The SPL Performer s1200 power amplifier is new to the market, and will not easily be forgotten!
The Sound Performance Lab s1200 is an up-to-the-minute discovery, for me, in the world of high-performance audiophile amplification. The company’s best-selling stereo power amplifier in their Professional Fidelity series, which is their code term for home audio, is in truth, the SPL Performer s1200 under review here. (For professionals, some other sections are divided into “Studio” and “Mastering”).
The s1200 produces an amazing 520wpc into 4 ohms and 300wpc into 8 ohms. This is a powerful amplifier that resembles a cube and is beautifully finished all around with high-quality materials.Two more power amplifiers are offered, the s800 and m1000 monoblocks, which are both smaller.
As we look at the Performer s1200, the SPL product portfolio of this stereo power amplifier includes some most important and foremost attributes: Thanks to its exceptional power capacity, this amplifier is capable of driving any loudspeaker with ease and is capable of directing difficult speakers to sound levels that were truly beyond expectations.
The presentation of the S1200 is rich, fully open sounding, and expansive in its honest, and superlative sound reproductive qualities thanks to its VOLTAiR technology. VOLTAiR is a composition of the terms Volt and Air. (Volt is the unit for electrical voltage and Air stands for the unlimited space the music can breathe in). As such, The Performer s1200 features individual amplification stages for voltage and power amplification, which ensures a perfect operating of the class-AB amplifier circuit. Thanks to each stage’s negative feedback path, we can easily rule out any feedback from the loudspeaker will be interacting with the input stage – this way the SPL VOLTAiR Technology can play out its foremost attribute.
The company also produces the prestigious m1000 monoblocks and when comparing them to the s1200, we find that they are housed in the same chassis while still retaining the unique aesthetic characteristics as with the m1000 monoblocks. There is a small trough in the middle of the chassis in which a silver, red, or black faceplate can be inserted. My unit happened to have a silver faceplate that was simple and good-looking.
Three LEDs that monitor on/off, temperature, and DC protection mode are positioned behind the faceplate of the amplifier. High-quality gold-plated speaker wire connections, two gain term pots, RCA/XLR inputs, and the ICE input are all located around the back of the unit. Quite simply, the stereo input can be selected via the Input Select switch on the rear panel. All of this is ergonomically and functionally a breeze to install and set up.
Not being at all familiar with this relatively new company’s products, I was quite eager to test them on my reference system and find out just how this amplifier was reproducing my favorite program sources in my listening room. Most importantly, I needed to compare my listening impressions with my Pass Labs XA30.8 power amplifier, (well within its price range) which has hardly ever failed me in showing up weaknesses in other amplifiers. Otherwise, in this particular case, I included the Harbeth C7/XD loudspeakers as well as the Quad 63’s as references, with a light backup of the vintage Spendor BC1.
My customary Audio Technica LP-7 was the analog source with its ZYX Bloom 3 mc cartridge while the ever enduring Audio Note CD3.1/x2 digital player was used for the main digital sources. Let’s move on and see what this amplifier sounds like.
The SPL s1200 started out exceptionally well. It took a few days to warm up having left the unit on continuously. One immediately notices a singularly pure sound quality that is quite expansive in its openness, depth, and a particular type of “airiness” along with fine detail that was appreciated by the given sound sources. The amplifier exuded a richness and terrifically wide soundstage that was a bit unexpected. Its huge power of 300 watts into 8 ohms was able to make all the test loudspeakers sing with unbridled ease while its transient response was slightly soft encompassing a beautifully even balance that was smooth and easy on the ears. Nothing was too forward or recessed although the huge depth of the soundstage was quite non-ambiguous, to be sure!
This unit was aptly able to reveal beautiful sounding violins, both massed and individually recorded while its tonal integrity was notably excellent with all instrumental recordings and much good pop material and vocals. A nice slice of detail was abundant and the amplifier had loads of reserve power to drive the 2 moving coil loudspeakers used in the testing. The s1200 was notable for its pace and purity, drawing the listener deep into the music and displaying the passion of the performance.
