So, you’ve made it this far, and your eager to read what the new Synthesis wonder amp has in store. We let’s first tell you about the build. Synthesis has made their best effort on every aspect of the new Action series, and the build quality it excellent. Fit and finish are the best yet. Feet, case, connectors and paint all show the signs of first class workmanship. They really have worked to get this unit right. It is supplied with a full valve cover, but we guess that most people are going to want to see the glowing wonder tubes that lay beneath. But for those who need to consider pets and small children, it’s good to know that one is provided, even if the first thing most of you will do is to remove it and put it in the box.
Plugging in is a fairly simple affair. There’s a nice surface mounted IEC socket, so those who wish to use a nice chunky mains lead with a specialist connector will have no problems getting access. Above this is a standard mains on/off switch
Looking to the side of the mains is the first set of speaker terminals, followed by a pair of single ended line out phono sockets. This then precedes four analogue single ended inputs next to which are a single Digital Coaxial socket and a USB input socket for computers, media streamers etc. Finally the last pair of speaker outputs completes the connection set.
Moving onto the front is a very nice milled illuminated on off button. Once pressed, you are given a count down by the input buttons flashing through their lights as the system warms up. The takes around thirty seconds.
All of the inputs are selectable from the front panel, or via the nice chunky remote control that comes provided with the unit. A large recessed volume knob gives you plenty of feel and fine adjustment over your desired volume level.
So, let’s turn it on and get down to the important stuff.
We plugged it in using a Primare CD player, but used its digital coaxial output straight into the DAC input on the A100, so essentially, we used the Primare just as a transport. Regular readers or visitors to the shop will know how special the Synthesis Matrix stand alone DAC is, so having that built into this amplifier is a real boon.
The compliment of eight KT66 valves on the A100 (replaced by four KT88’s on the A50) provides what is by valve amplifier standards, an absolutely whopping 100 Watt per channel output, and this shows straight away. Anyone who thinks that valve amps are a wooly soft sound with a pudgy undefined bass and a warm treble are going to be in for a very sharp learning curve with this amplifier.
On my first listen I dug out to my usual list favourites and started with the genius that is Blue Light, Red Light by Harry Connick JR and played the incredible “Last Payday”. Immediately you are presented by a room engulfing sound arena. The bass is strong, low and completely controlled with the opening double bass notes. Separation of voices and instruments is quite startling.His voice quite often on systems has a slightly forward almost hard sound to it, but on the A100 this seemed to be brought under rein with no stridency or wince at all. The billiard definition across the speakers is almost surround sound like. The fabulous tones of the overblown horn section has amazing vibrancy and a reel edge, but is at no time “edgy”.
I moved on the 10cc’s How Dare You, and used the almost universally forgotten first track, with its complex arrangement of instruments and sounds and the shear wealth of information on show here was quite dazzling.
Moving to the light and airy sound of Larry Carltons Alone/But Never Alone album and the superbly detailed “Smiles and smiles to go track” gave further revelations in both detail and wonderful separation, inevitably leading to the resolution of more perceived detail.
The ever popular Dire Straights Brothers in Arms track “Your latest trick” demonstrated this amplifiers ability to simply flow along, losing you in its mellifluous presentation.
As ever, I tried the beautiful tonal voice of Mindy Smiths album One Moment More and used the “Falling” track. Having her almost in the room with such a rock solid almost visual presentation between and forward of the speakers almost brings a tear to your eye.
Onto the Telarc recording of Sibelius’s Finlandia. brass to die for and a crescendo that leaves you breathless.
Finally, and without excuses to people who believe that classical music should never be interfered with, I played Telarcs album The Fantastic Stokowski conducted by Erich Kunzel, and in particular, Bach’s “Little Fugue in G Minor”. In my opinion one of the most breathtaking ways to spend a loud three minutes and forty eight seconds there is. Make no mistakes, with this track, and at the kind of volume I played it, most transistor amplifiers find themselves out of puff by the time the kettle drums arrive, let alone usual valve amps. The A100 however, never hesitated, not one bit. More than that, it seemed to revel at the challenge and just gave and gave until the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.
I am impressed, and I really do mean IMPRESSED. Even more impressive is the fact that all of this quiet truly eye opening sound was by being plugged into a relatively in-expensive pair of Triangle floorstanding loudspeakers. These were really taken to the next level by this amplifier.
I know there are better amplifiers out there, more inputs, larger power, even better sound. However, in our opinion, there is no other amplifier out there that combines such a wealth of sound quality and build at this price point. At its £4995.00 price point, this as a stand alone analogue input amplifier is on its own, but when you remember that it includes an outstanding £2500.00 DAC built in , for that money, it is quite literally a steal.
Come along and listen and hear for yourself, so far we haven’t found anyone who disagrees with us.