|Halcro dm38 Stereo Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Stereo Amplifiers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Friday, 01 August 2008|
Page 2 of 3
I was lucky enough to have several months to audition this amplifier in both a traditional, two-channel stereo system and a multi-channel theater system. In the stereo system, I used my favorite CD player, the Classe CDP-202, and the excellent Conrad Johnson CT-5 tubed preamplifier upstream of the Halcro dm38. The primary speakers were my MartinLogan Summits, but I also used the Acoustic Zen Adagios. I began with Transparent and Cardas cables and was easily able to discern the differences between them with these highly resolving electronics.
I later moved the dm38 into a new room and integrated the stereo system into my home theater system via the Conrad Johnson’s theater pass-through feature. At this time, I changed the cabling to Kimber cables, as the theater system primarily utilized Kimber cables. The cables used in the two-channel portion of the system were from the Kimber Select line. I note here that all the stereo components were plugged into my venerable Equi=Tech, with the exception of the dm38, which was plugged directly into the wall mains outlet with the Kimber Palladian cord.
Music and Movies
I began with by checking out Halcro’s claims of a power supply that could handle anything thrown its way. One of the DVDs I have been listening to lately is Godsmack’s Changes (Coming Home Studios), specifically the track “Battalla de los Tambores.” While this is far from the traditional audiophile review material, it provided the dm38 an excellent opportunity to demonstrate its dynamic capabilities. This track features two drummers battling it out in an enthusiastic and powerful piece, reminiscent of multiple drum solos pieced together to show off the drummers’ skills and impact. This track makes for an exhilarating and exciting demo on a system with good dynamic range and extension. The detail between the various drums was easy to discern, both spatially and tonally. The dm38 retained an iron grip over the speakers at all times, keeping this explosive track under control.
The Halcro dm38 had no problems driving either pair of speakers as loud as I dared listen, without any sign of stress or compression. I noted with interest that the Halcro MC70, with the same power rating, could not drive the MartinLogans to the same level as the dm38. I attribute this to the massive power supply of the dm38, which is shared by only two channels.
Sticking with bass heavy popular music rather than audiophilia, I played Crystal Method’s Vegas (Outpost Records) and went straight to one of my favorite tracks, “Busy Child.” The deep and powerful synthesizer track on this piece has long been a favorite for testing a system’s bass speed and control. The dm38 maintained complete control of the speakers at these lower octaves without any loss of detail.
As I listened to Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms (Warner Brothers), the dm38 simply got out of the way of letting me enjoy the music. I found myself listening to the entire album, not concentrating on the system, but simply absorbing the tracks. This happened with many albums during my time with the dm38. Mark Knopfler’s voice was reproduced with such detail and balance that I could easily close my eyes and believe I was at a live performance. The guitars and drums were all well-balanced among each other with a good sense of space in a large soundstage. I noted that the electric guitars were particularly piercing (in a realistic manner) when the dm38 was coupled to the Acoustic Zen Adagios, which feature a ribbon tweeter. My experience with ribbon tweeters is that the slightest bit of distortion upstream of the speaker causes them to be quite harsh. The Adagios’ tweeters remained smooth, clean and extended throughout my listening session with the dm38.
I then moved on to Jeff Buckley’s rendition of “Hallelujah” on Live at Sin-e (Columbia Records). The track begins with just Buckley’s voice above the acoustic guitar. Both were portrayed with detail and solidity that lent a sense of realism. What struck me even more listening to this track was the sense that the guitar and vocals were coming from a real point in space that was solidly anchored between and slightly behind the speakers.
Although the dm and MC series of amplifiers are quite different in design, they are said to share sonic similarities. In order to ascertain this for myself, I found my notes from my MC50 review. I again listened to two pieces from that review. One was Shawn Mullins’ Soul’s Core (Sony). The MC50 had done a good job with rendering the vocal details in the song “Anchored in You.” In comparison, the dm38 rendered detail on a whole new level. I would not have known I was missing anything had I listened only to the MC50, but once I’d heard the dm38, I realized that there was much more information that was previously unrevealed. The second piece I went back to was Elvis Presley’s Elvis is Back (DCC), specifically listening to Elvis’ version of “Fever.” My notes focused on the sense of space. My listening impressions through the dm38 closely mirrored my notes, yet I have the feeling that dm38 again rose above, even if not as obviously as before.
Lastly, I went to audiophile recordings, as I suspect that Halcro, especially the reference line, has a large audiophile following. Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat (BMG/Classic) remains a favorite selection of Leonard Cohen songs. The track “Bird on a Wire” features Warnes’ husky vocals solidly positioned in the center, the triangle was to the left where it belonged, the drums were a good distance back next to the horns with a few other instruments filling out the stage. The soundstage was solid extending beyond the outer edges of my speakers and away past my front wall. Despite the size of the sound stage it was continuous, without gaps but with each instrument solidly placed. The Halcro did this consistently throughout the album. For example, the vocals and each of the instruments on the title cut were not only well-anchored in their respective places on the soundstage, but they also had the proper sense of space around them. The string section was coherent and lush, yet I was still able to pick out individual instruments and notes. The tenor saxophone just sounded right. It had the proper tone and body, without any of the artificial harshness of recorded horns.