Test Report for Consonance T99 preamp & a100plus power amp In AUDIO 1/ 2002


Stig Arne Skilbrei

Audio enthusiasts often have intimate knowledge of their favourites, either they are well known brands such as Audio Research, Conrad Johnsen, Mark Levinson, etc., or our domestic favourites such as Electrocompaniet, Doxa, Dynamic, etc. But at the time of writing this there is very little I know about Consonance from China. I will probably know more the next time I sit down at my Mac computer, because China is a nation to reckon with in the future. More and more, for me complete unknown brands, get excellent reviews in our old hi-fi magazines. Is this the biblical prophesies being fulfilled? Will the yellow race take over the world?

Consonance is not of my favourites - yet. I had barely heard of it. But these products could become my favourites, because the power amplifer a100plus appeared to be a very comfortable surprise, and may possibly, after some deliberations, end up one of my top 5 amplifiers; Electrocompaniet AW-250R, Electrocompaniet 25W, Holfi integra 8, the power part of of NAD 3020, and now also Consonance a100plus.


Honestly, my interest for Consonance was aroused by a positive test in a competing magazine, where the integrated amplifiera100 was tested. This is in reality the same product as the power amplifier we are testing here. For this test we wanted a little more exciting and flexible setup, with a pure power amplifier and a separate pre-amplifier, where Arild Berget of Hi-Fi Guiden at Hamar recommended his cheapest tube pre-amplifier T-99. Arild is an old (excuse me: experienced) and knowledgable audiophile whom I unfortunately was not able to meet at the hi-fi exhibition this year. But I have talked to him previously - over the telephone. He has promised a follow-up of the system, but this time I can only write what I have found out so far, after a relatively short time of listening. But nevertheless, I have heard what this amplifier is capable of, and this is almost scary as far as the power amplifier is concerned.

T-99 pre-amplifier

The pre-amplifier T-99 is small and sweat, slim and very shallow, with volume and selector on the front, and 2 tubes, as well on/off switch on the top. It reminds one of VTL's cheapest pre-amplifier many years ago; you may have seen a picture of this long time ago in a Norwegian hi-fi magazine. I know, because I took it! T-99 is built up according to the SRPP (Shunt Regulated Push Pull) principle, and has two tubes, both Sovtek 6922. These correspond to ECC-88, or more precisely the least noisy variant of E88CC. The input impedance is 50kOhm, as it should be, and the amplification is 24 dB. The weight is 6 kg, and the power consumption is 40 watt; dimensions 430 x 80 x 120 mm (WxHxD). There are 4 inlets and 2 outlets, alt. RCA, not balanced. Price NOK 7500.

a100plus power amplifier

The power amplifier reminds one of a Holfi, and is probably not so different. Soundwise they are quite similar! Again, this amplifier I do not know well, but according to the brochure it is, as 99% of all others, of class AB push-pull solid state power amplifier. The on/off button I searched for a long time, and eventually was able to locate it underneath and to the left. That I have not seen before! Really a practical location, easy to reach, and at the same time out of reach busy fingers. The weight is a little less than 10 kg, and dimensions are 430 x 70 x 320 mm (W x H x D). The input impedance is 440 mV, in other words less than 1/2 V. Conventional studio equipment is 0.6 V, and home equipment around 1 Volt, but there is, unfortunately, not standard.

Practical usage

Integrated amplifiers are for cowards; separate power and pre-amplifiers are for professionals. This may sound stupid, but there is an element of truth in it. The trend lately has possibly leaned towards integrated amplifiers, and if you have no idea you are perhaps better off buying pre- and power amp. of the same make; adapted to each other. Because at the moment you run separate solutions, there is much to look after. The components have to fit together both with regards to sensitivity and impedance. Here it is only partially successful. The pre-amplifier T-99 has relatively high amplification, 24dB, and at the same time the power amplifier's input is relatively sensitive. This yields masses of sound by just touching the volume control. This leaves you with little room for adjustment. But this can be compensated by inserting a voltage separator between the pre- and power amplifier, but this required some technical knowledge, or help by the supplier. The combination high gain on the pre-amplifier and high sensitivity on the power amplifier also result in a slight hiss in the loudspeakers. Furthermore, the pre-amplifier's output impedance should be as low as possible, at least less than 1000 Ohm, and the power amplifier input impendance should be as high as possible, preferably 100 kOhm, as is the case here. The pre-amplifier's output impedance is not given, but it is possibly around 600 Ohm.


