is an excellent amplifier but i'm of the opinion that with recent advances in technology it should be possible to obtain good results without using a class A monster.
Need I say more, the head of the Spectron police has spoken. Which part of my response urged Kiwi not to buy Spectron? Is someone Spectron's payroll?
Just to be clear, my Spectrons were great amps and a major upgrade over my various tube amp iterations, but class A (for me) seems to have the upper hand if you are looking for that emotional connection - but as someone said in the thread it is system dependent and always synergy trumps individual components.

One thing though I want to emphasize; several folks came and listened to my system in its room, including an impartial experienced dealer, and for all the overriding agreement was not in favor of the Spectrons, so it is not personal, for the record, or inconsistent with anything I have said previously! As always life is a journey.

If you can listen to equipment at home, this is always the definitive evaluation; the only problem is that a a quick "weekend of home demo, does not do justice and extended listening is required. 30 day home demos are more effective in evaluation. In general I never compare and contrast between one piece and another. That is like trying to say cabernet is better than pinot - they are different and if you have to make a choice, make a personal connection for your own taste - audio or vinous!

I would be happy to have Spectron amps again, its just that I prefer the Plinius sound, nothing more complex than that. Oh, and by the way, before he became a Spectron consultant, Simon's preferred and owned amps were Plinius - go figure.

Steve
My Spectron experience: I currently use the latest Spectron monoblocks with all upgrades, driving Marten Coltranes. My preamp is from Joule Electra. The Coltrane is not particularly insensitive, but the impedance curve is somewhat demanding. The amps drive the Coltranes with ease. From top to bottom, they are neutral in the best sense of the word. Well-recorded acoustic jazz is rendered with sweetness and liquidity. Well-recorded rock and pop is delivered with speed and slam. One word of caution: careful impedance matching between Spectron and preamp is called for: I had the opportunity to demo an ARC preamp, and this was not a good match for the Spectrons.
Impedance matching to pre-amp especially if a tube pre-amp is always a consideration for any amp, not just SPectral or Class D.

Stock Icepower modules have 10K input impedance which is not optimal for use with most tube pre-amps.

BC ref1000 uses stock Icepower modules and has 10K input impedance.

BC ref1000m has a separate input stage with 100K input impedance which should match well to most any pre-amp. It seems to do well with my ARC sp16.

Spectron amps may vary regarding input impedance also from model to model I think I recall, so best to know exactly what model you are dealing with and its input impedance specs if to be used with most tube pre-amps.

I take any user accounts of SS amp performance with a grain of salt especially when used with a tube pre-amp because matching impedance and its effect on amp/pre-amp synergy is not something that many take into consideration up front before buying unfortunately.
You gotta be kidding! Comparing Bel Canto to Spectron ?
Come on!! As everyone knows, circuit wizard John Ulrick
founder of Infinity, built the first class D amp back in
'68 and put in a Infinity active subwoofer. Brilliant!!
Then came out with an outboard class D, the Swamp-1 at CES
in'74. He retains two patents on his switching modules and builds everything from scratch in L.A. and doesn't buy the ICE amps from B&O as Bel Canto, Rowland, Wyred 4 sound, Red Dragon and everyone else. Cheapskates!! Spectron is the real deal. King of Class D. Don't waste your time or money
on any other. Ulrick is the Godfather of Class D. Give the man respect and the honor he deserves ! Buy his amps!!
Sorry Audiozen, the Class D amp has been around long before 1968! Not knowing the age of your Godfather and perported "inventor" of Class D Amps, my guess is that he may have been an infant at best when Class D amps were first invented. Not that such a fact should interfer or negate his work with furthering Class D amplification.

Funny thing Audiozen, I am sure there are many BC owners that would make a similar statement; "you gotta be kidding me! comparing a Spectron to a Bel Canto". Both seem like awfully short-sighted, emotional comments. After all, there are those than can confirm with a high degree of certainty that a Honda minivan is a much better vehicle than a Corvette/Porsche/Viper/etc. . . my two dogs, both kids and camping gear would agree with that statement on a lot of days!

