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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: PS Audio GCC 500 Amplifier (SS) by AlsAudioReflections

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REVIEW: PS Audio GCC 500 Amplifier (SS)

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Model: GCC 500
Category: Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $4495
Description: PS Audio Control Amplifier (Integrated)
Manufacturer URL: PS Audio
Model Picture: View

Review by AlsAudioReflections ( A ) on April 30, 2005 at 20:05:35
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for the GCC 500

The GCC 500 arrived and upon unpacking the box I was impressed with the build quality of this amplifier. It is in my opinion a very nice looking piece of equipment. I bought this amp with the following goals in mind,

1. I wanted a high end system in my living room, separate from the Home Theater system in the basement. The living room is 20ft by 15ft where 95% of my review experiences were conducted. I wanted a stereo system that sounded more refined then my current home theater sytem which consisted of NewCastle Separates and a Denon 3800 DVD player.

2. I wanted to fit all the equipment in the 16 inch deep entertainment center. I wanted to get away from 75 pound plus amps or amps not capable of fitting in most entertainment center's.

3. I wanted an amplifier that could drive any speaker I desired to own.

On with the review,

The amp is connected to an Arcam CD player, the CD93 with upsampling.

This amp has also been reviewed with a friends Marrantz 8260 CD/SACD player. I also have connected to the amp an Onkyo cp802 universal changer. I will be specific as to the sound sources in my review. The speakers I have connected to this amp are Paradigm Reference Studio 40s V2, Dali Evidence 870 and Dali Helicon 400s. In every setup the room was either my living room or a room of comparable size.

The amps most striking feature is it's detail and clarity throughout the mid and upper range. No matter the source or the speaker you will get that. Compared to my Newcastle equipment the bass is a little shy but very tight at regular volumes. When I first hooked this amp up the bass was quite shy, but a repositioning of my Paradigm speakers provided a very nice bass. So keep in mind if you take this amp home you may want to reposition your speakers to optimize them for bass with this amp a little different then was required for your previous amp.

With the Paradigm Reference 40s v2 correctly positioned this amp sound's great. I feel I have achieved a more refined sound then my NewCastle equipment provided. Keep in mind the NewCastle 9080 separates provide a very warm and lucious sound which is very pleasing to listen too. I have heard many people speak of the HCA-2 as having a warm tubey sound. This amp to my ears has a very detailed and just enough bass with the Paradigms at normal to low listening levels to keep it from sounding dry but warm like the Newcastle or tubes it is not. If you do not have the proper synergy with your system's equipment I have experienced this amp is capable of sounding thin and analytical in a heartbeat. For example I initially hooked up a Rotel 955 CD changer and had my speakers much closer to the wall. This combo will give you very little bass at normal conversational level volume. Crank it up and the bass will come through if the souce has bass to give but you will never feel the proportion of bass is quite right at conversational level volume if the synergy is wrong. When the set up is right however you will find that this can be a beautifull sounding amp.

As I stated above at normal listening level's the bass is adequate but not stirring. When you crank this amp up it appears to change in character more so then what I am use to. The bass will really start to come through and all of a sudden you feel like this is the greatest amp in the world. This is true with the Arcam and Paradigm combo.

The bass also appears to get way down low.

I know by now I must sound like a bass freak, Beleive me I am not.

I am sensitive to the bass because of my initial experience with the wrong positioning of the speaker's and other event's I have yet to describe.

I am interested in finishing my living room system with a set of speakers and on my short list were the Dali Evidence 870 and Dali Helicon 400's. I have a friend who owns the Dali Evidence 870's so the amp was taken to his house and hooked up to a Marrantz 8260 CD player and his Dali's. The amp was compared to an Adcom Home theater amp of which I am not sure of the model number.

With this set up the Dali's were never bass shy at any volume. Keep in mind I have read reviews of this speaker where this speaker is never shy about putting out bass with any amp hooked up to it. This system sounded glorious. It was very detailed and the mucicality of the sound appeared to bring the best of both word's, warm tight bass and detailed midrange and high's. The amp sounded more refined then the Adcom according to my friend who lives with his Adcom set up. I would agree with him but both do have somewhat similar sonic signature with the Dali's.

