|Proceed HPA2 and HPA 3 Dual/Triple Monaural Power Amplifiers|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Mono Amplifiers|
|Written by Kim Wilson|
|Thursday, 01 June 2000|
Sure bets are hard to find though you can always depend on Proceed (Madrigal) to produce a killer product. The HPA 2 (dual mono) and the HPA 3 (tri-mono) home theater amplifier combo is no exception. These 250 watts per channel (8-ohms) amps performed spectacularly on every source be it rock, jazz, new age or the most dynamic movie soundtracks.
Cosmetically they match all other Proceed products such as the Proceed AVP digital processor and the PDMT DVD transport. A large silver Standby button is the only front panel adornment. The rear panel provides both single-ended and balanced inputs and a tiny toggle switch determines which type of input is active to prevent any unwanted pickup of stray noise from the unused connection. When switching from single-ended to balanced the signal level is adjusted for the 6dB variable between input types. High-quality, gold-plated binding posts allow the use of audiophile grade cables with spade lugs. The RJ-45 communication ports ensure interoperability with other Proceed or PHAST system to power up amps or the 12-volt DC trigger can be used as another method to turn on the amps remotely.
Both amplifiers are capable of being bridged using balanced or single-ended connections. However, it is necessary to get a special bridge kit. If you’ve never done this before it’s best to consult your dealer to prevent damaging the amp or speakers. Using a "Y" adapter, biamplifcation is also possible. Not for the faint of heart, the HPA 2 sells for $ 3,250 and the HPA 3 runs significantly higher at $ 4,750.
The demands of a complex home theater that doubles as a sophisticated 2-channel music system needs an amplifier that can do-it-all. By providing two and three channel versions with the same high powered amplifier design, the HPA 2 and HPA 3 can be configured a couple of ways depending on the emphasis of your system. If DVD movies are your primary source, the HPA 3 could be used for the front three speakers and the HPA 2 for the surrounds. When music is the primary source of entertainment, the HPA 2 would be best served driving the front left and right with the HPA 3 handling the center and surrounds. I used the latter configuration.
When delicacy is called for these amps are exceptionally revealing with a light airy sound, and they slam when you’re in the mood to tear the house down. In fact, the new CD from Yes, The Ladder (Beyond Music) proved to be a great test for the HPA 2 as a music amplifier. On the detailed guitar work from the legendary Steve Howe, the HPA 2 reproduced each note with absolute accuracy and clarity, yet those trademark bombastic passages that would put a severe strain on a less respectable amp were effortlessly driven with tight-punchy low-bass. The soundfield in "Homeward" seemed to actively expand so it could accommodate the saturated mix consisting of layered vocals, a multitude of instrumentation and a drum kit mixed way forward in the track.
During the unusual, "Rhythm of Life" with its jazzy, hip-hop vibe from Paula Cole’s recent effort Amen (Imago/Warner Brothers), every nuance of the singers unique vocal stylings is exposed with warmth and depth and the life-like palpability of Melissa Etheridge’s rock and blues vocals on "Enough of Me" from her latest offering Breakdown (Island) brings the singer/songwriter front and center into the listening room. The textured and layered acoustic guitars on the Springsteen-ish bonus track "Touch and Go" from the same album is enveloping, even the tonal differences between each guitar is strikingly evident.
Adding the HPA3 to the evaluation, the DTS 5.1 audio mix of Lyle Lovett’s "She Makes Me Feel Good" from Joshua Judges Ruth (MCA/Curb) is a vibrant track with a clean and present sound. Even the action of the piano keys is perceptible and the guitar solo that is mixed in front and rear channels hangs over your head for a bigger than life effect. Havana Nights from the 5.1 DTS mix of Freddie Ravel’s album Sol to Soul (Kalimba Records) is another example of why a good amp must be both gentle and forceful. It has to deliver plenty of power to render deep, articulate bass, yet is sweet and smooth on instruments such as the piano and Spanish guitar to achieve a natural and unaffected sound.
Movie dynamics is the big test on any home theater amplifier. Most can effectively play a simple movie like Shakespeare in Love (Miramax), which still benefits from 5.1 audio. However, amps with the grace of the HPA 2 and HPA 3 can more closely approximate the theater experience with those wide and lush orchestral tracks yet place the dialog dead center, exhibiting remarkable presence and intensity. Whether it’s the Celtic musical piece that the two main characters dance to in Track 10 or the furious shuffling of parchment when Shakespeare is inspired with love, each sound is distinctive and energetic.
If the sound quality from a light-hearted movie like Shakespeare in Love is impressive, what happens in a film like the Matrix (Warner Brothers) with infinitely more dynamic range? On Track 29, the barrage of gunfire, ammo shells bouncing off the marble floor, and bursting concrete columns on top of a heavy techno soundtrack is convincingly distinct and localized with explosive impact . That takes accuracy, energy, depth, definition, and musicality, of which few amps can deliver except for the Proceed HPA 2 and HPA 3 combination. While this specific scene lacks dialog, in other action sequences conversations are clear and intelligible regardless of how much other audio is going on.
These amps are remarkable with limitless power, outstanding bass response and exceptional resolution. The overriding sonic characteristic is the three-dimensional imaging apparent on all types of source material. As a music amplifier, each instrument occupies its own dedicated space within the soundfield, making it possible for each note to breathe and be heard with impressive clarity. Movie soundtracks are dynamic and riveting with crisp, clear dialog. Whether you’re building a high performance music system or a kick-ass home theater, high-powered amplification is a necessity and the HPA 2 and HPA 3 amps from Proceed are the definitive solution.