Review: Boulder 1060 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

It’s taken some time to come around to this review, but after tracking down an excellent German Walther 32a connector to re-terminate one of my Acoustic Revive Reference pc’s & putting around 300hrs on my Ayon CD-5s I was finally able to do some critical listening.

Previous amps owned – Classé Cap-2100 integrated, Ayon CD-5 (pre), Nakamichi Amplifier 1 integrated.

My musical tastes include – classic pop, female voice, jazz, blues, world/ambient, classical & a little alternative/indy.

As I related in a previous thread, I still had a few question marks after jumping in and buying the Boulder 1060 after I was offered a good example. Reviews and forum comments seemed inconsistent, so I asked Rich Maez at Boulder about this & received the following response -

“If you go hunting on-line, you'll find commentary that claims we're bright, dark, fast, slow, etc. In general, when none of the commentary is consistent, we take it mean that we're transparent or neutral. That's what we aim for - we don't voice our equipment to sound a certain way and instead make it as faithful to the recording as possible - if a recording has an up-front presentation, the 1060 will, if it has a "back of the hall" presentation, so will the 1060.”

I also read another comment from member Khrys –

“Horses for courses, but I think Boulder is among the most mellifluous of SS amps, along with Burmester, Dartzeel and the BEL 1001, sadly no longer in production.”

Both comments proved to be true as I later found out. My tastes do run along the lines of a balance between solid state drive & tube virtues of warmth, body, dimensionality, liquid sound & the sweetness. Amps that I’ve heard and enjoyed include the Boulder 865, Modwright KWA-150, Dartzeel NHB-108/NHB-18s, Rowland 625/Corus & Vitus SIA-025. The Bladelius Ymer/Idun pairing also impressed me with natural sound & some serious bass. All had their pros & cons, but I think I made the right choice going for the Boulder.

If the pre-amp is the heart and soul of your system, your power amp is certainly the engine that drives it. And the Boulder ticks all the boxes with serious power reserves, exceptional circuit design and build quality, great sound & pride of ownership.

So what about the sound? Based on my personal preferences, forum comments & having read the Inner Ear magazine review of the Vac Renaissance Signature Mk2 pre (which paired the Boulder 1060 and Vac), it was clear the Boulder was best matched with a reference balanced tube pre, and I had a likely candidate fresh out of the box in my Ayon CD-5s. And after 300hrs run in, all I can say is “wow!” Already understanding the character of my Ayon CD-5s, through the run in process I was able to determine the sound of the Boulder which I would describe as natural sounding, authoritive, transparent, fast, detailed without etch & tomb quiet in operation. What my Ayon CD-5s added was tube virtues of warmth, dimensionality/holography, liquid flow & a bit of sweetness.

Tonight, after warming up my system for several hours I sat down for a final listen before writing this review. On one of my reference cd’s; Christy Baron - “I thought about you” (Chesky) I found myself turning up the volume more and more, but was surprised when the actual speaker volume didn’t change that much. I found myself searching for something more….then I had a eureka moment…what I was searching for was the background noise (aka “volume”) i’d been accustomed to hearing from most other systems! There it was, I was listening to a small, intimate music piece exactly as David Chesky intended it to sound. Music emanated from a jet black background with proper weight, scale, accurate tonality, liquid flow & warmth.

I kept listening, and on track 3 of my Pink Floyd Pulse cd and track 6 of Deep Forest “World Mix” I was following sounds which stretched to every corner of my room across a wide, holographic sound stage. This thing was imaging like crazy! The only experience I can think of which compares was an experience I had 20 years ago when I had the opportunity to audition a pair of Infinity IRS-V’s in a Dealer’s showroom paired with Electrocompaniet mono blocks. Of course the IRS-V’s were on a completely different level, but still this was pretty amazing for a pair of stand mounts.

Of course a system is the sum of all its parts, and I recall Leif Oloffson remarking “Compared to the original Coltrane the sound of the Altos is slightly warmer and actually the midrange resolution is as good or better than the Coltranes.” The midrange magic was also helped by my CD-5s which has really impressed me as pre & the addition of Origo cables.

The Boulder is much more authorative than my previous Classé amp. There is now solid bass which can go deep when the music calls for it. The bass is also well textured and resolved. Attacks and decays are long and at times spine tingling! Piano and strings in particular are eerily real sounding. On track 10 of “Come away with me” I closed my eyes and just shook my head. It was like the guitarist was sitting on a stool in my listening room. Piano also sounds amazing with perfect tone, weight, flesh & speed. Female voice is also wonderful. Play a more dynamic pop cd and that’s how the Boulder sounds. Play Nora Jones and Nora’s sassy voice as well as the natural warmth, brassy tone and intimacy of the original recording are preserved. The Boulder is really a chameleon in the way it adapts to any kind of music and just reproduces it perfectly.

