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Thursday, 01 May 2008 ,  Written by Brian Kahn
McIntosh Laboratory MX-136 AV Preamplifier
Introduction McIntosh has been nothing short of an American institution in the world of high-end audio for over 50 years. While McIntosh is best known for their stereo gear from the tube era, they have kept their line current with modern components such as music servers and multi-zone audio-video preamps, or “controllers,” as McIntosh calls them. McIntosh’s newest such controller is their MX-136, which at $9,500 (as configured with TM-1 tuner) occupies the top position in the tier of McIntosh AV preamps. Opening the MX-136, I found that McIntosh eschewed trendiness in favor of tradition. While most of the new A/V preamps I have seen at recent trade shows are small to medium in size, with either TFT screens or multi–line LCD and rows of same-sized buttons. The MX-136 is a full-sized unit with a nine-inch-tall by 17-and-three-quarter-inch-wide faceplate on an 18-and-three-quarter-inch-deep ...
Tuesday, 08 April 2008 ,  Written by AVRev.com
Conrad Johnson CT6 Composite Triode Stereo Preamplifier
Introduction Conrad Johnson is one of most well-known and respected names in the world of tubed audio gear. The CT6 preamplifier reviewed here is the result of trickle-down technology from the company’s famous ACT preamplifier, which itself descends from the legendary ART preamplifier. At $5,000, it is roughly a third of the price of the current ACT II preamplifier that shares its composite triode circuit design. For those of you interested in a technical description of this circuit, I recommend a look at the Conrad Johnson website, which provides more information on this circuit design. The Upside Turning on the CT6, I was surprised by the long wait for the unit to warm up, during which no control input is accepted.  I quickly learned to simply leave the unit on and muted in between a day’s listening sessions.
Tuesday, 01 April 2008 ,  Written by Andrew Robinson
Integra DTC 9.8 AV Preamp/Processor
Introduction High-end home theater processors are quickly becoming the hot topic amongst home theater enthusiasts, and not because they’re the best. No. Home theater processors, the once-touted peak of all things audio/video, have taken a hit in recent years, largely due to the ever-changing HD landscape and a little thing called HDMI. When HD was in its infancy, component cable was king and 720p/1080i seemed to be the best anyone could hope for – for a while, it was. Even when 1080p reared its head, it took some time before it became the norm. However, the HDMI cable inevitably became the chink in HD’s armor, causing massive amounts of confusion and frustration among manufacturers and consumers alike, forcing many high-end brands to simply wait out the storm. It was during this time that many larger, mid-fi foreign brands took up the ...
Friday, 01 June 2007 ,  Written by Jerry Del Colliano
Krell Evolution 202 Stereo Preamplifier
Introduction I have owned various Krell amplifiers in my reference systems over the years, each providing hours upon hours of listening joy. Recently, Krell has released a new top-of-the-line lineup of gear under the Evolution moniker that speaks to those for a need for the best of the best and a willingness to pay for it. The review system under evaluation is comprised of a $10,000 Krell Evolution 505 SACD player with 24-bit 192 DACs, a $15,000 Krell Evolution 202 two-chassis stereo preamp and the monstrous Krell Evolution 900 monaural amplifiers at $20,000 each, or $40,000 for the stereo pair as reviewed. My review samples are done in Krell’s signature silver finish, which is breathtakingly beautiful out of the rack and poised on a simple table as it is installed in my reference system. Set-up To start, it is important to note that the Krell Evolution 900 power amps are nothing short of huge. With a travel ...
Friday, 01 June 2007 ,  Written by Brian Kahn
McIntosh C220 Stereo Preamplifier
Introduction Ask someone who was into audio in the early days of high end for the names of their favorite high-end audio brands and McIntosh is bound to be mentioned in their first breath. McIntosh has been an icon in the high-end audio world for over 50 years. McIntosh components have long been recognizable by their elegant black glass faceplates, silver trimmed knobs and blue back-lighting. McIntosh’s newest and least expensive preamplifier, the C220, combines the Old World luxury McIntosh is so well known for with modern performance features, all without breaking the bank. The C220 is a full-featured, tube-based stereo preamplifier that retails for a reasonable $3,300. Some may categorize the C220 as a purist design, as it makes no accommodations for multi-channel or home theater integration as most $3,000 preamps do. However, to consider the C220 a simple stereo preamplifier would be to severely underestimate it. As you will see below, the C220 is ...
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