With a fighting weight of just over 50 lbs, this beast of an amplifier delivers 250 watts into 8 Ohms and 450 watts into 4 Ohms. My speakers dip to 3 Ohms in the bass, but the amp never flags. With this design, Musical Fidelity broke the mold and created a class A input and driver stage running into a class A/B output stage. The input stage has its own power supply (in the internals photo, you can see its transformer atop a metal bridge), while the output stage has large dual mono transformers and bifilar chokes for smoothing any ripples on the power supply (filtration). Chokes were originally used in tube amps, but a handful of manufacturers have successfully incorporated them into transistor designs. The result of the class A input stage and choke-regulated power supply is a solid-state design that “is more valve-like than many valve amps”, with billowy air and bloom (with large speakers, there’s a palpable decay as the notes die out and the hall absorbs the sound), yet with the bass extension and drive of a high-current, high-power transistor amp. Musical Fidelity has been building both tube-hybrid and transistor designs for years, and know the landscape like few others.
This award-winning amplifier received accolades on both sides of the pond. It is rare for the audiophile press to reach a unanimous consensus on a set of electronics, but check out the reviews. The amp has two pair of inputs (for control by both a preamplifier and a surround-sound processor, for instance), and pair of line-level outputs for bi-amping (Oh, how I *wish*!) or driving a subwoofer, and a pair of speaker outputs for external bi-wiring (as opposed to the usual shotgun biwire). With such functionality, it is a rare luxury product at an almost real-world price.
Rating is primarily for age. The unit is otherwise in great condition. There are a few small blemishes on the face-plate that are not scratches, per se - they look more like pencil marks. In a rack in normal room lighting, they’re not really visible, but I’ve highlighted them for full disclosure. The top-plate is scratch-free. Buyer pays shipping and PayPal fees (3%). Local pick-up available, or possible delivery or drive-to-meet in the greater Chicago area and outlying suburbs. UPDATE: I was able to remove the blemishes with a damp cloth. New pics show the faceplate cleaned up.
I’ve listed the companion preamp separately for $1499, or for a quick and easy sale, the pair for $3500, which is below Blue Book value. Both of these babies are overbuilt, and the combination has wonderful synergy. As Robert Harley said, “the two units together tended to bring out the strengths of both.”
Reviews and Praise for the A308cr Power Amplifier:
-Hi-Fi Choice PRODUCT OF THE YEAR - Stereo Pre/Power Amp
Musical Fidelity’s A308CR is a big shiny amplifier which offers bags of power and a good selection of features. Our original reviewer claimed it is one of the least “sounding” amplifier combinations you can get. In other words, it has very little character that you can identify - a real talent for a hi-fi amp - and you’ll hear the source, the cables, and the speakers’ character before you can get a handle on the amp’s sonic signature. It seems to work with just about everything you throw at it - hip-hop, classical, rock, whatever, it all gets the same non-treatment. Its accurate, honest, spacious nature brings you closer to the music - excellent value in a sector dominated by larger and more expensive alternatives.
-The Absolute Sound (Robert Harley, Issue 139)
The A308 power amplifier is rated at 250Wpc into 8 ohms. It, too, is a true dual-mono design, with separate torroidal transformers for each channel, choke regulation, and 40,000 microfarads of filter capacitance in the power supply. The audio circuit is all discrete, and the output stage comprises three pairs of bipolar output devices per channel.
The circuit-board layout, which has a large effect on the sound, is the result of 20 years of evolution at Musical Fidelity. The literature says the company has refined its layouts over the years, making incremental improvements along the way.
The A308 power amplifier offered the dynamically effortless presentation that such high power tends to confer. It shared many of the preamplifier’s qualities, particularly the dynamic effortlessness, natural rendering of timbre, and quiet background. The amplifier’s soundstaging was wonderful, with a natural sense of air between the performers, fine gradations of depth, and a transparency that let me see deep into the soundstage rear.
I can recommend the A308 pair even for demanding high-end systems, though many audiophiles may overlook them as not being expensive or exclusive enough. But if sound quality and honest value are important to you, this new pair from Musical Fidelity should be on your short list to audition.
-The Inner Ear Report
All preamplifiers [used in the evaluation] established the MF’s masterful harmonic proficiency. Its 250 watts per channel was not imposed on the system, but rather its power was well controlled and tamed to conform to the loudspeakers’ demands. When program material required dynamics, the MF rose to the occasion instantaneously providing weight and spirit to the music. Yet, the amplifier managed superb inner detail and presence, much as one would expect from very small, very intricate (and very expensive) amplifier designs. We noted bass information was rich, well-textured, and harmonious. All midrange information showed exceptional mastery of subtle elements, such as tonal gradations, timbre, and other musical complexities. The MF power amplifiers provided an effortless, gracious flow of high frequencies, which resulted in a sophisticated presentation of instruments which perform in that range.
The Musical Fidelity system offers enough power and finesse to accommodate even the most demanding loudspeaker designs. Audition these components with upscale cables, for they could be the weak link in an otherwise great audio system.
-Hi-Fi Choice (Alan Sircom)
This strikes a perfect balance, with more than enough power on tap to give it loads of grip over the bottom end of most speaker systems. It also has a treble and midrange that are completely free from grain or constriction. But none of these are evident until you switch back from the A308cr. At that point, the majority of other amplifier combos sound "bunged up" like they have hay fever.
Nothing phases the A308cr. Even full-on Mahler or balls-out Led Zep can be played at insane listening levels with reserves on tap.
The biggest reason for many buying something costing more than the A308CR is “label pride”. Those stuck on spending over the odds on buying the latest designer label will always stump up extra cash for extra cachet, even when there is little or no reason to. There is no such thing as the perfect amplifier, but the Musical Fidelity A308CR pre/power amp combo gets closer than most.
-Hi-Fi News (Dave Berriman)
Here was subterranean, firm, powerful bass, precise but not overpowering, a deep, wide soundstage and no sense of unnatural strain.
Apart from the superb build quality, their sonic and musical performance is little short of stunning, with oodles of clarity, space, rhythm, bass texture, and instrumental definition. It’s as close as you’ll find to a neutral conduit anywhere and may force you to really listen to familiar recordings anew.
Hi-Fi World (David Price)
Its low frequency articulation is almost a religious experience.
A top-drawer pre-power combination that does so much so well and gives away so little to its price rivals from all sides of the field. It’s open and smooth, yet manages to pump vast amounts of power. I’d say the Musical Fidelity A308 pre-power combo is all most people will ever need from a hi-fi amplifier.
Verdict: Four Stars. Another fine all-rounder with a brilliantly powerful and clear sound. Partner with good ancillaries and you may never upgrade again.