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Altason R1 power amp

07.12.2012..
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Introduction

Oh, at last! I can test a power amplifier not too expensive, powerful, well made at a first sight, Italian. My enthusiasm is because the object typology falls at 100% within my current hi-fi vision. Let me explain better. The top brands like Mark Levinson, Audio Research, McIntosh, etc…are like Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini, which make dream the most, although meant for the few. It is right and logical that the superamps and the supercars exist. Sometimes there are favorable technological "repercussions" on the less expensive models. It is also useful that the enthusiast calibrates his ear by listening to those wonders, trying to improve his system gradually. On the contrary, it is a drama when the listening test gives opposite results: someone can even forgo the hi-fi, thinking that he will never get to certain levels. Hence, he thinks...it is better to change hobby! Maybe the point is how hi-fi is considered and if is only a pastime or a passion. Back to my vision, I think that these two small power amps make the enthusiast able to switch from a first configuration of a system, where an integrated amp is always present, to the next step with a preamp and a power amp. Up to a certain cost, maybe the integrated amp is better if well performing. This solution avoids wrong matching from the electrical and sound points of view, and new cables to choose and purchase. Nevertheless, two chassis are better. Sometimes you can go back to the integrated amp but, at least, you have got your satisfaction. There are also people that go on with the audiophile experimentation buying more powerful or more refined power amps or amps they like more. Yet, I think that power amps like the Altason R1 can contribute to feed the passion for the playback music. And nowadays you can also tell your wife how much a device costs!

 

Technical analysis

The logo Altason Elettroacustiche Italiane is printed on the frontal, while Made-in-Italy, in big characters, is printed on the back panel. It is comforting to know that Italian young realities still believe in the hi-fi, in the passion for a qualitative musical listening, in the social and cultural values of music. Altason is entirely and proudly an Italian design. Behind this new brand is Troniteck Distribuzione, a company of Pombia, Novara, specialized since 2009 in the distribution of Hi-Fi gears. It has taken care of the design, while the manufacture of the electronic part has been assigned to EAM Lab, a company of Parabiago, Milan. To this end, I invite you to read on ReMusic, the review of the HA 300 power amp, made by Mauro Simolo.

 

At a first visual test, the amp seems very good, with a chassis in 15/10 treated metal that prevents from undesirable vibrations. There is only a small fault on the lateral side of the cabinet that bends a little, but the manufacturer assures it affects only the first models and it is going to be amended. Always for the holy war against vibrations, Altason has put under the amp four well-made conic metal feet that lean on their metallic coasters. These last ones have at the base a rubber tip that can be removed if you do not want any elastic element between the amp and the supporting base. The front panel, in methacrylate, is about one centimeter thick and presents only the on/off button and a small LED that blinks till the end of the positive check out. The Altason R1 is well-finished under any point of view: two relays of 30 A are inserted in a circuit that protects the loudspeakers when connected. There is also a thermal protection, a protection on the power supplies of the output stages and a circuit that repolarizes the current of the power amps if an excessive dissipation occurs. All this protection system comes from the pro and from the experience of EAM Lab. On the back panel are: IEC mains input, fuse box, four connectors in plastic coated metal for the power cable, two normal RCA sockets for the signal cable and two RCA sockets countersigned with the sign "Link", to connect another power amp for bi-wiring.

If you open the R1, you can notice an aluminum heat sink, which is mirror made to guarantee a better thermal contact with the output transistors, and a toroidal transformer made in Italy and based on Altason specifications with high inductance twisted coils to decrease vibrations and phenomena of electromagnetic induction. Well made is also the PCB in double-face fiberglass, with trim tracks and silver based weld joints. ISC Semiconductor transistors of audiophile quality, precision resistances and four audiograde Rubycon electrolytic capacitors of 6.800 microfarad each, complete the amp. The design is well made indeed and the components are valuable mostly in the critical points that should influence the sound output. All this despite the price that is only 1,099.00 euro. Santa Klaus is in alert. And in a while he will read if the sound is good as well.

 

Youn Sun Nah | Same Girl

Listening test

To evaluate the qualities of the R1 power amp I have used a record that I recommend: Same Girl by Youn Sun Nah, issued by ACT. The singer is from Korea but the music is not Korean! The album has reached the jazz top charts in France and has won the Choc award by Jazzman/Jazz Magazine, a famous jazz magazine. This is her seventh album.

Born in Korea, daughter of an orchestra conductor and of a classical singer, Youn Sun Nah has a chameleonic ability of expressing herself through styles that are very different, from the French chanson to jazz, from rock to bossa nova, from pop to world music and vanguard music.

With Youn Sun Nah (voice, kalimba, kazoo) play Ulf Wakenius (guitars), Lars Danielsson (acoustic bass, violoncello), Xavier Desandre-Navarre (percussions), Roland Brival (narration).

Let us start the listening.

 

After a few notes of kalimba, an instrument born in Africa and originally made of flexible thin sheet of wood or metal applied on a case or on a pumpkin, you can recognize My Favorite Things. Just that and the voice of the Korean singer. The amplifier has to given the typical sound of this instrument, metallic but not sharp and, most of all, the peculiar and delicate atmosphere that permeates the entire track. Here it is, delicate but determined. The Altason does its duty with grace.

