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Well for those who read my review on my fantastic Sony SCD XB940 SACD player, I mentioned I'd upgraded my worn out Pioneer amp and increased my listening my listening pleasure still furthur.
So I thought it was a good idea to review this amp.
My Pioneer Amp had started to lose its power after a friend of mine dismantled it in an attempt to upgrade the mains cable. He couldn't fit the cable and managed to trash the amp (Cheers Raj!!). As it happened I was looking for an upgrade in any case so he'd just brought forward the decision by a few weeks...
MORAL-DON'T let anybody near your precious HiFi amp unless he/she is a qualified technician or engineer. Amps are more complicateced than they look requiring amongst other things skilled use of a soldering iron.If you or anybody else isn't qualified then DON'T EVEN GO THERE!! Amps contain capacitors (storage devices for holding electricity) which could result in a shock and/or damage to your amp.
You've been WARNED!!
I'm digressing again so back to the review...
I'd decided to upgrade my amp because it had a couple of inherent faults in any case such as a noisy volume control. Furthurmeore it had no remote which was a pain.
So I started looking for another amp with a budget of up to £500. It had to fulfil some basic requirements which are below:
1) It had to be of a reasonable power as I'd also recently upgradede my speakers to a pair of Tannoy Sensys 2 floorstanders
2) It had to possess the ability to drive at least four Hifi
3) It needed to be well made. There's no point in having a lightweight amp, amps produce their own slight movements from their power supply affecting sound quality. A well built amp has a lot less 'movement' resulting in better sound.
4) It had to have compatibilty with my new SACD player
5) It had to offer a wealth of facillities. Essential requirements included Direct Play, Loudness, a Phono Stage (in the event of me ever going back to Vinyl I didn't want to either purchase a Phono Stage or upgrade it again)
6) It needed to be a recognised brand.
So off I went to several Hifi dealers. Several auditions and hours later I hadn't got what I wanted. Some came very close such as those offered by Marantz and Rotel but failed on at least one of the points. A model made by Denon easily fit the criteria but was substantally over budget. So I strolled off home...
As I was going home I passed the Sony Centre in Wolverhampton and tucked away in the far left corner of the shop were some HiFi seperates. Amongst these were two amps namely the entry level TAFB370 at about £120 and this other TAFBE940 priced at £299.00. A quick look told me it had all the basic requirements but I decided not to be rushed into a purchase. So off I went and returned a few days later to see the amp still there and a new price ticket on it at....£249.99!!
I spoke to the saleman who confirmed that it had all the spec I needed and he just one sealed one left in stock. In an instant the deal was done. He had my £249.99 and I had yet another bargain!!
Well on opening the box, my expectations were more than fulfiled. In my hands was a very substantal amp indeed weighing in my estimation over 10kgs. On reading the instructions, I discovered it was very easy to connect up. All my Hifi seperates were connected via the gold plated phono connections, everything being clearly labelled. The fascia is very tidy with two main knobs on the front-one for selecting the Hifi seperate being used such as CD player,Tape deck etc and another for selecting the volume. At the bottom left hand part of the amp was a flap concealing the controls for Bass, Treble, Balance, Loudness and finally that all-important Direct Play button which bypasses all the Bass, Treble controls and improves sound quality. Everything oozed quality-the volume control was reassuringly smooth but firm,the input selector (for CD,Tape etc) had a definite click as it was being used-even the Remote was easy to use.
Special mention must go to the instructions, probably the clearest and easy to use instructions I've encountered.
Well everything above's fine but what about the sound quality?
I connected up my SACD player and cranked the volume up about a quarter of the way up and noticed a distinct improvement over the Pioneer (even before it was trashed). Furthurmore, it seems to work brilliantly with my Tannoy spkrs. I listened to my SACD player (this amp has SACD/CD on the Input control) playing "I can't get no satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones and proved ear piercingly clear. This time I'm sure Keith Richards was joined by Mick Jagger in my room. It didn't stop there. Checking out "Happy Face" by Destiny's Child proved every bit as good...was I dreaming?. The power was also ample-at 2 x 70w it drove my Tannoys with ease.
These improvements weren't limited to SACD/CD either. My MiniDisc's and Cassettes suddenly had new lifre breathed into them with an equivalent improvement in resulting sound quality. There was also a particular improvement in bass reproduction-taut and crisp with none of the slightly 'Wooly' sound I was getting out my Pioneer.
So far this was proving a 100% ultimate bargain.
If I was being picky I could complain it doesn't have a Moving Coil Phono Stage which might prove important if i ever went back to Vinyl and purchased a Turntable and was prepared to pay a premium for a Moving Coil cartridge. but in fairness to Sony, Turntables whilst enjoying a bit of a comeback arent exactly as popular as CD players. Besides I would expect that to on an amp costing twice the price.
Far worse is the fact Sony has discontinued it. And haven't brought out a replacement....WHY???!!!!
I'll never know, perhaps we are all suffering from iPOD itis and have stopped buying Sony hifi seperates. But Sony should realise that if they don't make it then people can't buy it and will by default go to the competition.
It is still available on the net and in a few Sony Centres for example but you will have to move very quickly.