sweet fast fluid great top lovleybottom
hey this amps got the lot.3d image to die
for your there in consert or in the studio
you can listen for hours and never tire.
with my proto b-patrol pre amp the sound
is great.with beauhorn speakers its live.
Well it has taken me quite some time to find an amplifier to drive the Sonus Faber Guarneri. Before I go on, I have to say that my experiences are all related to the Sonus Faber Guarneri, and there is no way that my experiences have any meaning when combined with other speakers, especially more sensitive ones!!
The Border Patrol is equipped with the Western Electric 300B’s and the DACT volume control. However, its most important features seems to be the use of inter-stage driver transformers and its huge external power supply with 3 rectifier tubes (a Mullard GZ37 for HT, and 2 EZ80 for input and driver). For more information about its innards see www.borderpatrol.net)
The reason I bought this amplifier is that I finally got a glimpse of the magic of SET amps. Everybody talks about it, but ‘nobody’ explains what this magic really is. I my opinion SET magic has to do with a certain fluidity and purpose of the music. It seems that SET amps, at least the ones I have listened to, give the music more purpose. The notes of the music have a clear horizontal relation with each other (melody like Lennon).
However, the SET amps (I have listened to) have sometimes difficulties with the vertical relation of music (harmonics like McCartney). They have problems with difficult arrangements and the complexity of the music. When things get rough and busy it looses some control. A matter of preference so that say. However, I want both, no make this: I need both to really enjoy music. And I am happy to say that I have succeeded, because the Border Patrol is the only SET amp I have heard which is able integrate melody and harmony, without having to compromise one for the other.
The music with the Border Patrol in control is beautifully transparent. You are very much aware of the individual touch of players and how they make music together. It really adds to the musical involvement to be able to separate the different backing vocals, the individual sound of each guitar; and foremost, to understand the lyrics of the music. All this valuable musical information is presented in a nice coherent manner, where every player is part of the musical whole, i.e. attributes to the music. Finally you are aware what the purpose of the musician was when writing his/her song. There is so much more happening, formerly simple songs become very interesting and much more involving. Add to this the complete change of the recording acoustic between different music styles, different cd;s and even different songs of the same album. And although my speakers are only 88 db (with minimal impedance 5.8 ohm), in my room I have not been able to hear any dynamic and/or loudness limitations. And believe me, I have tried. All voices and instruments have an immediate quality. With this I mean the lead vocal is suddenly there in full ‘volume’. The same applies to instruments most noticeable with brass instruments like saxophones, trumpets etc. When they blow their melody line, they immediately play it with everything they have got. This amp is really fast and dynamic, even with 88db speakers.
Last but not least, grain is reduced to an absolute minimum. There is no need to warm things up, and lose detail and resolution. All instruments sound rich and natural. I use to warm things up to correct for the edgy sound of some of my cds. I did lose a lot of valuable information in the process, but at least I could listen to it for more than an hour. I now know that to warm things up is correcting something that shouldn't be there in the first place!! And a lot of amps even tubed ones add a lot of grain.
The best quality of this amp is that is has all the fundamentals right. The design is just right, but you are still able to experiment a bit with different output or driver tubes. This amp makes me much more involved in appreciating the quality of SET amps. One thing is important though. The Border Patrol really needs a long break in (around 300 hours). Before that it can sound a bit aggressive with he Mullard E182cc driver tube. I have used a 5786 during this period and was happy with its smooth and refined sound, but when I got back to the Mullard this amp managed to surprise me again. It has now the refinement and grace of the 5786, but is more involving more revealing and more dynamic without ever being harsh and aggressive.
What I find quite amazing is the fact that all reviews appreciate the same qualities of this amp, and point in the same direction: coherent, transparent, dynamic, very good bass definition especially for a SET amp, rich but not warm. One thing is for sure, this amp stays!! Last but not least, Gary Dews the designer of this amp is a very nice and helpful person to deal with. Hope this was helpful. Walter
I continue to think that the BP is one of the finest decisions I made. The 5687 incidentally is out now and the E182CC is back. I agree with Gary's (designer) choice now that the unit is fully run in.
