TEST in Lyd & Bilde (Norway's largest Hi Fi magazine)
AMC CVT 3030a
How good an amplifyer do you get for 6-7000 kroner?
This is the question we pose when four integrated
amplifyers are put to test. It should be possible
for audiophile music lovers to acquire high sound
quality for less than 10,000 kroner. Or is it not?
In the less costly end of the price scale you will
find the smallest amplifyers with simplest technology.
The problem is only that they have to drive the cheapest
and simplest loudspeakers, which often require more
effect and power than you can get in amplifyers for
less than 3-4000 kroner. So therefore we aimed a little
higher. We were looking for highest possible sound
quality. The amplifyer had to adopt to a good floor
based loudspeaker for less than 10,000 kroner per
pair. The ability to manage an ineffective loudspeaker
is important-stability and control is required. So
is fexibility, and the loudspeaker terminals need
to have thick cables, shoes and banana plugs. Number
of lines out should be enough for TV, radio, CD, a
recorder, and preferably a DVD player-five in all.
Of course we should like to have remote control,
at least for volume adjustment. But finally it is
the sound quality which will decide the winner.
In this price class the products are well thought
through. Switches and potentiometers are of good quality,
and the power supply is big and normally of ring kernel
type. The charging capacity is relatively speaking
higher, and better condensers and components are more
the rule than the exception when you pay 6-7000 kroner.
The contacts are gold plated, and the loudspeaker
terminals are solid and of good quality. But it is
a pity that amplifyers for audiophiles do not have
remote control; in this test only one amplifyer has
remote control. If you miss line out for phono, two
of the amplifyers have this; the option is to pay
extra for a RIAA stage. There are many things to consider
before making up one's mind, but if you prioritize
the sound quality, it is easier to choose. For even
though all amplifyers in the test are of good quality,
some excel with better sound quality than expected.
Only make sure that what you choose fit the loudspeaker
who plan to use, for they are so different that one
should not choose an amplfyer which disappoints you
when you come home, just because it is not able to
drive your speakers to the full.
The first amplifyer uses vacuum tubes and transformers
on output. We have tested AMC earlier in this magazine,
but not Consonance. This amplifyer is made in China,
and, as we shall see, this is no disadvantage. Another
new make is Onix. Also made in Asia. Ours was the
most powerful out of two otherwise similar amplifyers.
Rotel's powerful amplifyer is the only one with remote
control. Output varied from 30 to 120 Watts, and in
reality the output does not say much about the sound
quality, unless the speakers are very hard to run.
We chose to do most ot the listening with N.H.T Super
Two, which sound very good and are very well matched
for these amplifyers.
AMC CVT 3030a: HABIT FORMING
This almost army look amplifyer uses vacuum tubes.
Two EV34 tubes sit on either channel with output transformer
hooked up to the loudspeaker terminals.
These have two sets with+contacts, one for 4 Ohm
speakers and one for 8 Ohm speakers. It is the nominal
impedance we are talking about. Check to make sure
your loudspeakers do not go down in resistance, because
the AMC does not like low impendance load. No remote
control here, but six connections in addition to phone
for MM pickup should be enough. The contacts and the
loudspeaker terminals are of good quality, and the
rubber coated dials on the side of the amplifyer give
a little rough impression of the AMC CVT 3030a. The
lifetime of the tubes should enough for a few thousand
hours of normal use.
The four tubes can easily be changed by the owner,
but beware - there is some current left in the amplifyer,
so it might pay to use rubber gloves during the operation.
Two fans sit under the amplifyer, and these engage
quickly when the amplifyer has reached working temperature,
but fortunately they make little or no noise. AMC
informs that the CVT 3030a gives 30 W per channel,
and it runs in class A. Since we are talking about
a tube amplifyer, it means that in reality it should
be compared with a 40-50W solid state amplifyer.
1. The sound
After about half an hour's warming up, the listening
can start. The AMC plays with a warm and open character.
It blooms of enthusiasm on classical music, and delivers
a convincing performance on pop and rock. The friendly
and unrestrained character makes continued listening
a comfortable experience. A somewhat forward leaning
presentation puts you in contact with the music, and
it manages micro details in a unrestrained manner.
