Magnus/Canary. With Magnus being in essence Canary's very own solid-state division, all the usual concerns, about new outfits and unproven staying power, evaporate. No company enjoys guarantees or exemptions against adversity. Just so, in these pages John Laurel's Canary brand dates back more than a decade. That makes them relative old-timers.

It also suggests stalwart survivors who've weathered challenging economic times. Prospective customers won't play with a bum hand. Being from Los Angeles County* also makes Magnus Audio an all-American outfit. It's something they're proud to stress. For them it's a reminder that fair value needn't equate to offshore manufacture or even partial outsourcing. They're a patriot-proof choice.

Tube admirers who for various reasons hesitate when it comes to power bottles might even grant Magnus an undeniable advantage, of being valve experts who, presumably, bring the same aural notions and sensibilities to their transistor works. Be that as it may, they clearly apply identical build/engineering standards. It's those which have led Kevin Scott, designer of the flagship Living Voice Vox Olympian hornspeaker and proprietor of the UK's Definitive Audio dealership, to trade in Canary valve amps for many satisfied years. Doubling as Great Britain's Kondo Japan importer tells us something about Mr. Scott's standards.

The Canary DAC loaner whose review John Laurel referenced in the intro was in fact from Definitive Audio's inventory to which it duly returned. It's the model the Scotts sell to customers who can't stretch to a Kondo converter. How would the MA-260 fare for people who can stretch to it or the Pass Labs XA30.8? Being from one of the most famous class A transistor designers in the US, that admittedly was the heaviest possible competition. It's simply the hand of cards the Magnus would be dealt. The MA-260's spec hinted at an ace up its sleeve with that S/N ratio of 110dB. That's some 40dB better than a €5'000 5.5wpc Polish EL34 SET amp in-bound for review during the same period. Time for the poker face. Game on!

* Relative to poker face, Canary Audio owner's manuals traditionally listed a P.O. box address in Rosemead/CA. Being the curious type, I ran a search on the California Business Registry and Rosemead Chamber of Commerce sites. Neither turned up Canary Audio or Magnus Audio. Dun & Bradstreet listed Canary with a year 2010 founding date and employee count of one. showed Ricky Lau as trade marking Canary Audio in 1997. On the same claim, correspondent Tony Dong was listed under New Century Audio, a company which showed in the state's business registry since 1996 as based out of San José. Asking John Laurel about current status, "all Canary and Magnus products are manufactured in Irwindale/CA where our factory is located. We purposely didn't list any of our contact information because we don't have enough time to deal with retail customers directly. Also, the persons and PO box address you mentioned are from the previous owners of Canary Audio and no longer applicable. In order to build up a stronger domestic sales and customer support network, we have appointed our dealer JM Sound in Redondo Beach/CA to become our new national distributor. Joe Martelli at JM Sound will handle all US sales and servicing for both Canary and Magnus products. The contact information of JM Sound will be published in the owner's manuals henceforth and also be included in our marketing materials." Mystery solved.

A remaining mystery was the 40dB voltage gain spec. That seemed excessively padded like a lobbyist's envelope of bakshish to his congressman. I asked John whether that was factual—it also appears listed with their class AB amp models and in the printed owner's manual of the review model—or a stubborn typo. Whilst I had him, I also asked about the number of gain stages involved; and whether they had a 2Ω power spec for the MS-260. "You are correct that there is an error for the voltage gain. The correct number should be 27.8dB. The MA-260 has four gain stages. And sorry, we don't have the power rating for 2 ohms." With 2-day delivery from LA to Switzerland beating that exchange, let's take a look at the amp's innards next.

Here with see 8 x 10'000µF Elna caps accompanied by eight heat-sinked voltage regulators and plenty of high-current screw terminals for the flying leads arriving from the 650VA power toroid and forwarding to the output boards...

... followed by a look at one channel's power stage with a big Omron power relay and 4+1 banks of complimentary transistors identified as bipolar OnSemi MJL21194/93 (4 pairs) and one pair of NJW0281/0302.

The tall power transformer with 16V/0.2A and 40V/4A secondaries per channel is decoupled with its own aluminium sub plinth. As the photos show, execution is fastidiously tidy, all cabling kept to minimum lengths.

Physical inspection inside and out netted from me a verdict of super chunky—or hunky if you're a romance novel writer—and tip top as the Germans would say. As expected, this matched my prior exposure to Canary Audio models. On thermo-nuclear action aka heat dissipation area, we get 22 thick aluminium ribs of 6x12cm per side. This contrasts with branches plus 30 thinner ribs of similar averaged depth—some deeper, some shallower—and 18cm height for the Pass Labs XA30.8. So the physically larger Pass sports more dissipation area and an even beefier transformer despite its 50% lower power rating of 30 vs. 45wpc. It also runs on Mosfet, not BJT fuel. To compare BJT class A to BJT class AB (10 watts in class A), I'd harness the $3'500 200wpc Son of Ampzilla II from SST Audio which was still in after its review. But first, a silly noise sniffer test compliments of the Voxativ 9.87 system. It was installed from its own review when the MA-260 landed. At 104dB, its widebander would put an electron microscope on the MA-260's noise floor. It's unlikely of course that anyone sane would pursue such an actual pairing when a 2-watt flea amp is sufficient. But nobody claims that reviewers are sane. Plus, there's wicked fun to be had from engineering bizarre encounters of the 3rd kind just because. Occasionally, the results exceed all reasonable expectations as they did with the 60-watt Crayon Audio CFA-1.2 integrated and Voxativ system.