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This review first appeared in the September 2013 issue of hi-end hifi magazine of Germany. You can also read this review of AVM
in its original German version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with the publishers. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of fairaudio or AVM - Ed.

Reviewer: Jörg Dames
Sources: Laptop with foobar2000/J.River MC,Phonosophie DAC1and Fonel Simplicité
Amplifiers: Fonel Emotion,Abacus Ampino, Funk MTX Monitor V3b, Audionet AMP Monos
Loudspeakers:Thiel CS 3.7, Spendor SP100R²
Cables: Straight Wire Virtuoso for line level, HMS Fortissimo, Reson LSC 350 for speakers, Quantum-Powerchords and Hifi-Tuning power cords, Wireworld Starlight and Chord USB SilverPlus USB cables
Rack: Lovan Classic II
Review component retails in Germany: €3.990 & €10.990 for preamp and amp respectively

What's life about? Ecstasy. So a newspaper recently opined. In which case our audiophile pursuits wouldn't be that far off in the big scheme of things. After all, following the right music in the right moment over a good hifi can approach the ecstatic. So today we'll check into an ecstasy potential where raw pricing suggests elevated expectations. On hand are the valve-fitted AVM Evolution PA5.2 preamp and the pure solid-state Ovation SA8.2 power amp. The latter is fresh off the press and over the SA8 predecessors sports a few refinements. But not so quick. Evolution. Ovation. Aren't these machines from different ranges? True. But as company boss Udo Besser stresses, this combo of 'smaller' preamp and 'bigger' power amp is a popular choice with their customers to suggest itself for a real-world review. The 'matched' partner for the amp goes by Ovation PA8, demands €6.500 and the PA5.2 should officially go with the Evolution MA3.2 monos for €5.000.

Both our loaners strut first-rate finish. Fit, edging, heat sinks, non-ringy covers, the absence of visible fasteners front and top... this duo exudes luxury. Incidentally all chassis fasteners run with locking threads rather than the common stuff one often finds on even costly gear. The amp's lid is nearly a finger thick. The deep name engraving is matter of taste and thus exclusive to the Ovation models. Kudos also to the owner's manuals which cover the extensive features and technical specialties. This includes a wiring diagram for the XLR inputs and for the SA8.2 a map for the diverse fuses should against all odds one of them fail and go poof.

On features, the PA5.2's small controls beneath the central display can name inputs, deactivate unused ones, adjust display brightness as well as bass and treble controls and nine different loudness curves for various situations and listening levels. Obviously all of it can be bypassed easily. The left rotary knob selects inputs, the right volume. The latter triggers PGAs or programmable-gain operational amplifiers to promise better channel balance that traditional pots.

I want to single out two features which could be misunderstood – input attenuation and input sensitivity. The first enters with sources of >3V output to avoid overdrive distortion (useful with my Phonosophie DAC1 whose Ingo Hansen likes things a bit louder). This trim uses relays and reduces the input by half, i.e. 6dB. Adjustable input sensitivity meanwhile can offset differences between sources should one switch between them. This operates in software and thus doesn't replace attenuation. The power-up cycle undergoes a small ceremonial delay which checks on optional modules before thermally ramping up the valves over half a minute. If you love radio, vinyl or digital, €499/ea. gets you a tuner, MC/MM phono and/or Wolfson-powered DAC card. Or all three. The DAC module's synchronous USB input is limited to driverless 48kHz whilst coax and optical handle 192kHz. On stock socketry there are 4 x RCA and 1 x XLR inputs, a 6.3mm frontal headphone output, one each RCA and XLR output and one processor loop on RCA.