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Reviewer: Edgar Kramer
Source Digital: Metronome T-1i CD player with DAISy HE Remote Control
Preamp/Integrated: Supratek Sauvignon with NOS RCA and Bendix tubes; NuForce P9
Amplifier: NuForce Reference 9 V2 Special Edition monoblocks
Speakers: Wilson Audio Specialties Watt/Puppy System 6
Cables: digital - Cerious Technologies; Harmonic Technology Magic; interconnect - Cerious Technologies; CRL Gold [in for review]; Harmonic Technology Magic and Truthlink Silver; DanA Digital Reference Silver; Eichmann eXpress 6 Series 2; Bocchino Audio Morning Glory; PSC Audio Pristine R30 Ribbon [on loan]; speaker cables - Cerious Technologies and Harmonic Technology PRO-9+ loudspeaker cables; power: Cerious Technologies AC; Harmonic Technology Fantasy; Shunyata Research Diamondback, Eichmann eXpress AC power cables; PSC Gold Power MKII AC cable
Stands: Finite Elemente Pagode Signature equipment racks
Powerline conditioning: PS Audio P-300 Power Plant (digital equipment only)
Acoustic Treatment: Fonic Designer acoustic panels and StudioCel bass traps
Sundry accessories: Burson Audio Buffer, Bright Star Audio IsoRock Reference 3, Bright Star Audio IsoRock 4 isolation platforms and BSA IsoNode feet; Bocchino Audio Mecado isolation diodes; Black Diamond Racing cones; Stillpoints ERS paper in strategic positions around DAC, Shakti On Lines; Densen CD demagnetizer; Auric Illuminator CD Treatment; ASC Tube Traps
Room size: 17' w x 35' d x 12' h in short wall setup, opens to adjoining kitchen
Review component retail: $11,500

Maybe it's the water or that high mountain air and inspiring setting. For some reason, the small town of Boulder, Colorado seems to be home to a disproportionate number of creative and active high-end design companies. When I say 'high-end', there are some pretty big hitters up in them thar mountains: PS Audio, Ayre Acoustics, Avalon Loudspeakers and the company responsible for the subject of this review, the venerable Boulder Amplifiers.

The 865 is Boulder's first-ever integrated amplifier and based on their lower rung preamplifier and power amplifier, the 810 and 860 respectively. The term 'lower rung' is of course relative in this case since Boulder's idea of a lower rung price point and execution is equivalent to or beyond that of a large majority of other companies' statement products. Check out Boulder's 2000 Series components to get an idea of the ne plus ultra heights to which this firm most often soars.

In typical Boulder fashion, the 865 is extremely well built and finished in the company's trademark silver-grey anodized aluminium. Also cosmetically in line with other 800 series products, the 865 features a protective metal grille over its extensive heat fins. Boulder Amplifiers is a firm believer in balanced operation and uncompromising when it comes to this topology, with the 865 accordingly sporting a fully balanced, differential, three-stage input circuit "...resulting in ultra-low distortion and noise". So it follows that the 865 incorporates four balanced inputs and one auxiliary output -- fixed or variable and switchable for a subwoofer, recording device or secondary amplifier -- all configured within a centrally placed cluster. Not a single-ended connection in sight.

Those who want to connect an unbalanced source can easily do so simply by using an appropriately wired cable with an RCA (or other unbalanced) connector at the source end and an 3-Pin XLR connector at the other. Another option is Boulder Amplifiers' ABL2 input adapter.

Just below the signal connections are the IEC input and mains switch, fuse, a mini-jack cable remote input, master/slave switch for the Boulderlink connections and 12v trigger in/out mini jacks. Just to expand on Boulderlink, these RJ45 connections allow the microprocessors to communicate between components to allow such niceties as inter-component sequential initiation and message display sharing. A single pair of high-quality and easy to hand-tighten speaker binding posts are provided for each channel. Boulder recommends against using banana plugs (the speaker terminals on the 865 don't accommodate them) and recommends spade connectors. It turned out spades were nigh-on mandatory since the binding posts don't grip bare wire very well.

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The front fascia is fashioned from a multi-faceted massive piece of solid aluminium with laser-etched brand and model identification. A largish dimmable alphanumeric display serves as the user communications center and just below sits the small power LED that glows in a kaleidoscopic range of colors that cycle in an ever-changing pattern when the unit is in stand-by mode (this serves as notification of microprocessor stability and communicates that all is well). On a slightly raised surface is the beautifully weighted and smooth optically coupled stepped resistor volume control originally developed for the top-of-the-line 2010 preamplifier. Below are two rows of chromed metal buttons for the individual inputs, display dim, stand-by on/off, balance and mute.