|Anthem PVA 2 Stereo Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Stereo Amplifiers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2003|
Over the past couple of years, Anthem has risen from the shadows of Sonic Frontiers, its former big brother, to become a formidable brand for value conscious AV consumers. The PVA 2 is the latest in Anthem’s quest to provide high-performing, high-value electronics at a price point that the average person can afford. The PVA 2 is a 125-watts per channel, no-frills stereo amplifier that sells for $649. The PVA 2 measures 17.25 inches wide, is five-and-one-quarter inches tall, 11 inches deep and weighs 26 pounds.
The PVA 2, like the rest of Anthem’s current line, features clean, unpretentious styling. The attractive yet simple front panel is manufactured from three-eighths of an inch thick, brushed aluminum, available in either silver or black. The face of the PVA 2 is decisively sparse, with nothing more than a logo, a power light and a button to power the amp. The remaining surfaces of the amplifier feature a black powder-coated finish. Large vents on the top, above each channel’s circuitry, ensure cool operation. The rear panel features two pairs of five-way binding posts and single-ended inputs for audio connections. In addition to the audio connections, the rear panel also features an IEC plug for a detachable power cord, a trigger input and output, and a three-position switch for power modes. The power mode switch lets you power up the PVA 2 manually, via a low voltage trigger input or automatically when it senses music.
Peering inside the PVA 2, you will see a simple yet robust layout featuring a single transformer that feeds both channels. The PVA 2 uses a custom-built, high-power toroidal transformer. Each channel has a large heatsink that keeps the four high-current, bipolar-output transistors from overheating. Anthem has actually engineered five stages of protection into the circuit design to keep the amplifier from overheating or being damaged. This protection circuit keeps the amplifier safe without actually being in the circuit path, keeping the sound pure and helping to achieve its 122 dB signal to noise ratio.
Connecting the PVA 2 amplifier was as simple as connecting two single-ended audio cables and a 3.5mm relay trigger from the Anthem TLP-1 pre-amplifier into the back of the PVA 2, setting the power-on mode to trigger. The five-way binding posts made hooking up my B&W CM-4’s a snap.
After break-in, I began my critical listening. I occasionally replaced the Anthem PVA 2 with the Parasound HALO A23 ($850) to assess how much of the sound characteristics were coming from the PVA 2 rather than from another component in the chain.
I began with the well-produced Burmester Test Disc, Volume 2. Listening to Hans Theessink’s “Call Me,” I heard a voice that was astoundingly well reproduced and was realistically portrayed. The timber was right on without any chestiness, and the image was rock-solid and dead center. The bass performance was also impressive. It was weighty and detailed, making the presentation quite convincing. The depth of the soundstage was not that of the mega-priced amps, yet it was no slouch either. In this cut, images extended past my front wall with very good width. Beyond the outer edges of my speakers, there was just a bit of speaker localization at higher volumes. The PVA 2 was plenty powerful enough to drive my system to levels that many would simply consider too loud.
I then listened to Ricky Lee Jones’ “Dat Dere,” again from the Burmester disc, as well as the studio album Pop Pop (Geffen). The PVA 2 again did an admirable job reproducing voices. When the track first came on, I was in another room and I mistook the voices of the children on the track as live voices from the children playing outside. The soundstage, like that in the “Call Me” track, was wide and extended just beyond the outer edges of my speakers. With both of these tracks, I felt incredibly involved with the performance as though I were sitting in the first few rows of the audience, just in front of the musicians. The music was well balanced and much more detailed than I expected in a product in this price range.
Turning the pace up a bit, I next listened to Van Halen’s self-titled release (Warner), a disc that I often use to evaluate a product’s performance with an everyday rock recording. The Anthem’s low background noise, detail and extended highs provided for an extremely energetic listening sensation. The Anthem had slightly more bass weight and was delightfully more aggressive than the Parasound HALO gear that I reviewed a few months back. Throughout my listening, I found the Anthem PVA 2 to perform in the shadows of amps costing much more. It was clearly living up to its reputation of value.
Lastly, I put on the fast paced System of a Down – Toxicity (Sony). “Chop Suey” is full of fast-paced guitar riffs that tested the Anthem’s ability to render the notes separately, which it did with no blurring or congestion. The sound was quick and detailed, with plenty of weight in the critical bass regions to realistically reproduce the music.
Throughout my listening session, the Anthem was fast and detailed yet musical, with extended, slightly forward highs. The soundstage was consistently wide and close to the listener. Compared to the similarly-priced Parasound, the Anthem was a bit more forward in its presentation and slightly weightier in the bass region.
Sonically, there is not much to complain about with the PVA 2. Only when you compare the PVA 2 to much more expensive amplifiers do its limits become apparent. I would have liked to have seen a bit more setup flexibility, such as output loops and the option to bridge the channels, which would let this amplifier be utilized in more power hungry systems. If your speakers are difficult to drive, make sure you try this amplifier in your system first. It is by no means light on power, yet it won’t drive inefficient speakers to obscene volumes. You will want to make sure it can power your speakers to the levels you desire.
The Anthem PVA 2 is a well-built, solid performing amplifier. It possesses solid bass performance for a product in this price class. Its not going to compete with the highest-priced amplifiers, yet it’s no lightweight either. Yes, the mega-priced amplifiers are better. Some may argue that they are much better, yet this amplifier makes complete sense. It is my opinion that it provides 90 percent of the performance of more expensive amplifiers at merely 40 percent of the price. The sound is very clean and detailed. I felt that the highs were nicely extended, yet could come forward at times. However, this amplifier was absent of noticeable grain (a common byproduct of lower-priced electronics) and simply sounded good. The PVA 2 embodies the phrase “bang for the buck,” yet this bang can now be heard around the world.