For the longest time I thought an amplifier is just an amplifier. The role of amplification inside audio is like a wire with gain. As long as the amplifier is of sufficient quality it will do its job just as well as any other amplifier.

While starting out in this DIY hobby, my amplifier of choice was a Pioneer A-757 Mark II. I bought this thing when new back in 1990. It had great specs at the time and came from a long line of Pioneer heritage. That heritage started in the late 70’s and ran all through the 80’s where the Pioneer brand had build up a great reputation of reliability and sweet sounds.

Amplification by a classic Pioneer

The Pioneer A-757 Mark II, a purpose build amplifier with many similarities to the A-717, one of Pioneer’s top models at that time…

At regular intervals I would take the amplifier in for maintenance and make sure everything was still in prime condition. Starting with my quest for ultimate audio, I came across a few people that were convinced not all (good) amplifiers would sound alike. Nonsense I thought. I had build the speakers documented on this site and had a ball with my ancient but lovely Pioneer. It sported great sound and the more I did right on the processing side of things, the more the amplifier rewarded me. It did so with a lovely stage and presence in my room.

The Ultimate Test

Fast forward to a couple of years ago. I was quite active on the DIYaudio forums, reading a lot and writing about my project there. It resulted in lots of visitors on my thread about my Array speakers. Needless to say the amplification subject came up from time to time as well. A couple of members suggested a visit or get together. They would visit me and bring along a couple of amplifiers. A test so we could actually hear what each of them did within my system. As said, I was of the opinion I had great sound, so what would I have to lose? Nothing…, right?

We planned the visit, making sure we’d have plenty of time to play and chat and listen to music. Oh boy… was I in for a big surprise! 

I won’t tell or repeat the full story on this page, if you’re interested in it, you can read all about it here.

Long story short: there were two amplifiers we listened to that made a lasting impression. Another pair definitely showed more fine detail in the sound we heard than my old amp was capable of, but I’d still choose the sweetness and overall balance of the Pioneer over those two. It showed me amplification does matter!

Maybe I had something to lose after all… The results certainly came as a big surprise to me.

Read more…