Maybe Gary should send a 5687 along as a run in kit. Use for 6-8 months (or the 25 average years that it takes hovlands and black gates to run in!) and the go back to the E182CC. It makes for a better amp.
For anyone who really cares about musical performance and accurate reproduction, rather than the console of the starship enterprise with warp capabilities, I would urge you to consider this two box component carefully. Built like the proverbial brick outhouse, this power amplifier with separate Power Supply Unit will grace those of you with discerning taste. How does one characterize the job of an amplifier? In my humble opinion, it is to pass the signal from your source components to your speakers without adding to or subtracting from the music. It must pass to your speakers all the nuances of a performance, all its dynamic peaks and troughs and musicality over the full frequency range without coloration or ambiguity. In other words, the more “neutral” the amp is, the more natural and real the sound of the performance is likely to be. You want to listen to music, not to hi-fi or ambiguous tonal coloration that some amplifiers provide you with.
The British built Border Patrol 300B SE (WE) passes these tests with flying colors and room to spare. This component provides 9 watts of the purest amplification you are ever likely to hear short of listening live. Now a price of $6,000 is not to be sneezed at, but in terms of absolute quality, this should be considered a hi-fi bargain of world-class capability. Not a hint of grain clouds the performance. Soaring high frequencies, totally natural mid-range and bass grunt allied to lightening fast reaction to dynamic change and mood together with a sense of scale that provides a thrilling and liquid insight into musical performance. Do all valve amplifiers give you this? You bet they don’t. This is the most honest valve amplifier I have had the privilege to hear. There is an assurance and a calmness that is so difficult to find elsewhere. This amplifier is not built to a cost, but to a quality, allowing its musicality to shine through.
Is there a downside to the amp? Well nothing derogatory. From new, the BP takes a lot of running in. The Hovland capacitors and Western Electric tubes require many hours of playing to provide the naturalness and scale described above. I reckon around 300 hours brings it up to full specification. It does require careful system building to get the best out of it. You should have other components that compliment it, rather than work against it. I use an excellent valve pre-amplifier, and sensitive speakers, and my source components are very fine in their own right. Remember of course that the software may become a weak link. Poorly recorded CDs or vinyl can never bring out the best in your system, though it might try manfully. Remember garbage in, garbage out! My speakers have a sensitivity of 105 db/watt, so that 9 watts can drive it very loud. Listening loud can often become fatiguing over time, but not with this baby! It begs to be listened to sometimes to the extent that it is hard to turn off. I have listened to some of my older music with slack jawed wonder, hearing details and performance that I simply didn’t know was there.
Any of you who watch gymnastics may ask what does the judge look for in a performance. Invariably they answer amplitude and extension. It is the ability to extend to the maximum and make the moves look graceful and natural, with apparent ease that provides a link and synergy between the different skills. This in my mind is an apt way to think about the Border Patrol. It calmly transfers all those musical signals and dynamic shades, has all the right moves without fuss or clutter, providing the most awesome capability within the right system.
I have never tried the Wavelength amplifiers and judging by what one hears about them, they must be good. The BP300BSE creams everything else I know off. Check out the details at www.borderpatrol.net. The short run down is that it has a seperate box choke input fltered and valve rectified power supply for the stages. An input tube, a driver (I use a 5687, it comes with a E182CC-which is far more dynamic and a touch lean)driving the 300B's via interstage transformers. Most if not all caps are Elna's, Black Gates and Hovland's and you get similarly good other parts and point to point wiring. The whole shebang is wonderfully built and designed and is pretty much bullet proof. All this probably keeps the signal strong, clean and low in impedance which when delivered to suitaby efficient speakers (the Living Voice Avatar does mighty fine, as does a Hammer Dynamics) or even with the everyday audiophile speakers (SF Guarneri's, LS3/5A) you get scale, tone, dynamics, speed, clarity in perfect balance. It's bass and dynamics are a revelation and it passes the source signal amplified in all it's glory. Frankly, these days, I look at doing things to almost every other part of the system and pretty much leave the BP on it's own, save a bit of biasing now and then (which frankly, is that part of me saying that something ought to be done!) A piece of equipment that cannot be more highly recommended, probably the way a 300B should be used.