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Proceed Amp 5 Multi-channel Power Amplifier Print E-mail
Monday, 01 November 1999
Image Home theater is clearly the driving force behind the high end audio video market. However, very few music and film enthusiasts are willing to sacrifice pure music playback in order to enjoy the addictive sizzle of home theater. We want the best of both worlds. Enter the Proceed AMP 5. With Proceed being the little brother to the two-channel giant Mark Levinson, the AMP 5 shares many of the advantages and design cues found on the more pricey Levinson gear, while being nicely packaged for multi-channel use.

The Proceed AMP 5 is a five-channel, single chassis THX-certified, power amplifier rated at 125 watts x 5 into 8 ohms and 250 watts x 5 into 4 ohms. Priced at $4995, the AMP 5 is the perfect partner for Proceed's AV preamp, the AVP, also priced at $4995. The Proceed AMP 5 accepts both balanced and unbalanced signals, changeable by the flip of a switch. This feature is of special importance for those planning to use a Proceed AVP, as the AVP outputs a combination of balanced and unbalanced outputs, not just one or the other.

Other cool features equipped on an AMP 5 include five separate power supplies as opposed to sharing one or two power supplies across all five channels. This makes for a much more stable high end amplifier. The AMP 5 regulates its power using the same technology that is found in the nearly $20,000 Mark Levinson No. 33H power amplifiers. The Proceed AMP 5 has six stages of amp protection to keep you from ever experiencing the utter depression of smoking your amp and or toasting any of your loudspeakers. The AMP 5 also allows communication between itself and any number of devices so that you can switch it to standby. This is a quite nice when running a touch screen control system like a Crestron or PHAST.
Music and Movies
My reference theater system includes a Proceed AVP, AMP 5, M&K THX loudspeakers and subwoofer, a Sony DVD and Pioneer Elite Laserdisc player with Transparent audio and video cables. Considering Proceed's audio lineage, I gave the AMP 5 a thorough workout with both two and 5.1 channel sources starting with "It Had To Be You (big band and vocals)" by Harry Connick, Jr. from the When Harry Met Sally soundtrack (Columbia). The soundstage was wide, well exceeding the physical placements of the left and right loudspeakers. The vocals were rich (not quite Sinatra rich but . . .) and the piano sound was well placed, detailed and delicate. The piano was not veiled or fogged as I have heard on other theater systems that were not specifically outfitted for music playback.

I am a huge fan of music mastered in 5.1 surround and I feel this will be the single most important element that inspires the next generation of music lovers to invest in high performance audio equipment. I was kindly invited by DTS and producer Bob Margouleff (Stevie Wonder, Devo, Oingo Boingo) to drop by the mastering sessions for Boyz II Men's II album into a 20-bit DTS CD. What a treat. The 5.1 channels of audio were still running from DA88 digital tape through a Sonic Solutions editing computer and a $1,000,000 Neve Capricorn mixing console. At 24-bit resolution, you can imagine how amazing the sound was. It made a lasting impression on me and set the mark for what the engineer-producer actually intended when playing the CD back on my system. Months later, I was able to test the Proceed AMP 5 with the Boyz II Men 20-bit CD (DTS Entertainment) and what a treat it was all over again. On their a cappella Beatles cover of "Yesterday," rich low frequencies resonate while the other harmonies float in a truly 360-degree soundstage. The sound was present, dynamic and detailed. I just loved it.

For film soundtracks, I looked to Chapter Four of Austin Powers: Man of Mystery (DTS Laserdisc) and the Electric Psychedelic Pussycat Swingers Club scene to give the AMP 5 a rapid-fire test of 5.1 music, back to front surround and panning effects, as well as the explosive blast-off of a giant Bob's Big Boy statue. The mod music, including the 1960s anthem Incense and Peppermints, didn't have the same pop that Boyz II Men did. However, the harpoon shot from Dr. Evil sonically challenges many of the more famous fighter jet fly-bys in Top Gun. When Dr. Evil enters into his cryogenic freezing Bob's Big Boy Statue to launch himself into space for 30 years (complete with Mr. Bigglesworth in tow), you get a chance to hear roaring rocket blasts as well as roaring laughter as this silly scene concludes.

The true goal of filmmaking and home theater is to stimulate the audience's emotions. Scene 22 on Super Speedway (Image DVD) instills fear in each viewer with a dogfight between Michael Andretti and Alex Zanardi during an Indy car race in the pouring rain. The scene is shot from an on-board camera just above the head of Andretti. At 180 to 205 mph, you marvel at how these two hotshot drivers could even keep their cars on the track, while you are rigidly hanging on to the edge of your own seat. The AMP 5 shows its brawn again when, in a later pit scene, Andretti wound the Ford Cosworth engine of his son's race car to 12,000 RPMs. My theater lit up with the high strung intensity of a real Indy car.

The Downside
Technically, the Proceed AMP 5 works perfectly with the Proceed AVP AV preamp, but as far as looks, the AMP 5 won't win many design awards. The AVP's appearance is cool and very modern, employing an off-white tone with gray accents. The AMP 5 uses much more gray and is a bit utilitarian for my tastes. I know looks don't affect the sound, but they do affect your lust factor and pride of ownership.

The speaker connectors on my Mark Levinson No. 333 are the coolest I have encountered in a high-end power amp. They avoid using nuts that require you to over-tighten your spade lugs. Instead, the No. 333 has a design more like a butterfly nut that guarantees that you can get the perfect connection without a wrench. It's too bad those connectors aren't on the AMP 5. I guess I'll have to wait for a future Mark Levinson 5 channel amp for that feature.

I will pay the Proceed AMP 5 a very special compliment. I have opened up my checkbook to buy it. The amp, while not overrated for power, kicks serious butt. The 125 watts x 5 channels makes it practically rain sound in my modestly-sized theater. More importantly, the tonality of the amp is so much like a Mark Levinson amp that at $5000, a home theater enthusiast must consider this a high-end bargain.

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