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Wells Audio Akasha Stereo Amplifier

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The review of the Akasha Stereo Amplifier from Wells Audio didn’t even last two weeks. It didn’t need to. I had heard enough; enough of everything a solid state amp is supposed to be to crown it the best of solid state amps I have used – by a mile! For that reason I terminated the review; that’s right, I cancelled the review. I called Jeff Wells and said, “That’s it, the review is over.” Alternatively, I am writing this article in its place, a more direct piece which will convey the same enthusiasm but take me less time to produce a full review.

Why on earth would I do that? After all, it is a violation of my review principles. I am not interested in quick, slapped together articles. I have in the past politely declined some fancy gear when manufacturers or distributors pushed me to have quick turnaround in my reviewing. But this is different. This time there is no need for extended listening, as the Akasha is so profoundly superior to other amps at three to six times its price that further examination is unnecessary. Frankly, just as with the King Sound King, and later the King III, I knew nearly immediately that it was a “mutant,” an absurdly superior device. The experience was the equivalent of reviewing upscale sedans the likes of Infiniti or Lexus, then being given a period of time with a Bentley. How long would it take to conclude that the comparison is superficial and an extended review unnecessary? In the same way, I didn’t feel like wasting time listening when I could be the first to introduce this amp to the world.

Big news

So, what is the big news? Consider a solid state amp which embodies the finest of qualities that audiophiles seek at an honestly affordable price. The Akasha is also nice to look at with a piano gloss black façade, discrete (but not illuminated) Voltage meter, and inoffensive metal chassis with side mounted heat sink fins. It’s simple to use, having one set of RCA inputs and two sets of rugged output posts which open their maws wide enough for two sets of spades, a trick that not even some very high dollar amps pull off. These are all positioned sensibly to allow ergonomic efficiency of connections. It is lightweight at about 50 pounds, which is a welcome feature for mid-lifers who may have sore backs. In this respect, the Akasha shatters the myth of the “performance to weight ratio” propounded by some manufacturers, which suggests a bulky chassis is necessary for top performance. It offers 120 super-clean Watts with enough current to drive less efficient, including ESL, speakers well. It doesn’t run hot so as to run you out of the listening room. It is sensibly priced, and yet sounds outrageously good! As they say, there is nothing not to like and everything to love about the Akasha.

Who is behind this product? Jeff Wells is owner of Audible Arts, a Campbell, California audio store of 16 years, who decided he knew as well as anyone else how to make a serious amp. He was right! He teamed with Scott Frankland, who gave him technical guidance in the design of the circuitry, and followed his instincts and ears in how to attain supremely good sound. The result is the Akasha, which finds a fuller expression with internal Bybee products in the Innamorata. The design is exactly the same between the two amps, but the Innamorata is Bybee enhanced.

Inconceivable!

In the endearing movie The Princess Bride Wallace Shawn plays Vizzini, a high seas bandit who kidnaps a young maiden, Buttercup, pursued by her “true love,” Wesley. As Wesley surmounts every obstacle Vizzini throws in his path en route to rescuing the lovely Buttercup, Vizzini shouts, “Inconceivable!” Indeed, with the intensity and passion with which I have shared this account with you, the odds are you are thinking, “Inconceivable!”

Wells… err, well, the Akasha has more of the following over all these other amps: Vastness of soundstage, delineation of detail, dynamic impact with hyper-clean yet supple bass, superb transients, marvelous contrast of macro and microdynamics, gorgeous tonality – I could go on, but I think you get the point. This is simply a freakishly great amp! When I heard the King Sound King ESL for the first time I knew it had stupendous potential. When I heard the Akasha the first time it struck me the same way. This is the kind of product, similar to a VAC (Valve Amplification Company) component, which you can drop into nearly any serious rig and achieve not just good, not just great, but stellar results. The one variable which is almost never found at this level of sound quality is the price. Most audiophiles who are into the hobby with some skin can afford the Akasha.

What happened to make me so crazy?

Reviewers are in the awkward position of running across enough good gear consistently that their words become mistrusted. After so many glowing articles, spades of recommendations and seemingly eternally effusive praise, the public rightly or wrongly gets jaded. There is one problem, however, that being a tendency of a reader to consider any given reviewer to be “Crying Wolf,” to be sensationalizing a less than sensational product. I try not to be that kind of reviewer. It is difficult, however, as I am continuously exposed to a panoply of products, many of which are highly efficacious and compelling sounding. Like Jeff Wells, I follow my ears because I think they will lead me to superior sounding systems, and therefore a far more compelling listening experience.

