43 responses Add your response
Are the amps listed under "Similar Products" ones you actually owned with these speakers? Not shabby if you think the Musician beats those. I own Thiel 2.2's, and recently replaced VTL 185 mono's with a McCormack 500, but I have a desire to try out a switching design due to the high efficiency/low power consumption. Did you audition any other switching designs in your buying process, particularly any of the smaller ones? And are you, or will you be, running Spectron's special speaker cables which become incorporated into the amp's feedback loop?
Sodapop...I was interested in the Spectron amp, and actually communicated with them about a three channel version. I actually need five channels, and the Spectron price was more than I could justify.
You mention ICE and Tripath modules being used as the basis for various digital power amps. You (and everyone else) seem to forget that another digital amp module exists, UcD. This is designed to avoid some undesirable characteristics of the ICE module. It is used by the well regarded Channel Island Audio amps. Complete technical details are available at www.hypex.nl. (I like manufacturers who are not afraid to publish their technical details).
Zaikesman/Eldartford, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond. Yes, I owned all of the amps I listed and used them all with my MBL Speakers. The digital amps I auditioned were, nuforce, bel canto and a few others. I am quite aware of the UcD/Hypex and even the Zetex designs. I can only write about the amps that I have actually heard on my speakers in my setup at my home. We all know that listening to something in a room at CES with different source equipment than what we have at home is not a proper way to compare equipment. It has to be an A/B comparison with all outside conditions remaining constant. Zaikesman I would imagine that the Spectron M3 Signature would be an excellent mate to your Thiel 2.2's. I LOVE Jim Thiel's designs. Plus he is really a great guy.
The age of class D has arrived... let's hope it keeps getting better and better. I am reminded of the past when tube amp consumers were skeptical when solid state designs first arrived on the audio scene.
Thanks Sodapop, I'd even forgotten I ever posted here...I really enjoy the DNA-500, which actually runs fairly cool and doesn't suck a ton of wall power. I'll wait on any more amp auditioning until I upgrade my speakers, which are about due at this point in my system, but would be interested in hearing this amp if anybody near me carries it. BTW, any opinion about the Spectron speaker cables?
"I am reminded of the past when tube amp consumers were skeptical when solid state designs first arrived on the audio scene."
Yeah, but at least for the first 20 years of solid state, those skeptics turned out to be totally right... By the way, I am purely a solid state guy, yet I realize that through the '70s they totally sucked. The doubters of digital sources in the '80s werre also totally right, and we pretty much all acknowledge now that 1980s digital recording suck. I'm still in the process of throwing mine out.
So let's not dismiss skeptics of switching designs just yet.
I suspect that switching amps will not sound their best until at least the first 10 years of their implementation.
"So let's not dismiss skeptics of switching designs just yet. I suspect that switching amps will not sound their best until at least the first 10 years of their implementation."
The first calss D amp was designed by John Ulrick, currently of Spectron, in....1974, so 10 years are long gone. I agree with sodapop that one must audition the amp in their our acoustic environment and sodapop described Specton amp after 4 days of listening - whereas, Spectron people told me that one need to wait good 3-4 weeks for the amp to fully open up. I listen to it in my listening room and I am tube guy and this amp was as good as the best tube amps I had or auditioned (for example, Ken Stevens of CAT -JP2) and its only in midrange, The highs are purely the best in the world and bass was always strenght of class D.
As I understand, TAS took Signature Edition for review so in about half year or later, we will read their learned opinion - but I know what I hear by my own ears in my own system and my own listening room!!!!!
