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ASR Emitter I Exclusive Amplifier Review

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I could spend several more pages trying to describe all the technical features of this amp, but I won’t. Like I said above, go to http://www.asraudio.com/Epdf/IEEmitter1.pdf and you will find more about this amp.

ASR Emitter I Exclusive Amplifier

Setup

When the UPS Freight truck begin to unload the pallet, I thought Holy Cow, that can’t be a single integrated amp. Then I remembered the Aesthetix Io Signature phono stage and I thought, if a phono stage could be that big and have that many boxes, then why not an integrated amp. I guess someone who wanted the ultimate in a solid state and tube experience could be masochistic enough to use the Aesthetix Io Signature phono stage with the ASR Emitter One Exclusive, but they better have three very substantial audio racks, and a good back.

Without a doubt, setup was the biggest challenge in this review. Like I said, even when you’re warned you don’t expect an integrated amp to come in three boxes on a pallet that together, not counting the pallet, weigh over 150 pounds. Then, when you unpack the main amplifier, who would expect it to have two thick, heavy, and permanently attached umbilical cords that are nearly two meters long? The two umbilical cords have really large industrial connectors. These work well and are easy to connect if you can figure out how to route the thick, heavy cables.

Then, there is the 71-pound power supply and the almost equally heavy battery. To set them up, you have to hook the amp up to the power supply, and the battery. The battery has to be hooked up to your home’s AC outlet so it can charge when turned off. There is one good thing about all theses heavy boxes and thick power cords; you won’t need after-market power cords and conditioning for anything but your sources.

My biggest problem was that the main unit would only fit on the bottom shelf of my Box Furniture Rack, and there was no place on the rack to put the two other heavy pieces. I got the main amp on the bottom shelf and the power supply and battery on either side of the rack, but then I couldn’t get the thick heavy cords to exactly where they needed to be. So I ended up getting out the maple blocks I used to use and set the whole thing up on the floor in front of my rack. By placing the phono stage and SUT on the rack’s lowest shelf I was able to get all the cables to reach, and eureka, it was all hooked up! I should mention that I used two different phono stages during the review: ASR’s own Mini Basis and a phono stage from TubeGuru.

I had plugged the battery in a day ahead of setup, so now it was time to listen to music. My unit was said to be already broken in, but I still figured it needed to play for a day or two. So, I hooked up an FM turner and let it play. When you first turn it on, the ASR goes through an automated checklist cycle, after which it’s ready to play music. Pressing the remote’s Mode button gives you lots of programmable features. The ones I like most was the ability to match input levels and balance, and to adjust the brightness of the front panel display. You can read more about the remote on the site listed above.

ASR Emitter I Exclusive Amplifier

Listening

From the first time I turned it on until I turned it off to pack it back up, one thing stood out about the Emitter One Exclusive: It has incredible transparency! It has a magical see-through quality, different from my Wavac EC-300B. I expect one of the reasons for this is the incredibly low noise floor. For most of this review, I was using Teresonic’s top of the line Ingenium Silver speakers that are over 100dB efficient. If there was noise there would have been no way to hide it; but there was none. This kind of low noise floor allows for great resolution of low-level detail, incredible spatial resolution, great micro-dynamics and real macro-dynamics that come through with a real since of ease.

Another thing obvious from the very start was the authority with which this amp played music. It takes control of the music from the bottom end all the way up to the top end and never lets go of that control. This control does away with any transistor glare, or tube warmth. It is a very, very neutral sounding amp.

Bass and Dynamics
I don’t usually group these two aspects of the sound of a system together, but with this amp it seemed the right thing to do. Its dynamics and low-end punch broke new ground in my system; I honestly didn’t know my Teresonic or the B&W 805S could go so deep. Transients are so fast that the leading edge of instruments sounds alive. The authority of the low-end also give you plenty of weight combined with that leading edge. The Emitter One Exclusive does have an ever so slight dark tonal balance. I think this balances out the speed this amp has in a very musical way.

Like I said, its ability to control the speakers gave me deeper bass than I had ever heard from the Teresonic speakers. The bass goes even deeper than it did with the big deHavilland amps, but with none of the extra warmth or hangover of those amps. I don’t mean to disparage the wonderful deHavilland amps, only to say how good the ASR amp is.

One of the most amazing things about my Wavac EC-300B is how lightening fast it is with such a sense of air both around and within the instruments it delivers. Back around 2000, I read a review of the EC-300B that said it was a Ferrari compared to most of the best 300B amps that were more like Bentleys. The ASR Emitter One Exclusive, which cost considerably less than the Wavac EC-300B and Shindo Giscours preamp, is even faster, goes deeper, but does lack in both the air outside and inside the bass instruments, and only by direct comparison. Neither does it have the bloom in the mid-bass and midrange that the Wavac/Shindo combo has, but it is still amazing how good the bass is with the ASR amp.

