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Amplifier AMC CVT3030 review

Rising from the ashes of the now-defunct Hi-Fi Markets operation, the man who helped bring us the original NAD 3020 amplifier now presents the ?530 AMC CVT3030 — a solid-state/valve hybrid. But who is AMC? The amp itself was designed by an ex-NAD employee.

Nevertheless, the CVT3030 appears to offer all things to all men. The black casework and rubberised controls are all rather utilitarian, but with the transistorised MM vinyl disc input, five line/tape inputs and fan-cooled valve output stage, the CVT3030 attempts to mix flexibility and low pricing with a ‘high-end valve sound’.

It’s certainly jam-packed with goodies, including a Signetics op-amp in the MM disc stage (mounted hard up against the rear phonos), high voltage Siemens MOSFETs in the line and driver stages plus a pair of Siemens EL34 pentode valves at the output. These are linked in the classic ultralinear configuration with screen taps included on the primary windings of each output transformer. In fact some eight primary and six secondary windings make up each transformer in an effort to reduce their inductance and help maintain a wide bandwidth.

Sound quality

‘Warm, cosy, self-effacing but slightly flabby and loose’ was the initial consensus of our panel. Lone instruments like the triangle from Rachmaninov’s Symphononic Dances, for example, could sound remarkably vivid and engaging but this proved to be the high-point of the amp’s repertoire. Further into the symphony the soundstage quickly filled-up as ‘noisy instruments’ seemed crammed into a very restricted space.

Things began to look up once we switched to CD, for any loss of dynamics was less obvious, and the jazz selections were infused with a realistic sense of space and warmth even if ‘the double bass was a bit gooey’. On the flipside, however, a congested, squashed and chaotic character re-emerged once the music picked-up in tempo and complexity.

Tracy Chapman had sounded clear and approachable, until she attempted to match the increasing scale of her accompaniment, whereupon the music lost a great deal of its detail and dynamics. This proved a consistent but disappointing characteristic of this rather enigmatic amplifier.

Conclusion

Given very simple material the AMC CVT3030 can sound extremely sweet, spacious and dignified — the archetypal ‘high-end valve sound’ that AMC was presumably seeking. Unfortunately all of this potential is lost with more complex recordings, which become confused, brash and unnecessarily busy.

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