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Digital Amplifier Company Cherry Ultra Amplifier Review

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The Sound

Digital Amplifier Company Cherry Ultra Stereo amplifier Back Plate with Wires

As I mentioned above, I have never been a huge fan of class-D amplifiers, though determined to not let that interfere with an honest evaluation of the DAC Cherry Ultra. I switched the amp on Saturday evening in preparation for a nice long listening session on Sunday afternoon as is customary. I did this because the amp runs ice cold, and much like my Sunfire Signature II, would likely benefit from extended “up” time before any serious listening takes place.

My first session was all about flexing the DAC Cherry Ultra’s muscular capabilities. I therefore chose to play some very dynamic rock albums, two of which I have mentioned many times in previous articles, Gentle Giant Octopus and Gentle Giant In a Glass House. Starting off with these two was immediately constructive as they allowed me to glean quite a bit about what the DAC Cherry Ultra was all about. First, this amplifier is incredibly fast. It handles huge dynamic swings cleanly and with an authority that actually took me by surprise. The lower registers were communicated with the kind of force that handily matched any other amplifier I have heard in my system as of late. This level of performance was indeed better than what I had come to expect from a Class “D” amplifier since it appeared to convey the life of the recording more convincingly than other amplifiers of this type that I have heard. Impressed with what I was hearing I moved on to another punchy, clean, rocker, my Japanese pressing of Synchronicity by The Police. This proved to accentuate the speed and powerful nature of the DAC Cherry Ultra. Indeed, in the case of this particular record, I had yet to hear the Eficion F300 speakers demonstrate this kind of top-to-bottom cohesiveness and speed. Heck, they were rocking at very high decibel levels cleanly, confidently, and with tremendous weight and punch in the bass. I must say that this first session was a real eye-opener; I was hearing a switching amplifier deliver the performance that I never thought possible from an amplifier of this genre.

I expanded the range of music quite a bit in successive listening sessions and these provided a bit more instruction as to what the DAC Cherry Ultra can and cannot do. On intimate recordings, such as solo guitar and vocal or piano and vocal, it became apparent that the DAC Cherry Ultra was delivering a very neutral sound and had no shortcomings in terms of response. However, where things seem to fall short is lower level detail; the very things that enable you to immerse into the venue of the performance. For instance, on live acoustic guitar work, the spatial cues are missing, the subtle nuances of the performers movements and gyrations are somewhat smeared and make the overall picture seem somehow artificial. In recorded combos, the front-to-back layering is fine at low levels. However anything happening in the background comes across as veiled and subdued.

Very fast changes in tempo or dynamic volume swings also seem to cause this image smearing effect. While I did not hear it on the rock albums I had played in my earlier session, this smearing was readily apparent on jazz recordings that contained plenty of high frequency material. This seemed to be where this was most prevalent. Conversely, very quiet musical passages that are perhaps not as rich in spatial information come across spectacularly well. The fact is that there are plenty of instances where the errors I describe would not matter one bit in terms of musical enjoyment, the reason being that aside from these errors of omission and lapses on dynamic swings, the DAC Cherry Ultra is phenomenally quiet and neutral in character. It also develops remarkably good image width and height. In terms of depth; it’s really dependent of the music being played. At times, the depth appears to be quite good and with decent layering but with some level of smearing. Other times, it is a void of darkness where subtleties are clearly being omitted. One thing is clear, the closer the action is to the forefront of the recorded space, the better and richer in detail is the sound. For instance, on jazz recordings, closely miked wire brushes and cymbals are rendered nicely, however, when faded into the background or when the sheer amount of musical complexity increases, so does the smearing effect. The degree to which these issues would diminish your musical enjoyment is really a matter of taste and sonic priorities.

Digital Amplifier Company Cherry Ultra Stereo amplifier with speakers

Summing it all up

I had the opportunity of speaking with Tommy O’Brien, designer and owner of the Digital Amplifier Company, regarding my observations and he noted that the stereo amplifier seems to appeal more to owners of very high efficiency speakers, those that are certainly much more efficient and therefore less demanding than my 89dB-efficient Eficion F300. For speakers of lower efficiency, he opines that the DAC Cherry Ultra monoblocks are really the way to go. Perhaps so, and perhaps I will have the opportunity of experiencing them.

There is no doubt in my mind that the DAC Cherry Ultra stereo amplifier is the best example of a high-end Class “D” amplifier I have had the pleasure of hearing. This amplifier impressed me in so many ways. It is fast, clean, and dynamic, it runs ice cold, and is also very quiet. At times, it brought my Eficion F300 to life like no other amplifier I have tried. As such, I believe that the DAC Cherry Ultra merits an audition and consideration as a true high end power amplifier. It may very well prove to be just the ticket for your particular system. I for one, will be looking out for the monoblocks. They may prove to be the most compelling case of all!

Publisher’s note: At the time of this publishing, Tommy informed me that his company is “planning to simplify their product line to include only standard and ULTRA versions of the Cherry, in both MONO and stereo and with options for faceplates.” They are also planning to introduce a wood face option next year, with a relaunch of the website.

One Response to Digital Amplifier Company Cherry Ultra Amplifier Review

  1. Scott says:

    Company website is at
    easy enough to google, but thought I’d save any interested person a step!

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