Resolution is adequate, and the sound is large and
But it does not qually stress overtone structures,
particularly from acoustic instruments, which manifests
itself in flutes lacking airness and piano too little
sound. The higher tones sound a little dry, and are
softly focused. A little more depth and breadth would
have enchaced the stereo perspective, but the amplifyer's
light and airy stream of tones is like honey for the
bear: Habit forming.
In the extremes of the frequence registers the amplifyer
loses its voice, and do not count on a deep bass.
But transients in all parts of the frequency register
are well controlled and get enough weight to avoid
shrieky and slim sounding voices and instruments.
This is a good sounding amplifyer with many sympathetic
features which will win many friends. Particularly
among the tube enthusiasts.
Onix A-120: GRAND SCALE With 120 W
this is the most powerful amplifyer participating
in the test. It is also the heaviest, with its 14
A giant transformer takes most of the space in the
solid cabinet with a black front, which makes the
amplifyer look like that of Electrocompaniet. Six
lines out is good, and the back has gold plated connections
of good quality: The CD player lin out even has WBT
contacts of particularly good quality; likewise the
loudspeaker terminals are of solid WBT quality. Impressing!
The workmanship is in a class by itself. The only
thing the amplifyer lacks is a remote control. With
the gold plated dials the amplifyer presents itself
as luxurious, but minimalistic in form and function.
Inside it is built as two mono blocks. The power supply
is aggressive enough to be able to deliver power to
the well dimensioned output stage, something we were
to experience during the listening test.
The amplifyer's origin is from Sussex, England, but
most of the production takes place Asia. There is
a smaller model with 60 W which is otherwise identical
to the A-120.
2. The Sound
As expected the A-120 sounds forceful and controlled.
It is very homogenous down to the sub-terrainian frequencies
that it delivers with confidence. It is not common
to find an amplifyer in this price class with such
an iron grip on the low frequencies. The bass is rendered
formidably. Bass instruments are very credible, and
it is easy to get carried away by rhytmic music. Even
one who hates to dance will feel it in the legs. A
sort of Grand Scale brings you a realistically dimensioned
sound, with much space and endless depth. The stereo
perspective is rock solid and so wide that big symphony
orchestras get some leeway. The Onis is not as refined
and resolved as the Consonance, even if the difference
is small. On the other hand, it is more dynamic and
has greater control over the music. Particulalry when
it is requested to move up the scale and volume.
Even a Krell amplifyer would blush by such firm,
controlled and yet overwhelming and quick transient
rendering in the whole frequency area, particularly
in the bass register.
In the top we are presented with an open and airy
sound with refined definition of the overtones. It
is is almost almost difficult to believe what the
price label says.
The richness in detail is nevertheless remarkably
good. You can hear depth, and it only has its peer
in the Consonance amplifyer. Lack of remote control
and not perfect resolution on the edges make for a
few negative remarks.But this amplifer is so close,
CONSONANCE a100: CRYSTAL CLEAR
Consonance a100 does not reveal its origin neither
by looks nor by sound quality. It looks most of all
like a Danish amplifyer for sound purists- like Holfi,
due to its light wooden front-but it is actually Chinese,
hand built in Beijing.
The specifications tell us that it is a grown up
amplifyer yielding 2x80W in 8 Ohm. There are three
lines out, as well as a line out for sound recorder
or other things. The loudspeaker outlets are solid
and well functioning. The design is marked by simplicity
and good components. The amplifyer is built with a
passive attenuator with an Alps potentiometer. The
output transformers from Toshiba are particularly
well matched. Otherwise, we noted that the transformer
is of a special type with oval and enclosed ring kernel,
and probably hand wound. It is perfectly silent ¨C
here are hardly any mechanical vibrations which can
be transformed to the amplifyer's more sensitive parts.
It is easy to be carried away by the Consonance.
Its open and airy presentation belongs among much
more expensive amplifyers. Some may experience it
as too laid back and restrained, but it reveals itself
as extremely potent and rapid in response. On some
loudspeakers it may present itself as slim around
the hips, and some will miss more meat on the bone
in the bass register. This is really the only complaint
we have. When it counts, it shows itself as powerful
and dynamic, full of life, regardless of what you
play. Transients fly rapidly out of the loudspeakers,
and it keeps rhytm firmly all the way.
You are a little further back in the hall compared
to the AMC amplifyer, but miss nothing for that reason.
The stereo perspective is wide and very deep. The
resolution is so fine that one gets goose skin from
the lively sopranos of classical opera.
