|Sunfire Theater Grand 7400 Multi-channel Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Ken Taraszka, MD|
|Thursday, 01 February 2007|
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Music and Movies
The Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique (Capitol Records) is my absolute favorite album of theirs. It’s got a great flow, groove and deep bass too rarely seen in modern albums, and Rick Rubin’s exceptional recording skills make it a great disk to for listening. The Sunfire amp’s powerful ease of reproduction had me cranking this disc to obscene levels, where the TGA held tight, giving me all the power I could need. During “High Plains Drifter,” the bass was powerfully displayed, shaking the metal sculptures on my wall to the point that I have since removed them from that room. During “Car Thief,” the bass simply slammed me. Comparing the voltage source vs. current source outputs for the front two speakers, the current source outputs offered a less edgy top end to the sound, but I found the air and liveliness of the lower end to be better on the voltage source for this track. I switched between them several times with different songs and seemed to always feel the same. On “Johnny Royal,” the bass was fuller. Though it didn’t seem to go as deep with the voltage source compared to the current source, I found this is a plus, as it allows you to tailor the sound of the amp to your listening tastes, speakers and room. “Hey Ladies” had excellent air while maintaining the dynamics this song needs. The bells had an ease and naturalness to them I greatly appreciated. To take it to the next level, I bi-amped the front speakers with the front channel powering the highs via the current source and the second channel’s voltage source powering the lower end. Though this required two sets of (ideally) identical wire, this was the best of both worlds, offering the best sound I got from this amp, with smooth highs and powerful tight bass. This does require using the RCA connections to the amp to allow daisy-chaining the multiple channels, but the sonics offered by this set-up were worth the extra cabling to my ears.
I was so happy with the powerful presentation of this amplifier that I went to some old school funk to further test it. Parliament’s Mothership Connection (Mercury) is an amazingly fun album, and if you don’t own it, you owe it to yourself to buy it. Its deep grooves and powerful vocals are unmatched and the TGA 7400 was able to play this album at the levels it deserves. “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” is not only one of the best funk songs of all time, but also a great test of gear as it displays the numerous vocals and deep bass grooves ever present in this album. The TGA did a great job powering the bass while keeping the voices clear. The synthesizer flew into and out of the soundstage and, once again, I found myself listening at higher than normal levels due to this amp’s ease of reproduction. “Handcuffs” showed this amplifier’s ability to handle complex passages and widely disparate range with ease. “P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)” further demonstrated this amp’s ability to handle dynamics and deep bass while maintaining smooth clarity of vocals. Though I often found myself playing this album at very high listening levels, the amp never showed signs of distortion.
Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral (Interscope Records) is an old favorite industrial album of mine, and now it is available on SACD, so to further push this amp to its limits, I cued it up. NIN’s older material can be trying on an amplifier, as the music is extremely complex. Subtle backgrounds often connect entire songs, with huge swings in intensity interspersed with quiet, subtle and often musical interludes. The second song of the disk, “Piggy,” showed full bass and kept vocals clear while easily handling the wide dynamics of the piece. Even with all channels producing the extreme volumes this disc deserves, the Theater Grand Amplifier showed no signs of weakness. There was a little less detail in the more complicated passages than I’ve heard in higher-end amplifiers, but the extreme dynamics and thunderous bass afforded me by this amp were simply amazing, and the transitions from ear-splitting levels to quiet passages were impressive. As the rim shots of the drums came in, the attack was startling, while maintaining clarity not often found at this volume level. “Hurt” is my favorite song on this album, and the TGA kept me enthralled with its ease of reproduction at extreme listening levels while maintaining good separation and filling the room with a massive soundstage.
Action movies truly need dynamics for impact, so I cued up “Mission Impossible: III” (Paramount Home Entertainment) on HD DVD to further test this amp. It didn’t fail to impress me. The dynamics this amplifier is capable of producing are amazing, even with my power-hungry Canton Vento speakers. During the mission in Berlin, the amp easily reproduced the subtlety of small details, such as the dropping of the grenade and the ever-present background music, while handling the intense dynamics of guns and explosions throughout the scene. Voices were easily discerned and had a fullness and depth not often heard in theater systems. Much of this movie’s soundtrack contains deep musical bass, and the Theater Grand Amplifier 7400 had no trouble with it. The helicopter chase scene not only showed the power of this amp, but also its ability to transition between speakers. I found the dynamics from this amplifier impressive, to say the least. It likes to rock and does so well. The rumble when Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is held outside the flying jet shook my home, while the sounds of small items bouncing around the cabin of the plane remained clear and well-placed. The slightly forward sound and amazing dynamics of this amp made movies highly enjoyable to listen to and truly lifelike.
Tori Amos has been one of my longstanding musical loves, and her enthusiasm for my home state of Florida left her to finish the Scarlet’s Walk tour at the Sound Advice Amphitheater in West Palm, where she recorded her concert DVD Welcome to Sunny Florida. Tori has the ability to play softly and delicately and to rock out as well. Her keyboards and Bosendorfer piano can truly test the merits of any system, and I found excellent handling of the dynamics she is known for, while the bass stayed full and deep. With these challenging musical passages, the Sunfire TGA 7400 lacked some of the separation my reference amps exhibit, but made for an exciting and lively recreation of the concert. “Crucify” filled my room with Tori’s voice and its echoes gave a “being there” feel to the song. Her voice was sharp, with just the slightest sibilance to it. The drums that start out the song “Cornflake Girl” had a solid kick to them and, as Tori ramped up the song, the bass of her piano had a wonderful resonance. Transitions were fast and well handled, allowing near silence to quickly explode into musical intensity. The sound character stayed the same at low to moderate listening levels, as well as at extremely high volumes. “Bells for Her” showed the heft I am used to from Tori’s piano, and the stand-up bass resonated through my room while the shaker was placed to the left, just where it would seem to be from the stage set-up. The lone piano notes at the start of “Leather” seem to float in the air, while Tori’s voice starts filling the room with her eerie staccato. “Precious Things” is one of Tori’s more aggressive songs, and this DVD’s version is a great example of it. I cranked up the volume to the 98 decibel range and was glad to see the TGA had no problems maintaining its composure. The powerful bass of her Bosendorfer piano was well articulated, even at these listening levels, while her voice managed to send chills down my spine. The bass lacked some of the absolute authority I find in some higher-end amplifiers, but the TGA 7400’s infallible handling of dynamics more than made up for this to my ears. After several hours beating this amp up with loud, complicated multi-channel playback, it was only warm to the touch.