Country of Origin
Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial interests: click here
Main system: Sources: Retina 5K 27" iMac (4GHz quad-core with Turbo, 32GB RAM, 3TB FusionDrive, OSX Yosemite. iTunes 14.4), PureMusic 3.02, Audirvana 3, Qobuz, Tidal, Singxer SU-6 USB bridge, LHY Audio SW-8 switch, Sonnet Pasithea DAC; Active filter: icOn Gradient Box 2; Power amplifiers: Kinki Studio EX-B7 monos, Enleum AMP-23R, Goldmund/Job 225 on subwoofer; Headamp: Cewn.Grand Silver Fox; Phones: HifiMan Susvara, Meze 109 Pro; Loudspeakers: sound|kaos Vox 3awf + sound|kaos DSUB15 on Carbide Audio footers, Audio Physic Codex, Qualio IQ [on loan] Cables: Complete loom of Allnic Audio ZL; Power delivery: Vibex Granada/Alhambra on all source components, Vibex One 11R on amps, Furutech DPS-4.1 between wall and conditioners; Equipment rack: Artesanía Audio Exoteryc double-wide 3-tier with optional glass shelves, Exoteryc Krion and glass amp stands; Sundry accessories: Acoustic System resonators, LessLoss Firewall for loudspeakers, Furutech NCF Signal Boosters; Room: 6 x 8m with open door behind listening seat
2nd system: Source: Soundaware D300Ref SD transport clock-slaved to Denafrips Terminator +; Preamp/filter: icOn 4Pro + 4th-order/80Hz; Amplifier: Crayon CFA-1.2; Loudspeakers: MonAcoustic SuperMon Mini or Acelec Model One + Dynaudio S18 sub; Power delivery: Furutech GTO 2D NCF; Equipment rack: Hifistay Mythology Transform X-Frame [on extended loan]; Sundry accessories: Audioquest Fog Lifters; Furutech NFC Clear Lines; Room: ~3.5 x 8m
Desktop system: Source: HP Z230 work station Win10/64; USB bridge: Singxer SU-2; Headamp/DAC: iFi iDSD Pro Signature; Headphones: Final D-8000; Active speakers: DMAX SC5
Upstairs headfi/speaker system: Source: smsl Dp5 transport; DAC: Auralic Vega; Integrated amplifier: Schiit Jotunheim R; Phones: Raal-Requisite SR1a; Active DSP speakers: Fram Midi 120
2-channel video system: Source: Oppo BDP-105; All-in-One: Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe; Loudspeakers: Zu Soul VI; Subwoofer: Zu Submission; Power delivery: Furutech eTP-8, Room: ~6x4m
Review component retail: £19'500/ea.
Finding Nemo 2. With Electrocompaniet's new AW800M, we bag a whale off the coast of Norway. It's a 50th anniversary flagship celebration. It comes 25 years after the AW600 Nemo launched. It's a stereo, biamp or mono amp of direct-coupled high bandwidth so 1.1MHz with input filter disabled, 220kHz with it active. It runs 32 bipolar output transistors off a 210'000µF capacitance power supply with twin toroids. Think true dual mono. This one-box fully balanced platform delivers 0.3, 0.6 or 1Kwpc into 8, 4 or 2Ω (29dB voltage gain) but can still be bridged to a massively mono 0.8, 1.5 or 2.2KW (35dB voltage gain). That's power cubed; and not in lightweight class D but substantial AB.
Electrocompaniet's plant in the insert is located in Norway's Tau since the 2004 acquisition by West Control under CEO Mikal Dreggevik.
The all-new output stage "heavily shields the input and driver stages from the load to make the output extremely stiff and unaffected by the loudspeaker. This has the added benefit of significantly simplifying any load on the already gently working feedback for vanishingly low distortion. The mains power is DC and RF filtered. The internal ground reference is vastly over-dimensioned and entirely free of rectifying and output currents." The company specify THD+N at 0.0006% and IMD at 0.0001%. The lot plates up at 41x49x30cm WxDxH and bows a table at 55kg. You've been served!
Eco worriers who fret over country of origin rejoice that Electrocompaniet design and manufacture in Norway. Eagle eyes noted the amp's rarer IMD spec. They made the connection to Dr. Matti Otala's 1973 paper on an amplifier dealing correctly with transient intermodulation distortion; on Tapio Köykkä's paper on TIM which Otala's design was based on; and Eindhoven's Philips Research Laboratories where Otala worked at the time. This article adds some color commentary.
As Kari Nevalainen chronicles here, Norwegian broadcast/record producer Svein Erik Borja heard Otala's and Lohstroh's AES presentation on a TIM-optimized amplifier and was so impressed that back in Norway he approached Per Abrahamsen at Electrocompaniet with the idea of building such an amp. Two prototypes resulted and sounded so promising that Borja and Abrahamsen made ten more. Later Terje Sandstrom joined the firm and got deeply involved in the amp's R&D. Lohstroh and Otala just didn't want Electrocompaniet to associate their names with these later amps because they hadn't authorized the circuit for all of its parts.
Whilst Denmark usually cleans up Nordic laurels for hifi manufacture—i.e. Aavik, Ansuz, Audiovector, Børresen, Dali, Gato, Gryphon, Raidho, Scansonic and many more—like soccer sensation Erling Haaland today's story is Norwegian if with heavy Finnish design DNA via the Köykkä/Otala connection. Stay frosty? Perhaps only in the sense of remaining alert and ready for action without letting fear of frosty sonics from class AB, direct coupling, ultra bandwidth and bipolars get in our way. I very much enjoy wide-bandwidth DC-coupled designs as ownership of Kinki, LinnenberG, Goldmund and Enleum amps shows. To demonstrate how Electrocompaniet's engineering acumen included a turntable, something Nagra only recently embraced and Audio Group Denmark still work on, here's a 2014 show video.
But today we're not on about streamers, wireless subwoofers or top-loading CD players which they also do. Today is about our Norwegians' most powerful amp to date. Thor's hammer. Incoming. Or rather, the submarine Nautilus under Cap'n Nemo. Surfacing.
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