Long before integrated amplifiers became the norm in high end audio with the likes of Classe,Krell and others, PS Audio was the first to offer a genuine break through in the integrated format with the PS Audio Elite Integrated Amplifier.
The year was 1984 if I remember correctly and this inital offering caught the industry totally by surprise and remains to this day as a bench mark product from PS Audio.And certainly the first audiophile integrated amplifier in the market place.
There were two variations of this, the Elite and Elite Plus,this review will deal with the original Elite at 55 Watts RMS per channel.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the integrated format in having preamp and power amp on a single chassis.Certainly electrons have no idea if there on one chassis or two chassis. So it comes to design and proper execution of that design. And that's what made the PS Audio Elite, such a ground breaking product for integrated power amps.
The approach was so simple and unthought of for the time. And that was to locate the power supplies in a separate housing and attach the power supplies to the Amp/PreAmp via means of an umbilical cable. In the power supply were two transformers one for the power amp section and a smaller one for the preamp section. So all unwanted actions caused by transformers, were eliminated. Plus with dual transformers for each section eliminated any possible sonic degradation by having one transformer power both the amp and preamp.
By todays standards the Elite remains very contemporary and does not sound dated at all.
Flexibilty was one of the main stays of the Elite. Has pre out and main in RCAs to add an a higher power amplifier as well as to use the power section as mono block configuration or use the pre amp section alone as a pre amp. A feature not often found at any level past or present.
With this flexibility the Elite has one phono section that can handle MM or MC and can be loaded with various resistors to load the cartridge properly. Input for Tuner and Tape 1 and Tape 2 as well as a video input,that can be used as a CD input. Volume and Balance controls are Noble sealed units. The volume control is of the stepped variety.
Across the front panel from left to right is Power on/off,Input Selector,Balance and Volume. On the lower front are five push buttons that are tape monitor,rumble filter,high filter,mono and muting and a headphone jack. Remember when you got a headphone jack?
The front face panel is 1/4 inch aluminium anodized in black and is rack mountable. Nickel plated RCAs on the back and speaker binding posts, along with the heat sinks for each channel.
Overall the cosmetic appearance of the Elite is no less than a stunning visual effect.
Internally the layout belies its age,with some very nice circuit boards and the outputs are the Motorola high hats, two per channel. Overall nicely done. However it is not a mil-spec build, so don't expect a Threshold or Levinson build or quality here. But then again it did not retail new for that kind of money as well. If I remember right the Elite sold for $749.95 in 1984. And to do better than the Elite mean't you would need to move considerably further upstream into the likes of Threshold,Levinson,Krell and so on. But none of those manufacturers at the time were doing high end Integrated Amps.
However with that being said the build quality of the Elite is certainly very good and not to be disparaged in anyway. To have lasted 21 years thus far and operates and functions as originally intended is testament to that fact.
This was from a fellow Audiogon member. And I remember what a sensation it was in the mid 80s and at the time needed something to listen to while some of my high end gear was being serviced and updated.
At any rate it is not a total let down to switch to. It is a marvelous performer and has a very liquid sonic signature that the vast majority of us look for. I no doubt will keep this great performer and set up another system. It is just to good to let go.
Below is a listing of some of the LPs and CDs that were used on the overall evalaution of the PS Audio Elite.
Bob James - Hands Down (Columbia FC 38067)
Hiroshima - Self Titled - (Arista MFSL1-525)
John Coltrane - Blue Train - (Blue Note BST 81577)
Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' - (Verve V6-8625)
Rickie Lee Jones - Self Titled - (Warner BSK 3296)
Wynton Marsalis - Live Blues Alley - (Columbia PC2-40675)
Eric Gale - Forecast - (KUDU Records KU 11)(CTI Records)
Kenny Burrell & Grover Washington Jr - (Blue Note BT 85106)
Earl Klugh - Finger Painting - (Blue Note MFSL 1-025)
Larry Carlton - Friends - (Warner 23834-1)
Sadao Watanabe - Autumn Blow - (Inner City IC 6064
Doobie Brothers - Minute by Minute - (Warner BSK 3193)
Santana - Zebop - (Columbia FC37158)
Pat Metheny Group - American Garage - (ECM 1-1155)
Frederick Fennel - Cleveland Symphonic Winds - (Telarc 5038)
Ben Webster At The Renaissance (Contemporary Records OJCCD-390-2)
The Royal Ballet Gala Performances (Classic Compact Discs CDSCD 6065)
Peter And The Wolf - Boston Symphony Orchestra (Sony SK 64079)
Jurassic Park Motion Picture Soundtrack (MCAD 10859)
We Get Requests - The Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve 810047-2)
You Won't Forget Me - Shirley Horn (Verve 847482-2)
Sneakers Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia DIDP 078100)
On Every Street - Dire Straits (Warner Brothers 26680-2)
Trio Jeepy - Branford Marsalis (Columbia CK44199)
Paris Jazz Concert - Louis Armstrong (RTE 1001-2)
Braveheart Motion Picture Soundtrack - London Symphony Orchestra (London LC0171)
Patriot Games Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA 07863 66051-2)
Hook Motion Picture Soundtrack (Epic EK 4888)
Highlights From The Plugged Nickel - Miles Davis (Columbia CK 67377)
Several others were used as well, but this gives you an idea of the music genres used.
In all cases the Elite resolved the musical experience with an authority and verve, that clearly belies this venerable performer. Having only a problem on the Telarc Frederick Fennell album where it ran out of steam. But in all fairness the Telarc album is brutal and the Elite at 55 Watts per side into 8 ohms lacked the total resolve to handle this album. But that aside, it was and remains a total joy to use and listen to.
The Elite in my opinion has more than withstood the test of time and continues to deliver solid musical performances from either analog or digital formats.
Recently PS Audio has introduced a successor to the Elite.I cannot comment on the latest offering from PS Audio as I have not heard one. But it would be nice to do a head to head comparison. I do know that the new offering from PS Audio has a lot to live up to.
Used the Ps Audio Elites from the mid 80s go anywhere from $200.00 to $400.00 depending on condition. And at that price they are a steal, providing of course they are fully operational.
Not sure if PS Audio still provides service on the original Elites or not. Perhaps someone can check that out.I know that at one time Threshold provided service for the PS Audio line, but that was sometime ago.
If your looking for an integrated amplifier, one can do seriously worse that the Elite. By any standard one would care to judge, the original Elite was an outright over the top value in 1984 and in my opinion remains one of audios major break throughs in integrated amplifiers.Associated gear Click to view my Virtual SystemSimilar products
Acurus,Classe,Krell,Denon,Yamaha,Kenwood and many others.