Nakamichi PA-1 Home A/V Separates A/V Preamplifier

4.88/5 (8 Reviews) MSRP : $2000.00


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User Reviews

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Mark Donnigan a

Date Reviewed: September 21, 2001

Bottom Line:   
Nakamichi PA-1 five channel amplifier review
By: Mark Donnigan, courtesy Audiocore (markadonnigan@earthlink.net)

Overview
The PA-1 is a 100-watt by five-channel power amplifier sold in the US by Nakamichi and was in production from approximately 1996 to 1999. In this review I?ll attempt to give a basic overview of the strengths and weaknesses along with my conclusions based on extensive listening. Without giving it all way before you read on, this amplifier is an excellent contender for anyone looking for high performance on a budget. Whether you?re building a dedicated home theatre or already have one and are looking to upgrade to separates; this amplifier will please most listeners in applications from two channel to discreet multi-channel.

Performance Specifications
Rated power is 100 watts per channel with all five channels driven at 0.1% THD 10Hz to 30kHz at 8 ohms. Dynamic power is measured to be 140 watts with all channels driven. Suffice it to say, this amplifier has sufficient headroom to drive even the most demanding speaker loads. Output current capability is 15 amps continuous and 30 amps peak per channel with all channels driven. The power supply contains a 910-watt R-core transformer and houses 60,000uF of capacitance. Weighing in at 49 pounds, this amplifier definitely leans toward the high current conventional side of modern amplifier design. Original MSRP was approximately $1799 with current pre-owned street prices in the range of $700-850 based on condition and other intangible factors.

Strengths and Weaknesses
Being a positive guy, I?ll cover strengths first. The first thing I noticed after much listening and analysis is that this amplifier has headroom to burn. Volume was never for lack of want, and the amplifier always matched the level demands I made of it. As I mentioned in the above performance section, this amplifier incorporates a high current design giving much emphasis to storage in the power supply and the ability to deliver up to 30 amps for each of the five channels. Bottom line, if you like volume or have speakers that are difficult to drive, the PA-1 should suit your needs for all applications except possibly the largest of rooms.

Of course one of the trade offs typically found in an amplifier of this design is thermal efficiency. Consequently I was pleasantly surprised to note that even after prolonged listening sessions or heavy use that it never over heated.

Nakamichi incorporates what they call Harmonic Time Alignment into the design of the PA-1. Unfortunately I was unable to obtain detailed technical documentation on what it really means. Therefore I can only assume this circuit contributes to the ultra wide frequency response of 10Hz to 130kHz that Nakamichi reports, and based on listening tests I would also surmise that it contributes in some way to the forward and open sound quality I heard.

Another positive for this amplifier is the chassis and front panel build quality with the front panel being nicely milled and finished. However, I must comment that the RCA connectors are not as robust. Due to their close spacing, it was difficult to connect high quality cables, and in addition the connectors themselves seemed to be prone to mechanical failure from excess stress placed on the connector when a large cable was used and not properly supported.

This amplifier may have guts, but if you are powering a pair of speakers that are a little bright or bass shy, you will probably be disappointed with a perceived lack of bass or roundness to the sound. Additionally, the system will possibly sound overly bright and forward. Consequently pairing the PA-1 to a pair of neutral or ?fat? sounding speakers will be the key to getting the best spectral balance or blend from this amplifier and your speaker system.

Listening Observations
Obviously sound quality is very subjective, so rather than go into great detail about how I THOUGHT it sounded, I?ll briefly discuss my listening system and the basic conclusions I arrived at. My reference system at the time of this review consisted of a Sony TA-E9000ES processor/pre-amp and Alesis Monitor 2 studio monitors for Left, Center and Right, along with Alesis Monitor 1?s for the Rear Surrounds. The Alesis Monitor 1 and 2 are a conventional 2 and 3 way speaker design respectively. Their primary application is for recording studios and as such they work best in the near field. If you are asking why I choose those speakers, it?s because I also own a personal recording studio and desired as much coherence as possible between my studio monitoring system (Monitor 2?s) and my home theatre.

One quick note on the program material used; my listening tastes range from modern rock to jazz and movies run the gamut of major Hollywood motion pictures. (I am very fond particularly of female vocals in both jazz and rock contexts.) Needless to say with my recording background, anything I listen to whether it be a CD or DVD Movie, must be well recorded. Consequently the conclusions I?ve arrived at are not based on popping in a few disparate tracks over the course of a single evening or weekend, but instead of listening for possibly over a hundred hours and as many different pieces of software.

I?ve already mentioned that this amplifier plays loud; therefore if you are driving a decent pair of speakers and not expecting them to work outside their natural mechanical limits (i.e. Pounding bass from a 6 1/2? woofer at 110dB), then you will find volume and headroom to spare. As to the lack of bass or accentuated high frequency response, this is a characteristic of the PA-1. Consequently if you like a fuller more round sound, the PA-1 may not be the best choice for you. Especially if the speakers you?re driving are on the bright or lively side of things. But then again this is all subjective, so possibly what I perceived as a bright or even harsh sonic quality at times is exactly the sound you prefer. It?s worth noting that Nakamichi is a Japanese company and generally speaking Japanese amplifiers exhibit these sonic characteristics. (Obviously as in any generalization, that?s not always the case, but it?s probably true in more cases than not.) In my opinion, that is one of the things that makes audio so much fun. There is no right or wrong and thank God that?s the case, because if it were there would only be one system to listen to and after a while we wouldn?t even know if it still sounded good since no alternative point of reference would exist.

