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Coda Technologies CS Amplifier Review

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Coda Technologies CS Amplifier

Tour of the Coda CS amp

If Bill Dudleston’s speakers are intriguingly complex hybrids, Doug Dale’s Coda amps, designed by Eric Lauchli, are inversely direct, classic in nature, eschewing gimmicks. They are built straightforward, clean and with a focus on one thing, no nonsense performance. If you want a glimpse into the world of Coda amps, hear Doug’s response to my inquiry on Coda and its take on producing a Class D amp, “Not a fan. Too much processing for my taste. Also, there are usually noise issues. Class A and AB just seem more appropriate for producing analogue signal with power.” No B.S., just straightforward CS.

In a nod to Continuum Electronics, an outgrowth of the early Coda, this amp is designated as one of Coda’s “C class” (not to be confused with Class C amplifiers as used in power stages of transmitters). These more affordable Continuum-born amps have been redesigned with upgraded components worthy of the Coda badge.

The Coda Technologies CS is a dedicated stereo amp with a solid 300wpc output into 8 Ohms, doubling down into 4 Ohms. It has classic hard lined rugged amp looks, with short side heat sink fins and a slab of an anodized aluminum black faceplate. Two curved vertical accent bars of chrome soften the front edge. Three mercifully dim power-related LEDs congregate in the middle of the faceplate. Unmercifully, these are recessed so as to be difficult to see except straight on. The two blue side LEDs are fuse continuity checks; if one is out, the amp is not in operating condition. The center green power LED, also labeled BIAS, powers the amp for operation. I had the amps on the floor stands, so each time I turned them on or off I had to crouch way low to see the LEDs. This was the opposite of the “laser in the eye” effect; I had to peer into the recessed groove where the LEDs reside to see if anything was happening.

The need for peering was due to the BIAS switch not switching on or off perfectly every time. It seemed more sensitive than toggle switches, occasionally not engaging when pushed. I thought it might be the way I was pushing the button, but I was not able to find a consistent manner to eliminate the uncertainty. Coda needs to visit this issue, as some audiophiles will be spooked by this. I was fairly unconcerned, as with time I have handled dozens of pieces of gear with varying degrees of “perfection” in switches. I have had all manner of players, amps, preamps, etc. have occasion for a second push of a button.

Let me be perfectly clear at this point. I am not advocating disregard of a component which has no continuity in performance, where the push of a button brings anyone’s guess as to the action that will be taken. I have used such devices and they are holistically reprehensible; when a product malfunctions at many points it’s off my list of recommendable products.

I walk a philosophical tightrope making an exception for a single function switch. I used to freak out if it happened to me, thinking it portended imminent doom. With experience in handling a great deal of gear I’ve learned that some switches are highly sensitive and are used despite this quality for their sonic attributes in the circuit. It would be appropriate to get the switch operating at 100%. One of the first things potential buyers are concerned about is reliability, and a funky power switch is not too convincing. However, in this instance I used three of these amps on a daily basis for months without a failure. Over time my concern over switch failure faded away entirely. If something did happen to a switch, Doug strikes me as the kind of man who would work very hard to make things right for an owner.

The rear of the unit is unencumbered by non-necessities. Pairs of direct coupled (versus servo) XLR inputs, and RCA inputs are central and speaker cable posts are on the flanks. Stout plastic coated speaker terminals are spaced well enough apart, but do not accommodate the largest spades of products like the stunning Clarity Cable Organic speaker cables. I simply thrust one leg of the spade into the post and tightened it down; there are a surprising number of amps on which one must do so. As expected, a 15A IEC is used.

Not Messing Around

Coda might be described as a “no frills, no nonsense” solid-state amp manufacturer. The CS strikes me as a product which has been created to fulfill the role of an amp which is to be heard and not seen. It’s not that it’s ugly, far from it. The CS simply doesn’t impose itself on you visually; it is minimalist rather than trendy. However, the sound is what catches one’s attention, as there is nothing minimal about it. The CS has 18 output transistors with a combined power rating of 3,600 Watts and 75 Amps – in an amp rated at 300wpc. Doug explains, “The use of mass numbers of devices limits stress on individual transistors…” Bridging is avoided as the feeling is that, in general, un-bridged operation is superior.

Panel speaker lovers should take note of the CS as a potential partner for Magneplanar and other panel speakers. In Doug’s personal audio system he uses Magnepan Tympanis, the Legacy Focus HD, and a pair of Sanders Sound Systems ESLs. This is not far off from my choices, both of which have panel elements. I very much enjoyed the sound of this amp with both the King Sound King and the Legacy Whisper DSW. It strikes me as logical that since the Coda CS was conceived in that environment it would get along well in such systems.

Originally slated for the Legacy Whisper DSW review, with an emphasis on the speaker’s active crossover mode employing six channels of amplification, I was not expecting overwhelming performance from the CS with the King Sound King ESL. After all, the amp is 300wpc and has no Mono mode. Often, it has taken no less than 300wpc on the King to get me to sit up and take notice, but the richness of the CS was compelling. Usually the better the speakers and overall system quality, the more I see weaknesses of solid-state amps exposed. Here was just the opposite; I found myself increasingly drawn to the CS as systems grew in quality.

Eggshell vs. Flat

My first listening impression of the CS amp was that it puts a slight “sheen” on the signal, much like an eggshell finish on a paint as opposed to the standard flat finish. Most solid-state amps I have used fall into the category of sounding like they are “flat,” very reliable electronically but fairly ordinary in performance. This has been especially so with Class D amps I have used. Conversely, the Coda has an innate character, dare I say effervescence, which is perceived from the first listen. Perhaps this is part of the synergy I spoke of earlier.

The CS reminds me of my good o’l Threshold T-50 Class A amplifier, which I had used for a while to power Magnepan 1.6QR speakers. The T-50 was very smooth, though underpowered for those less efficient speakers. Like the T-50, the CS struck me as a bit rolled off on the top-end. It is more polite, with a bit of the reserved nature of a fine tube amp like the VAC Phi 200. This description should be taken as a suggestion that the CS is sonically the equivalent of the Phi 200, however as a solid-state design it comes closer to capturing the warmth of tubes than amps like the Cambridge Audio Azur 840W and with the proper cabling can sound as gentle in the treble as the Moscode 402Au. The CS does long term livable sound, not just “wow me” demo sound that is typically highly detailed and bright.

More than with any previous solid-state amp, I have been able to plumb the depths of the CS’s capabilities. Whereas most solid-state amps have been assessed via more traditional, passively crossed speakers, the CS has been subjected to a more stringent speaker environment, that of a six-channel, actively crossed system. The influence of an actively crossed system is like slipping a microscope from the “5X” magnification to the “10X” setting; there is simply a lot more to notice. Under such conditions strengths are magnified and minor flaws become major blemishes. I have never subjected a solid-state amp to such rigorous precision in a rig as the CS, so let’s see the outcome.

2 Responses to Coda Technologies CS Amplifier Review

  1. Dr R.D.Solheim says:

    I remember well That I met with the guys that worked with my dear friend Nelson Pass.,They started the Coda amp project in the end.Today I use multiple Butler Poweramps with my Legacy Focus loudspeakers in Marbella. Friendly tubey sound. Then again very detailed at the same time!

  2. Larry B Green says:

    Coda Technologies Continuum No. 8 Amplifier, Where can I listen to this Amp ? I live in Natchez, MS. What is the price of this Amplifier?

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