Before I commence with the Allnic Audio A-6000 review, I should say that for the past several years I’ve been the proud owner of a pair of Thor Audio TPA-60 monoblock amplifiers. These beauties have powered any speaker that’s found its way into my system with ease, worked reliably, and sounded fantastic. I’ve had a number of amps in my system during the time I’ve owned the Thors, but none have sounded as good.
It was with reluctance that I parted company with the TPA-60s, but now, thanks to the Allnic Audio A-6000, any sense of regret has gone.
I struggled with the idea of replacing the Thors, simply because I felt that to improve on their sound would require an investment beyond my ability to justify, but I was itching to try something new. Their price tag in 1995 was $18,000, which, by today’s money, would be a whopping $32,000, accounting for inflation. But they were also renowned for performance above their price point, another factor to consider when shopping around for a worthy replacement. A few amps caught my fancy as potential long-term replacements, but it always felt like it might be a sideways step, so I could never pull the trigger. Among those on my list of desirables included the Pass Labs X .8 series amps, ARC Reference series, and perhaps something exotic from Art Audio, such as the Harmony Silver Reference.
What also muddied the waters was the fact that I’m going through a phase of wanting to try something new for loudspeakers. I’ve been a long-time fan of horn speakers, but also electrostats and ribbons/planars. For the heck of it, I picked up a pair of vintage Klipsch Heresy speakers a few months back, and oh what fun they were! In fact, within a week of finalizing the deal and sending my Thor amps off to Norway, up popped a local pair of Klispchorns, that I just had to have. [Klipschorn Review Here]. When the Klispchorns arrived on the scene I quickly picked up a nice Aric Audio Special KT 88 120SE amp from a local seller here in VA. I knew the Aric probably wasn’t the right long-term partner for the Khorns, but I also knew deep down that the Khorns probably wouldn’t be a long-term speaker in my system. A week or two after playing the Aric Audio and Khorns I picked up an Art Audio Carissa Signature. The Carissa is a fantastic 845 amp with a glorious midrange and a no-brainer partner for driving the Khorns. Then problems arose with the Carissa and it had to go back to the owner after only a few short hours in my system, so I was back to square one.
Enter The Allnic Audio A-6000 300b SET Monoblocks
I found these offered by a reputable dealer on the West Coast, an upgraded pair (Auricap capacitor replacements) running premium Emission Labs tubes, and seeing the advertisement brought back memories of my time with the Allnic Audio L-5000 DHT preamp, which is up there with the best, IMO. With a 50w/channel power rating, the A-6000s were overkill for the Khorns, but most likely they’d work, and also they’d likely work with the other speakers I still had on hand, the Dunlavy Audio SC-III and the Merlin Music Systems TSM Black Magic Edition. So, given some frustrations with getting the Khorns to work in my room, and thinking they’d be headed out the door pretty soon, I decided to drop the coin on the Allnic Audio amps, and hope for the best.
The amps arrived by 18 wheeler, two large wooden crates strapped to a pallet. Since I’m in the boondocks, and can’t accommodate semis on my long and winding gravel driveway, I had to unload the amps from the back of the semi-truck in the nearby Food Lion parking lot! Unboxing the amps was pretty uneventful, the crates do their job and the contents were unscathed from the cross-country trip.
Getting the amps into position in the system was another thing altogether, these things are huge! (W x D x H) 430mm (16.93 inches) x 470mm (18.51 inches) X 240mm (9.45 inches) with each amp weighing in at a hefty 40Kg (88.2 lbs) net per monoblock. (55Kg (121 lbs) shipping weight per monoblock.)
There are Tubes….and then there are TUBES.