It is a long time ago since I have used tube equipment. I don't really know why I only use solid state equipment today. As I find something better, I change equipment, regardless of what it is made of. But there is some work with tubes; they get worn, with loss of dynamics and gain, and they sometimes break when least expected. Always keep spare tubes! Small ones are cheap, but if you want to chose the best, tested for noise and microphone, it can become very expensive. My experience is that tubes in the line stage is relatively unproblematic, whilst tubes in the RIAA stage is more problematic due to higher amplification (often more than 40 dB). Then hiss and microphone noise often occur, and the tubes are worn down faster, because they are run hard. Also the T-99 confirmed all tube-haters' prejudices: The made noise in one channel, so change of tube was required. But they still played well. The power amplifier behaved well - no noise, and no noise from the transformer. Completely silent; albeit in combination with another pre-amplifier with less gain - and no tubes.

Many people say that tube amplifiers have poor bass, not by the tubes themselves, but due to the output transformer of the power amplifier. The combination of tube pre-amplifier (not using output transformer) and solid state power amplifier is really ideal. Here you get the vivid and detailed sound from tubes, combined with the transistor amplifier's rock solid bass. And from the first moment I heard there was something special. I started to listen to this system without comparing with anything else, just playing and listening and playing. I concentrated myself listening to Robbie Robertson's "Music for the Native American", where I found soundtrack 7 particularly illustrating. Behind each loudspeaker dancing indians are approaching,first faintly, and then more and more loud. It is as if they come sneaking upon you. I was almost frightened the first time, since it was so realistic. Little by little song and musical instruments are added, and this piece is purer of sound that the other melodies. I also noticed that the Consonance system followed all variations to the music, down to the smallest detail. Changes in tempi are easy to follow, as well as placing. Here is good spread both in width and depth. Instrument definition is very good, and you detect easily and effortlessly which instruments play, and where. The sound/tone is good; the system is playing neither light nor dark, but rather dense. The system plays very purely, and the bass is almost incredible. It is extremely tight and precise, to the extent that I jumped in my chair a couple of times. The bass is neither as voluminous nor as strong as on larger amplifiers, but really, this suffices! We are, after all, talking about an 80W amplifier for less than NOK 5000.

Nevertheless I felt after a while that there was something leaving a light grey haze over the remining details, one that coloured the sound slightly lighter than it should be. I changed to another pre-amplifier (OK, Electrocompaniet EC 45 if you really have to know), which I know well to be quite neutral and free of distortion. I also tried directly from the CD player. Now it plays beautifully, on par with the best I hear around. This small 80W amplifier can of course not measure up to the larger and more costly amplifiers as far as bass and volume are concerned (strength of bass and the ability to play unstrenously loud), but I have experienced that even small and low priced amplifiers can play seductively beautiful. Consonance a100plus is such an amplifier. It has the ability to play so that you recognize it from a concert. A big, warm, dynamic and vivid sound. True to nature. Only amplifiers with very low distortion manage this. This must be a well designed amplifier, and as stated in Audio Critic, the magazine that made Electrocompaniet's 25W amplifier famous over night all over the world: "Good thinking is not necessarily more expensive than bad thinking". Or something like that; I am quoting from my memory. Maybe it was The Absolute Sound about NAD 3020. The point is the same.

But please do not write off the pre-amplifier T-99 too hastily. It may possibly recover after change of tubes and further adjustments. Time will show. If the editors allow space you will probably hear more about Consonance from me.


The amplifier system from Consonance was a challenge and a shear enjoyment. Even if it evoked good memories to try a tube amplifier, it did not take complete off to start with. We think it needs new tubes and further adjustment. The power amplifier, however, WoW! It played extremely well, and may well end up a classic - if there is space for more classics with so much equipment on the market, and with the speed of change. The input is so sensitive that it can be run directly from any CD player with volume control, if you want a very simple upset. Or from a good pre-amplifier (or a passive pre-amplifier, as in the integrated version). The sound is as you know it from the concert hall; vivid, intimate, detailed, uninterrupted and dynamic. Sound may not be delivered much better than this, regardless of price. Larger and more expensive amplifiers will of course play louder and with more depth and authority in the bass, but this small amplifier has the rare gift of making you forget all the equipment and just listen to the music. Beautiful chinese food!

Stig Arne Skilbrei

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