Taking Soda's advice, I invested in the new Spectron Signature Amp, and I just can't say enough about it. I have never heard a midrange so Golden! The highs are crystaline and without grain. The bass is awesome. Not only is it deeply extended, it is rythmic and musical. I have owned almost everything out there at one time or another, including some of the most exotic tube amps, and this unit blows all of them away. It is amazing that they don't do more advertising. I suppose the theory is that anything that good will become quickly known by word to mouth. Thanks Soda!
placed my first post when I have the Musician III Signature only a few days. Now, month later the sound, excellent to begin with, dramatically changed for the better. The highs became something magical, I never heard such in any solid state or tube amplifier. Totally silky and extended to heaven!!!! The "see thru" soundstage became immensely three-dimensional, truly, I feel sometimes that I can touch musician, go around him or her, and soundstage huge to begin with became even more specious! Midrange became "alive" like in the best tube amplifiers I ever owned or even auditioned, its magic feeling!!!! Base have now both: more authority and startling clarity - so different from one-note solid state and mushy tube base. I can play it quietly and I can play it loudly - no slightest strain. Additionally, black background became even blacker again as never in any other amplifier I listed in the past. It adds to the overall "magic". I think I understand why they placed square wave on front page of their web site (spectronaudio.com).
I love this amplifier!!!
I am using Spectron Remote Sensor cables. Previously, I had NBS "zero" and I compared them to Nordost Valhalla (I believe) - I borrowed from the firend. Both of these cables were somewhat better then Spectron (but its 10 times cheaper!). I changed Spectron cheap termination to Eichmann silver bananas and applied E-SST by Lloyd Walker Audio and difference became really very small - so I sold my NBS and my preamp and on this money bought BAT new VK32SE with tube power supply and I am in heaven!
I think its fair to say that if you have approximately $4k for speaker cables then some of them will very slightly outperform Spectron - which is NOT actually real speaker cable but extension of the amplifier. I feel that spending only 10% of it on Remote Sensor + paying for world class preamp (turntable, sport car wjatever) is much more beneficial. It just my opinion
Hello all! Sorry that I have been away from the fourms for awhile. My daughter was born about 14 weeks ago and takes priority.
What I can say is that I too have experienced that the Spectron Musician III Signature definitely improves with at least three to four weeks of burn-in/listening.
Here is my current setup:
-Underwood Hi-Fi Modded Denon 3910 Player (replaced my Meridian 800)
-Modded Theta GEN VIII DAC w/volume control. (Modded by The Upgrade Co.)
-Spectron Musician III Signature Amplifier
-MBL 111E Radialstrahler Speakers
-MIT MH-750 Shotgun Bi-Wire Speaker Cables (soon to be replaced by Spectron Remote Sense Cables)
-"Musician" power cord with the upgraded gold wattgate plugs from www.mr-cable.com
To answer Owenmd 's question about the JC-1's vs. Spectron M3 Sig.
While I think that the JC-1's (especially modified) are excellent amplifiers in their own right, the Spectron simply sounds cleaner and more open and has a substantially better sound with regard to the micro details in the crucial upper midrange and highs.
I also preferred my Pass Labs X-600 Monoblocks to the JC-1's for this reason. The X-600's are amazing amplifiers but they lack the warmth and open feeling of earlier Pass Aleph designs. It was my original intention to move to the Pass X-600.5 Monos at $18000.00/pr until I auditioned the Spectron Musician III Signature.
If you look at my Audiogon sales history, you will see that I sold my X-600's once my Spectron arrived.
It is amazing that this little cool running, under 60lb. powerhouse can outperform monster Monoblocks in the $15,000-$30,000 range. I am still stunned! My guests make comments like: "That little amplifier is powering your MBL's???" I think that they think I have some big monoblocks hidden somewhere behind my equipment rack.
If you won't take my word for it, then simply give a Spectron Musician III Signature edition a trial run in your system. You will not return it. Fortunately I have mine already, hurry up and get yours before they realize how good their product is and they start charging more!
Prior to the Enterprise Monos, I owned a Theta Dreadnaught II. I still maintain that the Dread II is one of the finest sounding and best looking solid state amplifiers ever made. I upgraded to the Enterprise Monos because I needed more power to properly drive the MBL Speakers. I hoped that the Theta monos would simply be a more powerful version of the Dreadnaught II. Sadly I was disappointed. For some reason, the Enterprise Monos did not have the sweetness and character of the Dread II. Since I could not afford the price of the Monster Theta Citadels, I looked into other Amplifiers. I chose the Pass x-600's. They had the power and finesse that I was looking for but were a bit clinical sounding when paired with the MBL's. Note: I do have to say that the current Pass Designs are exceptional and that their customer service is second to none.