Unusually, for every source that was tried, be it analog or digital, its sound was excellently crafted and nicely resolved throughout the entire frequency range, straight to the upper treble’s marvelous and subtle ambient cues. The bass response was quite deep and tight with just about every type of music genre that it handled. Even the quite “particular” ESL 63 came across with a lush sound quality; while acknowledging these speakers are very sensitive to most amplifiers and many enthusiasts enjoy them with tubed units.
The Harbeth and Spendor’s worked outstandingly well with the s-1200 displaying a “lite” spacious soundscape which was musical and easy to keep listening to for hours on end. Little doubt, I honestly enjoyed this amplifier to its utmost. It had a formidable and comfortable quality that stood out from many solid-state amplifiers that I have recently auditioned. The price is quite reasonable for the quality it offers and I suspect this newish addition to the high-end audiophile landscape will make many friends, indeed.
One bit of caution should be noted. Most companies have well-built in amplifier protection circuits. It is supposed to keep the amplifier from damage when things like speaker leads touching each other happen. The same circuit will also protect the amplifier if it gets overdriven or gets too hot. A small accident occurred here and I was lucky that only one channel went on the blink for a while. However, this could be improved upon for an otherwise wonderfully musical piece of high-definition equipment such as this.
I eventually began comparing the s-1200 to my reference Pass Labs XA30.8 and found some quite interesting, if small comparative differentiation’s between the amplifiers. Notwithstanding the Class A bias up to approximately thirty watts with the Pass XA30.8, the sound of the s-1200 was not significantly better or inferior to the Pass Labs, subjectively.
The best Class A designs will most times, be observed to have more intrinsic detail than a Class A/B and possibly a bit more leanness at the frequency extremes. What the s-1200 slightly lacked was only a hint of “detail” that it certainly made up for in overall airy spaciousness, much more power for full transients and a tiny bit fuller sound as well. Equally good was the s-1200 imaging, ambiance and gracious presentation.
As is usually the case, this is definitely a matter of your personal preferences in sound perception and I could enjoy this amplifier if I was alone on a desert island. If that helps you to go and get an audition of this new amplifier or maybe get a loaner from your dealer, to do some comparisons yourself, then my mission here has been fulfilled.
It is a little unusual to find such a powerful, well-built, beautifully compact, and somewhat stunning stereo amplifier as the Sound Performance Labs s1200. It has so many great qualities that I am not hesitant to say that at around $6600, it can stand up to almost any power amplifier I have auditioned that is available to the consumer today, and I have evaluated quite a few!
The SPL Performer s1200 has a set of strengths that are quite inimitable in such a crowded high-end market. Its ability to drive any transducer with ease; with 300 watts per channel from a beefy class AB amplifier is quite unexpected. Adding to this, the SPL VOLTAiR circuit technology introduces the concept that volume does not necessarily indicate an authoritative or forceful sound quality. The s1200 power amplifier keeps cool due to VOLTAiR maintaining its operation throughout its optimal frequency range.
This is noticeably and intuitively audible in the amp’s tonal qualities, and overall sound presentation. It is strictly neutral with barely any sonic coloration or frequency aberrations. Adorning an airy, spacious, and laid-back quality, most users will find it hard to resist.
To sum things up, a new and supremely musical power amplifier is awaiting your audition and is highly recommended!
The review system: Loudspeakers: Harbeth Compact 7ES-3 XD loudspeaker ~ Quad ESL-63, vintage Spendor BC1 ~ Digital: Mojo Audio ‘Mystique’ X DAC ~ Border Patrol DAC SE-I ~ Innuos Zenith Mk.3 server/streamer ~ Audio Note (UK) CD3.1x/2 Analog: Audio Technica LP-7/ZYX Bloom 3 mc cartridge Amplification: ~Pass Labs XP-12 preamp, Pass Labs XA30.8 power amp ~PS Audio M1200 / ~ Cables/ Conditioners: ArgentPur Silver stranded loudspeaker cables, Inakustik AC-3500p power station & LS-4004 speaker cables, AC-2404 reference Air Power Cord ~ Audience Studio 1 interconnects, speaker cables,~ Clarus “Crimson” 75-ohm digital spdif and power cords/ Audio Art 1 e” AC Power Cord
Contact: Will Veber
Performer s1200 MSRP: US$ 6666
WHERE the MUSIC BEAT meets the AUDIOPHILE ELITE !
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