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Any first-person SQ impressions?
Sorry I didn't pipe in earlier on the Sound quality.
I just got the SML SA-160 and did a AB comparison but not proper as I am getting an AB speaker switch box. (can't find my old switcher) I compared the Behringer A500 and the SA-160 subjectively. The SA-160 won in sound quality and micro dynamics in the low to medium volume tests. The 10k+ range is phenomenally better with the SA-160. (makes the A500 sound veiled in comparison) I used the CEntrance DACport HD to drive them both on some Focal Cobalt 8" bookshelves. The transients match in real time with the SA-160 with a spectral analyzer using SPAN in Jriver
The Bass on the A500 is very warm in comparison.(not my fave term) But very almost tube like. The A500 is very musical in a BASS guitar head way but not in a transparent reproduction sort of way. (Slightly compressed sounding- possible lower volume issue I have seen reported elsewhere of which I thought the newer versions fixed) The SA-160 was very defined in all frequencies. Never shrill or exaggerated. I hyper boosted with a parametric Q8 at 20hz 12db and 30hz 9db to compensate on the low end missing with the focals on both amps. The A500 handled it very well and seemed like it had the grunt down below. Sub 30hz bass seems to be the sa-160s weakness. Where as a true toroid analog design has the umph. (physics here) That being said I would only use the A500 for a BASS guitar rig despite liking its colorization and liquid smoothness and let the SA-160 handle critical listening.
I used the FOCAL's because they are hyper responsive in the critical 500hz-3k range and voice extremely well. The A500 does sound better to me than the the crown XLS-1000 and all iterations of my Yamaha and Denons. Very ADcom like. With the DACport HD it actually sounds like true Analog wire in a bass guitar rig. (mucho credit to the DACport HD)
Despite the praise of the A500 the SA-160 wins in soundstage, clarity, transients, smoothness, even frequency response and transparency. The most critical praise is in the mono imaging in a stereo field. The SA-160 maintains perfect balance and linear phase coherency. Q-sound recordings are very sensitive to linear phasing and equilibrium. (Likely why not a success due to masses not properly equipped for playback)
The SA-160 handles Division Bell DVD 24/96khz easily and between the DACport Hd and the SA-160, the cymbals sound like cymbals(hardest album I have found to get the cymbals to sound proper) and the center image leaps out while allowing the full soundstage to have its individuality , space and separation.
A good first impression with only a few hours. I listened between RMS 75db to 93db.(effectively 200mw to 10watts)
Getting used to a Class-D amp can seem harsh initially as the transients are hyper dynamic. Its harmonics are odd versus even.
Some may shy away as we get used to a "sound" of equipment.(classic tube or transistor) Compressing audio sometimes is far less fatiguing and may be preferred, but when music is properly recorded one shouldn't have to "soften" the sound. Actually I have found that I turned things down with this setup as I do not need volume to have Clarity.
That said, AT $83.50 shipped I think I will be getting a spare or maybe even for bi-amping my Focal's.