Much of the nerve in the music is conveyed with gusto,
and it is rich in details and is perferctly capable
to separe performer from each other, even with complex
music. This is one of the most refined amplifyers
we have heard in a long time; the spatial definition
is credible, and it plays all types of music with
ROTEL RA-985BX: ENTHUSIASTIC
An old acquaintance this, which was quietly upgraded
a while ago. It is beyond doubt the best equipped
amplifyer in its class.
Apart from a well equipped remote control you get
two sets of loudspeaker outlets; tone control, six
lines out, pre/main out and it a surround processor
or extra power amplifyer can be hooked up to this
2x100 W amplifyer. Not bad! The amplifyer can be hooked
up to more components in a zone system for multi room
use. The well known and conservative Rotel design
keeps well, despite its age.The cabinet is solid,
and the choice of components shows consistent high
quality. Plastic dials lower the overall impression,
but tell that the Rotel is built for the job it is
meant to perform. Luxury and ornaments can be bought
A separate dial swithes between the inlet one plans
to make a recording from. In this way one can freely
choose another inlet for listening to music. A small
noise is heard from the relays switching between inlets,
and light diodes mark which one is in use when you
select from the remote control or the dial. A little
red diode also marks the position of the volume control.
3. The sound
Full and rich could be said about the amplifyer's
sound. But this is only half the truth. It has a big
sound and is juicy and engaging to listen to. At the
same time it is a little leant forward in its presentation,
similarly to the AMC. And a powerful bass can shake
the walls, provided it is equipped with the right
In sound character it rests between the the AMC and
Consonance, and has more richness in detail than the
AMC, but lacks the same, almost total resolution of
the Consonance. Neither does it have the depth, even
if the register is sufficient.
The music gets good drive, and pop/rock music pours
out with a big sound with force and power, but also
with grace. The Rotel is open enough to let through
details and sounds so that vocals and instruments
sound plausible. It differentiates between various
instruments with ease, but is not able to depart from
its somewhat course resolution. There is plenty of
Dynamically nothing is lacking, and drums as well
other percussive instruments have weight and power
in abundance. The precision is not on line with the
Onix A-120, but the Rotel strikes hard enough. And
it can also whisper when required. A little soft focus
gives us comfortable impression of classical music.
This may fit many loudspeakers, but a warm of soft
playing loudspeaker is hardly the best partner for
the Rotel. But the right speaker the Rotel can challenge
the best in the test.
A competition can only have one winner. But it is
difficult to call the others in this test losers.
All the amplifyers in the test can, with the right
loudspeaker and a good CD player give you many enjoyable
moments with music.
It is only a question of finding out which one suits
your musical taste best. There is not much difference
in price either. The Consonance costs NOK 5,500, bt
the other ask NOK 7,000. Regardless of what you choose
in the end, you will get much better quality outside
and inside than with 3-4,000 kroner. Not to mention
better sound quality. Maybe it is worth saving a few
The tube amplifyer in the test is a charming aquaintance.
It is not able to run all types of speakers, but with
good adaption the result can be very good. AMC CVT
3030a plays music with participation and engagement,
a warm and open sound character makes it easy to listen
to- with no restraints. Only better resolution and
a deeper sound are lacking, and a little more at the
edges of the frequency register.
The Rotel amplifyer can be used for everything. It
plays well regardless of the music, has plenty of
power and manages most speakers with a firm hand.
Power and control makes this amplifyer one of the
most engaging on dynamic, rhytmic music, but is not
so good for classical pieces. With better resolution
and a richer detail we would have placed it on the
From China comes the surprise of the test. This modest
amplifyer with wooden front, where the logo has been
burnt in, is one of the amplifyers with most airy
and best resolution which we have seen in a long time.
And for this price it is shockingly good. It is so
open and three-dimensional that it is a joy-and rich
in details. It is preferably enjoyed with a loudspeaker
which has a full character, since the Consonance sounds
a little slimmer than the test winner.
4. The Winner
Onix A-120 wins the cup this time. It only lacks
a remote control. Plenty of power; managed with precision
and force that none of the others can match. Not even
the Rotel. At the same time it has so good resolution
and is so open that one is always surprised how much
one has missed from ones cds earlier. The Onix plays
almost like the Consonance, but with more power and
control. And it sounds fuller and has more dynamic
contrast. It just had to win.