AudioAsylum Trader
Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Portal Audio Panache Integrated Amplifier (SS) by Wtucker1

Looking for a new Amp or Preamp? If you're after tubes, post over here.

For Sale Ads

FAQ / News / Events


REVIEW: Portal Audio Panache Integrated Amplifier (SS)

[ Follow Ups ] Thread:  [ Display   All   Email ] [ Amp/Preamp Asylum ]
[ Alert Moderator ]

Model: Panache
Category: Integrated Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $1795
Description: 100 watt/ch integrated with passive preamp section
Manufacturer URL: Portal Audio
Model Picture: View

Review by Wtucker1 ( A ) on September 14, 2003 at 23:32:17
IP Address:
Add Your Review
for the Panache

My adventure into HiFi began with the gift of Martin Logan Aerius i's from my girlfriend (now my wife). Intially, I ran the stats on a Denon reciever with the expect results. After about a year, I started looking for an integrated and started reading the literature. I auditioned 4 different int. amps that fit my budget and looked like they might handle the power demands of my speakers. The integrated amps I tried and some general descriptions are following. I listened to each amp over a two month period with some overlap. Each amp was listened to in my system and a friends system (Naim CD 3.5 with Flatcap, Impulse Lallies (high sensitivity speakers), Wireworld Eclipse IC's, Kimber 4tc, MFA Magus preamp, Mark Levinson No.29 amp).

Musical Fidelity A3.2- Took home from a dealer for a three day weekend. Ran it non-stop the entire time. Good build quality. Cosmetics are little much for my taste (I hate bright blue lights that can't be dimmed). At low listening levels or with "simple" music (small Jazz combo's), this amp was fantastic. Airy highs with great detail. Everything was well laid out and in its place. Very enjoyable. Turn the volume up and everything lost its definition and became compressed. It couldn't handle my speakers. It felt like it was getting choked. On my friends system, it was just "fine." It did not seem to do anything wrong but you did not enjoy the music as much. Never could put my finger on it.

Classe CAP-101- Bought this one without listening (used). Had it for three months before putting it on audiogon. Built like a brick. Big thick faceplate. Nice cosmetics. Nothing special about the sound with my system or my friends. Actually, it was by far the worst of the lot. No extension. Details that you knew should be there were not. For example on Paul Simon, Self-title, background percussion and instrumentation was missing or bairly noticeable.

Bryston B-60- (Friend's purchase) Incredible build. Functional and smooth. Everything about it says quality. It is easy to see that Bryston knows exactly what they are doing when offering a twenty-year warranty. On my system, this amp was similar to the Musical Fidelity. Great at low levels, but had troubles keeping up at highier volumes, but not to the extent as the MF. The bass is somewhat one note. This was not a perfect match for my speakers (expected, only 60 watts at 8ohms). But with my friends...INCREDIBLE. The match is great. The amp is not the end in frequency extension but it is abolutely fun to listen to. Music has bounce, a percussive quality (in part due to the Naim CD player, I am sure) and a midrange that has a bit of grain that is actually intoxicating. The first night my friend and I hooked it up to his system, we listened until 4 in the moring (on a work night). This amp is especially good with rock. We listen to Ben Harper's Fight for Your Mind over and over again. His guitar strings had incredible bite that matched well with the voice. Great amp with the right speakers.

Portal Audio Panache (Demoed from Portal Audio, ended up buying) I think one professional reviewer described it as "Spartan" in terms of cosmetics. I love it. It shouts functionality and no waste on shinny polished aluminum or bright lights. Great build quality, thick chassis/fins. This was my last try at an integrated. I thought I was either going to have to get a more efficient pair of speakers or waite a while until I could afford something more expensive. This amp changed my mind. First of all, this amp puts out the juice. At 12 o'clock, it is very loud and shows no sign of strain. I have yet to hear this amp get flustered by my speakers at any volume level with any music. Besides a "wump" at turn-on, this amp is very quiet. Any hiss in my system I have isolated to the speakers themselves. I actually don't know where to begin. The music is dynamic, the soundstage is large and there is excellent placement of the instrument and vocals. Great midrange. On Mermaid Avenue Vol. 1, Billy Brag and Wilco, acoustic pieces are extremely coherent. The vocals are sweet and you can hear every inflection of the voice. Maybe the midrange is a little too big, as voices are larger than life, but I like it like that. I have no problem getting lost in the music. This amp was a winner over all the others I had tried. The only area where maybe it was bested was the MF at low level listening, in terms of detail and percussive drive, but not by much. This is a great amp for me and my system. As far as my friends system goes, OVERKILL. His speakers don't need that kind of juice. Good music but the Bryston was better on his system.

That's it. Sorry about the spelling. By the way, the Panache can be audioned at home for 60 days. Joe, the owner of Portal audio, is great and very helpful. He answers the phones, listens to your amp, and ships it off. That's great customer care.

Product Weakness: No remote, if that is a need; Passive pre, so no active outs for subs, etc.
Product Strengths: High current; Very dynamic; great midrange; functionally built

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Portal Audio Panache
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Njoe Tjoebs 4000
Speakers: Martin Logan Aerius I
Cables/Interconnects: Wireworld Equinox/Eclipse (IC); Military Wire (silver over copper; Speaker-shotgun)
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Rock (old and new); Jazz
Time Period/Length of Audition: 5 months
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Signal Cable Power Cords
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

This post is made possible by the generous support of people like you and our sponsors:
  Atma-Sphere Music Systems, Inc.  

Topic - REVIEW: Portal Audio Panache Integrated Amplifier (SS) - Wtucker1 23:32:17 09/14/03 ( 2)