Review: Odyssey Audio Stratos mono Amplifier
I have been a proud owner of the stereo Stratos w/ the cap upgrade since March/April of last year, until a couple of months ago when I had the chance to upgrade to the Stratos Monoblocks. A friend of mine upgraded his monos to the Symphonic Line RG4, and I jumped at the chance to pick these up. I had heard them in his system numerous times and was waiting eagerly for him to upgrade, so I could snap these up.
My system now includes, the monoblocks, Sonic Frontiers Line 1 preamp, Symphonic Line Legato/Lorelei speakers, Cary CD 303/200, Groneberg and Nordost interconnects and power cords.
The monos are quite a bit of a jump from the stereo Stratos. Right off the bat, I noticed a huge improvement in the bottom end. The bass had much more extension and articulation. The first CD I put on simply made me smile at the sound of the bass drum. The soundstage also improved quite a bit - much more presence around the musicians giving that sense of their acoustical space. Having heard and enjoyed my Legatos with the stereo Stratos, these speakers now just loved the added power and dynamics.
If I'd noticed any hint of slight upper end thinness of the stereo Stratos, they were now corrected by the monos. These just gave violins the correct weight and measure. As with the stereo version, the monos are quite revealing, they do not colour the sound in any way. All those people who find the stereo Stratos holographic (myself included), wait until you hear the monos. These amps will also give you gobs more detail than you heard before. One of my test CD's is Clark Terry's album One on One and the track 11. Once Billy Taylor begins his piano in the left hand side of the soundstage, that piano was just gorgeous - it had weight and it had musicality - and then when Terry enters with his trumpet from the right side, you feel as if you are sitting right in front of them at some jazz club. This track has a bit of background noise like Terry moving his chair, tapping his foot, smacking his lips. The monos are great with that low-level detail Some may not like this background stuff going on, but I happen to think it is all part of the music. Even though the CD isn't a live CD, it just puts you in the middle of a "performance", so to speak.
On Patricia Barber's Cafe Blue album track 9 also makes a good test track. I have heard this piece numerous times on different systems. With the monos, the double bass had a very good presence and you can hear the fingers sliding up and down the instrument with great clarity. Even when the music gets "busy" Barber's voice retains its smoothness and presence over the instrumentation. I have over 2500 CD's and I could go on and on about how good these amps are on different music.
The combination of the Stratos Monoblocks with the Legato speakers is a great synergistic match. I can turn up the music really loud without any distortion, the speakers completely hold their own. Even when I listen to music at night softly, I miss nothing of its magic. I had compared the stereo Stratos with the Aragon amps in my own system, and the Stratos beat it hands down. Imagine now the monos and how much better they are. My main musical preference is classical music and opera, where the latter is some of the hardest to reproduce well. Even though on complex passages, the music does tend to get a little jumbled, but I find the voices are still rendered quite distinctly. The separation could be better, but if the recording calls for it, that sense of musical space can be accurately depicted.
I must thank Klaus for making this upgrade possible for me. This worked out great for me because I got the amps fully broken in and without the wait. He never fails to amaze me with his superb service. Brian, thanks for upgrading to the RG4.
I leave my amps on at all times, and these amps run quite cool. Even in muggy DC heat, they are barely warm to the touch. As with their smaller sibling, these have never misbehaved in any way.
These amps do not roll off or colour the sound in any way. Some amps have great highs but lack punch in the bottom end, and some go the other way, but not these. These will give you crystal clear highs as well as that fast, articulate punch in the stomach bass. If you are looking for an amp that is neutral and provides great dynamics and transparency, then don't hesitate and try these amps in your system before making any judgements. Talk to Klaus and take advantage of his money-back return policy. At its price range, I have heard a number of different amplifiers, but quite honestly, none really had everything all in one package as these monoblocks.
Odyssey Audio Stereo Stratos
Odyssey Audio Stratos Monos
Sonic Frontiers Line 1 preamp
Cary CD 303/200
Systemdek II TT w/ Audioquest arm & Dynavector cartridge
Symphonic Line Legato speakers
Nordost Blue Heaven interconnects
Groneberg Quattro Reference Power Cords
Coincident CST-PC.5 Power Cord
Groneberg Quattro Reference speaker wires
Odyssey Audio Stereo Stratos
Conrad Johnson MV-60