Sonic Impact Model 5062 Super T Amp
|Sonic Impact Model 5062 Super T Amp
|The King of Budget Amps Gets User Friendly
The original Sonic Impact T Amp caused quite a stir in the audiophile world. The little $39 battery-powered digital integrated amp, designed for the portable iPod and MP3 computer generation, proved capable of a very euphonious musical presentation. It sounded so good in fact that it inspired a near-cult following of Do-It-Yourself enthusiasts eager to extract its maximum performance.
Most of the DIY enthusiasm focused on building a power supply for the T Amp and replacing its mini-plug stereo input and tiny spring-loaded speaker connections with more robust and conventional audio connectors. After my review of the original T Amp (see The Sonic Impact 5066 Class – T ™ Integrated Amp) I received many e-mails from enthusiasts elucidating their designs and their degree of success in making the T Amp compatible with traditional hi-fi set-ups.
My own DIY enthusiasm is damped by limited tinkering skills and interest, so I did not pursue any of the design recommendations I received. My review was based on a Parts Express outboard power supply, a $5 Radio Shack mini-stereo plug adaptor, and makeshift speaker cable adaptors.
Sonic Impact has now released a deluxe version of the T Amp for those not inclined to modify the original. The Super T Amp features an aluminum case, one pair of gold-plated RCA input jacks and 5-way speaker binding posts along with an outboard power supply. Priced at $139.95, the Super T Amp is not as insanely cheap as the essentially free original amp, but is still dirt cheap by conventional hi-fi standards. It is a very much-improved product compared to the results I got with the original amp.
My review of the original could not reach a final conclusion because I did not have a high-sensitivity full-range speaker available for testing. Since then I was able to hear the 93 dB sensitive Athena Technologies Audition F2 speakers with the T Amp and gained insight into and additional respect for its abilities. The basic difficulty with the original T Amp (as with all low-power amplifiers) is finding compatible speakers that one would actually want to listen to for reasons other than their high sensitivity. The original amp seemed to come alive with speakers of at least 93 dB sensitivity, rare birds in the contemporary speaker world.
Although the Super T Amp does not claim any additional power output (it uses the same Tri-Path TA 2024 digital amplifier chip) over the original, its ability to drive mid-sensitivity designs is much improved. Speakers with sensitivities in the 87 to 90 dB range, which had the bass response of the original amp sounding down in level and drive, are now driven with ease. The Super T Amp is also freed from the original’s long burn-in time. My sample sounded great right out of the box and did not change its sound over time. There is no need to keep the Super T constantly powered up.
The Super T Amp’s chassis measures 3.25 inches wide by 7.5 inches deep by 7.25 inches high. Its unusually tall and narrow chassis allows it to slip into narrow spaces, i.e., next to a computer. Using it in a small room application – office, den, dorm room – will be a snap. A power button turns the amp on, illuminating a bright blue light. A large volume control is much easier to use than the original’s thumbnail operated one. Visually the Super T Amp recalls those old Walt Disney cartoons of doorknob/keyholes animated into a human face, a very endearing quality. The single input will require an outboard line-level switchbox if more than one input is needed.
Although lacking in ultimate and the finest resolution, the Super T Amp is an exceptionally euphonious device, completely lacking in any harshness, edge, or grating qualities. Coupled with its excellent musical timing and rhythm, it offers very engaging and seductive listening. Bass goes deep with good drive, though lacking iron-fisted control. I suspect most experienced listeners will equate its sound with vacuum tube technology. It certainly lacks the kind of harshness and nastiness often associated with inexpensive solid-state gear and with cheap digital sources.
Convening The Society for Putting Things On Top Of Other Things, I placed the Super T on a hardwood board and then placed the board on a set of Stillpoints. As usual, there was an across the board improvement in detail and resolution, along with tighter bass control. Beginnings and ends of notes – the essential foundations of sound and music – were more clear, but still short of audiophile and ultra-performance standards. The sound remained sweet and tuneful.
Given its higher power output into 4-Ohm loads, it’s no surprise that it worked well with 2 older Infinity EMIT tweeter-equipped models with 87 and 89 dB sensitivities. I also used the 90 dB Rega R1 and R7 speakers with excellent results. Although ultimate volume levels will be limited by the amp’s 6 watts into 8 ohms and 11 into 4 ohms power output, the sense of impending catastrophe I felt with the original amp was gone. The power supply’s contribution to bass drive helps enormously here. Still, one should keep an eye on sound pressure levels and use the amp in smaller rooms, unless, of course, one is using super high-sensitivity speakers in the 95 dB or above range.
I used the Super T Amp mostly with CD and found it very flattering to the format’s limitations. It could not resolve all the information a no-compromise CD player like the Cyrus 8x could produce, but then it is unlikely that the Super T Amp will be mated to a $2,000 CD player anyway. Since the amp is being marketed to users of the even lower-resolution iPod and MP3 portable formats, its forgiving nature will be a boon.
The amp’s limits in ultimate resolution were revealed by playing analogue LP: differences between quality of turntables and phono stages were glossed over, and the fine low-level detail and naturalness that makes LP still the champion of faithful musical reproduction was blurred. Though again, it is unlikely that the Super T Amp will be used with the $3,000-$6,000 analogue set-ups I used.
The Super T Amp is a very musically engaging and infectious sounding little amp. The information it passes is musically involving, affecting, and above all, very easy on the ear. I find it a wholesale improvement over the original. It allows a wider choice of speakers and easier integration into conventional audio systems. Coupled with excellent inexpensive speakers like those from Celestion, Epos and Rega, the Super T Amp can provide affecting and sonically pleasing musical results for secondary systems in offices, dens, and as computer adjuncts. It just might even seduce the notoriously resistant to high fidelity iPod and MP3 computer generation into understanding that there’s more to music than simple convenience and the ability to download it off the Internet. And folks, it costs $139.
Digital integrated amp.
Class-T ™ architecture incorporating Tri-mark TA 2024 digital amplifier chip and Digital Power Processing ™ technology.
Outboard power supply.
One stereo RCA line input. Five-way speaker binding post speaker connection.
Power output: 10 watts/per channel – 8 Ohms, 15 watts per channel – 4 ohms @ 10% THD. 6 and 11 watts/channel (respectively) at 0.1% THD.
Dynamic Range: 98 dB.
88% efficiency @ 8 Ohms, 81% at 4 Ohms.
Size: 3.25” W x 7.5” D x 7.25” H.
Sonic Impact Technologies LLC
San Diego CA 92101
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