Moving to the Spectron Musician III Signature was the best decision I made. It is 1/3 of the price of the now discontinued Pass x-600's and little over half of the price of the Enterprise Mono's and surpasses them both.
This amp has true balanced input where two signals with oppose phases are carried. The signals summated and further processing is done in single ended mode. I am not familiar with any class D amplifier which work in balanced configuration in similar fashion to linear amps and this is because, theoretically at least, there is almost no advantage to do so in this class.
Hope it helps.
Spoke today to Jeff at JRDG. Apparently the 312 amp is balanced both at the input and the output, while my old JRDG 7M has balanced input but a single ended output, with one of the two conductors in the speaker wire acting purely as ground. I am not sure if the Spectron Sig has balanced output. Admittedly, ultimately it may not matter. Our ears are the ultimate judges--hopefully independent from stated technology/looks/etc. . .--and I have not aA/Bd the two devices.
Is Rowald 312 class D amp?
If so that would be first true balanced class D amp on the market. THE question is why????
Having TRUE balanced inout as Spectron does means that you take both halfs of the signal from both phases and then sum them and in the process you reject some noise and hum. Its great. Today, I learned, form user "Molly" that combo REX preamp by BAT with Spectron dramatically improves quality of the sound when he used balanced output of RX, balanced interconnect and balanced inout of Spectron.
OK, after you summated your signal you process it as FM radio does - pulse width modulation and I do not see any (well almost) advantage to continue it in both phases. There is large number of potential pitfalls in such process. You can do it for marketing purposes but regarding the noise or signal you have no advantage and you can pay price (almost ceratin in group delay consistency). You never heard of balanced FM tuners, aren't you? The same reason.
On the contrary, in linear amplifiers, the balanced signal path continues to benefit sound - IF (IF!) some conditions are met and we will not go there.
Hope it helps.
Thank you Simon. Yes Jeff Rowland Design uses the ICE chips. JRDG 312 has been designed as fully balanced because Mr. Rowland judged that an optimal and true fully balanced topology benefits the sonic properties of all his designs, including his newest class D implementations. If you call him, he can give you all the details.
OK, lets see what's are results: by using two ICE modules you can reduce your noise by square root of two or 41%. Sounds great but if your signal is about 110 dB and noise is 1 dB (barely audible and in most amps it is less) then it became 0.6 dB almost negligible difference. Also, your level of distortion will be lowered somewhat (say instead of 0.03% it becomes 0.02% - again, hardly noticeable)
Since ICE modules are produced in mass quantities they are inexpensive and I believe that Me. Rowland can justify their use in balanced mode with almost no positive results.
On the contrary, custom in-house build modules by John Ulrick or Bruno Putzeys are very expensive and instead of spending money to double cost of the digital modules they use this money in much more effective ways, say improving power supplies, output filter, RF filtering (enormously important in class D amps) etc etc etc. On other hand, when cheap modules are used the balanced operation is beneficial for marketing reasons mostly, I believe.
All The Best
Simon, You are clearly very proud of the Spectron amp, and I respect that. If Spectron engineering opted for a designed which is balanced in the input stage and single ended in the output stage, I am comfortable believing that they made the best decision for the device, based on sonic goals, underlying technology, constraining assumptions, design experience, etc. . .
Similarly, I am equally comfortable believing that a designer of the stature and profound experience of Jeff Rowland opted for a fully balanced design in the 312 through a similar rational process based on technology and engineering principles.
I know for a fact that Jeff shies from commenting on devices which are not of his own creation, preferring to discuss and highlight the engineering rationale behind his own products. I kind of like that. It is essentially the way I have been taught to operate by my employer for the last 25 years, and by my father for another 25 years before that. And that is why I appreciate very much the opportunity to learn about the Spectron Signature's design merits from someone clearly in the know who may even be an insider, but I find myself somewhat less favorably impressed whenever I read rash assumptions on the competition from the same party.
