((( In pending deal )))
Sunfire Cinema Grand Amplifier:
Reviewed By John E. Johnson, Jr.
Great condition (just fully serviced) sounds warm and tubelike and likely a best option for only $995 has XLR & RCA Inputs and ready for your enjoyment !
Sunfire Cinema Grand; Five-channel power
amplifier; 200 watts/ch rms into 8 Ohms; THD < 0.5%;
response 20 Hz - 20 kHz + or - 0.1 dB; Rail 43 Volts rms;
impedance 24 kOhm - unbalanced, 15 kOhm - balanced;
Ohm Voltage source, 1 Ohm Current source;
6.5"H x 19"W x 15 3/4"D;
Weight 45 pounds;
anodized brushed aluminum finish; $2,375;
5210 Bickford Avenue, Snohomish, Washington 98290; Phone
206-335-4748; Fax 206-335-4746.
The Cinema Grand is Bob Carver's second
product to be introduced from his new Sunfire Corporation. It is
a 5 channel power amplifier designed for home theater use. If you
set them side-by-side, it would be difficult to tell this amp
apart from the original Sunfire 300 w/ch, 2 channel power
amplifier that was introduced in late 1994. In fact, they use
the same power supply with the Tracking Downconverter. In most amplifiers, the output transistors always
"see" the maximum voltage from the power supply rail.
When a musical signal is applied, the speakers "see" a
percentage of this voltage, depending on the strength (loudness)
of the music. The difference between the voltage rail and the
voltage at the speaker terminals has to be dissipated by the
transistors as heat. With the tracking downconverter, the power
supply follows the signal such that it stays just 6 Volts above
the musical signal voltage required. In this way, the output
transistors are never asked to dissipate more than 6 V x the
current flow (voltage x current = watts), in heat. As a result,
the Cinema Grand runs cold, even at full output, and no heat
sinks are required. The power supply for the original Sunfire and
the Cinema Grand is essentially the same: 12 International
Rectifier HEXFETs. This is a massive power supply, and such
capacity to deliver the goods upon demand is the heart of any
good amplifier. The output devices are the same bipolar devices
as are found in the original Sunfire, except that instead of 12
per channel, there are 4. The first question arises at this
point: if there are 12 per channel in the original Sunfire, rated
at 300 w/ch into 8 Ohms, and the Cinema Grand uses 4 per channel,
rated at 200 w/ch into 8 Ohms, what is traded off? The answer is
that the original Sunfire will deliver 2400 w/ch into 1 Ohm (such
as certain electrostatic speakers), and the Cinema Grand is not
rated for 1 Ohm loads at all. However, it will handle 4 Ohm
speakers with no strain.
We tested the Cinema Grand using a
Parasound P/SP 1000 Processor and Krix speakers, wired with
Nordost Flatline. Laserdiscs included "Jurassic Park",
"Sudden Death", "Sabrina", "Wild
Bill", and others. The amp has two different sets of outputs
for the front left/right channels. One set is a voltage source
output, with an output impedance of about 0.01 Ohm. The other
output is the current source, with an output impedance of about 1
Ohm. The theory is that the voltage source outputs will sound
like a conventional transistor amp, while the current source
outputs will sound more like tubes. In practice, these two
different outputs do have slightly audible differences, with the
voltage source sounding a little tighter. This is the one we
preferred (voltage source), since, for one thing, all the other
channel outputs were voltage source only. All the channels have
balanced as well as unbalanced inputs. A few processors may have
balanced outputs to connect with these. Our processor does not,
but the balanced inputs can also be used with regular stereo
preamps that have balanced outputs. There are two sets of
unbalanced inputs (RCA jacks) for each channel, and by using a
short jumper, one can connect the same input signal to two
channels for bi-amping. A more complicated way of doing this
would be to use a line level crossover in between the preamp and
Cinema Grand, with the low frequency output used to drive one amp
channel and the mid- and high frequency output to drive another
channel. Otherwise, some of the power would end up being
dissipated by the crossover components in the speaker enclosure.
The on/off switch is a very small toggle on
the upper rear of the chassis. It has three positions: off, on,
and standby. In standby mode, the amp waits for an electrical
signal from the processor/preamp and then turns on. We found that
just turning on the preamp and laserdisc player did not trigger
the amp, and even when the first few silent seconds of the
laserdisc were playing (the copyright warning is shown on the TV
monitor, but there is no sound), the amp still did not come on.
But, as soon as the movie began (logo fanfare for example), the
amp came to life. The front panel has a meter calibrated in
Joules, which represents the amount of energy available for
delivery by the power supply. It reads about 380 Joules when the
amp is on, and is illuminated in a soft orange color, much like a
tube filament emits (Bob designed it this way). If the amp is
overdriven, the reading on the meter will drop.
The sound from the Cinema Grand is
delightful. Movie sound tracks are notoriously harsh, but they
did not come out that way with this amp. Even when played loud,
and I mean LOUD, the sound was never edgy, never biting. We
turned the sound up as loud as we could stand it, and even
plugged our ears and turned it up louder, but the Joule meter
never budged (Bob . . . are you sure the meter is not just a
picture of a needle pointing to 380 Joules?) Granted, the Cinema
Grand is more expensive than most five channel amps, but the
bottom line is . . . does the amp deliver? We will tell you as
soon as we retrieve the roof of our lab from orbit. I understand
it is due to re-enter earth atmosphere in June, 2003.
The nature of slew rate and amplifier sound
is a controversial subject. This number represents the speed, in
volts per microsecond, at which the amplifier output voltage
climbs in response to the input signal. A typical
transistor amp has a higher slew rate (e.g., 100 v/usec) than a
tube amp (e.g., 12 v/usec), and I feel this contributes to the
softer characteristics of the tube sound. The Cinema Grand has a
slew rate of about 14 v/usec, and I imagine this is one reason
the movie sound tracks are not so irritating. The edginess is
gone. However, for whatever reason this amp sounds the way it
does, the fact is that it sounds terrific. I love it!
Conclusion: Another score right between the
goal posts for Sunfire. Whether you are headed for Dolby Digital
(AC-3), DTS, or plan on staying with Pro Logic, this fabulous
power amplifier is recommended as a buy.
John E. Johnson, Jr.
is best to call David and visit: www.weinhartdesign.com with questions
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