What, then, is so different about the Akasha when it comes to the listening experience? Simply put, it does things that other solid state amps have not. For instance, with the Akasha all my older Redbook recordings sound like they have been remastered. I do not use the word, “remastered” lightly. I intend to convey that this amp has such transformative powers that it “updates” and improves qualitatively all older recordings. It mattered not whether I played Lionel Hampton from the 1950’s, the Moody Blues from the 60’s, Dan Fogelberg from the 70’s, or Boston from the 80’s, this amp has an uncanny ability to polish recordings such that they shine without irritation. I understand the age old argument between the “good gear makes older recordings sound poor,” versus th, “good gear makes older recordings sound better” crowds. Unequivocally, the Akasha makes older recordings sound terrific!

Always more definition!

Detail, detail, detail! Just as in real estate, it is said that one principle rules, “Location, location, location,” so also in audio Definition is the key to the high end. I do not care how many people disagree with me on this. Usually, tonality is ranked number one, which to me is erroneous. Show me a tonally rich system with lower definition and I will show you a decrepit High End rig which could have been designed fifty years ago! For me the principle is, no extreme definition, no HiFi.

The Akasha is extreme in its capacity to render definition. Recently, I saw in an audio thread a post in which the individual was guided by a dealer to believe that only apreamplifier can render extreme change to an audio system, certainly more so than an amp. What nonsense! One ten-minute listening session with the Akasha will dispel all such notions. What one learns when hearing the Akasha is how fundamentally constipated most Class A/B amps are. They sound like they have a sonic stick up their ass – stiff, stopped up and painfully poor in comparison!

The key to the magic with the Akasha is a perfect blend of both liquidity and definition. This amp flows, it does not churn out or crunch or crush or mash or pound out sound; the sound flows from it with the power and grace of a large waterfall. I have some speakers which will ruthlessly reveal shortcomings in amps, namely the yet-to-be-reviewed Legacy Audio Whisper DSW Clarity Edition and the new King Sound King III. They are fantastically transparent windows allowing one to peer backwards to the quality of the box components ahead of them.

When a person attends a show they become familiar with the tried-and-true inspiring demo pieces, one of which used with numbing regularity is “Keith, Don’t Go” by Nils Lofgren. A fair number of dealers of the big boy systems blast this tune to impress. It is an engaging recording, so I also use it to see how close to the state of the art I can get in my room. With the Akasha I just moved a lot closer. One of the characteristics of this recording is that it has always struck me as “oversized,” the microphone sounds as though it was jammed to within one inch of Nil’s guitar. The better the system the more huge the guitar sounds, and the more the microphone seems jammed into it. With the Akasha it was, “Fi-Jamma-Ramma-time!” Nils was literally larger than life, just like when heard on the sky is the limit systems at shows, and every click of a finger nail, every slip of a finger on the fret was not just rendered, but done so explosively, majestically!

16 Responses to Wells Audio Akasha Stereo Amplifier


  1. Paul Letteri says:

    Hello Doug I appreciate when a reviewer makes reference to a product with no financial bias
    To address.myself a working guy who does not have five digits to spend on a piece of electronics.
    I will be in he market for Labor Day and as you mentioned a bigger amplifier would be great as well
    As news of a preamplifier. Doug please keep up the very informative writings and seeking out the
    audio gems out there .A happy New Years to you,Paul Letteri.

  2. Paul,
    I appreciate the encouraging words! I want a reputation for proper assessment of a component’s performance regardless of the price tag or reputation of the company. There are very few products which vastly outperform far more expensive gear, but when they show up they deserve to be noticed. The Wells Audio amps are an example of such products.

    I would not hold your breath waiting for the larger amp from Wells Audio by Labor Day; the Akasha and Innamorata are just getting off the ground in terms of production. It will be a while before they are familiar to the audiophile community. In addition, I’m pretty sure that if Jeff Wells does a more powerful amp it may be over that five digit threshold, an effort at a statement piece for the company. I now have one of the two Innamorata units which I purchased in my possession and it is a powerful improvement over the Akasha. I have not yet used it with the King Sound King III electrostatic speakers, but believe this amp would drive them well alone, and have an easy time if a pair is used. There seems to be more than enough current and dynamic power for speakers which are a bit tougher to drive. Jeff Wells has been waiting for me to try the Innamorata on the King III, as he says they will drive the speakers quite well. From what I hear so far I am expecting that to be true. It won’t be long before I have that set up and assessed. Based on the experience so far I would not be surprised if the King III sounds better than ever with the Innamorata pair.

