I often talk about aesthetics as it is something I feel is very lacking in the IT world. For years PCs and PC accessories were dull and unattractive, they were utilitarian in the extreme. Apple came along and showed us that you can have a sense of style in the manufacturing of computer components and like crawling from a cave into the first rays of sunlight the systems builders and designers opened their eyes to the possibilities of making components that not only worked well but looked good. You have heard me speak of murderbox, one of the most aesthetically pleasing PCs I have ever wished I could afford. Well I have found the perfect amp to sit beside your murderbox if you own one.
The tec•on audio model “55” was designed to be eye catching; make no mistakes it is an excellent external design. From the moment you look at is you can see the quality and attention to detail. From the solid post legs that fit securely into the upper and lower covers to the center mounted Alps Attenuator securely mounted by six hex-head bolts.
When powered on the three tubes on the model “55” are lit up by blue LEDs surrounding each tube. This adds an eye catching luminescence to the soft glow already present in the tubes.
I did have one small complaint about the design; this involves the placement of the power switch on the right hand side. I found it to be a little awkward given the rest of the model “55”’s clean layout. I have to be honest though, I do not know of where else they could have put the switch, and placing the on/off switch into the attenuator would have potentially introduced unwanted noise into the system. So while I felt the power switch was out of place and awkward it was probably the best solution as it is typically hidden from view.
Sound is a subjective thing, I have said this more times that I can count. It is a hard one to scientifically rate for performance. You have to experience the sound to get a good grasp on the performance of an audio setup. As such in the Florida Bright Lab we try to offer you not just our opinion on the way something sounds but to give you a variety of sources.
Since the tec•on audio model “55” is a departure from the way PC and Digital audio is processed I wanted to expand my usual 5-8 test subjects and increased this to 15. Each was asked to rate the audio on a scale of 1-5 [one being worst and 5 being best] then I wanted one word to describe the sound they heard. I did this for three distinct types of audio. The fist was a traditional turntable with a vinyl LP record. I chose the London Symphony Orchestra playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony Live as my audio source. My second audio source was CD audio [using the USB connection to PC] in the form of some classic Stevie Ray Vaughn playing the Jimi Hendrix classic Little Wing from the “The Sky is Crying” CD, while the third was MP4 audio from my iPhone the song choice there was Cake’s Long Line of Cars off of “Comfort Eagle”.
The Speakers used for my testing were Polk Audio 5-1/4-Inch Bookshelf speakers model TSI200. These fit perfectly in with what I felt was the average usage [although you can certainly use much higher end speakers with the model “55”] for cabling I used Rocketfish RF-G1148 [30-foot spool 16 gauge] cable with Monster Cable Banana Clips for termination at both the amplifier end and the speaker end.
Although my test subjects did not all share in my musical tastes they all agreed that the audio quality from the tec•on audio model “55” was nothing short of amazing. Without exception they all agreed that the sound had more “power” behind it. It felt more alive and vibrant. Even the normally thin and weak sound from the iPhone had more of this life breathed into it by the model “55”. There was no mud, no brassy high-end, and no cluttered mid-range. It was all clean with great separation of ranges. The reproduction of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s musical rendition of Little Wing left most who listened to it speechless. As you hear the buz of the amp and Stevie’s fingers slide over the strings of his guitar the event becomes almost personal; it brought me chills and while my eyes are closed the combination of a great recording and the sound quality from the model “55” made it feel like he is in the room with me.
Likewise the LSO’s performance of what in my opinion is one of Beethoven’s best symphonies was stunning. You could almost feel the tympani drums used in the second movement.
The words most commonly used to describe the sound quality from the model “55” were clean, vibrant, alive, powerful, and wow.
Conclusion on the next page.
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