I purchased this amp after hearing it at the bristol show. I was very impressed with the sound quality I heard there.
i have teststed the amp with various sources and using both coax and optical inputs. With the right setup it has some of the best information retrieval I have heard from a digital source and shockingly easily outperforms my top of the line cyrus system. However in other configurations it just dosnt seem to have the same performance.
My recommendation is to use a computer source running foobar or equalivent with the appropriate output components installed into usb2 converting to coax into amp. Very important do not use amps volume control use software volume. Also the coax input is notably better than optical in my opinion.
Output from fixed sources such as CD players just isn't the same. I wonder If ava could produce a version without volume control that would also improve the circuit.
hope this helps anyone considering purchase I have had many years of experience in hifi and as I have set it up above with sensitive speakers it is some of the best conversion/amplification I have come accross. Otherwise it is really only a 3* product
I've listened quite extensively to this amp/digital device for about a month now and am very satisfied with it. Normally, I listen mostly to vinyl through a modest setup comprised of a Linn LP12/Valhalla/Cirkus/Ekos/Adikt, a Cambridge 640P phono stage and a Marantz 7200 integrated (both amplifiers bought, by the way, after favourable reviews in this magazine), connected to a pair of Kirksaeter Silverline 60 SE monitors. Although I've noticed a significant improvement in digital music reproduction since I first got interested in hifi in the mid 1980's, the digital devices I've owned (no high end gear for sure, but, among other things, a Linn Genki, a Valab NOS-DAC, and, lately, a Beresford Bushmaster) haven't really made a long term impression on me - I've always gravitated back towards vinyl for a "live" musical experience.
Considering the above, I must say that the Maestro has exceeded my limited expectations, and not by a small margin. Streaming, as I usually do, small scale modern jazz and chamber music from my MacBook Pro through an Airport Express to the Maestro, connected to the Kirksaeter speakers, both the phrasing of the musicians and the timbres of the instruments are reproduced in a believable fashion. Even more importantly, the music played through the Maestro always sounds clear and unforced and never fails to engage me, unless, of course, the musicians put in a lacklustre performance I listen quite a lot to jazz drummers like Elvin Jones and Tony Williams and I actually find the Maestro's ability to accurately reproduce their fast and complex poly- and serial rhythms a bit uncanny, but above all it makes for an intensely entertaining listen.
These are my experiences with a rather limited music repertoire in a small (about 15 m2) listening room. I might add that some vocal tracks with, for example, Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell and Rickie Lee Jones also sounded excellent through the Maestro. I have used Spotify (very good), and played aiffs (better) and the occasional high definition alac (significally better) using iTunes 11 and Pure Music 1.86b. It should be said that I never listen to music at floor shaking levels and I suspect that some friends of hard rock and/or Wagner might find the Maestro lacking what they want. For me, though, this little box has been a pleasant surprise and a case of "the sum is greater than the parts". Of course there are DACs and amplifiers out there with better bass, treble, dynamics, transparency, soundstaging etc, but the way the Maestro carries the musical message across actually makes me forget about such audiophile traits. This amp is something of a bargain IMHO and I would certainly recommend anyone with an interest in music to have a listen.
As a final note I think What HiFi should be commended for leaving room to comment on the products on review - I wish other magazines would show the same openness. Opinions and preferences may differ and that is as it should be.
I am shocked by this mediocre review. So much so that I felt I needed to register and leave my experience of this product. I am not particularly 'techie' , I just like a good sound. I bought this because it looks good on my music unit ( maybe a 'girl' thing) and it was good value.
Once I received it and set it up - wow! What a sound! Clear and precise - I heard instruments on familair tracks that I had never heard before. I can turn up the volume loud without getting that unpleasant bassey sound.
I would recommend the Maestro 50 to anyone looking for a really top class product for a very reasonable price. Try it and I think you will agree.
And no doubt having a son who can get you a staff discount helps no end...
Well I have owned one for two months and am impressed with it. I think how well you rate it depends on what you perceive its alternatives to be. I wanted a budget system (c£500) to play my lossless itunes library from my computer wirelessly. Nothing more or less was needed.
This amp with some Dali Zensor 1s running from an Apple Airport Express linked via Toslink gives an extremely clear and well defined sound that gives plenty of oomph for my needs and the room it was destined for. I started my quest for a solution around 6 months ago. Sure, I know there'll be better sounding amps at the price (which is what the review is comparing this too - other amps), but not once you've used the poor DAC in an Airport Express and a 3.5mm to phono lead. So then you need a DAC. And some speakers. And interconnect cables. It'll go way beyond £500 for a system before you can get close to the sound I'm getting. The other alternative was SONOS or an airplay dock. Well, my Play 3 was so poor I took it back after 2 weeks, and I have yet to hear a dock that could get close to matching my system.
