On Amplifiers and Other Things

To Doug Schneider,

I have yet to completely read “Purifi Audio's Pint-Sized Powerhouses,” but, since I have been reading about their kit as well as e-mailing Lars Risbo, I’ll pass on a few things:

  • I called Lars a crazy man in the best way possible (I mean, come on, look at that speaker surround). After he understood it as a compliment, he was very appreciative.
  • A bit over a year ago, I read a BBS feed with Peter Lyngdorf and Bruno Putzeys talking about amp design and what they were making at Purifi. I certainly didn’t understand half of what they were talking about and doubt even the amp-design wonks understood more. It was really cool to read how simpatico these cats were.
  • Lars was actually very interesting to write to. He also was friendly and generous in passing on his wisdom about speaker design.
  • You can get Purifi amps made to order from Nord Acoustics in the UK and Apollon Audio in Austria. Other companies making amps with 1ET400A modules are beginning to crop up as well.
  • Not that it is totally on subject, but I’m using $300 Emotiva mono amps with ICEpower modules on my surround speakers and the center speaker (all KEF LS50s in the theater), and I’m having a hard time finding something to fault with them in this scenario.

After reading a glowing review in Stereophile about the latest Parasound monoblock amp, I looked up the review for the Benchmark AHB2 in Stereophile, and then ran down John Atkinson’s measurements for both, side by side. In almost every chart, the AHB2 was an order of magnitude better: noise, THD, IMD. I’m talking 20-25dB better. Of course, the writer thought the Parasound was fantastic.

That brings up two things:

  • Bruno brought up when asked about making speakers with Kii Audio why he had gone that direction. To paraphrase, he thought that amps had basically gone about as far as they can go. And, honestly, when the noise and distortion that an amplifier creates is at or below the threshold of human hearing and 30-40dB below the background noise in a quiet room, does anything else need to be done? Speakers still need more refinement.
  • At what point will people realize that an audio amp no longer needs to waste a shit ton of power and weigh about 100 pounds for it to be state of the art? Since most people aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are, probably never.

Doug, subjective reviews need to be backed up with measurements. Stereophile recently gave a glowing review to an amp that “must have been damaged in shipment” to John Atkinson. Of course, there is a really good chance that the thing was fucked from the get-go. When I brought that up in their forum, the editor was none too pleased. They punched themselves in the groin.

Don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a piece of properly packed audio equipment get damaged in shipment unless it was run over by the delivery truck. And, no, that never happened.

Jeffrey Henning
United States

Thanks for the feedback, but it’s too bad that you didn’t get to the end of the article yet. When you do get that far, you’ll realize that we're measuring the Purifi amp and loudspeaker at a later date. For product claims like Purifi makes, your ears can only take you so far.

Insofar as Stereophile goes, I suspect you’re talking about their Aavik Acoustics U-380 integrated amplifier review, which seems to be creating quite a bit of controversy. As for products getting damaged in shipping, I’ve seen it happen, so I’m willing to give Stereophile the benefit of the doubt on that claim -- but hopefully they’ll do the right thing and properly follow up on the issue, because, as you mentioned, there’s also the possibility that the product was that way when the reviewer was listening to it. . . . Doug Schneider