VALVET A4e Monoblock amplifier
I wasn’t aware of Valvet, having missed Key Kim’s review of the A4e’s predecessor, the A3.5’s, in 2009. The A4-CB’s garnered inclusion in StereoTimes’ Most Wanted Component Award” winner for the year. As such, I can’t offer a comparison with those and Valvet’s new A4e Mono-Blocks, which Valvet says are a further development on that former design. What I can tell you is, based on my having lived with this pair of the A4e mono-blocks for a while this year, I loved the experience and looked forward to playing music through the new A4e’s every single day.
Handmade in the small town of Bargteheid, Germany, near Hamburg, by Knut Cornils, Valvet’s founder, using quality components and delivering Class A power with a minimal design architecture and masculine aesthetic, Valvet’s first class components produce sound with subtle elegance and power. The A4e mono-blocks feature solid-state power stages with each connected umbilically to its own polar supply stage.
Cornils’ minimal A4e push-pull design excludes capacitors in the pure silver-wired signal path and limits the use of transistors to a single pair in the output stage, believing that more transistors impede sound quality. The inclusion of what Valvet notes as extremely stable power supplies allows for greater Class A current upon demand. Adherence to the use of short signal paths in its sophisticated circuit design brings to the listener a subtle, yet highly musical result.
With greater Class-A output power than the previous model (A3.5’s 55 watt on 8 Ohm/90 watt on 4 Ohm) with its integrated preamp sections, the Valvet A4e Mono-Blocks are rated 65 watt on 8 Ohm/105 watt on 4 Ohm, allowing the A4e’s to dominate most of the hard to drive loudspeakers available on the market, and conservatively rated to deliver more power than spec’d.
From the Valvet distributor, highend-electronics, inc., site: “A massive 500 VA toroidal transformer in a separate case, 8 ultrafast 15 A rectifier diodes plus 176.000 µF of filter capacitors per channel guarantee excellent performance and stability. No capacitor in the pure silver wired signal path. Power amp and power supply are equipped with excellent feet from bfly Audio. “JUST PURE MUSIC!”
The Valvet A4e mono-blocks don’t have a stand-by mode, so, while I thought the power buttons mounted on the bottom front of each power supply quite cleaver, my big fingers didn’t relish turning these units off. Turning them on seemed no problem… It was a mild inconvenience lifting each unit slightly t rock each switch to the off position. I wished for them to have stand-by modes.
With the system powered up and playing for about 30 minutes, this Valvet A4e power pair sounded like magic — warm, involving and evocative, with subtle low frequencies, smooth easiness to the mids and fast dynamics without any brash boldness, exuding a musicality that prolongs a listening session. There’s an understated elegance here that seduces like a warm embrace. Dynamics are effortlessly handled, swells are graceful without compression and highs are sweet and airy.
Fed by some of my current favorite tracks the A4e’s simply came alive, providing a palpable presence to every note and passage, each first defined with a refined musicality. The Andy Sheppard Quartet’s “Surrounded By Sea” (ECM 2015), an album that hasn’t drifted far from my thoughts for the past couple of weeks, was delivered densely melodic, with each note meaningful. The delivery wasn’t boastful or pandering or demanding of my attention, yet I gave it my full attention willingly with every play.
“Solar” from the Bill Evan’s Trio’s landmark “Sunday At The Village Vanguard” brought out the Valvet pair’s graceful delivery. Backed by bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian, the power of this trio was delivered with a subtle determined ease – each note had both body and breath. Of the trio of versions of “Jade Visions” on that date, each was rendered with notes perfectly punctuated and the spaces between them so inviting, I played each version, one after the other, reveling in their relaxed, yet intent, fluid approach. The Valvet’s soundstage was rendered with a good sense of balance and space, with high imaging and the trio’s inner workings are visible.
“All Of You (Take 2)” had great depth in tone and timing – this trio’s telepathy was indeed uncanny. La Faro’s bass lines were solid, creative and spontaneous, Motian’s rhythms thoughtfully sculpted and playful and Evans piano work melodic and breezy.
The Valvet A4e Mono-Blocks mated with my highly efficient (98dB!) Tekton Double Impacts wonderfully. Even with a solid state preamp in the mix, the music felt very relaxed, rich and sounded, in a word, lush. Each note was delivered with panache over the brute force of other power amplifiers and in a way that subtly coaxes and charms the listener to continue their musical journey rather than submit to over-arched and brutally dynamic intensity. These Valvet a4e’s are the real deal… get where I’m coming from?
Price: $9,890.00 USD
• connection: WBT NextGen RCA & Neutrik XLR sockets, input impedance 50 KOhm, 1 pair WBT NextGen binding posts for speaker connection (bi-wire optional), IEC mains socket
• amplification: 65 watts into 8 Ohm, 105 watts into 4 Ohm, Class A
• bandwidth: 0 – 100kHz
• transformer: 500VA each mono-block
• filtering: 176,000 µF filtering each mono-block
• dimensions: 230 x 110 x 320 mm (9 x 4.4 x 12.6 inches) WxHxD each mono-block and each PSU
• case: silver or black powder coated aluminum, Carbon Fiber top (amp)
• front: 13mm Aluminum, silver or black brushed (amp & PSU)
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