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This review first appeared in the April 2012 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, 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 Spec Corp. - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe, Miyajima Laboratory Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature Version with Regenerator power
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω version
Interconnects: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (on all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD player, Acoustic Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD player and preamplifier. Pro Audio Bono platform under Leben CS300
Review component retail in Poland: zł19.900

SPEC Corporation is a very young company. They started in January 2010. The pretext for their launch was the RSA-F1 integrated amplifier known in specialist audio literature as real-sound amplifier as well as add-on RSP-101 loudspeaker filters called real-sound processors. I mentioned the latter in my editorial Small dreams in the 90th issue of High Fidelity. These little boxes have proven so cool that I kept them to partner my Harbeth M40.1.

I took great interest in reviewing this amp. When the Japanese get serious about anything, they usually approach it in a very unique way. And class D amplifiers definitely deserve serious consideration. However this review would not have happened had it not been for the stubborn help of Messrs Hontai Yoshi and son Elia. To introduce me to today's subject they sent me a brief list of the most important items I should know about the RSA-V1.

  • The electrical circuit was designed by a talented engineer working for many years at Pioneer who sought to come up with the best possible single-ended amplifier based on 300B tubes.
  • It uses the best available pulse amplifier system in a purely analog circuit (the power supply is linear and fully analog too).
  • The oil capacitors are a reproductions of the WEST-CAP NOS units.
  • The powerful amplifying system uses modules exceeding 90% efficiency so the amplifier generates almost no heat.
  • Due to high power it can effectively control almost all available speakers including those of low efficiency such as Kiso Acoustic HB-1. It's why Kiso Acoustic chose SPEC amps to demonstrate their HB-1 at trade shows.
  • Wooden base obtains as saturated a sound as possible.
  • Safe power switch as used in aircraft cockpits.

We came into this brand because we grew to love the sound of their amps. I believe you also will. We like the philosophy behind it too. Designer Koichi Yazaki is enthusiastic about 300B amplifiers. For 38 years he used a very good amplifier of this type to help him get closer to the ultimate sound with his own circuit which was to scale up power so it could also support speakers which the 300B couldn’t drive. To achieve his beautifully deep sound with high dynamics, he decided to combine analog with the latest generation PWM pulse power amplifiers. During exhibitions in Japan SPEC amplifiers are thus often confused with tube amps. - Yoshi Hontai

How can we sum this up? Perhaps like this: the SPEC amplifier is an analog switching design operating in class D adding NOS components and it is enclosed in a housing that combines wood and aluminium. It was intended to closely match the sound of 300B amplifiers but add scale and power. Let's see how this design brief translates to reality.

Sound. A selection of recordings used during the auditions. Blade Runner soundtrack, Vangelis, Blade Runner Trilogy, 25th Anniversary, Universal, UICY-1401/3, Special Edition, 3 x CD (1982/2007); For Ever Fortune, Scottish Music In The 18th Century, Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien, Robert Getchell, Alpha, 531, CD (2012); Paganini for two, Gil Shaham, Göran Söllscher, Deutsche Grammophon/JVC, 480 246-5, XRCD24 (1993/2009); Diana Krall, All For You, Impulse!/JVC, 532 360-9, XRCD24 (1996/2010); Dominic Miller, Fourth Wall, Q-rious Music, QRM 108-2, CD (2006); Exodus, Supernova, Polskie Nagrania/Metal Mind Productions, MMP CD DG 0405, CD (1992/2006); Händel, La Maga Abbandonata, Simone Kermes, Maite Baumont, Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis, Deutsche Harmonia Mundi/Sony Music Entertainment, CD 88697846212, CD (2003/2011)...

... Jean Michel Jarré, Magnetic Fields, Epic/Sony Music, 488138 2, CD (1981/1997); Jean Michel Jarré, Téo & Téa, Aero Production/Warner Music France, 699766, CD+DVD (2007); Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery, Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes, Verve/Universal Music [Japan], UCCV-9359, SHM-CD (1969/2008); Michael Jackson, Thriller, 25th Anniversary, Epic/Sony Music Japan, EICP 963-4, CD + DVD (1982/2008); Nosowska, 8, Supersam Music, SM 01, CD (2011); Sara K., Don’t I Know You From Somewhere?, Stockfisch, SFR 357.6055.2, CD; The Modern Jazz Quartet, The European Concert. Volume One + Volume Two, Atlantic/East West Japan, AMCY-1186-7, K2 CD (1960/2000); Wes Montgomery, Incredible Jazz Guitar of…, Riverside/JVC, VICJ-41531, K2 CD (1961/1999).