On the technical side, the Boulder 1060 is a true differentially balanced, direct coupled, dual mono, class a/b amplifier which operates in class a for the first 17 watts before switching to class ab. Boulder put a lot of effort into perfecting the circuit design (including the biasing) and spent a lot of time notching out crossover distortion. As a result the 1060 is linear in operation like a class a amp. Now 17 watts in class a might not sound like much, but as Rich Maez explains “If you start out with a much better circuit design to begin with, you don't need to over-compensate with higher biasing.”

The design and specifications of the 1060 are just astonishing. Virtually every component of the amp is designed and manufactured in-house (Including the cad-designed cnc machined/hand-finished chassis), whilst those that are not are custom-made to Boulder’s specifications. Nothing is off the shelf. The 1060 features twin potted 1.5kva transformers, bridge rectification, 48 filter capacitors (24 per channel), 56 bipolar output devices & Boulder’s proprietary 983 gain stages. Protection circuitry is also reassuringly robust. Boulder guarantee 300 watts continuous power into any load, but the 1060 feels more powerful than that and one suspects that figure is conservative. But for all that power, the 1060 only pulls around 60 watts at idle, and 15 watts in standby, meaning you’re not hurting your power bill (or the environment).

Depending on your requirements, Boulder offer two great value matching pre amps; the 1010 & 1012. (The 1012 includes a pretty serious dac, making it the ideal partner for all your digital sources). The 1010 & 1012 are built with the same extreme build quality & sonic performance as the 1060, and you've got the further benefit of 'Boulder Link' which can control the 1060 & displays error messages from the 1060's protection! If you're like me however, you'll probably be in Heaven running some NOS valves upstream. Am I impressed? You bet!


Associated gear
- Ayon CD-5s (matched NOS 6H30p-DR output tubes & 6C4P rectifiers. Upgraded Burson single HD op amps)
- Oppo BDP-83SE (upgraded Furutech IEC)
- Marten Coltrane Alto speakers
- IC's - Jorma Origo xlr
- Speaker cables - Origo biwire
- PC's - Acoustic Revive Power Reference
- Racks - Taoc ASR series
- Conditioner - Acoustic Revive RTP-6 Ultimate
- Tweaks - Acoustic Revive/Alto Extremo
(Note: With my vinyl rig still packed away in boxes, my source for this review was my CD-5s).

Similar products
- Boulder 865
- Modwright KWA-150/LS-100
- Bladelius Ymer
- Dartzeel NHB-108/NHB-18s
- Rowland 625/Corus
- Vitus SS-010
- Vitus SIA-025
Thanks for the informative review. Glad to hear that the Boulder is working well for you.
Hi Gammajo, thanks for reply. It's always difficult to write an accurate sound descrption, and this is my first review on AG. You know the moment you see the Boulder 1060, it is a pretty special amp. The first thing which strikes you is the beautifully intricate, dovetailed casework. Then there is the weight. This beast weighs 140lbs & it's a two-man job to lift it! The next thing which stands out is the unusual 32a connector, necessary due to the Boulder's ability to draw more than 20amps at full tilt. Everything looks beautiful and perfectly designed. Even the machined/polished on/off switch feels reassuringly solid & engages with a solid click. That initiates the amp's soft start procedure before switching to normal operation. I just love what this amp can do. The bass is excellent, and whilst i've heard one or two amps with *more* bass, the 1060 has the best quality bass i've ever heard and has texture, detail & nuance. The 1060's speed and current deliver fast transients, whilst it's very low noise floor reveals wonderful inner detail and contributes to the jet black background. I'm only using my Ayon CD-5s as my preamp for now (excellent though it is). I plan to upgrade to a dedicated Ayon valve pre next year. That will bring a further improvement. Can't wait!

My experience with Boulder has been wonderful btw. Rich Maez at Boulder is always friendly, approachable & very knowledgable and has been fantastic in answering a range of questions. My Dealer Boris from Absolute Hi End was also great to deal with and happy to answer any questions I had and was very prompt in replying. Boris even personally delivered the amp to me, helped me set it up & even called back the next day to check how everything was going! That just seems to be part and parcel of the Boulder experience.