Michael_moskowich - those are pretty strong accusations you are making. The problem with your statement is that no such posting in your thread history confirms this statement about inquiring about Spectron amps (perhaps it was via another website). Yet Approximately one year earlier than this post, you do show up in another post waxing poetically about Spectron amps.

As an individual looking into Spectron and interested in gaining a better understanding about their peroformance and capabilities, one does get a feeling about the referenced "Spectron Police" based on the very limited number of extremely aggressive posters claiming they are the best amps possible. Yet with each upgrade and new version, the performance is astounding, mind boggling, "twice as good" (as one Spectron poster put it). This makes it all seem somewhat questionable. If the amp (before the upgrade) was purportedly the best and a simple upgrade from one model or version to the very next makes it twice as good, this raises suspicion.

One of the items that concerns me, as a prospective buyer (preferably used) is the upgrades and model changes. While I don't know the exact number of model changes, upgrades, and "doubling down" to mono that have been made in the past 7 years (in reading the threads, it seems like a lot). I am always a little concerned that buying such a piece of equipment needs what almost seems like annual upgrades, or worse, the need to add a second amp.

I must confess that I am a class A amp fan. I have tried A/B and also class D amps (was not impressed in enough areas then, 3 years ago). I have owned tubed and SS amps, SET amps and yes, even made the mistake of running multi-channel amps in bridging my HT and 2-channel needs (won't make that mistake again).

Please don't take the above comments wrong, I am very interested in trying the Spectron amps and will likely do so in the near term (and report my opinions after sufficient listening). Like every other component and brand out there, there are individuals who have bought and sold them, due to some failure (in the prior owners opinion) of the product. For those of us that are considering a new component, it is nice to be able to hear of the short comings as well as the attributes of any product. People by nature are suspicious of a product that has a very narrow band of hard core supporters that attack anybody who is contrary to their belief system (this is not just an audio issue). Unfortunately, such actions do more to discredit their beliefs than they do to discredit those who counter their belief system.

From the mouths of the fans of Spectron (those that own, not "professional" reviewers who I have little confidence in), they do sound like great amps and purportedly deliver much of what I am seeking. The build up of these amps by the supporters has greatly raised my expectations to that of a level of performance that will so blow away anything that I have heard that the difference will be immediately noticeable, apparent and unmistakeable. This can be a good thing and a bad thing, as the fact that they are light weight, run cool, use little energy are not factors in my equipment making decision. The sound performance and characteristics are what matters. I live in MI and sometimes a nice hot Class A amp is just what I am seeking on a warm night - even when not listening to music! ;)

What I would be interesting in learning, from both current owners and past owners of the Spectron amps is the following:
What are its greatest attributes?
At what points is its performance not notably better or worse than most other high quality amps?
What are its greatest weaknesses (FYI - none is not an acceptable answer as everything has a weakness)?

I would rather dampen my expectations a bit and become a bit more practical as to what the amps will deliver in more areas. Thanks in advance to any and all individuals who have owned, sold, and carefully auditioned these amps. Some reference as to system componentry would be a plus as a reference for me.
What I would be interesting in learning, from both current owners and past owners of the Spectron amps is the following:
What are its greatest attributes?
At what points is its performance not notably better or worse than most other high quality amps?
What are its greatest weaknesses (FYI - none is not an acceptable answer as everything has a weakness)?

This is a good line of enquiry by Ckoffend and i've be very interested in the replies.

By way of update my auditions have expanded to include the Sanders Magtech amplifier (which is not Class D) but produces high power (read high voltage needed for ESL's) but runs cold.
Ckoffend,

"Michael_moskowich... The problem with your statement is that no such posting in your thread history confirms this statement about inquiring about Spectron amps... "

#1 Below is the thread I started about two years ago when I was searching for THE amplifier for my Watt/Puppy 8 (today Sasha) where I did inquired about Spectron:
http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1239382999

#2 My point was (snd still is) very simply - there are always people who like and dislike anything under they sky. You got to try!!! I did and then I started to build the system around my Sasha+Spectron and I am immensely happy.