As an amp it has its limitations, but there aren't many designated digital amps out there that aren't AV receivers. This amp is a gem for being so simple. I'd give it four stars; not quite the bass I was used to and hoped for, but extremely clear without being too bright. A vocal track by Joni Mitchell or Amy Winehouse will leave you breathless at the value of the system you're listening to.
Just my tuppence-worth.
First, many thanks for the reply ... I appreciate it ...
With exception of the budget/very-cheap speakers which are 6 ohm, the others you used are 8 ohm.
I havn't heard the Kef's though I owned their Koda7's (is that right) back in the day so I expect they are good. I therefore read your own site for some feedback on Kef LS50's you used. http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/got-the-kef-ls50s-2-hours-ago-for-home-demo-initial-thoughts-some-questions
Is seems they are very hard to drive with a long run in time. The ATC are impressive, I've heard those but they are as big as a house.
This is an amplifier the size of your hand & just 50W. So it seems rather unusual that you chose the above to test on ... did you honestly expect a good result? If you try to drag a trailer with a sports car, it will probably not work very well but that doesn't mean the sports car is rubbish.
I use a macbook-pro normally with VLC or direct from Pro-tools when mixing (both are software programs), direct from optical out on macbook with Toslink. I also have Maestro's set up with both appleTV in my livingroom & airport express in my kids room (Linn Unik Speakers) and it's a perfect wireless solution for Spotify, streaming up to 24bit wirelessly (plugplayer app) & film. Sounds amazing.
May I ask what you used for a source?
In our experience neither the Q Acoustic 2020i or KEF LS50s are particularly hard to drive. Both these speakers are used regularly to test amplifiers at this price level.
I don't understand your sports car/trailer analogy. Using the Maestro-50 with a good pair of compact £150 speakers (the Q Acoustics) seems fair to me. Our main sources were a MacBook running Pure Music software alongside iTunes, and our reference Naim NDS streamer .
The Q Acoustics are exactly the sort of budget speakers we'd expect people to use with this type of amp, and they're certainly not difficult to drive. Nor are the KEFs, which are absolutely superb and work well with a wide range of systems. That's why we used both speakers when testing the amp.
Obviously we wouldn't suggest anyone buying this amp use it regularly with a pair of the ATCs - they're our reference speakers, and we use them as a test tool for highlighting deficiencies in the electronics we review, which they do very effectively.
Could you please clarify to site users reading your comments your trade status as an AVA Media/Linn retailer?
Hi Andrew, yes that is correct. I also use my name, as I have done for my login, for the name of my shop. Always good to stand by what you do and write.
So yes this does give me a commercial interest in this little amp and perhaps leaves me somewhat more sensitive but it also means I have tested it rather more than most and a point worth making is that it wouldn't have gotten into our business if I didn't think it was rather special. We have rather good refernces here as well.
The customer comments on your site refering to the Kef speakers contradict your claims that they are easy to drive but I'm speculating here .. I have not heard them.
I have tested Maestro with AE1's which the distributor told me were hard to drive. The result was rather mediocre (not to say those speakers aren't good) but as said, with the LINN Unik & Majik speakers it's an amazing product. We have run them on budget Project speakers and Audio-Pro speakers with great results.
With respect to the car analogy. I think it's clear, if you have double the resistance you get out half the power ... you said it in your self. So when you talked about problems about loss of control on high volume alarm bells should ring that the speakers are not matched with the amp.
In all seriousness would you like me to post you a pair of Majik 109's to test on?
In all seriousness if I needed them, I'd get them direct from Linn. But thanks for sort of clarifying your trade status.
We tested the amp over several days in our bespoke listening room, using a selection of speakers including the budget Q Acoustic 2020is, KEF's Award-winning LS50s and our reference ATC SCM50s.
This review is so far from reality I am literally shocked! Maestro-50 is one of the most impressive products I have engaged with in years.
Why would you even try to pair it with 8 ohm (hard to drive) speakers and please tell me ... what were they? I use Maestro with LINN Majik 109's and even the floorstanding LINN Majik 140's. It's simply amazing, breathtaking! I can listen for hours and the detail is awesome. I have no issues whatsoever with timing ... I'm just super impressed!
Probably one of the cleanest systems I have heard ... ever ...
Maybe you should have turned it on and not judged it by it's tiny size because you obviously never listenned to it ... did you ... really?
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