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Amplifier Technics SU-VX800 review

Something of a beast, this amp. Conceived by Technics and foisted on the rest of the world, the SU-VX800 is a traditional high-tech design from input to output. It’s damned complicated too, with a maze of controls decorating the bronze fascia and matched by an equally busy interior.

A vast volume control is flanked by separate rec-out and input selectors that cater for phono and five different line sources. You must differentiate between MM and MC cartridges using a second selector which also includes an option for subsonic filtering. Then there’s A/B speaker switching, tone and balance controls, loudness, mono and muting facilities plus an ‘adaptor’ input which serves as a third tape monitor loop for graphics and the like.

Amps of this ilk always have a special widget in tow and, in this instance, it’s called ‘Extended Direct Drive’. Armed with both balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (phono) inputs this seventh line stage bypasses all the peripheral features and feeds directly to an ‘active volume control’. Nestled within a feedback loop, the volume knob directly alters the gain of the amp rather than attenuating the audio signal between two stages. As a result the amplifier’s signal to noise ratio remains constant, regardless of its position.

Sound quality

Our listeners gained a favourable impression of this amp, but this was a transitory reaction to the MM disc input – a reaction that was not to last as we changed from input to input. Here, at least, it seemed to deliver a big, three-dimensional and very ‘euphonic’ sound with bags of power skulking in the background.

It could become a little raw or congested when the going got tough, particularly with our classical selection, but it really got behind the Marty Paich LP, pounding out its rhythm in a positive but very safe and ‘reliable’ fashion.

Switching to CD brought winces all round. Extended Direct Drive or not, this was voted ‘the most vicious and offensive line stage in the test’. Not everyone was quite so dismissive but they all felt the Julia Fordham CD sounded very hard, spitty and sibilant. A very loud and raucous presentation, they concluded.

Conclusion

Something of a contrast then from input to input and hardly the most convincing advert for the benefits of ‘Extended Direct Drive’. Technically it’s straight out of the Technics Book of Amplifier Design – good reliable stuff that’ll bring joy to any lonesome spectrum analyser.

Sonically, however, there’s a good chance its invasive protection circuitry is making a dogs dinner of what should be a fundamentally solid amplifier.

As a consequence it’s the cheaper Technics SU-VX600, rather than the SU-VX800, that seems to point the way ahead.

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