    A joyous New Year to you as well, Paul!
    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  3. Paul Letteri says:

    Hello Doug , you mentioned a Wells preamplifier possibly this year ?
    Doug will you be running mono blocks with the Innamorata ?
    Thanks much or your help and insite,Paul.

  4. Paul,
    God’s Joy to you,
    I will clarify so that it is clear; the Innamorata is the upper level amplifier based on
    precisely the same design as the Akasha, but with Bybee products installed. I will be
    using two of the Innamorata as reference level amps. I do have other configurations
    as far as amplifiers go, but these will be in heavy use with all my speakers.

    I just returned from T.H.E. Show and C.E.S. where I heard the Innamorata in rigs
    with the Voce Audio speakers (in the Wells Audio room) and the King Sound Prince III
    (in the Clarity Cable room), and both had outstanding sound quality – as I would expect
    from this amp and any number of fine speakers.

    Blessings,
    Doug

  5. James Olomo says:

    Hi Doug,

    Another well written and insightful review which has become a habit with you! We met in Denver at RMAF on the last day after the show with Larry and had drinks and an extended and exhilarating conversation about audio. It was nice running into you again at T.H.E Show at the Clarity room, sorry I couldn’t stay long to chat.

    I heard the Inamorata with the Voce speaker as well (for about 30 minutes)listening to The Wailin’ Jenny’s…well, wailing… and they sounded amazing, the only room i like more at C.E.S and T.H.E Show was the Convergent Audio Technology room with their stereo amp driving the Sasha watt puppies, the sound was immaculate and glorious!. This is coming from someone who’s never been crazy about Wilson speakers, i heard them with components of upward of a 100K before and after i heard them in this room and while they sound good, they just never do anything for me emotionally…except in this room, they reached out, grabbed my heart and beat it like an African drum! So much so that I contemplated grabbing the component and making a break for it! Did you get to hear this room?

    In Denver, one of the more vigorous debates we had was over my belief that there are few components that exist now and more that will exist in the next couple of years that will outperform a lot of the ridiculously expensive gear out there for a price affordable to the regular Joe. I was mocked for my naivety! :-) ..especially by Larry. With your discovery of the Eastern Electric DAC Plus and the Akasha which if i’m not mistaken puts the combo at 5K for a sound normally found in 100K rigs, I believe I stand vindicated! :-)

    A couple of things before I sign off
    1) When are we getting the Whisper Clarity edition review? The anticipation is killing me!

    2) I hope you get to listen to the Convergent Audio Technology’s JL2 and write an Audio Blast about it comparing it to the Akasha or Inamorata.

    3) I got to see (not hear, it wasn’t on display) the new Cambridge Audio Azur 851 amp that will replace the 840W that you favorably reviewed and own, and it looks great design wise. It is currently in testing and will be released Q3. They took me to some back room to view it and i spoke with the guy in charge of testing and he claims it really outperforms the old unit quite a bit. The XD engine has been taking to the next level i’m told. Hopefully you get to review that as well.

    Sorry for the long post and God bless!

  6. James,
    God’s peace,
    Certainly I recall our discussion! It was quite animated and as I recall
    Larry and I couldn’t quite convince you that the expensive stuff is worth
    It. Please understand, the Dac Plus and Akasha are, imo, outliers, atypical.

    The whisper review will be forthcoming and newsworthy.

    I didn’t get to hear the CAT system; too much to cover!
    Blessings
    Doug

  7. James Olomo says:

    Thanks for your reply Doug. Regarding the Dac Plus and the Akasha being outliers, that was exactly the point i was laboring to make, not that all of a sudden cheaper components will start outperforming their more expensive brethren but that there will be a few whose design and innovative implementation will give us products like the Dac plus and the Akasha.