The amps shipped with a set of the highly regarded Emission Labs 300b-XLS tubes (an octet) and later I purchased a new set of Genelex Gold Lion PX300b. The tube towers are sized for the larger Emission Labs tubes so I installed those and set about assembling the tube towers. The Allnic A-6000s have a very straightforward biasing procedure where each tube has an adjacent meter and an adjustment screw and it’s simply a case of turning the screw to get the needle to move into place between two lines on the meter face. Two of the tubes would not bias correctly. Spec sheets were supplied with the tubes and the lowest rated pair on the spec sheets coincided with the pair that wouldn’t reach bias, so I ordered up replacements from George Lenz at tubesusa.com my closest Emission Labs Dealer, located in NY. It’s worth mentioning at this point that the EML 300b-XLS tube was showing ‘out of stock’ on various websites, a fact I noted as I was researching the price. The best deal I saw for a pair was $975 and the highest was $1100. So these are not inexpensive tubes, the cost compounded by the fact that 8 would be needed for a full re-tube.
A few days later the replacement pair arrived, the amps biased correctly, and I was off to the races. Well, not quite. After a couple of hours of warm-up I noticed a little tube hiss in one channel so I pulled the 8 EML tubes and replaced them with the brand new Genelex PX300b. (Tube hiss was evident on my 105db Klipschorns but dead quiet on the less sensitive Merlins and Dunlavy speakers).
This whole thing with the tubes took around 5 days to unravel and at this point, I just wanted to sit down and listen to music. So the Genelex tubes were inserted and I sat back to enjoy some music.
Allnic Audio A-6000 Review Specs And Manufacturer’s Notes
SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE ALLNIC AUDIO A-6000 300B SET MONOBLOCK POWER AMPLIFIER
- Output Power: 50w (8Ω load, at 1KHz) 0.3% at 1KHz, 2.83V
- Distortion: 0.3% at 1KHz, 2.83V
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20KHz Flat -80dB (CCIR, 1KHz)
- S/N Ratio: -80dB (CCIR, 1KHz)
- Damping Factor: 10 at 8Ω load at 1KHz
- Voltage gain: +24dB
- Input Impedance: 100KΩ (single-ended, unbalanced)
- Input Sensitivity: 0.7V for rated power
- Tubes: 300B X 4 (power triode) 6GV8 X 1 (driver tube – equivalent to ECL85)
At the time of production, the A-6000 monoblocks were Allnic Audio’s top-of-the-line power amplifier model. The A-6000 has been superseded in the range by the A-10000 DHT Monoblocks, which will set you back a cool $89,000. For more about Allnic’s current range of products I highly recommend you visit the website of the North American importer, Mr. David Beetles of Hammertone Audio (website)
The A-6000 boasts Permalloy (iron and nickel alloy) for its transformer cores, delivers 50 watts of pure class A high power output, (60w with the XLS type
of 300b tube), and is a double parallel single-ended power amplifier.
The driver tube in the A-6000 is a 6GV8 and Allnic Audio Owner/Designer Mr. Kang Su Park, (audio engineer extraordinaire, founder, and principal of Allnic Audio) uses this power pentode to drive the 300B’s via a choke plate inductor.
Allnic employs a “soft start circuit” to protect the tubes and other parts on initial power-on. The circuitry applies the high B+ voltage only after tubes are fully warmed up.
The A-6000 utilizes switchable negative feedback, selectable via each amp’s top plate via a two-position on-off toggle. When engaged in the on position, around 6db of negative feedback is applied. Switching out the negative feedback results in a significant step up in perceived gain. The gain proved too high for the Klipsch Khorn speakers as it induced too much tube hiss into their 105db sensitive load. With the feedback switched off the sound becomes more open, more fluid, and more musically enjoyable, but this is only really useful if your speakers are not super-high efficiency types such as my Khorns. Switching out the negative feedback came into its own with the less efficient Merlins and Dunlavy speakers, which I’ll get to later.
Sound Impressions – Impressions of Sound
The Allnic Audio A-6000s cannot be considered an ideal match for the Klipsch Klipschorn speakers, with their 105db sensitivity. This isn’t an amp/speaker pairing that one would aim for were one committed to a single set of speakers and a single amplifier. But in my world, I need to be equipped to drive different speakers, and it isn’t always feasible to have a number of different amps laying around to match with the speaker of the moment. And, as I’ve said already, the Klipschorns came in on a whim, it’s unlikely they’ll be here for the long haul.
