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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: 47 Laboratory Shigaraki Integrated Amplifier (SS) by Stew G

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REVIEW: 47 Laboratory Shigaraki Integrated Amplifier (SS)

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Model: Shigaraki
Category: Integrated Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $1500.00
Description: integrated amplifier with separate power supply
Manufacturer URL: 47 Laboratory
Manufacturer URL: 47 Laboratory

Review by Stew G ( A ) on December 09, 2002 at 13:07:53
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for the Shigaraki

I hesitated writing this review, partly out of laziness and partly because I wasn't sure how many people out there would really be interested in this rather unique piece of equipment anyway. But today I was at the local Barnes and Noble doing my regular routine of picking through the high-end rags and for the first time in quite some time there was a part of me that could really care less about all these fancy looking boxes, some with tubes of all shapes and sizes and some with big-buck faceplates and engraved lettering. And many people will buy these amps and preamps, and few will use the same company's amps and preamps together in the same system and we all know from years of experience that each piece will bring its' own sonic signature into the picture and yet we continue to mix and match and mix and match, and then throw in some different cabling which will add its' own sonic signature......wow, no wonder this is such a neurotic hobby! Okay, so this was not supposed to be a treatise on how to put together a well-balanced, entertaining music system. But, nonetheless, there is something to what I have said.

I have owned countless amps and preamps over the 25 years or so that I have been into this hobby; Audio Research, Classe, Naim, Musical Designs, Golden Tube Audio, Conrad Johnson, and lately some single-ended 2A3 amps (Wright/Sound) and a very nice Jeff Korneff built preamp, all to name a few. Most have sounded very nice, and all along I have had a preference for the sound of tubes. Something about that 'real' midrange quality seemed only possible if tubes were some where in the chain, and most likely in the amps themselves rather than in just the preamp. I recently purchased the 47 Labs Shigaraki digital front end and being very happy with the sound, I was curious about how their Shigaraki amp would sound in my system. Given the fact that I am using pretty much the same speakers 47 Labs uses at the audio shows (mine are made by Ronnie at Carolina Audio, and called JX92 Tall), it made sense that the Shigaraki amp would be a good match. Yoshi sent me a demo to try out while he went off to Japan. I was more than impressed. The sound was so open and alive and the bass was so deep and rockin' that I ended up disconnecting my subwoofer. To use a full range driver without any crossovers is really the way to go, and these JX92 Carolina Audio speakers do quite an amazing job in the bass region! I am now using the Ota cable as well throughout my system and that has also helped to balance the sound. But back to this amp: it has the transparency of the best amps I have had or heard - solid state or tube, and it has the best bass of any amp I have heard (by that I mean tightness and impact, not just 'boom') and it delivers the energy of music, the emotion, the reason why an artist has bothered to put the music to disc in the first place. This is not just a matter of good sound, which I realize now is what I used to be into: nice, warm, lovely sound. No, this is direct music like you will get live. Not colored, syrupy 'sound'. It is not for the faint of heart. But it is for those of us who want to get into the essence of what is on the disc. It is only 20 watts so I do not know how it will sound with inefficient speakers and I have read that it doesn't work very well with speakers whose impedance hovers below 4 ohms. But 47 Labs amps have a reputation for exceeding expectations, so maybe the name of the game is to try it in your system if you can. And if it works for you too, you just may find yourself listening to cd selections instead of looking at hi-fi rags the next time you visit your local Barnes and Noble.

Happy listening!

Product Weakness: no remote (boy are we getting lazy!), power MAY be a limitation in ones system
Product Strengths: transparency, bass, simplicity, price, integrity of the company and its' distributor (Yoshi)

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Shigaraki
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): none
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Shigaraki transport and DAC
Speakers: Carolina Audio JX92 Tall
Cables/Interconnects: Ota
Music Used (Genre/Selections): rock, folk, blues, some jazz
Room Size (LxWxH): 30 x 10 x 16
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: 47 Laboratory Shigaraki Integrated Amplifier (SS) - Stew G 13:07:53 12/9/02 ( 1)