Friday, March 21, 2014

Do amps really matter?

The greatest benefit of reviewing audio gear is that I get to hear gear in my own home. Whatever you might imagine truly great gear offers, nothing brings home the reality of the audio business than listening in an environment that you know. One exercise I find instructive is to partner gear in ways that probably are not typical, so I use cheap digital front ends on expensive rigs, bargain cables between components or entry level cartridges with top class analog arms. The results are always interesting and while I realize that some great gear only shows its greatness when surrounded by equally great (read expensive) components, sometimes you unearth a gem that can deliver the goods no matter what.

I am thinking of this right now as I play with the new  Digital Amp Company's Maraschino Cherry Mono amps. I've been running them in on a more than respectable pair of Bryston Mini-T speakers (review forthcoming) and really enjoying the results. But for kicks, I tried these two-thousand dollar multie-watt amps on a pair of Pioneer BS21 speakers which I picked up for $49 shipped online. Why, you ask?  Why not?  I am not sure if these are 'Andrew Jones-designed' as the later BS22's are marketed, but they are great fun, easy to place, and decent sounding in most situations. However, put some serious amplification like the DAC Maraschinos in front of them and prepare to lift your jaw off the floor. 

If ever anyone needs confirmation of how important amps can be, they need to see what the proper implementation of power can do for cheap speakers. The monos bring something from these speakers that defies common sense. Nobody in their right mind would pair these components but if they routinely sound decent with most amps, they sound positively indecent with the Maraschinos. Yes, I still believe that speakers matter the most in system allocation but you might never realize how good that basic pair you own can sound if you don't try some high quality amplification with them.  Live and learn brother!