Own the best integrated amplifier on the planet for a blowout low price. For sale here is the spectacular Boulder 865 Integrated for your musical enjoyment. Own the incredible Boulder sound for the price of midfi! Just over 3 year old unit, and like new! http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/boulder/865.html
And when it came to sound quality, the 865 met that goal as well. I was immediately impressed with the naturalness and ease of reproduction I heard with my favorite music, and the vocal image of Radiohead’s Thom Yorke displayed this incredibly well. With other integrated amps I’ve had in my system, I’ve felt that a slight glare or an unnatural edge surrounded the image of Yorke’s voice, but this completely disappeared with the 865. In "Faust Arp," from In Rainbows (CD, XL 324), Yorke’s voice is big and clean. Accompanied by pairs of acoustic guitars and violins, the words emerge from his mouth like a whisper. I believe the guitars were recorded in an open field, which explains the intro of the song. Combined, these sounds overlap to provide an interesting backdrop for Yorke’s voice. Through the 865, the details of the track’s mix became crystal clear. The voice was free-flowing and lucid, with incredible instrumental separation and a palpable sense of air around each performer. Yorke’s voice sounded somewhat softer than I’m used to, but ultimately I felt that the Boulder 865’s reproduction of it was more natural and accurate. It was definitely easier to listen to.
The Boulder 865 provided a very still, quiet background from which all types of music could emerge. With tracks such as "At Least That’s What You Said," from Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born (CD, Nonesuch 79809), which includes soft and delicately rendered music, a quiet backdrop can help the listener retrieve important ambient details to better feel the mood of the song. Luckily, Wilco doesn’t overcompress this recording’s full dynamic range, meaning the song wasn’t mixed with all elements too loud to sound better on an iPod, as most rock and pop tracks are these days. The instruments seemed to be played by delicately moving fingers as Jeff Tweedy’s voice carefully recalls a lover’s quarrel.
"At Least That’s What You Said" is one of those songs that doesn’t work in a car. To get satisfaction at the beginning of the track, you’d have to turn up the car’s system’s volume a fair bit. Then, at just under two minutes in, the intensity of the song ramps up and Tweedy’s voice starts to rise in volume, until the lead guitar comes in. At this point in a car, I usually find the volume of this track to be a bit loud. But a great audio system can retrieve all the information in this track and deliver the performance the way it was intended to sound. The Boulder 865 was not only able to reproduce this track’s subtlety of sound, it was also able to communicate the song’s sultry mood. An audio system has achieved something great when you feel emotionally involved with the music; with the 865 in my system as I played this track and others like it, I certainly did.
Boulder’s house sound could be described as clean, neutral, natural, and transparent. Based on my listening to several Boulder setups over the years, I believe these adjectives can be applied, to varying degrees, to all of their models, from top to bottom of their product range. And I found that the 865 bettered every other integrated I’ve had in my system in just these ways.
The closest competitor in sound and price to the 865 that I’ve recently had in my system was the Simaudio Moon Evolution 600i ($8000); with all the music I fed it, it cast a spacious soundstage that was detailed and precise. I felt the 865 was just as detailed but even more precise -- it captured low-level resolution in ways unmatched by the Simaudio. In music such as the Finale of William Walton’s Crown Imperial, as performed by Jerry Junkin and the Dallas Wind Symphony with organist Mary Preston, from HR-X Sampler 2011 (24/176.4 WAV, Reference HR-112), both integrateds cast impressively wide and deep soundstages, but the 865 provided a clearer, more vividly detailed view of the players, with more air around instrumental images. About 20 seconds in, what sounds like a xylophone is played. Through the 865, each note rang more clearly, with more shape and definition, than through the Simaudio. I also found the 865 to be more controlled in the lower treble and upper midrange than the Moon Evolution 600i; the latter’s greater sibilance in these regions was clearly revealed by recordings of women’s voices.
Finally, I felt the Boulder 865 played with as hefty a dose of power as any other combination of electronics I’ve had in my home. The best stereo power amplifier I’d had in my room before the 865’s arrival was the Esoteric A-30 ($14,000), a moderately powered class-A design. The A-30 added a touch of warmth to the music I love, but the Boulder 865 added nothing -- yet also held nothing back. It was simply dead neutral. My Rockport Technologies Miras are darn near close to being full-range loudspeakers, and they never lacked for bass push when driven by the 865.
Leading edges were sharp through the 865, pitch and timbre were spot-on accurate, and dynamic expression was fulfilled to the highest degree, characteristics best displayed by percussion and strings. The quick pop of fingers on a set of bongos’ taut drumheads made for incredibly transparent aural images; and the slow bow stroke and low-end extension of the cello, together with the texture of the strings being played, brought that instrument into my room. I never felt there was a time when I pushed the 865 too hard, and in terms of power delivery it never showed any sign of crying uncle. The Boulder 865 plowed through lots of bass-heavy music and remained cool -- literally -- at all times. Never once did I place a hand on the case and feel much heat. The 865 may be the coolest-running amplifier I’ve ever used.
My ride on the merry-go-round of integrated amplifiers ended when I caught the brass ring: the Boulder 865. I loved the 865 -- it delivered everything I’ve come to expect from Boulder: great sound, excellent build, nice user interface. The 865’s fit’n’finish is as good as you’ll see in any audio component. The layout of the rear panel is clean, well thought out, and easy to navigate. And the 865’s user interface provides a quality of experience that adds only enjoyment to its use. In short, the 865 is physically everything you should expect for a product costing $12,500.
But while those qualities are nice, they’re but the cherry on top. The real meal was the sound. The Boulder 865 is the most detailed and transparent integrated amplifier I’ve heard over the past year: Its highs and lows were impressively extended and detailed, and its midrange was very smooth and natural. If I were banished to a desert island and could bring only one integrated amplifier with me, the Boulder 865 would be it. It’s the best option I know of for someone who doesn’t want separates but still wants reference-grade sound.
. . . Randall Smith
PayPal OK, plus the 2.9% fee. Lowballers cheerfully ignored.