After having this amp for almost a year, I felt like just expressing how I felt about it. Since I do not have a lot of experiences with hi-end audio equipment(those costing more than a decent used car :-) ), please keep my opinion in perspective.
My first real hifi amp was an Arcam A85 which looking back now did a decent job for most types of music, but for classical and large scale stuffs, it was definitely under power. It also had problem handling low bass guitar which can sound a bit muddle, but did a decent job with drum works.
With the Multi5, music has a lot more energy and a lot more thunder in the bass region (though certainly not the best) still overall remains laid back and relax. When I swithed between the Multi5 and a hi-end Yamaha receiver, the Multi5 sounds decidely more refined, relax, and smooth though lacking the incisiveness and treble bites of the Yamaha.
Compared to the A85, the sound stage opens up more and become more spacious. As the result, the sound feels more transparent and the separations bewteen instrument are more improved. Music acquires a sense of grandeur that wasn't there before.
As for the midband, I think I prefer the Arcam over the Multi5. The Multi5 is a bit lean though just a touch so(may be this is why it sounds more transparent and resolved). The A85 is a little more homogeneous in the midband. With the Multi5, music has just a little less of a midrange glow, or some might call it bloom. The A85 feels that air with a little more music while the Multi5 keeps things leaner.
The only weakness of the amp (though it might be the fault of my system) is that when playing loud with classical materials, the high frequency becomes a little constricted. As the result, violin can sound a bit harsh, relatively of course. Again it only happens when playing really loud but I guess that is the limitation of having only 125W/ch.
Some might prefer a little bite and impact as opposed to the politeness of the Multi5 but I guess it is a matter of taste. In a sense, it has that softness of tube but retains the transparency and bass of solid states.
Overall, the Multi5 offers a lot a values for the money. Many professional reviewers seems to have a general consensus that this is probably the best multichannel amp in the 2000.00 - 3000.00 range.
Since there are no appropriate categories for the Pre2DSP processor that goes with this amp, I'm putting it in my review.
Being clinically fickle, I've owned the following processors and amps over the years:
EAD Encore, EAD Ovation Plus, Aragon Soundstage, Anthem AVM20, Bryston SP-1, Lexicon DC-1, Acurus ACT-3, Sunfire TGII, Outlaw Audio 950 and now the Audio Refinement Pre2DSP.
Outlaw 750, Outlaw 755, Sherbourn 5/1500A, Citation 7.1 (funny name for a 4-channel amp), Sunfire Cinema Grand, EAD Powermaster 1000 and now the Multi-3 (awaiting delivery of the Multi-5 any day now).
Here's the short story: My system (Axiom Audio M80ti fronts, dual M3ti center channels, Axiom QS8 surrounds, EAD TheaterMaster DVD player, Signal speaker, interconnects, digital, video cables) has never sounded so good.
I've chased formats and watts for so long, and never really felt satisfied until now. This combination, especially when powered by my Monster Power HTPS 7000, is DEATHLY quiet and images like crazy. If a pin drops in a movie scene or in a song, I hear it. When watching my favorite movies, details I've never noticed before are now audible, and the sense of atmosphere is painted like never before.
Sounds spring out of a black hole, which creates more dynamic range than I've ever experienced. Seperation of sounds is excellent, dialgue is clear as a bell, and everything takes on a haunting quality.
Watching TV, I don't miss the DPL II processing of my other pre/pros, because stereo through this combo simply sounds richer and clearer. In fact, I'm really not sure I'll be doing the upcoming DPL-II upgrade because of this ability.
With music, playing through my Jolida JD-100 CD player (outstanding unit, BTW), it might have me say goodbye to my beloved Arcam A85 intergrated. It's that good.
Operationally, the Pre2DSP is a little funky, but minor issues when sound is this good.
I can't reccommend this system highly enough, eepecially given that the prices are terrific for this level of quality.