Yet, in spite of my slight but growing misgivings, I am still looking forward to auditioning the Spectron Sig.
I am not "may be " insider. In one of my first posts on this amp I stated in my disclaimer:
( http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/fr.pl?aamps&1180897750&openflup&8&4#8 )
that I am in audio engineering consulting business and I participated in the design of Musician Signature (specifically reconstruction filter).
All opinions, I express here of this or that companies engineering design I consulted for are mine and not their.
I repeat my main point and it is my point not anybody else. To take two cheap modules in balanced mode to push already low noise, typically less then 1 dB slightly more down and same with distortions when they are at very low level - is marketing gimmick (or distortions and noise are really that high that anything goes!). I better use the same money to use to improve power supplies, input stage if you have access to module to improve most important part of class D amplifier, reconstruction filter. I am very glad that leading US designers of class D amp like Bruno Putzey and John Ulrick going after "intelligent design" concept.
Once more - this is my own private thoughts.
Prove, however, is in the pudding. Taste one and taste another and taste third and then make your learned conclusions.
I was my pleasure to discuss with you, Guido, and I appreciate the forum giving us opportunity to talk about our obsession: music and music reproduction.
All The Best in your Search for the "Audio Truth"
Simon and Guido,
Both of you bring up very vaild points. Your recent posts have educated me further on the design of both the Spectron Musician III Signature and the Rowland 312.
I have great respect for many of the designs by Jeff Rowland, Nelson Pass and John Ulrick. Everyone engineer has his/her place(s) in the market and their own design visions and implementations based on available parts, imagination, skill, creativity, expertise, knowledge and price point.
I respect all of these designers for their contributions to the audiophile community. I am not currently an employee for Spectron, JRDG or any other audio company. I am in the sodapop business and I am passionate about quality audio. I am not an engineer, but I do understand a bit about electronics and I am impressed with the large recent improvements and acceptance of Digital Class D designs. I enjoy reviews and comments in the forums and love attending CES.
What I can share and contribute are comments about my spectron amp with my current setup. I can tell you that the Musician III Signature just keeps getting better everytime I listen to it. I find myself pulling out music that I have not listened to in years just so that I can hear what I was missing with the equipment that I owned a decade ago or more.
I am incredibly impressed with the Spectron on my MBL Speakers. Guidocorona, I am not sure what source equipment or speakers you use, but I hope you will take the opportunity to try the M III Sig. sometime soon. I am very interested to hear your opinions. I have a strong feeling that with your ears as your guide, you will be as impressed as I am. I honestly have never heard anything like this before.
Happy Listening.... Soda
Positives of Balanced Design
Hello Guido and Hello Sodapop. I think it would be unfair for me to ignore some positive aspects of balanced approach.
When you use balanced approach in preamp you reject common noise and hum coming to you from upstream. Obviously, its very useful.
When you use balanced output of your preamp and TRUE (!!!) balanced input of your power amp, to quote Victor Khomenco from BAT - you "respect signal integrity"
For example, in Spectron where its true balanced input, it takes both phases, summated them into double signal if you wish, reject additional noise and hum which could originate on the interconnect and thus its useful, particularly in professional applications where long interconnects with non-zero reactive and resistive impedance is used.
After that, inside power amp? I already stated so - exception is again very, very noisy and distorted signals - tube circuits, I feel, could be main beneficiary.
All The Best.
Thank you Simon, I won't even venture to guess which amp would be more of my liking--JRDG 312 or Spectron Musician Sig--as I have not even heard the latter at all, and I would need to a/b the two to form an even half educated opinion, regardless of underlying technology. On the other hand, as Jeff Rowland does not even bother to advertize his balanced design of the 312's output stage on his company's literature, I am comfortable suggesting that whatever his reasons were in selecting such a design, trite 'marketing gimmick' is unlikely to be one of them. Furthermore, as far as I know, the 312 employs only 1 ICE module rather than 2 as you instead venture to guess, or in other words, the power conversion section may be the only section of the amp which is not balanced.