Still, the Khorns / Allnic A-6000 combo sounded quite wonderful. They delivered unbelievable dynamic realism and scale and opened up the soundstage noticeably in all directions when compared to the Art Audio Carissa and the Aric Audio Super KT88-120SE.
Detail retrieval was unsurpassed by any other amp I’ve used with the Khorns, including the AA Carissa. For the first time, I felt that I was hearing the full benefit of my recent addition of the Denafrips Gaia DDC unit. I purchased the Gaia to pair with the Denafrips Terminator DAC to take advantage of the superior i2s connectivity afforded by the Gaia. Reviews I’d read of the Gaia/Terminator suggested an increase in air and detail and a more focused presentation with superior clarity. Air and separation of instruments are now as good as I’ve heard in my system to this point. Any slight muddiness found in the solo Terminator II Dac is now completely obliterated and without any question or doubt.
On the negative side, the A-6000s do little to hide the inherent weaknesses of the Klipschorns, a propensity for sounding ‘overloaded’ on complex musical passages and a little strident on the top end. These are things that can be improved by mechanical changes to the speakers and issues I’m considering addressing in the future. But it was clear that the Allnic Audio A-6000s were elevating the Khorns into a league significantly higher than that provided by the Carissa and Aric amps, though doing nothing to overcome the speakers’ primary weaknesses.
But now it was time to pitch the A-6000s against my long-standing reference amps, the Thor TPA-60s. To do this I needed to bring out the speakers I’d used most recently with the Thors, speakers which would prove a much better match for the Allnic’s 50 watts per channel output, the Merlin TSM Black Magic Edition stand-mounts.
I placed the Merlins at the spot previously marked on the floor before removing them from the room to make way for the Khorns. This spot has the little speakers 72″ from the front wall behind them and 16″ from the sidewalls in a 16′ wide room. Obviously, with this distance separating the two boxes, a good amount of toe-in is required to stabilize the center image, so I had them set such that the inner cabinet sides were only just visible from the seat. Since the Thors have been gone from my life for almost a month, I had to rely on memory when comparing Thor TPA-60 to Allnic A-6000, but it wasn’t really a difficult task. In fact, the differences were obvious within the first few seconds and they were really night and day. The Allnics fill up a soundstage like nothing I’ve heard before, including my precious Thors.
I didn’t realize the true capability of the Merlin speakers up until this point. I knew they were capable of creating a wide and deep soundstage but I’d never before heard that soundstage populated by such dense and lifelike images. And such transparency! Literally a clean and clear window into the recording space. The first track I played was the opening track on Friday Night in San Francisco, my go-to test recording featuring Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin & Paco DeLucia. For the first time, I could clearly hear the count-in and foot tap followed by the quite startling images of the two musicians placed left and right on the stage. The struck notes had more depth and body than I’d ever heard before from other amps in my system and the overall presentation was superbly ‘lifelike’ – the closest I’ve ever felt to being there at the gig.
In fact, it’s the term “life-like” that best describes the presentation from the A-6000. I know it’s a contentious term when bandied around in audiophile reviews but from track to track I just kept thinking “wow, this is as close as I’ve ever heard to real-life music”. There are a number of individual components of the presentation that need to come together for this step forward in musical realism to become apparent. Certainly, having a deep/wide soundstage helps to create a visual component to the overall experience. With the lights on and looking towards the front wall, the speakers are barely in peripheral vision, tucked in quite close to the sidewalls and well forward into the room, but the images just seem to occupy the entire space available in the front third of the room, basically hanging in a wide-open space without a clearly visible source. Next, I would say that an ‘effortless’ presentation is key to the illusion of realism. The system’s ability to respond to all of the dynamic peaks without holding back the ebb and flow of the music is important in helping to suspend disbelief. Surprisingly, the Allnic A-6000s make my 60 watt per channel Thor amps sound almost dynamically constricted. But, it isn’t a function of paper watts, it’s obviously more than just power specs since the Thor’s carried 10 more watts per channel than the Allnic amps, on paper. (Using the Genelex’s 300b tubes delivers 50 watts, 60 watts from the EML 300b XLS). So I can only imagine it’s a product of the superior transformer design in the A-6000s, something which the designer makes a clear reference to in the amp’s supporting literature.