On a brief note, sorry to those couple of AG'ers who posted replies to the previous iteration of this review. Had to re-submit it due to a couple of rookie erros!:D

I really enjoyed reading your review. I am also looking at the 1060. BTW how does the 1060 compare to the Rowland?
Hi Bob, thanks for your feedback :) With the preface the JRDG & Boulder are at different price points, I liked the Rowland 625/Corus amps which sound warm & seductive (sweet) and are quite resolving. They have wide bandwidth & good power. Build quality is also excellent, however I found the Rowland amps a bit bright sounding paired with Marten speakers. Rowland uses high biasing in the 625 which is often used to compensate for non-linearities in operation. The Boulder conversely was quieter, more natural sounding, powerful (dynamic), linear & tonaly accurate (neutral). The Boulder lacks the warmth & sweetness of the JRDG amps, however paired with a good balanced valve pre, everything falls into place and the sound is wonderful!
hows the 1060 vs the 865? i heard someone say the monos were preferable...which i find hard to believer given the $ diff.
Hi Rhyno, I haven't compared the 865 to the 800 series monos, and haven't compared the 865 and 1060 side by side, but my impressions are the 865 has a similar sonic signature to the 1060. I really like the sound of the 865 which has surprising power & control for an integrated, and a sound which I would describe as on the slightly warm side of neutral, accurate and with nicely rendered tone. Boulder amps are always quiet & fast, so low level detail is good and transients are quick. In 4 words "It just sounds right". What the 1060 gives is more of everything, but keep in mind you're comparing a $12.5k integrated to a $25k power amp.
One thing i'm starting to really appreciate about the Boulder 1060 is its ease...the way music just flows. With the combination of my Ayon valve pre upstream, the effect is beguiling. You stop thinking about electronics & just listen to the music. That's the best compliment I could pay the Boulder I think. I've also read the ARC Ref 3 & 5 are excellent matches as well. The input impedance of the 1060 is 100k ohms (balanced) or 50k ohms (unbalanced) which is benign to even the weakest tube preamps, so you could say this is a tube friendly amp. Am listening to Fleetwood Mac "The Chain" on rbcd tonight...happy days :)

You have absolutely nailed it in your review and followup comments on the Boulder 1060. I will add that I use the 1010 preamp with it. It is a superb, quiet, detailed,highly musical, but nonfatiguing sound. I owned the Ayre MXR and KXR combination for sometime. The Boulder gear is far more involving and easier to listen to. In fact, I replaced the Ayre combo with The Boulder 865 integrated. I felt it to be superior to the Ayre. The 1010 and 1060 combo is much better yet. It seems to be a secret as to just how good Boulder gear sounds. The only thing I would want to change would be to go to a Boulder 2060 amp, but it is just too pricey. BTW my speakers are Vienna Acoustics The Music, and cables are Analysis Plus Big Silver SC's and Silver Oval IC's.
Hi Rdoc, thanks for your comments. I've heard the 1010 preamp once with the 1060 & it did everything right and of course was a very good match, but as my tastes tend toward tube-like sound, I prefer a tube preamp upstream.

I'm not surprised with your comparison with the Ayre amps. I think they're overrated to be honest. The fact the 865 bested the the MXR/KSR combo in your system suggests so. Yes, i'm amazed to be honest by the misconceptions about the 1060. I've read it's lean, dark, bright, etc. No wonder it seems to have slipped under the radar, both in reviews and on forums. What i've tried to do in my review is to describe how this amp really sounds in a good set up, and that it can have soul too!

Also congrats on your audio system. Those Vienna Acoustics speakers look superbly designed & have excellent extension. They look quite sophisticated, though room placement seems an important consideration. My Marten Coltrane Altos work very well in my smallish listening space as they are non-critical with placement & were designed to be able to be placed close to rear walls. They are using much different driver materials (ceramic vs TPX) and cabinets (carbon/kevlar sandwich vs wood), but list price was about the same.