Steve McCormack claims there's a speaker-control advantage to using balanced-differential output drive that can aid in achieving superior resolution and transparency. How supportable that view is, or why, I'm not qualified to say, other than to report that the fineness and depth of detail (timbral, spatial and dynamic) I hear from the fully-balanced DNA-500 won't contradict his contention.
Zaikesman, that is exactly what Rowland contends: If I remember correctly my conversation with him, Jeff suggests that by driving actively the 2nd conductor on the speaker wire, he can control tightly the return excursion of the speaker drivers, rather than letting them rely on their elastic return. This according to him, is expected to yield better resolution and control at all frequencies, while reducing the need for extraordinarily high currents for driving difficult loads. Apparently he has started this type of design on the models 8 and 9 amps and maintained it on the new class D line. The 7M was the last JRDG design to be single ended in the output phase.
That bit about balanced drive constituting an "active" control over the entire driver excursion and single-ended drive depending upon elastic or "passive" driver "return" seems to correspond with McCormack's description of "push-pull" operation of the drivers. Whether that explanation is actually the case I have no idea, but it strikes me as making things sound as though there should be a bigger advantage to balanced output drive than it seems there probably really is, considering how only a minority of amps widely considered to be top-class employ the configuration.
Zaikesman, I agree with you, the description sounds very much like that of a push/pull configuration. Yet, as I am not an EE, I can't be sure. I view the reason that few designers have chosen this Rowland/McCormac output path to be relatively simple and non contentious. . . there are so many ways to skin the proverbial cat and achieve the relatively wide variety of performance goals that designers set themselves to. Ultimately, the underlying technology is not terribly important to me, or at least it is not a factor which I consider a priori. . . . except that. . . I do live in Austin, my system is in a loft, and my builder had a fantastically liberal interpretation of the words 'well insulated'. As such, no tube amps in my future, and no class A SS either. I'll start a thread on the subject of my hunt for a cool amplifying nirvana in the Fall.
"strikes me as making things sound as though there should be a bigger advantage to balanced output drive than it seems there probably really is, considering how only a minority of amps widely considered to be top-class employ the configuration."
Actually very many amplifier manufacturers use balanced output configuration. Probably all class D amplifiers use it, for example. You simply do not hear about it because its very simple design and nothing "to advertise"
This sub-discussion started then Guido announced that his favorite (and truly excellent) class D amplifier has fully balanced design and then its ended when he acknowledged that it has single amplification module.
The topic by itself is very interesting. Guido was right raising this question.
"Actually very many amplifier manufacturers use balanced output configuration. Probably all class D amplifiers use it, for example."I'm sure you know more about it than me, but nothing you say appears to me to contradict my statement. I don't know about so-called Class D amps, but among conventional power amps, as far as I know more products don't use balanced output stages than do (even if they might have balanced drive and/or gain stages). Hence my use of the word "minority", which doesn't necessarily mean very few. Obviously, some companies do make a point of advertising their fully-balanced configuration (BAT, Krell, Atma-Sphere, etc.). Others (like Conrad-Johnson and Lamm for example), although they may not advertise it as such, eschew balanced circuits as a matter of design principle because they feel balanced operation detracts from realistic sound by way of cancelled even-order harmonics more than it contributes in the form of reduced total distortion and noise (this last being more of a factor at line-level anyhow, as opposed to speaker-level power output). Most of the rest presumably don't use it because of the extra cost in having doubled circuits, with power output stages generally being the most expensive (Class D amps, whose output stages might be in the form of IC's, could be exceptions).
Yes, of course, Spectron has balanced output - its truly, not big deal.
class D power module if anything its not IC chip and if they would be inexpensive then most if not all class D manufacturers would use them in FULLY balanced amplifier. It takes thousands and thousands of man-hours to design proper class D module. In the United States there are only three design studios (Spectron, Nu Force and that of Bruno Putzey)
I see that first of all we need to define word "balanced" - OK, balanced design of anything mean that there are two (2) signal paths in this "something" where all electrical characteristics are as identical as technically possible - with one exception only - they MUST be in oppose phase to each other.
