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This review first appeared in the January 2010 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Pure Sound A30 in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. 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 High Fidelity or Pure Sound - Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
Review system: Go here
Review component retail: €1.500

According to Mr. Tomasz Niedziółka of  Audio Consulting, the Polish importer of today’s A30, this amplifier is made by Guy Sergant of UK brand Pure Sound and manufactured in China. As is usual in such a case, a Chinese counterpart can be found as another brand, here Bewitch (also the name on the box of Pure Sound). The designer confirms that the Bewitch is no different from his creation in manufacturing quality, parts or sonics. Incidentally, manufacturing in China was not about lowering manufacturing costs per se. It actually was the other way around. First there was the notion of making an inexpensive class A amplifier. This imposes certain manufacturing requirements, in the case of output transistors higher quality parts and burlier power supplies. This made the choice of tubes and China obvious. To further reduce the price, Guy Sergant identified a company that already manufactured a quality amplifier which he could now modify. The first European review of the A30 under the Pure Sound name was conducted by Hi-Fi+. It featured the already modified amplifier with new circuitry and parts which still carried the Bewitch name on the front panel. This did not prevent author Alan Sircom (now editor in chief of that magazine) from presenting the amp with a Hi-Fi+ Product of the Year 2006 award.

And this is probably how to arrive at the best low- to medium budget audio when operating out of the UK. The A30 is a solid class A tube amplifier with a push/pull output stage running very nice EH Electro-Harmonix 6550 tubes and Chinese-sourced octal tubes inputs and drivers. The two rectifiers too are Chinese valves. One also gets the best possible inside parts with precision carbon resistors, French polypropylene SRC capacitors and a Japanese Alps pot. There is a lot to admire. Another attention grabber is the ability to switch the output stage from ultralinear mode—where the 6550 tetrodes work as designed with all their grids connected—to triode where one of their grids is grounded. Triode offers a softer more intimate sound at a price. Output power drops from 30 to 18 watts and damping factor worsens with the higher output impedance. This means that the loudspeakers should have higher efficiency and impedance or the amplifier will clip and/or its timbre fluctuate with the speaker’s impedance curve to make results somewhat unpredictable.

Discs used for testing - Criss Connor, Free Spirit, Atlantic/Universal Music Japan, WPCR-25171, CD; Danielsson/Dell/Landgren, Salzau Music On the Water, Act Music+Vision, ACT 9445-2, CD; Kazumi Watanabe, Jazz Impression, east west, EWSA-1063, SACD/CD; Kings of Leon, Only By the Night, RCA/BMJ Japan, BVCP-40058, CD; Marilyn Moore, Moody Marilyn Moore , Bethlehem/JVC, VICJ-61467, K2HD; Michael Jackson, Thriller. 25th Anniversary, Epic/Sony Music Japan, EICP-963-4, CD+DVD; Sonny Rollins, Way Out West, Contemporary/JVC, VICJ-60088, XRCD; The Beatles, 09.09.09 Sampler, Apple/EMI Music, 84414 2 5, 2 x CD.

I would like to be well understood by audiophiles whose mythologies, premonitions, "wisdom" and "certainties"—probably a part of every hobby—are so entrenched that it is difficult to clear through them without challenging at least some of them. With this review I was strategizing how to begin because the easiest way in fact to describe the A30 is by saying that it does nothing wrong and is well balanced. Although those clearly are positive values, in an audio context they might seem suspiciously lame because for most people, a hifi device should be unbelievable, turn everything upside down, slaughter the competition and have us get a heart attack over what it can do. In truth, this only happens once in a blue moon. While I did witness something like it a few times, those really were very expensive products and I encountered only a few of them in my time. When I say that this amp just "performs as it should", I mean exactly that without equivocation.

Interesting for me at least was the fact that its sonic character repeated almost ideally the impressions I had when listening to class A amplifiers from big players like Accuphase (their E-550) and Luxman (their L-550 II). A common belief about class A amplifiers holds them as sounding warm. Sometimes that’s true but it has to be a conscious design choice. We more often find that with solid-state devices (besides those already mentioned, we should also exclude the Accuphase A-65 and Luxman M-800A) than tubes. A warm, pleasant and non-fatiguing sound is much easier to achieve in class A than other classes and often this really is a fantastic sound. But we should also add that in such cases, it is not an entirely realistic sound.

A well implemented class A amplifier sounds rather different. Yes there is some warmth but it won’t derive from rounding off or an emphasized midrange but from supplying the sound cleanly without depriving it of the harmonics that are reproduced in phase with the fundamentals. This too results in a warm sound but it is natural not artificial warmth. Such amplifiers also tend to be more linear than most class AB variants. It however produces no wow effect when we start listening and the A30 (A = class, 30= watts in ultralinear) adds itself to that group. Prefacing the facts, I will say that in my opinion, the sound should be like that and it is what we should strive to obtain. It’s a good direction to proceed in. While inexpensive, this amplifier allows one to build a system which won’t mask the flaws of each stage but amplifies its assets. This may not seem like a big deal but in effect gives a completely new perspective.