System synergy is important, and I would say the combination of Marten Coltranes, Boulder/Ayon amps & Jorma Origo cables is excellent. And it would take a very good source to knock off the CD-5s.
Rdoc, in a bold attempt to put aside my tube prejudice :D I thought it would be interesting from my perspective & for other members if you could provide some insight into the sound of the 1010 preamp? Do you find it lean or analytical sounding? Or lacking warmth & liquid flow? Also how do you find the sound staging compared to other preamps you've heard?
That is an interesting question which I posed to one of the largest dealers in the US. They not only carry Boulder, but a huge array of of extreme high end tube and SS equipment. Their feeling is that the 1010 is one of the very best in the world and that no tube preamp would gain me anything other than a coloration. Once again Boulder is under the radar. Boulder also does not need to have an upgrade every few months or even years as many manufacturers do! The 1010 is not lean and certainly not analytical. The stage depth and width are incredible. The music is not fatiguing. Some equipment while not fatiguing becomes boring after a while. I have not found this to be the case with the 1010 and 1060. The music is just so enjoyable. I just do not feel the need to look at anything else. I might add that I have owned in addition to Ayre, the very top of Audio Research and Spectral in the past. Another key point is that I auditioned my Boulder 1021 CD player directly into the 1060. I was really hoping that I would not need a preamp, but the sound was markedly better with the 1010 in the system. Thanks.
Thanks for your insight Rdoc as an owner of the 1010 pre. Your commentary certainly ameliorates any concerns I may have had about 1010 sounding either analytical or too ss. Boulder have clearly produced an excellent preamp here. Btw the coloration your Dealer was referring to is 2nd order harmonics which give tube amps their midgrange lushness, and the amount of damping which gives it its 'warmth'. I do feel ceramic drivers need warm sounding amps, or tubes somewhere in the mix, so plenty to ponder! Whilst i'll probably stick to a valve preamp in my setup, i'm curious about the 1021 player. How would you describe the sound, and how is living with this player?
Let me preface my comments about the Boulder 1021 by stating that my previous player was an Ayon CD-2. I also tried it direct into the amp, but it was not even close to the sound with the 1010 in the system. It has been a while, but as I recall the sound was much less involving as well as less dimentional and a bit fatiguing. Another problem was that it created a hum in balanced mode with the Boulder. A tech examined the issue and found grounding issues that would require a redesign of the piece. We could not solve the issue by lifting the ground. I then sold it and purchased the 1021. It has been one of the best purchases in my 40 years+ as an audiophile. I use it as a cd player which by the way is one of the few that buffers the output of the cd so it can reread if there are errors. I also more often use it as a dac on an ethernet network hooked to a hard drive. The sound is marvelous as it should be for the price. The music just flows and blooms with great depth and width of stage. I hope this helps, but I am not such a wordsmith as to do justice to it's sound. If you can afford it give it a listen. If you cannot afford it, you had better not audition it! Thanks.
Rdoc, I thought i'd update my review to report I have decided to buy a Boulder 1010 preamp to match my 1060. The 1010 has been ordered & is on it's way. I'm also doing a cable upgrade at the same time & am upgrading to Jorma Prime pc's & Prime xlr's (My speaker cables are Jorma Origo bi-wire). That will complete an all-Jorma set up from source to driver (as my Coltrane Alto's are also internally wired with Jorma No1), thereby improving tonality & coherency. Will post back once i've had a chance to hear the new setup!
Melbguy and others: I am considering a 1060, but want to be sure it will mate well (at least on paper, the ears are the real test) with my tube preamp, CJ Act 2 Series 2 (SE, unbalanced only). The 1060 Owner's Manual shows its unbalanced output impedance is 50,000 ohms, which is what the OP appears to be relying on above. However, Boulder's Data Sheet for the 1060 shows the unbalanced output impedance at 25,000 ohms. There is also a discrepancy re balanced 100K in Owners Manual vs. 50K in Data Sheet. Anyone noticed this discrepancy (or am I reading these wrong?).
my 1060 has no rca inputs. not sure what you're looking at.

very good amp. does very very little wrong. but i would approach system building as what amp matches my speakers best, and then consider preamps. work backwards---speakers for the room, amp for the speakers, etc...
i just checked, and by golly you're right, there is a discrepancy b/w the two. strange oversight.

fwiw, you could always use an adapter, as i had when i used a herron pre w/ the 1060, but unit does prefer balanced preamps, which CJ is not. if you like the pre so much, why not a cj amp?

Boulder has confirmed that the 1060 Data Sheet on the website was inadvertent error that they will correct. The correct input impedances for the 1060 are 100K balanced and 50K unbalanced, as shown on the Owner's Manual. So, my concern about potential impedance mismatch with the CJ Act2.2 preamp should not be an issue.

