Wow! Was the OK corral full to capacityor what? Not surprising really, as the Audiophile Society of NSW (ASoN)staged what has become one of the more popular themes at the Haberfield venue(the Society's home): the equipment shootout. This time around it was solid state amplifier designs from the ridiculously inexpensive all the way to audiophile silly-money. The line-up consisted of the following amplification luminaries in dollar value order from the cheapest though not-so-nasty to the utter bling: 1. Dick Smith amplifier with undisclosed power supply and output stage modifications 2. AKSA entry-level kit from a few years ago 3. Perreaux 2150B. A classic mid 1970s design that in its day was highly regarded 4. Bryston 4B SST amplifier, current series (or only just superseded) 5. Gryphon Encore from its non-signature range of high bias Class-AB amplifiers but still over $20,000 Preamplification duties were via anAudio Research LS25 and the source was aPrimare Universal player.Home-brew interconnect cables hooked it all-up and thesuperb Audio Physics Libra were the speakers of choice this time around, connected to the amps byGoertz copper ribbons. To avoid sighted bias, a “wall of pain” was built in front of the operating table so as to hide the equipment and the goings-on and futzing-about of switching cables from one amp to the other. It was agreed to have short 90 second spurts of tracks that would cover a wide range of musical genres, ie. male and female vocal, classical instrumental, jazz and blues.Track selectionsfeatured healthy bass and treble information as well as appropriate midrange complexity. Five snippets were to be played on each amp before swapping over. The second round would see five different musical snippets carried out once again on each amp at random. The members were each presented with scoring sheets as used in prior ASoN shootouts. The system as cleverly devised by a prominent memberis simplicity itself yet incredibly effective. DJ duties,cable swapping and the announcing of the number of the amplifier to be played were shared by several members of ASoN's organising committee. And… we were off! A short shootout intro wasfollowed by theowners' brief spiel on the history behind their own amplifiers. We learned that the Dick Smith Electronics amp had been extensively modified, the AKSA had been “sitting in a cupboard for a couple of years” and the Perreaux, albeit being a classic, had similarly been unused for some years. The Bryston amplifier had just been superseded but is still considered the sweet spot in the range and the upmarket powerhouse from Gryphon is a second-hand unit and available for purchase to interested parties. The amplifiers were played in random order andwe kept pretty much to the agreed 90 second musical snippets. The cable-changing lads performed their lead-swapping stealthily and quickly after each presentation while the voting members listened with pricked ears to score each of the amplifiers based on their number.There was many a sweaty brow during the listening tests. Anyway around it went, from amp to amp, track upon track until we heard each amp twice. The last track was finally played and the exhausted voters eagerly handed their ballots so they could take their well-earned coffee and bikkie break. The sound police escorted the counters to the tally room and the counting began. Members waited in anticipation, the tally-men returned with the verdict. I had the results in my sweaty and trembling hand. You could hear a pin drop. “It was a close match gentlemen, in fifth place we have the 1970s classic Perreaux 2150B. Fourth place goes to the Gryphon Encore…” a gasp of breath and mild horror from the audience… “in third place we have the Bryston. And now for the runner-up… it is Dick Smith. And the winner, drum roll please… the winner is the AKSA kit amp! There you have it folks, quite a controversial result, albeit not a definitive one by a long shot. Ourguess is that the Gryphon is a demanding and extremely revealing beast that would require the highest level of ancillaries to give of its best. The members weren't kind to it on the day, but let's not take anything away from the AKSA kit and modified DSE amps, two cheap options that performed well above their weight. Thanks must go tothe members that kindly supplied their precious equipment and of course time in order to make this shootout possible. Congrats too to the organisers and facilitators of the day thathelped make this a smooth-running and successful event. Stay tuned for the next big shootout (afternoon of Sunday 26th of April): It'll be a hot and glowing one… Edgar Kramer

For more info visit the Audiophile Society of NSW

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