For example, with flip of the switch on the back of Spectron you convert this stereo amplifier into FULLY (i.e. from amp input to binding posts of the speakers) balanced design with may be (nobody measured) 2400 wpc @ 8 ohms. You double slew rate, you double bandwidth, you have this and you have that. Simply the amp is so good that as far as I know nobody ever tried to use two of them in balanced monoblocks form.
The same is probably true (I suspect, I really don't know) with Jeff Rowland and other responsible and talented manufacturers in United States and Europe.
May be one day, I will write small "primer" on true advantages of fully balanced design, at least as can be implemented by end user in Spectron amps and post it on Discussion Form.
All The Best to both of you!
Hi Simon, it was indeed fab talking with you today. Per our discussion, the fully balanced design of such devices as Spectron Musician 3 Signature and JRDG may contribute significantly to their ability of controlling difficult loads by doubling the slue rate without resorting to extravagantly high output currents. Furthermore, you also suggested that the Spectron fully balanced output in the mono configuration of the amp may also yield twice the bandwidth. If I understood correctly, The dedicated speaker wires of the Spectron Musician take furter advantage of the balanced output design by containing three conductors: positive, negative, and ground yielding superior control of speakers with difficult loads.
On a more philosophical note, you probably belong to the more objectivist school, while as you know, I am part-time subjectivist. In the end, you you may likely say that something sounds correct and real but is also sounding beautiful. . . while I may vehemently argue that it fact it sounds beautiful but it is also sounding congruent with correctness and reality. In the end. . . we are clearly both after MUSIC! Saluti, Guido
Hello Simon and Guido:
Thank you both for bringing this interesting subject. You are right. I changed my interconnects between my preamp and Spectron amp from SE to balanced and.... to begin with, I think sound level increased by 6 dB so Spectron should change spec info in their web site. HOWEVER,
sound became more "musical" more liquid, more "seductive" - slam appeared to me stronger and bass somewhat deeper. I have read your discussion and expected some changes ...but not as much. I can only wonder how Spectron will sound in balanced monoblocks mode....
One more thing - before I had to turn off my amp every night but I don't need to do it anymore and..
background became significantly more blacker. Verrrrry nice.
Thank you guys again!
Hi Rafel, with the limited experience I have, if a device was truly designed to operate in balanced mode, it often sounds better and more fleshed out when connected that way. E.g., I have a system consisting of an Esoteric X-01 Limited, an ARC Ref 3 linestage, and a pair of 1988-vintage Rowland 7M monoblocks. X-01 has balanced output, Ref 3 is completely balanced in input and output, and JRDG 7 M have balanced inputs but SE output. ICS are both Audioquest Sky balanced XLRs. If I turn off the balanced signal on the Ref 3 through the remote, not only I lose sound volume, but the sound becomes significantly vapid and gutless. Admittedly, I have not tried to operate the system using single ended SKY RCA ICs. By the way, it looks like I was wrong about conductors in the Spectron speakerwire: there are 4 conductors, not three. Please let us know any experience with Spectron in balanced monoblock configuration if you have the opportunity.
Hi Rafael, I am looking forward to hearing about how the Spectrons behave in fully balanced mono configuration. With the little experience I have gained, I find that in many cases if equipment has been designed to run balanced, it often sounds more fleshed out that way. E.g. I have a balanced system as followes: Esoteric X-01 Limited differentially balanced in the output, ARC Ref 3 differentially Balanced input and output, Rowland 7M with balanced input and single ended output. ICS are AudioQuest Sky XLRs. Normally the system runs in fully balanced mode. If I turn off the balanced signal on the Ref 3 through the rmote control, the sound not only loses volume, but also becomes comparatively vapid and uninvolved. By the way, I was wrong about number of conductors in the Spectron balanced speakerwires: the wires have 4, not 3 conductors.