Monthly Archives: June 2015
Recently, I had the opportunity to hear an power amplifier by a fairly new company, Wells Audio of Campbell, Calif., called the Innamorata. Jeff Wells is the company’s owner and the man responsible for putting together the design team and lending his experienced hearing during the design phase. What he has produced here physically is a fairly typical 19 by 6 by 17 in size and weighs a manageable 58 lbs in basic black. Although it looks pleasant enough, the only real concession to styling is the way-cool old-timey meter on the front panel whose main function is to let you know that the amp is on! In fairness though, it does also let you know if your house voltage is in spec. This is the mid-point in their amp lineup, there is an Inamorata Signature that I have not heard and apparently other designs on the way.
Electrically, it is rated at 150 watts into 8 ohms and 220 watts into 4 ohms. The amp has a detachable power cord, unbalanced inputs, one set of stereo binding posts and no balanced input, so simplicity is a key here. The retail price for the Innamorata is $7000. The basic design is solid state heavily biased into class “A” and is said to employ very little feedback. One of the things that the manufacturer prominently features in this amplifier is the use of Bybee Quantum Purifier technology, specifically Bybee Music Rails. They go into some detail about these on their website, but suffice it to say they help lower the noise level coming from the DC power supply into the actual audio circuitry. This sounds like a good thing and I say, Hey, it couldn’t hoit!
The amplifier was installed in my system of the moment consisting of the Pioneer PD-9D SACD/CD player, a Vintage Garrard 401 turntable with Fidelity Research FR-54 tonearm and Victor X-1 Mk2 cartridge, the Motif MC-8 preamplifier and my Vivid V-1.5 loudspeakers. The sample I auditioned had been previously used and so had been broken in prior to my auditioning.
The first thing I noticed was a very clear and beautiful sound. Not euphonically beautiful, but naturally so with the familiar tonal colors suggestive of live music. A wonderful start for any amplifier, but especially for a solid state amplifier upon first audition. Time just reinforced this impression. Whether Vintage Vinyl or modern SACD’s, classical music had that “live at the hall” sense. Other types of music were equally well served according to my experience with the particular recording I was listening to. The sense of space was quite fine and dimensionality was about the best I have heard from my speakers. This was enhanced by the sense of the music coming, not out of a black background, but out of just plain clear, empty space as you would want. Maybe the Music Rails are at work here.
The bass was as good as the Vivid 1.5 speakers will allow, seeing as they are not true “full range” designs. This may be expected for a modern, moderately priced amplifier, but what you may not expect is the overall sense of ease and lack of grain that often is just accepted as part of the usual solid state trade-off. This is why tube amplifiers have kept such a following through the years. Despite their particular trade-offs, you generally didn’t have to worry about roughness, grain or other unrealistic nasties with tubes. Well, you pretty much don’t have to worry about them here, either.
Dynamics are fine and detail is quite good, both being at levels that only the super (and super expensive) amps significantly exceed. The Vivid’s have metal cone woofers and metal dome tweeters and in general strive for detailed and brilliant (but not over bright) sound. They can be driven over the top by the wrong amplifier, but nothing untoward was noted in terms of ringing or artifacts in the mids or treble. Really, I always enjoyed listening to the system with the Wells in place.
To examine the Wells amp from another angle, I also used the amp to drive my semi-vintage pair of Spendor S-100 loudspeakers. The S-100 is the predecessor to the current SP-100R2 design and is a large three-way box speaker. The smooth, warm and inviting BBC legacy sound was there as well as I have heard it, but the bonus is that the sometimes overly resonant bass was brought under better control. Maybe a bit more beautiful than transparently real (as is the Spendors wont), but I won’t begrudge them that. All in all, it didn’t transform either speaker into something it isn’t (as an amplifier striving for a neutral sound shouldn’t), but it allowed the speakers basic sound to be heard to good effect.
It must be said that solid state amplifiers in the 5 figure plus price range addressed the issues that the Wells addresses so well a while ago. Soulution, AVM, Constellation Audio, D’Agostino Audio and the like have been there, done that. But companies like Wells Audio are now bringing tube like advantage down to somewhat more affordable designs without the heat and tube wear issues that dampen some folks enthusiasm for tube amps. For many people, the days when you would have to consider whether to look into tubes at all may be over unless you are terminally addicted to their somewhat euphonic but sweet and smooth presentation. And some may miss that last bit of 3-D imaging that some tube amps can exhibit, this is my only real criticism of the Innamorata. To be sure, some tube designs may still beat even the best solid state designs in the areas that tubes excel. But that gap seems to be ever closing.
So what we have here is a well built and well-designed amplifier that never disappointed me in my auditioning. Right now, I have to say that the Wells is the best overall solid state amplifier I have heard in my own system on the Vivid’s which really benefit from the sense of power and control on tap here. I would say that some of the heavy hitters in the solid state world are it’s better, but they are generally not as affordable. Not to say that $7000 is cheap, but it is at least aspirable for many committed audiophiles. I can’t imagine anyone not being at least pleased with the sound of this amplifier and due to its high damping factor design, it should be at home with any speaker system that doesn’t require more than its rated power. The bottom line for me is that the Wells Innamorata amplifier must be given a high recommendation as an audition in its price range.