Continuing, I would say that next up is the tonality, texture, and timbre of the A-6000s which makes instruments and voices sound just so right. Piano is exceptional. The tone of instruments is just damn close to perfection. Loud, brash, and aggressive horns continue to sound loud and brash, but without the edginess and harshness produced by lesser equipment, just more of the real tonal purity of the instrument and less of any coloration or dynamic constriction. On the subject of frequency extension, I don’t think it’s necessary to have the most extended upper frequency to have an overall life-like presentation, as long as there’s enough extension to allow the spatial cues and air-space between instruments and performers to be retained. Again, the A-6000s seem to get the top end as close to perfect as I’ve heard. Initially, I thought that perhaps the nth degree of HF extension wasn’t being preserved, but tube break-in has helped in that regard, plus, I’ve never missed any subtle details or spatial cues, there’s just a tad more warmth and roundness than I’ve heard with lesser amps.
Lastly, while sub 100hz bass duties are gently handed off to 4 DSP controlled subwoofers in my system, I do run the mains full-range, so I can assess the quality and quantity of bass delivered by the A-6000s to the speakers, and it has all of the extension, weight, and authority of a much more powerful amplifier – again, this weight and authority is something which must be present, IMHO, for a system to transcend the ordinary and to create a life-like presentation. (For those with a general dislike of audiophile vernacular, feel free to insert ‘relative to’ wherever you feel comfortable, and please don’t confuse ‘life-like’ with ‘true to life’).
Later in the review, I switched speakers over to my Dunlavy SC-IIIs, with which I have a much broader range of equipment experience than I have with the Merlins. I’ve run a number of high-powered amps on the Dunlavys, including an ARC Reference 110 and a solid-state Edge NL10.2, and there’s nothing missing from the bass performance of the A-6000s. They have weight and authority but also an ability to capture the tone of acoustic bass which is second to none, in my experience. And again, the A-6000s literally stretch the acoustic envelope presented by the Dunlavys in all directions.
These are expensive amps, they run hot, they’re heavy and they take up a large chunk of real estate. I don’t find them particularly pleasing aesthetically, certainly not in the same way as I found the Art Audio Carissa Signature with its glow-pack upgrade and polished chrome chassis. Re-tubing these amps with premium tubes runs about the same price as a good quality solid-state amp, perhaps an entry-level Ayre or a Parasound. Shipping these amps cross-country will cost about the same as my used Cambridge Audio Azur 850a Integrated amp, which is a fantastically competent performer and thrashed a Krell FPB 700 and KRC3 preamp combo when judged purely on musicality.
The above weaknesses are all good reasons not to buy the Allnic Audio A-6000s, and I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. So if you can relate to these weaknesses and would, as I did, find them off-putting, just be sure that you don’t ever get to hear these amps in a good system. Save yourself from having to grapple with your inner audiophoolery and the resultant cognitive dissonance that comes when you spend a lot of money on something that just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to those around you.
In audiophile terms, the improvements brought about by the introduction of these amps in my system were beyond incremental, they were transformative (NPI). As audiophiles, we’re used to the hyperbole and gushing commentary that generally underpins the review of quality component [A], when it has been superseded in the reviewers’ system by the latest and greatest component [B]. We learn to read between the lines and (hopefully) take with a pinch of salt a reviewer’s overstating of what he or she considers to be an incremental improvement in sound quality. Gushiness needs to be reserved only for the rare occasion a transformative event occurs in one’s system, right? Well, in this case, I offer no apology for my above gushings.