|Portal Audio Panache Integrated Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Integrated Amplifiers|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Tuesday, 01 October 2002|
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Newly formed company Portal Audio recently introduced their first offering, the “Panache,” a no-frills integrated amplifier with aspirations of offering high-end performance at a reasonable cost. Its main objective is to provide a platform for a simple audio-only system, one which will require minimal processing or switching of limited audio inputs and outputs. The Panache is priced at $1795 and is currently available via Internet direct. Portal Audio offers a 60-day risk-free trial period, taking advantage of a growing Internet model, allowing potential buyers to audition the unit in their own systems to ensure that their needs and expectations are met.
The Panache incorporates a passive line stage with a high gain dual mono Class A/AB amplifier in an attractive, somewhat minimalist package. The passive line section consists only of an input selector that routes the incoming signal through Alps volume and balance controls. The Amplifier section is rated at 100 watts per channel at eight ohms and 200 watts per channel at four ohms. Portal Audio specifies the unit as a dual mono design after the (separate) winding of the 425 VA toroidal transformer. Each channel has 40,000 mFd of power supply filtration, four pairs of high-speed bipolar output transistors rated at 100 watts and 12 amps per device.
As for appearance, the Panache’s front panel has a very clean, Spartan look. There’s an input selector that controls the four inputs, volume and balance controls, a "phones” jack for the use of headphones, and a power switch. The back connectivity is equally simple with four pairs of inputs, one record output and a detachable power cord. This relatively compact unit weighs in at 32 lbs. and measures17 inches wide, 12 inches deep and 4.5 inches tall, including the feet. During my evaluation, the Panache ran at fairly cool temperature, basically warm to the touch. This is in part due to the ample cooling fins located on both sides of the unit.
Portal Audio has sought to provide a component that would satisfy a number of consumers who find themselves in need of electronics that simply perform the task of switching an input source (such as a CD player, tuner, etc.) and amplifying this signal without adding any unwanted complexity or unnecessary circuitry. The Panache and its use of a passive line stage was designed to pass incoming signals through as few electronic parts as possible, with a goal of achieving the highest level of musical transparency while minimizing any potential artifacts or coloration to the original source.
One of the added features of Panache was its inclusion of an excellent headphone section. Portal Audio intended this to be a strong performance attribute and they have succeeded. I was able to compare the Panache headphone section to the Headroom Supreme Headphone Amplifier using the Sennhessier HD 600 and Grado RS 2 headphones. Both units were able to drive each of the headphones with ease, even at reference-plus volumes. The Panache had slightly better punch, inner detail dynamics and exhibited greater low-end impact and weight. It was very easy to pick out individual instruments and follow them on the Panache.