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REVIEW: Audio Electronic Supply SixPacs Amplifier (Tube)

Model: SixPacs
Category: Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $2400
Description: Monoblock Power Amplifiers
Manufacturer URL: Audio Electronic Supply
Model Picture: View

Review by photomensch (A) on August 28, 2003 at 13:29:29
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Summary. It took just a short demo at Audio Connection in Verona, NJ to convince me that the AES SixPac monoblock power amps, rated at 50 watts each, have very high performance without having a very high price tag.

Comments. The first time I heard a pair of SixPacs, speakers were the modest Vandersteen 2s and music source was the CD layer of Patricia Barber's Modern Cool SACD. My first reaction was, "With sound like this who needs SACDs?"

My SixPacs arrived a few days ago, right on schedule. The packing, alone, was worth at least $100, and the SixPac shipping box could likely pass a drop test from six feet. After "connecting the dots" and plugging everything in, I pulled out a familiar CD and was quite disappointed. My system didn't sound anything like the one I had heard with Vandersteen 2s in the sandbox at Audio Connection. I switched from a 4-ohm to an 8-ohm setting and noted a slight improvement. I tried numerous CDs and SACDs but was still seriously thinking about buying back my Brystons.

Now for the good news. After listening to my SixPacs at home for less than 20 hours, I'm very impressed. The sound is opening up and I'm sure the SixPacs are a keeper. Nothing subtle here. Lots more presence, clarity, depth, detail, dynamic range and realism. There's "extra" music everywhere. The attack of a violin bow; a piano hammer hitting a string; the bite of a trumpet. Soundstage is extremely wide, deep and projects into the room. Even the lowest level bass is detailed, tight and natural sounding, something I hadn't even expected. In short, the SixPacs give me an ideal sixth row seat from which I get to really enjoy my Meadowlark Audio Heron speakers even more than before.

SixPac conveniences include a switch-selectable 8 ohm/4 ohm tap, as well as the ability to switch between 0 and 10 dB of negative feedback, so you can compare sonic differences on-the-fly. This feature enables you to instantly discover that 0 dB is the way to go. Another piece of good news is that the SixPac incorporates a balanced design. Users of balanced preamps, like myself, who are still paying for their kids' college tuition, like myself, will especially appreciate the affordability and small footprint of the SixPac. Even with XLR inputs priced at $150 extra per stereo pair, the total price is far less than most balanced power amps available today.

Other benefits the SixPac monoblocks offer is the ability to use only one meter of speaker cable to minimize degradation and interaction problems. No forklift is needed to handle each chassis. And each monoblock is plugged into its own 15-amp line.

Conclusion. If we believe everything we read in TAS, Stereophile and the like, there are many great power amps selling for upwards of $10,000. However, Dennis Had, of Cary Audio Design, is building great monoblocks for $2,400 per stereo pair. But don't take my word for it. Listen to the SixPacs for yourself.

CD Sources
Reference Recordings: Music of Aaron Copland
Reference Recordings: Music of Leonard Bernstein
Nonesuch: Buena Vista Social Club
Blix Street: Various Eva Cassidy

SACD Sources
MFSL: Patricia Barber Modern Cool
Sony: Hillary Hahn Plays Violin Concertos of Brahms and Stravinsky
Sony: Terence Blanchard Let's Get Lost
Groove Note: Ray Brown Soular Energy

Specifications and More

Product Weakness: Skinny AC power cords. Finicky bias adjustment.
Product Strengths: Great performance for the money.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: AES SixPacs rated at 50 wpc
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): BAT VK-30
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony DVP-S9000 ES CD/SACD player
Speakers: Meadowlark Audio Heron rated at 90 dB sensitivity
Cables/Interconnects: DH Labs Silver Sonic interconnects and T-14 speaker cable
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Jazz, Classical, Latin Jazz, Female Vocal
Room Size (LxWxH): 16 x 12 x 10
Room Comments/Treatments: Carpet and drapery
Time Period/Length of Audition: At least 20 hours
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Audio Electronic Supply SixPacs Amplifier (Tube) - photomensch 13:29:29 08/28/03 (1)

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