Ambrose A30 – An Owner’s Perspective…

Following is a well expressed review and feedback about our Ambrose A30, custom built, 30W, SE, Artisan Made tube Mono Blocks:

Dan: Here is a long overdue update on my experience with the Ambrose A30’s:

The hallmark of the Ambrose A30’s sound is tonal accuracy, neutrality, and free flowing music that sounds natural. I have the tubed mono blocks in three integrated systems. This works because the A30’s are adaptive and flexible, fitted for many roles. 

In its simplest form, I have the mono blocks driving Harbeth M30 monitors.The source is a Modwright modified Sony HAP1es which moves through a Modwright 9.0 preamp by way of an Integra 70.6 home theater receiver. All wires are by Wywires. The room is 13 x 13 and well damped. 

This two channel stereo system is perfect for acoustic music and classic rock. “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce was a song he wrote before the birth of his son. But the words and events (Croce’s death at age 30) turned the song into something more expansive. The tone and timbre of his voice must be captured truthfully to fully convey his universal sentiments. The Ambrose A30 amps and the Harbeth M30 monitors do this more accurately than anything I have heard. The two guitars and the harpsichord provide a haunting backdrop.

“Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” by Santana uses a soundstage flanked by percussion well defined in comparison to the soaring guitar solos. The fusion of rock and Latin music is both brilliant in scope and beautiful to hear. As my installer, Mark Wheeland of Bowman Electronics noted, “All I can say is it is one of the most inviting systems. It pulls you in, and you don’t want to leave.” The stereo only system does well with many kinds of music, including jazz, roots and classical recordings. 

We expand to system II by adding the surround sound channels – PSB Imagine II speakers run in parallel for the center (an idea from Mark) and PSB mini-Alphas for the side and back. Also included are two fine sounding subwoofers, the REL Britannia B-3 and the PSB SubSeries 450. This allows us to listen to large scale music, including, of course, movie soundtracks. 

Take, for example, Dave Grusin’s score for “Three Days of the Condor.”

The movie has as its theme, “Maybe there is another CIA, inside the CIA.” Grusin’s soundtrack is a score within a score – mysterious jazz, moody love themes, and 1970’s rhythm and blues. Dave Grusin on the Rhodes provides a fitting background for Max Von Sydow’s recitation of post-Watergate espionage for the benefit of a very puzzled Robert Redford.  The solo sax background when the lovers depart is another effective use of a minimal but emotional musical backdrop to the cinematic story. 

The Ambrose A30’s and Harbeth M30 combo do especially well with strings, both in large and small settings. In “Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble,” we get exceptional sound from the stringed instruments, especially the Cello. There are two reasons for this, in my opinion. The Ambrose A30’s fit the Harbeth M30’s like a glove. This, in turn, gives freedom to the concept of the Harbeth speakers, which is to allow proper bracing and other techniques to allow the sound coming out of the speakers to mimic the sounds of instruments. This works as well on large-scale productions such as the DVD, “Diana Krall: Live in Paris.” The synergy works at both extremes. 

Finally, we move to system III: Dolby Atmos. This is the most important recent development for home theater sound, in my humble opinion. You add four speakers to the ceiling for the sole purpose of the special effects. I do not know how it works but it does. “John Wick,” “Gravity,” the “Hunger Games,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” and especially “Mad Max (Fury Road)” provide good examples of the kind of realism that this new technology can produce. What does the Modwright preamp – Ambrose A30’s – Harbeth M30 combination add to the experience? Both clarity and calmness. Dialogue is natural, clear, and simply put, part of the movie. In other words, you find yourself watching the movie, and not the sum of its parts.

In conclusion, finding equipment that works together well in various iterations takes time. I started with the Harbeths and built around them with an eye toward synergy. I got lucky with the Ambrose A30 tube amps. I knew the Harbeths would be flexible. I was pleased to find the new amps by Dan Wright, Jack Elliano, Lou Hinkley and Dave Palka to be so remarkably utilitarian. That is not the impression most people have of tube amps. Talented designers and unique products can change those impressions. That is what the Ambrose A30’s tubed mono blocks did for me.

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