|Cinepro 3K6se Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Kim Wilson|
|Tuesday, 01 August 2000|
While many amplifier manufacturers continue to only think about stereo, Cinepro knows the future is multi-channel sound. The six-channel 3K6se amplifier was designed expressly for the demands of 5.1 digital audio sources--such as DVD and Laserdiscs encoded with Dolby Digital and DTS.
Digitally encoded movies require amplification that can maintain a wide dynamic range without distortion; and whereas dialogue normally requires an average of 5-10 watts, key action scenes (such as the White House explosion in "Independence Day") peaked close to 750 watts for brief bursts in Cinepro's extensive tests. To accommodate this range of levels, the 3K6se is capable of generating a peak output of 1 kilowatt per channel (4 ohms).
The inputs and outputs are divided into three two-channel groups (front LR, center/sub, rear LR). Each group can also be converted from two to one channel (bridged mono). In the multi-channel mode, the 3K6se is rated at 375 watts per channel into 8 ohms (550 watts into 4 ohms). The mono configuration is rated at 1000 watts into 8 ohms (1200 into 4 ohms).
Starting out with Cinepro's test piece, "Independence Day," the 3K6se produced extraordinary transient response due to its short term power handling capabilities. It's no surprise that an amplifier with this power rating would deliver tremendous impact on dynamic passages. However, explosions aren't just a big giant boom. Every detail to be is experienced, from the initial blast to the eruption of roaring flames. Shattering glass and the fragments of splintered wood and concrete realistically and alarmingly fly in all directions due to the localization abilities of 5.1 audio. You'll be jumping out of your seat on microdynamics alone due to this amp's impressive punch and definition as it makes the cartoon-like effects found in "The Mask" and "Toy Story" come to life.
The 3K6se can handle whatever is thrown at it, without a hint of distortion or clipping. Since it has to constantly compete with a surplus of sound effects, sharp, clean dialogue is important. Yet, even in the densest passages, this amp delivered dialogue clearly and effortlessly, and increased volume only provided me with more depth.
There is no question the 3K6se is a power house, capable of sending your neighbors screaming into the streets thinking war has broken out on your block. But what of the subtleties required for the simple pleasure of listening to a piece of music? Well, I put the Cinepro 3K6se through its paces, playing everything from Duke Ellington to Sarah McLachlan.
The recent XRCD release "Duke's Big 4" of a 1973 recording with Duke Ellington, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Louis Bellson was an absolute delight. I might have thought I was sitting at the front table of a small intimate club in Hollywood except for the lack of smoke, clinking glasses and general cacophony of ambient voices. Brown's stand up bass was resonate, powerful and articulate. Bellson's drums popped right out of the speakers and Pass' melodic jazz guitar was warm and rich.
The chords of Ellington's piano were smooth as glass as he glided across the keys with those trademark riffs. However, at the upper end of the spectrum I noticed a certain brittleness and brightness to the notes. It was as if the sonic characteristics of the instrument had suddenly changed. The top end didn't provide the same level of warmth and richness as the rest of the audio spectrum.
With this observation I switched to my 20-bit mastered Listz, "Etudes d'Execution Transcendante," performed by Kemel Gekic and did an A/B comparison with my reference Proceed AMP3. Not only did I detect the same effect, but it was as if I was hearing two different performances. There was a certain refinement and finesse to the performance when using the Proceeds. Passages with extended runs felt open and airy, the performer's fingers evenly and smoothly ascending the scale. The Cinepro however, seemed to power through these same passages. You could almost "see" the performer slamming his hands down on the keys, which was even more apparent in the upper registers.
Continuing my comparisons I detected that acoustic guitars from such diverse recordings as "Ice" from Sarah McLachlan's "Fumbling Towards Ecstasy" and material from Acoustic Alchemy's CD "Arcanium" seemed to have slightly different sonic characteristics. In all cases, they were brighter and more forceful with the Cinepro.
Now this isn't meant to be a dig on the 3K6se, because, in actuality, it is doing exactly what it was designed to do. While I may prefer certain characteristics of my Proceeds, particularly with regards to music listening, I think the Cinepro 3K6se is a serious, serious (that's right, I said serious twice, actually three times) home theater amplifier. Since the priorities for theater sound differs from straight music listening, Cinepro tuned the 3K6se for a quicker and punchier response. If you are looking for more musicality you may find the original 3k6 more to your liking, as it is tuned for a smoother response.
If you like rock and roll with that in-your-face mid-range kick, you will love the 3K6se; and if you enjoy those big, blockbuster, special effects-filled movies, using the Cinepro amp is just plain fun. The specification for 5.1 audio demands even and equal power to all speakers and the 3K6se delivers! You will probably notice effects you missed in the theater as even the smallest details in the soundtrack become more apparent with this amp.
Of course, this kind of power carries a premium price tag at $5,995. Still, when you compare the performance versus price ratio of other high end stereo and mono block amps, the 3K6se is a bargain. Plus the 3k6 (non SE version) is equally as powerful, more tuned for a dual life as a music and home theater amp as well having a price of $2995. It also offers large potential for many music and film lovers with a lower cost of entry.
If you're interested in this amp, ask the dealer if it has had a sufficient amount of burn-in time because I did notice the top end start to smooth out as I continued to use the 3K6se. Cinepro also sells amplifiers directly with a confidence inspiring 30-day money back, satisfaction guarantee. I think if your in the market for a world class 5-channel amp you should take up Cinepro on their offer because in the final analysis, I give this amp an enthusiastic thumbs up for its sheer power and resolution; not to mention that Cinepro is willing to guarantee your success.