As much as I liked the sound with the Dali's Evidence series I have been lusting for the Dali Helicon 400's. I took the GCC 500 to the good folks at United Home Audio. Greg hooked me up to the Dali Evidence first and again I had glorious sound. When cranked up this particular session I felt there were moments when the bass on the Dali's was a little... er Floppy seems to be the right word, I suppose loose is the term most reviewer's would use. I beleive this may have come from the Amp but I am not sure as the Evidence have been accused of this trait before. Still I would take note of this and check your own speaker's action's. This is a hugh room and these baby's were cranked. United Home Audio had a Primare CD player hooked up to the amp.

Next we hooked up the Helicon 400s. The amp was sounding real good where it alway's sound's good. The midrange and upper end was smooth as silk (I attribute the spekers but the amp was driving them) but the sound was very bass shy.

We hooked up a PS Audio Classic 250 to the Helicon's and my GOD what a difference. I had two friends with me and all jaw's were dropped.

The Helicon's sounded like a different speaker. It was better in every way with the Classic 250 driving them and I do not mean by a little bit. How wide can you spread your arm's.

Now at this point in the review I am totally embarrassed for MY piece of equipment the GCC 500. How I can feel this way toward a hunk of metal and capacitors is beyond me but embarrassed I did feel. I did take some solace in that it was truly my amps big brother from the same PS Audio family doing the embarrassing. Still this experience did sting. Now with the Evidence speakers the Calssic 250 was still the better amp but the GCC 500 was not embarrassed. If made the Evidence 870's sound about as good as they can sound.

I suppose for certain speakers current does matter.

Still I thought with the Damping factor and 1000 wpc (The Dali's were 4 ohm) this amp would be able drive any speaker it encountered and make them sound as good as they can sound. It will not.

I took my amp home and hooked them up to the Paradigm's and decided I had achieved most of what I set out to do. I have an amp that provides a very refined sound and takes me a whole level up from what I have been listening too. It also can fit into any room.

I may have to find speakers more efficient then the Dali Helicon's and that speaker may be the Evidence but I will listen to a few more.

I am so happy with the Paradigm/GCC 500 combo I may look at the Signature or Reference v3 studio 60's. I may just get the Helicon 400's or 300's and supplement with a powered sub.

Now when I move and set up my own Audio room, I know an amp stand will need to be acquired for a Classic 250. But until then I will live happily with this GCC 500. It does sound absolutley glorious when it is synergistically happy with it's surrounding compoment's.

I did most of my critical listening with the following,



Sara Mclaughlin,

Diana Krall,

Natalie Cole,

Norah Jones,

Keiku Matsui,

Dead Can Dance,

Bonnie Raitt,

Mark Knopfler,

Dire Strait's,


Five for Fighting

Hope this review help's those interested in this amp.

Product Weakness: Will not drive any speaker to sound it's absolute best.
Product Strengths: Great clarity throughout.

Size and just about every feature and creature confort.

Build quality is to the point where anyone would be proud to own this amp.

No heat.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: PS Audio GCC 500 500 wpc 8 ohms 1000 wpc 4 ohms
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Arcam CD93, Marrantz 8260, Primare
Speakers: Paradigm Reference Studio 40 V2, Dali Evidence 870, Dali Helicon 400
Cables/Interconnects: Outlaw PCA interconnect, Axiom 12 gauge speaker cable
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock, Jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 20 x 15 x 8.5
Room Comments/Treatments: Carpeted, Heavy curtains, Sofa and love seat
Time Period/Length of Audition: 80 to 90 hours
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Pure AV High Current power conditioner for amp, Monster hts1000 for source
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: PS Audio GCC 500 Amplifier (SS) - AlsAudioReflections 20:05:35 04/30/05 ( 6)