Midrange and Top End
Before I write about the midrange of the Emitter One Exclusive, let me emphasize that I’m not saying it sounds like a tube amp. It does not, but it does do some of the same things well that I hear from Wavac and Shindo gear, but it does not sound like them.

It has the same “they’re right there in the room” sound I’m used to. It also has wonderful micro-dynamic shadings, and lightening fast, yet smooth transients. It gets the timbre of music very right, not quite as colorful as the Wavac/Shindo combo, but it is still better than I have ever heard from a solid state amplifier.

The most amazing thing of all about the midrange of the ASR is its incredible transparency. It seems to remove every single veil and lets you hear every detail from the quietest to the loudest passages. The quality that is special to the Emitter One Exclusive is its ability to be that transparent and yet so relaxed at the same time. It has almost no listener fatigue, and is by far the easiest-to-listen-to transistor amp I have heard. This is a combination I simply have not heard from any other transistor amp or preamp before. Usually, for transistor amps to sound so relaxed and have so little listener fatigue requires a sound that’s a little warmer and not so lightening fast.

With the ASR you can hear low level details in the bass and midbass that are normally buried in the noise. Likewise, harmonics are so right the music seems to come to life. It lets you hear more of music’s subtle cues, the very things along with micro-dynamic that can make recorded music sound like real music.

The top octave is nicely extended, but there is also an airiness and sense of delicacy in the treble. It is striking how both the midrange and treble have such incredible immediacy. It does all this without any of the strain that is almost always evident in transistor amp, and with none of the glassy sound that comes with push-pull tube amps. It also has none of the high-frequency edginess or stress one expects from transistor amps. It simply has a beautiful top end and midrange.

Soundstage and Imaging
The Emitter One Exclusive does an admirable job of recreating soundstage width, and an almost perfect field of depth that is the most realistic I’ve heard. This is in contrast to some soundstages that are so wide and deep that the soundstage is distracting. Via the ASR, the images are placed in an incredible blanket of open space that is both deep and wide. It also produces a floor to nearly the ceiling vertical soundstage. This spaciousness is combined with really solid sounding images. It also floats a symphony orchestra as good as any amp I have ever heard. To be honest, this is as good an amp as I have ever heard when it comes to recreating a believable acoustic space.

ASR Emitter I Exclusive Amplifier Rear Face

Conclusion

Does the ASR Emitter One Exclusive have any faults? Of course it does, all things are imperfect, just as some are more perfect than others. To start with as impressive as the ASR amp is, it still did not quite emotionally involve me in a musical performance the same way Shindo and Wavac gear does. This in no way means it’s not as incredible as I have said. It involves me emotionally better than any solid state gear I have ever used.

As incredible as its midrange is, it just doesn’t have the magical way with voices that the Wavac EC 300B does, though it betters any push-pull tube amp I have heard in this area. In the area of PRaT, it also falls a little short of Wavac/Shindo combination.

I think this amplifier is a huge step forward for solid state amplifiers both because of things it does and does not do like other solid state amps. Its transparency, dramatically low noise floor, and real sense of “ease” that I’ve never heard from any solid-state product before, makes it a real statement product. It also packs genuine powerful bass with all the slam you expect from most of the serious state-of-the-art solid state amplifiers. Then there is always something special about having all that power in reserve. It seems to give you such a great sense of the music always seeming under control.

The real test of most audio comparisons is after living with one amp system for a month or two is putting your amp back in. Yes, I still love my Shindo/Wavac combo and would not trade them for the Emitter I, but I do miss the power and the control of the ASR amp. I continue to be amazed that a solid state amp could sound this good.

In my recent review of the Electrocompaniet integrated amp I said, “I like integrated amps, principally speaking. . . . I have always thought a well-designed integrated amp built throughout with high-quality parts should provide better performance at a much better price than separate amp and preamplifier of the same design, though it seems this is seldom the case.” Well, the Emitter I surely makes this point.

If you want a state of the art transistor amp and have the money, space and back for this wonderful amplifier, I could not give anything a higher recommendation. I can’t imagine any high end speaker that wouldn’t sound incredible with the Emitter I Exclusive.

3 Responses to ASR Emitter I Exclusive Amplifier Review


  1. viral jasubhai says:

    i must asy being the proud owner of the same amp i agree with all the comments in the review and also add that after more than a year of having it and putting it through a number of speakers and lots of loud music its still amazing and really robust. kudos to ASR

  2. ek says:

    best integrated amp on earth ever produced!

  3. Laurent Pef says:

    I agree. This is clearly a piece of audio art. It sounds wonrderful with our Sopra N°3 speakers. I strongly recommend to join to this amp the wonderful ASR Mini-Basis MKIII HV for who still listen to vinyle LPs.

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