You do whatever you want - just don;t lie about my postings

Mike
"Sorry Audiozen, the Class D amp has been around long before 1968! Not knowing the age of your Godfather and perported "inventor" of Class D Amps, my guess is that he may have been an infant at best when Class D amps were first invented "

Ckoffend,

Spectron Audio claims tot he contribution to class D amplifier as following (from their web site):

=========================================
Historical Prospective
------------------------
from Sound & Vision "50 Greatest A/V Innovations: The most revolutionary products & technologies of the past 50 years" January 2008

"Digital Amplifiers:
Going back to the Infinity SWAMP 1 of the mid-1970s, digital amps have had a checkered history, but they seem finally to have turned the corner in terms of reliability and performance. Highly efficient and cool-running, they promise to play a bigger role in the future."

At that time Spectron's President John Ulrick was president and co-founder of Infinity Systems, famous for its pioneering development of the combination of the servo woofer with the electrostatic speaker. He introduced SWAMP-1, the first commercially available class D amplifier, into the hi-fi audio world at CES 1974 - exactly as credited above by the Sound & Vision.
=======================================================

Not more not less. If "Sound & Vision " could acknowledge their work as one of 50 greatest A/V innovations so can I

You disagree? Fine, we all can live with it - just don;t distort the MEANING of Audiozen post.

Mike
"Come on!! As everyone knows, circuit wizard John Ulrick
founder of Infinity, built the first class D amp back in
'68 and put in a Infinity active subwoofer. Brilliant!!"

The first class D amplifier was built long before this (a simple google search will provide the details and history), I don't know how letting the facts get in the way is distorting the meaning of a proclaimed factual statement?

Your post of 2 years ago, which you kindly provided the link to, and which I did read prior to my past posting review. As your OP stated, you were inquiring about the color of the faceplate of Spectron amps.

My questions, the only points of importance to me are laid out at the end of my post. It is the answers to these Qs and points of interest that I (and possibly others) are interested in. If I were not considering a Spectron amp, I would not spend my time on such a forum thread.

My experience in garnering impressions of equipment in terms of performance is that often people that have owned and then sold equipment can be the best at addressing the performance of said equipment. Unfortunately it is observed often on this site and other forums that current owners always feel their present equipment is the "best". Is this due to pride of ownership, self-justification, blind belief, reality? Obviously, if its reality then its great, but all too often this is not the case!

A prior owner has the nice ability to remove many of the interfering emotional aspects of reviewing the equipment previously owned. It is always especially nice to talk to or learn from people that have sold a piece, only to greatly regret it later or even those that haven't regretted it. Every item has its strengths and weaknesses, those of us considering a piece want the ability to weigh them against each other. Like you (Michael), I own Wilson speakers and love them. Have looked for years to try to find something I like better (as I recognize there are flaws in the Wilsons). In the end, I keep ending up back with Wilson speakers, knowing their strengths and weaknesses vs. other tried speaker's stengths and weaknesses. While I love Wilsons, it does not mean they are for everybody, nor would I recommend them to everybody. Does that make them bad? No, of course not. I knew this when buying my first pair, but I also felt I understood the S&W and made my decision based on undertanding both.

I am only looking for similar feedback on the Spectron amps. To me, it is a logical approach (as long as I recognize that such feedback is only other's opinions).

It does concern me that anybody who says anything not glowing toward spectron amps get's called out. Their input is just as important as an extremely small group of voiciferous supporters/promoters.
Getting back on topic - for the past 6 months I have owned a Bel Canto Ref 500m (which has been getting a lot of good reviews - and is the next generation higher bandwidth ICE module compared to the 1000m).

I have tried these on Triad Gold Monitor speakers (which are 4-ohm speakers) , and on another system using B&W N804's.

