In this article I interview Jeff Wells, owner of dealership Acoustic Arts in Campbell, California, and Wells Audio, the manufacturer of the Akasha and Innamorata solid state amplifiers. I conducted an online discussion with Jeff about the Akasha.
Doug Schroeder: Jeff, thank you for taking time to answer a few questions regarding the Akasha amplifier:
1. Please share a brief history of your background in High End audio.
Jeff Wells: Well Doug, I discovered that I am genetically predisposed to having a stronger love for music than the norm when I was quite young. My first memories were of a kit single crystal tuner/receiver that I built with my father’s help when I was only 6 years old. I can remember that it was the first thing I heard when I woke each morning and the last thing as I drifted off to sleep. It only received one channel (classical) but I was hooked. I have always had music in some form or another since then. About 17 years ago friends that I often had listening sessions with routinely thought that due to my talent for identifying and assembling great sounding systems and deftly setting them up, I should start a high end business and bring this talent to the market. This is when I started the Audible Arts high end store in Campbell, CA. Over the last 16 years, I have had many invitations to listen to many different designs from some of the most talented designers in America. I have also had the great fortune to develop great friendships with some of the greatest minds in our country. I do not have a classical engineering background. My particular talent is identifying potential and developing greatness from it. Scott Frankland has been a friend for nearly 20 years and is my technical support and production for Wells Audio products. I choose a basis for a product, and with Scott’s collaboration, we develop a finished circuit and I am responsible for final voicing of the finished product. I also design the cosmetic look of the piece. The Innamorata and the Akasha are the first production fruits of this collaboration.
DS: 2. Kindly describe the experience you had or the thought process by which you decided there was a need to develop a new amplifier.
JW: I did not proceed with the intention of building components for a high end company. I was presented with an opportunity and I recognized it as such and ran with it. It was more of a project to sell out of the Audible Arts, but once I was finished with it I felt it was too good not to try and market it. I can clearly remember thinking to myself that this is too good for the world not to be able to buy it. It had gorgeous tonal colors, dynamics, fullness, a complete harmonic envelope to die for, richness and quietness. It was also the most natural sounding solid state amp I had ever heard. It was gutsy and full-bodied . It was the opposite of most solid state designs that are colorless, harmonically threadbare and overdamped. Most solid state designs simply squeeze all of the good things out of the sound. The Akasha and the Innamorata are as close to the convergence amp as I have ever heard.
DS: 3. The name of the amplifier under review is “Akasha.” Why did you select that name for this amp?
JW: Akasha in Hindu means “the beginning of everything.” I thought this was quite appropriate as the Akasha is for all intents and purposes the beginning of Wells Audio.
DS: 4. I see on the Wells Audio website that a team was involved (or perhaps one designer) for the Akasha. Who are the people responsible for the design, and who is the head designer? Please share how this team was assembled.
JW: I originally had a talented local technician assembling my amps but he unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago. I immediately approached Scott Frankland to assist me with development , technical support and production.
DS: 5. Is the Akasha a U.S.-designed and Chinese-built product? Please explain how the component is assembled. Please describe the design and build process.
JW: Wells Audio products are entirely designed and built in California. With the exception of the PCB’s and some of the small passive parts (capacitors, resistors, etc.) all of the parts are made in America. Production is located in San Jose, CA. All of the parts are shipped to Scott’s facility and he has the boards stuffed on site. Once the boards are available the rest of the amp is assembled right there.
6. The Akasha is not a particularly heavy amp, nor rated with a high power rating, yet seems to have a disproportionate amount of “grunt,” or dynamic power for its rating. How is this tremendous output achieved?
First of all, our amps are very conservatively rated. Also, it is a linear design with two big transformers and a lot of capacitance in the power supply for current storage. I had mentioned earlier that most solid state designs seek to achieve speed, damping, and detail and in the process end up squeezing all of the weight, fullness, body and richness out of the sound. I have cultivated the sound of our amps partly by maintaining these qualities and I think it is the addition of these qualities that enhance that sense of weight and “grunt’ that you are referring to.