Yes, I was thinking of using an adaptor to the 1060's RCA inputs. And yes, a CJ amp is an obvious choice and under consideration. My preference, however, is a fully SS amp, and the CJ Premier 350 rarely comes up for sale.
Hi Whitecap, if I can offer my point of view, I was considering a true balanced valve pre (Ayon Orbis) to match with my Boulder 1060 until very recently, but finally decided to get the 1010 instead. Factors which swayed me included (in no particular order) -
- My Dealer was adamant the 1010 was the best value preamp in it's price range, and especially so in this context
- has obvious system synergy with the 1060
- the sound is transparent and 3 dimensional, but also on the warm side of neutral
- visually matches the 1060
- can switch on/off both amps with one remote control
- the 1010 pre displays any fault conditions with the amp
- maintenance free & already well isolated (no need for additional isolation)
- engineering & pride of ownership
- resale value
CJ gear is lovely sounding, though you can add warmth, liquidity & richness elsewhere in your system (eg: source, cables & tuning feet). With that said, I achieved lovely sound with my modded Ayon CD-5s as pre. Because the 1060 is neutral in character & has a high input impedance, it will match well with any good balanced tube pre. I wouldn't recommend an unbalanced pre however.
Melbguy thanks for your review and thoughtful comments. I will probably head in the same direction on amp and pre. Did you happen to try the Boulder gear with Transparent cabling?
Hi Bigamp,the Boulder amps are the most transparent of amps and are fast and powerful. They are wonderful, but for my taste need a warm, liquid sounding source & warm/rich sounding cables to balance the sound. I haven't heard Transparent cables before, so I can't comment on them. I'm using Jorma cables which sound very natural and well balanced to my ears. When I decided on the 1010 pre, I more or less made an immediate intuitive decision to upgrade my pc's & ic's to Jorma Prime because the Primes are more resolving, and sound warmer & richer in tonal palate compared to Origo. You also get more of a sense of liquid flow due to the Prime's Bybee Slipstream Golden Goddess purifiers. Kubala Sosna also make some very nice cables.
Great review, can you recommend the integrated 865? Does it have some qualities of the Boulder 1060?
Hi Grindstaff, I like the sound of the Boulder 865. I would say it has a similar character as the 1000 series, but everything the 800 series is, the 1000 series is just a bit more. When you go up a series in the Boulder line, it is not a small difference. Here is a comment I posted in another forum after auditioning the 865 in a showroom -

"I really like the Boulder 865 which has gobs of power and sounds natural and lifelike to me. EK bench tested the 865 as part of his review for Australian Hifi and found it had twice it's rated power at 300 watts into 4 ohms @ 20Hz! I think the Boulder amps like to work, so paired with some less efficient speakers I think the 865 would shine. The Bladelius Thor Mk3 has similar bandwidth and power on paper to the Boulder, but to my ears the Boulder sounded a class above the Bladelius (as it should for the price!). The 865 has a very high damping factor of 2000 @1kHz! and has control in bags. It also sounded quieter and more transparent, but the Bladelius is still an excellent value integrated at its price point."

An audiophile friend of mine also did a home audition of the 865 & had this to say -

"To sum it up briefly in my system I would say the Boulder has the more neutral, cleaner sound. Its got superb soundstaging and separation. Detail is there in abundance and this amp can boogie. Everything about the sound is well balanced from deep tuneful bass to airy sweet highs. The midrange sits nicely in between not showing off or lacking either."

The 865 would not be as warm or liquid sounding as something like a Vitus SIA-025, but as always it's about careful system matching. If you're using a warm front end (eg: Ayon, Audio Aero, Accuphase) with cables & speakers which add a touch of warmth and liquid flow, the 865 could be a perfect partner. Btw, here is a useful tip re: auditioning Boulder gear - "When you audition Boulder, make sure the equipment has been turned on and playing music for at least 24 hours. If listening from a cold power up, or even a recent power up, the treble will sound forward and exhibit other solid state attributes (read "bad")".
I spotted a new review of the Boulder 1060 by Ultra Audio which reflects my own experience with this amp. Congratulations to reviewer Ryan Coleman on a well considered and most interesting review! -

How is your Boulder pre sounding?
Hi Bob, my system is coming full circle after some big changes, so I haven't had a chance yet to assess the changes. I've got a buddy helping me set up my system this weekend, so i'll have my first chance to sit down and compare the 1010 to my Ayon's preamp section. It should be an interesting comparison. Will post an update soon!

Any updates on how the 1010/1060 combo sounds? I'm thinking about the combo for my Wilson Sophia 3's.
Hi Tom, stay tuned! I'm picking up my last pair of Jorma Prime xlr's this weekend to complete my setup, so i'll be posting my initial impressions soon.
would the fact that i bought it matter at all?

whatev bud.
That post by Audiolabyrinth is embaressing and simply uncalled for.Why do people get so emotional and personal over what should be a happy hobby and pastime?
Thanks Charles, this thread is about reviewing and discussing primarily the Boulder 1060, and the Boulder 1000 series in general, however it's gentleman like you who help make this forum what it is. Cheers.
if you always leave the boulder on but play no music, how long it take it to warming up to sound best.
it will be a deal breaker for me if it need music playing several hour before it sound best since I only listen music one hour a day..