In both cases, I was getting a similar sound with the Bel Canto - it was smooth and noise free - but smooth to the point that is was slightly artificial sounding. Over the 6 month period I tried with my various interconnects, power cables, preamp, etc. to optimize it - but it just never sounded as good as my old Simaudio Class A/AB amp. Not having the same bass drive strength as the Simaudio was something I could live with, but the plasticky sound just started driving me nuts over the 6 months I had them. Supposedly they take that long to break in, and they did admittedly get better bass and treble during that time, but the plasticky sound never really changed.

The only reason I switched to Class D in the first place was for heat reasons -my new house had a semi-enclosed cabinet so I had no choice. I should also mention that I had tried some other Class D amps - including the Wyred, the Pioneer Receiver, etc. - all with similar issues (Bel Canto sounded the best among these though).

This December, I decided to give Class D one final last try with the Spectron - I grilled them about their return policy - - I really had enough with the whole Class D thing and if this thing didn't sound just right I was planning on shipping it back immediately, and going back to Class A or AB - regardless of heat!

Well to my pleasant surprise - as soon as I plugged in the Spectron - it sounded "normal". It actually had many of the characteristics of the Simaudio - a strong sound - like it was totally in control of the speakers. Strong bass, full midrange, good treble, with nothing weak nor nothing strongly accentuated. Very neutral sounding. Also, fast transient attacks / high speed (similar to a zero global feedback Class A amp), But most important it lacked the "plasticky" sound that was driving me nuts with the Bel Canto.

But a friendly warning - I made the mistake of trying out the amplifier in monoblock mode. The sound really opened up and I could hear backgrounds in recordings that I had never heard before with the Simaudio. At this point it was outperforming my Class A/AB amp in every regard - I really had not expected this! The only reason I don't recommend you try out the monoblock mode - is you may find yourself having to go out and buy another Spectron amp as I had to do! :)

So in a nutshell, if you are going to go Class D, I think there is no contest between any of the ICE amps vs the Spectron - the Spectron is clearly to me a much better amp.



DAn,

I would like to hear a good Spectron someday for comparison to my BEl Canto ref1000m mononblocks, which have been a home run for me to-date (I picked them up second hand over a year ago now).

My experience with the ref1000m's was that when I first hooked them up, the sound was so different from what I had just prior with a Class A Musical Fidelity A3CR that I did not know what to make of it. So it was definitely different. In my case however, once my ears adjusted I determined the sound was miles ahead and more in line with reference systems I have heard using very high end gear only.

I will say that the amps seem to benefit my larger full range, current hungry OHM Walsh speakers more than they did my small Dynaudio monitors, so I think the benefits of Class D over other amps in general may be determined somewhat by the particular speakers used.
Dan, thank you very kindly for your thoughts and comments. I had tried class D in the past, initially liking the positive side of what they delivered, but within just a few months, ultimately determined that they lacked too many attributes that I was seeking.

The fact that you have tried other Class D amps and had been disappointed with their overall performance more closely mimics my experience with this "design". Your comments about the Spectron's uncharacteristic Class D performance is encouraging. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

Mapman, your comments about speaker specifics, while necessary to point out, should go without saying. We have communicated via other threads in the past, I hold a level of trust in your comments - typically well thought out and not hastily posted or with too much pride getting in the way of reality. I had also read a lot of positive Bel Canto comments and communicated directly with several owners. In the end, I determined that they did not do it for me/my speakers in a way that I require, but are good amps nonetheless. Finding that synergy is so important, it sounds like you are there.

Any others having tried and sold or tried and kept the spectrons (especially in stereo)? I'd love to hear from you and I am sure others would also like to expand the list of people posting on the performance of these amps (based on prior or current ownership).
FWIW, I have not compared the BC ref1000m's to any other Class D amps, low or high end in any sort of meaningful test.

All I can state is that yes I find them hard to fault and they fit the bill perfectly for me.

I suspect I would like the Spectron's as well if I heard them though I would not expect the two to sound exactly the same.

There are lots of flavors of home sound (they are all just different flavors after all) out there that I like a lot and could live with if I had to, especially since I run multiple speakers in multiple rooms to provide some variety, which is of course the spice of life!