More Information
I sincerely hope you found this review helpful. As an audio consultant and system designer specializing in residential and commercial/professional system designs. I feel I possess a unique perspective in putting together systems that tends to be practical and real world focused. I?m like a lot of my clients in that I am always looking to improve my system and achieve better sound or results, but don?t always have the budget to go ?all the way?. Consequently I welcome any inquiries you may have for my services, I can enter a project at any level and am very comfortable putting together a reasonably priced home theatre or Hi-Fi package, all the way up to the design, project management and tuning of large scale dedicated theatre?s or church/auditorium sound system?s. And of course I also make it a point to always have a selection of inventory available to sell that represents high value and sonic integrity.

Mark Donnigan
Audiocore -- Seattle, WA
Tel: 425-583-0022 ? Email: mdonnigan@hotmail.com

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Product model year:   1999

Price Paid:    $1799.00



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Renato Maceda a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: May 2, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I originally just had one of these together with my CA-1 driving a pair of Wharfedale SP-89 for the front, SP-88 for surround and SP-center. My sub is Infinity HPS-1000. It was impressive then.
Since the Wharfedales are bi-ampable, and I saw another amp on Ebay for $600.00, I just couldn't resist. Now, everybody I know just gets floored (stereo or surround). The Wharfedales just came alive with a sense of realism I don't even hear in a dealers high-end sound room.
I just ordered TMC Yellow cables (currently using bettercables) -- specially made Y cables to split the signal from the CA-1. Can't wait to try them out.
I can recommend these amps without hesitation. If you have bi-ampable speakers then BUY 2 -- you will not regret it.
These are difintely best of class.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $650.00

Purchased At:   ubid and ebay



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Jack a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: February 12, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I don't know why this amp shows up under the pre-amp section? Allot of people probably will never find it. Anyhow, I've owned all the amps listed. All these amps were pretty good with the Adcom GFA-555 being my favorite, until now. I've owned allot of equipment over the past 25 years and if something sucks I'll say so in a heart beat. I've also learned that specs mean very little most of the time. This is a classic example. The PA-1 is only rated at 100 wpc, but is capable of providing 15amps of current continuous per channel with all channels driven and twice that on peaks. Current is what counts and this amp has it in spades. It's as powerful, if not more so, than any of the amps I've owned with the exception of the 565's which are monsters. I have a Denon AVR-3300 which is now being used as my pre-amp and PSB Stratus Bronze speakers. The Bronze's initially sounded a little thin through the mid bass and lower midrange, I knew the Denon just didn't have what it took to drive these 4ohm speakers. However, the Denon is a good receiver and it did drive them without complaint, just didn't have the impact. Most receivers, including many costing much more, usually don't do to well with 4 ohm speakers. This is what led me to the Nak. Not only does this amp have all the power one could ask for, but it has a sound to die for. Open and accurate is how I would describe it. My mid bass and lower mid range are now just as full and accurate as I could possible expect. The Nak did the trick. The build quality is exceptional, looks great, and I'm just proud as heck to own it. I'm one of those who change equipment like most people change their socks, but I really don't think this amp will ever leave my system. I should mention that this amp does take awhile to warm up. When I initially turned it on and began playing immediately, the sound was forward and kind of shrill sounding. I admint, I was worried. However, even before the end of the first CD it began to warm up and settled into the all so sweet sound that it is cabable of. I now turn it on and let it warm up a bit before I start listening. If your looking for a five channel amp you can find these at close out prices (for some reason Nak quit making them). I can't think of a multi-channel amp I'd rather have, regardless of price. Notice this thing gets five starts from everyone who ownes it and if it was listed under the rite heading would have many more I'm sure. BTW, I'm using Monster M400 interconnects (which are in the hall of shame) and standard 12 guage oxygen free copper speaker cable. Very strongest possible recommendation. Great job Nakamichi.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $550.00

Purchased At:   Used from individual



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by David a Casual Listener

Date Reviewed: November 3, 2000

Bottom Line:   
Had Rotel985 & Nakamichi PA-1, hard to decide which 1 to keep. Rotel has smooth high & deeper bass but sound stage is forward near 2 dimensional, Nakamichi has better transient deeper sound stage & accurate image, bass is extended but not great.

Great for warmer preamp, like tube gear or even a classe pre. Overall it's better than Rotel except the smoothness. But you will not miss much. In stead, you get more balanced sound.

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Casual Listener

Product model year:   1999

Price Paid:    $1600.00

Purchased At:   Store



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Arslan Hussain a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: June 24, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I have speakers that demand a very powerful amp (impeadance 3.0) and this puppy can more than handle the set of JMLab Electras.

Excellent for both 2 channel and 5 channel power source. Built is fine and solid and I am very happy!

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000




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