Another quite famous track, My Name Is Carnival, by the American singer-songwriter Jackson C. Franck, is embellished by Ulf Wakenius' guitar. Very good to evaluate the voice, the tone of the instrument and the rubbing of the fingers on the strings. The guitar is reproduced in a clear way with the right remark to the "body", to the soundboard.

Breakfast In Baghdad, by Wakenius. The going gets tough and the tough get going. Guitar and voice, voice and guitar. Youn Sun's vocal cords and Ulf's guitar merge in, run after each other, integrate themselves. Great voice performance with plenty of high notes and vocalises inserted in a middle-eastern atmosphere, with the whole supported by a great accompaniment of bass and percussions that the R1 gives back unblinkingly.

Then follows Uncertain Weather, by Nah herself. The initial low tones are correctly deep, the voice, heavy-laden in this track, is always well reproduced, the sound of the guitar is lucid, with the right tension.

Next is a re-reading of Song Of No Regrets by Sergio Mendes & Brasil’66. I have listened before to the original singing performed in Mendes' record by Lani Hall, Herb Alpert's wife, to understand how Youn Sun Nah can propose it in her version. It is not about fussiness, but is just to be aware. Do not forget that music is culture. Well, the reinterpretation is classy, for me far better than the original. The initial violoncello gives also a further pinch of quality and refinement. Here the young Korean artist reminds me, although the vocal timbres are incomparable, Marianne Faithfull, both for the expressive intensity and the evocative capacity.

Kangwondo Arirang: traditional Korean, is considered the non official national anthem of Korea. Very cute this homage by Nah. Exotic and delicate, it does not forewarn what comes after.

No, I cannot believe! Enter Sandman by Metallica! But in her own way, absolutely personal. An easy start, nothing to do with Metal, but after a while an amazing vocal crescendo that results in high notes first and then in a scream, to come back to whispers, to the sing and to very high notes for a supertweeter. Better listen to it than read it, for sure. The original is another thing, obvious, but I can assure that this very personal version is valuable. There are not so many singers inclined to risk and get in the game with such a track. And the amp? It behaves so well that I have completely ignored it!

 

Eighth song with the kalimba in the beginning, played by Nah herself, with a sad, intense, always involving voice. It is Same Girl, an homage to the great Randy Newman.

Moondog. Here you have to pay attention to the cymbals and the bass. The first ones metallic, well held the second. But also the voice and the guitar play well. Like the Altason. It cannot fault also with the kazoo that follows after three minutes, unexpected.

Drums and voice, which tells of potato chips, chocolate, ice-cream and other food. It is Pancake, entirely composed by Youn Sun Nah. Are you becoming greedy of the great record and the great power amp, are not you?

Since she currently lives in France, the Korean artist sings in French the last track, La Chanson d' Hélène, I think an homage to the host nation. Another beautiful persuasive, seducing, romantic interpretation. With the addition of the vocal intervention by Roland Brival, musician, singer and writer. Your wives have to listen to this singer and, maybe, can start appreciating hi-fi.

To conclude, what can I say about Youn Sun Nah? A singer that I consider really good, experienced, sometimes an irreverent interpreter, sometimes melodramatic, in a positive way, sometimes romantic but always with an invidiable will of experiment, reinvent, discover old or new genres without minding labels, boundary, language. A musician that not only interprets, but that often "dismantles" a song or a melody to propose it again structured/restructured in her own way. Like Sonny Rollins at his top.

With this amp and this record, a curious thing happens. This time is not a product of the East, not too expensive, that reproduces well a great Italian voice, but it is a good Italian product, not too expensive, that reproduces well a great eastern voice.

 

Conclusions

Our Altason has behaved very well. Coming in on tiptoe, it has gone out with its head held high. It has really surprised me. After a long run-in it has expressed a remarkable sound and not only in comparison with its price. It can be matched with floorstanding speakers of a good level or with minispeakers of 82-84 dB. Listen how they can perform when connected to a 200 watt: detailed but not cold, made with care and entirely in Italy, with a successful quality/price ratio. With the right match, the Altason can give a lot of satisfaction. A friend of mine wanted to test it in his system. Now you find on second-hand sale a class-D power amp, quite valuable, but not so well performing in the matching with his Focal speakers.

 

 

Official technical specifications:

Transformer: Audio Grade Custom toroidal

Class: AB at high polarization

Inputs: two stereo

Input sensitiveness: 1,1Vrms full power at 4ohm

Z in unbalanced: 47Kohm+100pF

Power outputs: two pair SX/DX

Power RMS 8ohm: 200+200watt

Power RMS 4ohm: 350+350watt

Frequency response: 15Hz-70Khz

THD+Noise: <0,02% a 4ohm/1Khz

Damping factor: >250 10-400Hz at 4ohm

S/N ratio: >104dB

Intermodulation Distortion: >70dB

Rated Voltage Output RMS: 35volt

Max Rated Voltage Output RMS: 65volt

Filtering: 32.000μF

Maximum power: 30A full power at 2ohm

Dimensions: 42.5x14.8x42cm (WxHxD) with coasters

Weight: 11,9kg

Warranty duration: three years/36 months

Assistance typology: on site, with collection and restitution to the customer

Official Italian dealer: to Troniteck Distribuzione website

Official current price in Italy: 1,099.00 euro

Associated equipment: to Ulisse Pisoni's system

by Ulisse Pisoni
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