DS: 7. The front meter seems to be showing Volts. Does this mean the amp has self-adjusting voltage? Please explain the front meter further.
JW: The front meter simply measures voltage supplied from the wall.
DS: 8. Looking inside the amp one sees that it is Spartan, nearly sparse. Is the Akasha the result of a goal of having minimalist topology?
JW: My philosophy has always been to keep it as simple as possible. It is easier to affect sonic change in a simple design, it is easier to build, it is cheaper to build and generally achieves a sound that is faster, cleaner, more transparent, more immediate and ultimately more real sounding.
DS: 9. There do not appear to be any Bybee products in the Akasha. Are any Bybee products utilized?
JW: The Akasha is the basis for the Innamorata. The Innamorata is essentially an Akasha with Bybee devices to lower noise on the AC and the DC. The Akasha can be upgraded to an Innamorata at the factory at any time for the cost difference between the two models.
DS: 10. What would be expected in terms of the performance difference between the Innamorata and the Akasha amplifiers due to the use of Bybee products inside the Innamorata?
JW: The Inamorata is identical in musical performance with the exception of the lower noise floor that the Bybee technology brings.
DS: 11. In my experience, the Akasha is much cleaner and more articulate than many Class A/B amplifiers I have used. What has been done to achieve such a high degree of clarity?
JW: You are entirely correct that the Akasha is quieter than most any other amplifier at anywhere near its cost in high end audio. We’ll have to leave it at that as the methods used to reach this level of quietness will have to remain Wells Audio trade secrets.
DS: 12. Describe, please, the following aspects of the amp in terms of their construction and how they contribute to the overall performance of the Akasha:
JW:The toroids are simple off the shelf units produced in the USA. Both amplifiers are true dual mono designs. This is the only special contribution that the transformers make to our designs. The capacitors are not expensive, exotic or special in any significant high end way. As mentioned earlier the circuit is a simple class A/B push-pull, unbalanced, dual mono solid state design that has been exquisitely designed and voiced through many hours of development by people that believe they know what music reproduction should sound like.
DS: 13. What were the reasons the amp was made without XLR inputs/outputs?
JW: It doesn’t need them for performance and it would increase the cost of the amplifiers.
DS: 14. What components and speakers were used in the design/voicing of the Akasha?
JW: The amplifiers were developed with a number of solid state and tube preamps. But frankly once I heard it on that first system I knew that it would sound great in any system.
DS: 15. Does the Akasha use specialty internal wiring? If so, please describe.
JW: I believe that any good high end manufacturer believes that the wire he uses is very important. I have my own wire made and buy it directly from a wire manufacturer in the US.
DS: 16. Please describe the regulation of power inside the amp. It seems more popular nowadays to mass the regulative devices, i.e. 20 to 30 of them. Are there a high number of such devices in the Akasha? Please explain in layman’s terms.
JW: The Akasha and the Innamorata are not highly regulated designs.
DS: 17. There are two sets of lights inside the amplifier; on each rail there is a green light, and in the back by the capacitor banks there are what appear as a green and a red light for each channel. What is the function of each of these sets of lights?
JW: The LEDs are indicator lights that let you know that the amp is in good operating condition. If a light goes out you know you have a problem on that side. The power supply is fused for protection and has a corresponding LED for each fuse, which indicates whether the circuit is operative.
DS: 18. What is the capacitance of the power supply?
JW: The capacitance of the power supply is 80,00 uF
DS: 19. Is Wells Audio in the process of development of a preamp (or preamplifiers) currently? Are there other products being considered, such as a music server? Please expound.
JW: Wells Audio is currently working on a preamp design to match the Innamorata. A less costly design should follow. Nothing digital is planned at this point but I wouldn’t rule anything out at this juncture.
DS: Thank you for taking the time to share about Wells Audio and specifically the Akasha Amplifier!
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