As you can see from the "similar products used" listing, I was on quite the amplifier merry-go-round. Though quite satisfied with the rest of my system, I just couldn't seem to get the amp aspect right. (The closest were the wondrous Pass Aleph amps - marvelous sounding, but simply not enough power for my Linn Espeks, and the Linn Klout - similar in many ways to the Pass, but not very transparent.) After trying the "hit or miss" method, I decided on an organized set of criteria - an amp of modest size, modest price, adequate power, and non-clinical sound. (A short list of such amps might include, for example, the Quad 909, the Blue Circle BC-22, and the Audio Refinement.) Long story short, I plopped the Multi 3 into my system, and voila - excellent system synergy! It has a slightly warm, slightly laid back, and totally non-fatiguing sound, nevertheless coupled with excellent timing and pace. In addition, it has excellent spatial characteristics, both in terms of soundstaging, and with respect to the kind of round, solid imaging that Pass lovers know and love. The Multi 3 is, by far, the least expensive amp (and component, for that matter) I've had in my system, but simply one of the best. I continue to be amazed by the value and quality offered by this amp; I'm finally off the merry-go-round! Listen, be amazed, and enjoy! (PS - Jeff at Value Audio (value-audio.com) is a great guy; my highest recommendation to him as a dealer.) The rest of my system: Rega P25/Linn Adikt/Audiomat Phono 1 analog front end; Linn Ikemi cd player; Parasound tuner; Sony 9000ES sacd/dvd player; Sim P-5 preamp; Linn Espek speakers; Kimber Select interconnects; Linn K-600 speaker wire; Analysis Plus power cords; Monster 2000 power conditioner.
This review is for the Multi-5 which I have purchased, and I am currently on the verge of purchasing the Pre-2 processor.
I had an Aragon 8008x5 which is a great amp with tons of current to drive my Apogee surround system (Stages, LCR, and Centaur Minors). I was worried that the Multi-5 wouldn't have enough guts to drive the Apogees properly, but that concern was unfounded. This amp represents great value. While it lacks a little bit of power compared to the Aragon, it sounds wonderful. My priorities rank music over HT, and the Multi 5 is a great fit for my system.
It is pretty compact physically speaking which I cannot say about the Aragon which was HUGE (24" deep).
Detailed and neutral - as one other reviewer stated, good recordings sound good, bad recordings...which is as it should be. Highly recommended!
This review is for the Combo Multi-5 and Pre-2 from Audio Refinement by YBA.
I have purchased this combo as a first HT set up and complemented my JMlab Chorus speaker setup.
I am a 80% stereo listener, therefore going into HT was a highly hazardous direction in order to keep a good 2chan pleasure (dynamism).
When I went audiotioning the amps, it was in a two chan setup... the combo was fed by some high end CD players, and unaffordable interconnects and cables.
I sat there with my wife, and started with an audition of Thierry "titi" Robin first album on ECM... simply amazing... the speakers disappeared totaly, pinpoint placement of all sounds, large field... My wife lokked at me after a few minutes and told me "amazing how we can not see where the sound is coming from", she is not into audio at all, and it was the first time ever a non audiophile would describe me "transparency" as a first impression, it is just to say how this system perform.
The only drawback is that it is so transparent, that so-so recordings are sounding really bad... as a huge radiohead fan, I was quite disapointed by OK Computer... however KidA and Amnesiac were trully amazing.
Audio refinement is the "budget" line of YBA. It does not mean that this line is of a lesser quality, all design and components are coming from YBA (binding caches and ac cords are YBA labeled). it weights 47lbs and the outside is like the inside, simple and straight to the point :)
Like all YBA components, the philosophy of the products are to shorten the signal path, as well as anything that could corrupt it... this philosophy is so pushed that in the manual of the PRE-2 a special note let you know what Digital input will offer the shortest path (D2 it is).
Pre-2 is builted the same, a nice preamp, decoding DTS, DPL. lots of inputs (coax, digital, components, svideo etc...), 2*12 volts triggers.
There is a bypass mode for all analog inputs (and 5.1 analog inputs for DVDa or sacd)... and it sounds amazing ! This ht is a vast improvement over my Nad C370 stereo amp (vast is not enough... bigger than that).
I was absolutly not expecting such a quality before going to the audition room. Best of all, the fabulous transparency I heard there on this High end set-up, I have rediscovered it at home, with my Arcam Alpha CDplayer.
The best surprise in years, give it a try !