I am one of the very few privileged ones to have extensively listened to the new A1400-8 at will. And I am reporting my impressions and findings.
First of all, the sample which I audition is very close to the final version except for the casing, output jacks, power cord receptacle location and some internal wiring. The few minor remaining modifications to bring it to its final version will not affect negatively its performance; if it was possible, chances are it would improve it.
During several days, I auditioned the A1400-8 several days in stereo mode only and I still do it regularly. In stereo mode, it is powering a pair of Axiom M80v2s. For comparison, I am using a Mark Levinson Dual Monaural Power Amplifier No 23.5 model. It is rated at 400 watts minimum per channel both channels driven simultaneously with not more than 0.2% THD and it weights 105 pounds. It has been my pride and my joy for many years. You can read reviews from different owners at http://www.audioreview.com/cat/amplification/amplifiers/mark-levinson/PRD_115909_1583crx.aspx.
As you will read; it is a very good amplifier and even when being bought used is still quite expensive. I bought mine new, may years ago.
My hope was that the new Axiom A1400-8 amplifier would not be put to shame by a reference amplifier model from one of the best amplifier designer and builder of the audio industry. If it could almost be as good and even rival it in some aspects; it would be quite an accomplishment. Fingers crossed, I turned on the music and . . .
I was floored. I could not believe my own ears. Just within a few seconds I discovered and experienced a new musical dimension !
How could my Mark Levinson Dual Monaural Power Amplifier No 23.5 amplifier which is unanimously and universally praised for its power, fantastic bass control, frequency extension, transparency, dynamics, speed, naturalness, timbre and tonal balance be bettered on each and everyone of these aspects ? And for most of them it is not even close: it is obvious and it does not take hours of listening. I had many visitors who expressed the same feeling.
Here are a few brief examples of how it translates in a real world situation:
Bass: Each of my Axiom M80v2 is paired with an EP500v2 subwoofer, for my evaluation I had turned the subwoofers off. When I replaced the ML for the Axiom A1400-8 in my setup I had to walk to the both subwoofers to be sure that they were off because of the additional tight and solid bass I was feeling.
Voices: I have discovered nuances, intonations and subtleties in the voice of signers which I have listened time over time. It applies to both male and female singers from Kenny Rodgers to Céline Dion, from Willie Nelson to Norah Jones, from Pavarotti to Madeleine Peyroux. I still have goose bumps thinking about it. The voices are more life like.
Details, clarity and extension: I hear more and more and discover new things. Someone might think that it would become more clinical and analytical far from it. It always stays highly musical, adding perspective and rendering the contour of different instruments and voices precisely. You easily follow the individual voices and instruments. Another benefit is it removes haze or layers of veils bringing you closer to the artist.
Timbre, naturalness, tonal balance: Every instrument and voice sound as they should; again making it easier to distinguish them and adding life.
An indispensable quality for me, is ability to convey emotion and the Axiom A1400-8 surely does as I could witness listening to Angele Dubeau’s violin or Dave Brubeck “Take five”; chills down my spine and raised hair.
How all this reflects when watching movies ? What about a significant increase in intelligibility and subtleties from the center speaker (dual VP150v2) and deeper immersion feeling from the surround speakers ( 4 – QS8v2). From the main speakers (M80v2) and all speakers a net gain in details, dynamics and speed.
Owners of Axiom M80 have no idea how much better their audio speakers can sound when driven by an Axiom A1400-8 amplifier. I personally discovered a new dimension to music listening. Owners of Axiom Epic Home Theatre Ensemble will be adding value, satisfaction and enjoyment to their DVD collection.
On another note, based on my last April expedition to Montréal’s Festival du Son et de l’Image, manufacturers of megabucks amplifier are better to get ready for a rude awaking once the Axiom A1400-8 will hit the market and the reviews will be published. I really can’t comprehend how and why someone would buy a pair of Tenor mono-block tube amps at $90,000.00 CAD after listening to the Axiom A1400-8.
Finally, I would like to give you an advice and a warning.
Advice: In a few months, the Axiom A1400-8 will be available. You will rapidly see proud owners inviting fellow audiophiles on “Auditioning Axioms in your area”. Accept the invitation even if you have to drive several hundred miles; it is well worth it.
Warning: Once you have listened to the Axiom A1400-8, you will never be satisfied with anything else.