Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Sources: 27" iMac with 5K Retina display, 4GHz quad-core engine with 4.4GHz turbo boost, 3TB Fusion Drive, 16GB SDRAM, OSX Yosemite, PureMusic 3.02, Tidal & Qobuz lossless streaming, COS Engineering D1, Metrum Hex, AURALiC Vega, Aqua Hifi La Scala MkII, Fore Audio DAISy 1, Apple iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF), Astell& Kern AK100 modified by Red Wine Audio, Cambridge Audio iD100, Pro-Ject Dock Box S Digital, Pure i20
Preamplifiers: Nagra Jazz, Esoteric C-03, COS Engineering D1, Clones Audio AP1, Vinnie Rossi LIO [AVC option]
Power & integrated amplifiers: Pass Labs XA30.8, FirstWatt S1, F6; Crayon Audio CFA-1.2; Goldmund Job 225; Gato Audio DIA-250; Aura Note Premier; Wyred4Sound mINT; April Music Stello S100 MkII, Vinnie Rossi Lio, AURALiC Merak [on loan]
Loudspeakers: EnigmAcoustics M1, Albedo Audio Aptica, soundkaos Wave 40, Sounddeco Sigma 2; Boenicke Audio W5se, Zu Audio Submission; German Physiks HRS-120, Eversound Essence, Gallo Strada II w. TR-3D subwoofer
Cables: Complete loom of Zu Event; KingRex uArt double-header USB; Tombo Trøn S/PDIF; van den Hul AES/EBU; AudioQuest Diamond glass-fibre Toslink; Arkana Research XLR/RCA and speaker cables [on loan]
Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all components
Equipment rack: Artesania Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Krion amp shelf
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, two Verictum Silver X Block (EMI/RFI traps for component chassis)
Room: Irregularly shaped 9.5 x 10m open floor plan with additional 2nd-floor loft; wood-paneled sloping ceiling; parquet flooring; lots of non-parallel surfaces (pictorial tour here)
Review component retail: $5'995
Magnus Audio. Never heard of 'em? Neither had I. So I looked. Over five years, their News page showed just three entries. The first dated back to November 2009. Then came February 2010 to announce their official site launch. The last entry had hit in August 2013. It introduced their then new preamplifier. With no updates since but already three discontinued models, the outgoing message seemed mixed. I only ever stumbled across the brand because they'd solicited us. "This is John from Canary Audio. I would like to thank you for taking your time to review our tube DAC. My reason for contacting you again is to see whether you are interested (and have time) to review a solid-state amplifier. We are looking for the opportunity to have a review done on the Magnus Audio MA-260 pure class A stereo power amp." Like his tube electronics which fly below the usual radar of heavy review/advert presence but have been around, his transistor equivalents clearly frequented the same low-flying airline.

That says nothing about product quality, only that they're weak on marketing; or have plenty of word-of-mouth biz to not bother. In fact, not to advertise leaves more coin to invest into the actual hardware. Brands you've never heard of could offer the highest material value because of it. News pages in limbo are simply counterproductive. But giving John Laurel a break was easy. Having covered his Canary products with multiple reviews over the years, I knew of their excellence. So what if their marketing was iffy? I couldn't design an amp if my life depended on it. We've all got different talents. Did you know that historically, the word 'talent' referred to a scale and a unit of weight? An ancient Greek talent then was about 26kg. Later it became a currency worth 6'000 drachma.

Checking John's MA-260 page, I saw that his amp weighed 60lbs and was trimmed out in a silver face plate with black handles à la vintage Audio Research. I felt like a successful talent scout. It also specified 5 pairs of Mosfets per channel; switchable XLR/RCA inputs; 45/90wpc into 8/4Ω; ±0.1dB bandwidth from 10Hz to 50kHz; an absolutely massive 40dB of gain; 35/50kΩ input impedance on RCA/XLR; 1Vrms input sensitivity; and 450 watts of continuous power consumption to validate pure class A bias. DImensions were 19 x 6 x 17" WxHxD, warranty was 3 years parts and labour. Was I interested to review it? Absolutely. Whilst I didn't yet have data on drachmas, I'd find out soon enough. For a sonic talent test, I already had the pure class A Pass Labs XA30.8 to be all set.
In this age of growing energy awareness, the inefficiency of class A power conversion seems predestined for outlaw status. Just so, by mid 2015, disproportionately high power draw of about 10 times its rated power even at idle hadn't yet brought down the legislative axe. Being always on, class A devices don't switch. They bypass zero-crossing issues but enforce 10% or lower efficiency. The SET abbreviation for single-ended triode spells out why such circuits must be class A by design. A single output device per channel couldn't possibly switch on and off. With tubes, such SE circuits are popular. Thus the 't' in SET nearly always refers to triode, not transistor. Equally common are low power figures, often in the single-digit realm. As soon as the term transistor is uttered, buyers expect power. So transistor SET are far more rare. It's unfair but, ten watts or less are perfectly legit even for very expensive 10Y, 101D, PX25, 45, 2A3 or 300B amplifiers. Meanwhile they'd make most equivalent Mosfet, BJT or Jfet versions unsellable. If a transistor amp means to join the elite class A ranks and enjoy actual sales, it must deliver more power than its triodic kin. Enter class A push/pull and banks of paralleled devices. Voilà, our MA-260. Because its form factor is neither abnormally tall nor deep but arch conservative, it can't dissipate the heat which 100 or more 8Ω watts would generate. So it produces just shy of half that which for the vast triode majority would be extreme power. Yet for a transistor chappie it's merely middling. Them's the breaks. But it also cuts the other way. The MA-260 delivers more current and lower output Ω than most valve SET will. It becomes the better designated driver for more (less specialized) speakers with their bigger woofers of high back EMF and/or standard ported alignments with wicked phase angles and steep impedance fluctuations. That's how things balance out again. At $5'995, the MA-260 also sets its coin needle spot on versus the $6'500 Pass Labs XA30.8 which milks 30/60wpc into 8/4Ω from 10 push/pull Mosfet pairs per side.