    Stay blessed

  8. Kurt Grützner says:

    Doug, in your review you mentioned an “accompanying interview” [Jeff Wells Interview – link added by Dagogo] with Jeff Wells. I can’t seem to find this. Can you help. I guess it will be very interesting, as your quick “Blast” on the Akasha, & other bits I find on the web, contain quite little info on the Akasha design, what makes it so different/better… Thanks, Kurt

  9. Kurt,

    Thank you very much for your readership and comment. Doug’s Interview of Jeff Wells of Wells Audio will be published in a few days. Thank you for your patience.

    Constantine

  10. willow57 says:

    Greetings Doug,
    Electrostats being the power lovers that they are might well sound beautiful with these amps but the real question for me is how they might sound with double the amps (biamping). Of course the definitive answer would be after listening to this set up. For those who can’t wait, would you say it would mostly be providing more power (dynamics); do you anticipate any reduction in distortion IM (because of sharing between the amps); might there be distortion from timing of a split signal? Obviously there won’t be the same benefit as from active biamping (multiple drivers) but what do you hope/anticipate other advantages/disadvantages to be or have you just resigned yourself to just wait and see? Best Regards!

  11. Willow57,
    God’s Joy to you,

    I have had experience many times now with the transition between use of a single stereo amp and securing a second to use in the passive biamp mode. In every instance the addition of the second amp has been additive in a powerful way to the characteristics I enjoy about the amp, with little to no deleterious effects. The benefits of the additional amp in a passive biamp mode are usually improved definition, more spacious soundstage, more delineation of instruments in the soundstage and extension of the soundstage, vocals more rich with better texture and tonality, etc. I find many positive changes to adding the second amp. When a superior stereo amp at an affordable price tag does not avail itself, then passive biamping is a great way to go!

    I bought the second Innamorata without hearing two of them in my room! Why on earth would I do that? Because if one is familiar with the nature of the amp and what typically adding a second does, then the decision can be made safely to add a second. I am very happy with that choice, and have been running them with the Legacy Whisper DSW enhanced with the “Clarity Edition” upgrade (all Clarity Cable internally, Clarity Caps and the new Legacy AMT tweeter) and will eventually be using them with the King III ESLs. I anticipate superb results since even a single Innamorata was beautiful. I do not believe I have ever had an instance where use of a single amp I liked was a disappointment when doubling them for a passive biamp experience.

    So, in the end, similar characteristics of sound improvement have followed across the board when adding a second amp for passive biamping, hence I didn’t so much resign myself to the decision as anticipate the result. I have a very good idea of what I will be hearing from the King III when I hook it up, and I’m quite sure I will not be disappointed. Specificially with the King III among the outcomes will be even more clear/clean sound – it’s an amazing thing to hear how the already impressively clean ESL sound can be further cleaned up – with a greater sense of speed, tighter and more impactful bass, and a seamless, faux 3-channel character to the L/C/R integration of the soundstage.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  12. Glen Bingham says:

    What a joy to read this article of a amp the writer is so enthusiastic about. Love to hear of gear made in the USA by some company other than the big boys. Passion drives towards great products. Hope to be able to audition a Wells amp and will look for information on an upcoming pre amp. Blessings to Wells Audio.

  13. Rohit R says:

    Hi Doug,

    What are your thoughts on Akasha pairing with Daedalus speakers? I have Athena (very similar to Ulysses) and looking for amp upgrade.

  14. Rohit,

    God’s Joy to you.

    Without hearing the “competing” amp it is impossible to declaratively tell you that the Akasha is better. However, my experience with it would suggest that it would be beautiful with Daedalus speakers. The Wells amps (I am currently running two of the Innamorata) are gorgeous on whatever speakers I have used. You may not get your ideal sound simply by dropping it into the rig, but that is true with whatever component one selects. I do believe a wonderful result could be obtained with the Wells and Daedalus combo.

    Blessings,
    Douglas Schroeder

  15. Marcus says:

    Mr. Schroeder, I have a sense that the new Akasha amplifier would mate well with Michael Kelly’s new Aerial Acoustics 6T speakers. Mr. Kelly considers it a smaller version of the 7T. I sense the Akasha mated with the SAS Audio Labs 10A preamplifier and the 6T may be a great combination. I wonder what your thoughts might be about this combo.

  16. Dan says:

    Mr. Schroeder,

    Is this amp still in your system as a benchmark and if so any updates on your findings? I have the Legacy Focus SE speakers and am considering updating my Odyssey Kismet monos to such and would value your feedback.

    God Bless,
    Dan

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