a Audio Enthusiast
from Date Reviewed:
August 22, 2007Bottom Line:
I am from Denmark, and purchased two of these amps (having a pair of Technics SB-M1000, I really need power to kick them into life), so 900 USD in total (used). They came with some cables and a pre-amplifier; Carver CT-26v and it sounded so horrible in 2-channel that, well... I bought a new pre-amplifier: Technics SU-C1000. This was far better, but suddenly the A-500x sounded delayed in transients. It is of my understanding, Bob Carver developed his power amplifiers with tube pre-amplifiers. So a year past and finally I bought a third pre-amplifier. A tube/valve pre-amp called Audio Mirror TP4A. Then the Carvers shone. They run considerably more hot with the tube pre-amp. Maybe the ground noise form the tubes keeps the transistors more 'ready'? Anyway, the A-500x revieled itself as quite detailed and with lots of headroom, and with no delay in transients. Eventhough I am bi-amping these units into 6ohms speakers, I never feel that I have immense power handling. I just do. This is the one point, which is different with the Carvers. It doesn't sound powerfull - other powerfull power amplifiers often sounds 'rock solid' - but not the Carvers. Here is the delicate sound of thunder.
Bying these units used, I still have experienced a harshness; but this was with the Technics SU-C1000, and only when I turned up the volume - with the Audio Mirror TP4A the hasrhness has 90% disappeared. The bass reproduction could be better. It is not exceptionally low nor tight, but it is acceptable. The highs are close to 'sweet', because it sounds mild and detailed. The midrange is good and a little 'warm' sounding. Almost any kind of horn (trumpets, sax, french horn etc.) sounds 'right'! Compared to the Luxman M-383 (200W, 8ohm), the A-500x is more detailed and clear. Compared to a SiriuS DM100 (100W, 8ohm) it has a hard time keeping up - but it is still more warm sounding, and with oozes of drive, it really got that air guitar factor.
The Carver A-500x is a strange brew. It just kind of is there. With a good signal and pre-amp it sounds good. With a bad ditto, it sounds bad. The overall sound is very clear, and I haven't detected any muddiness or murkiness. It is not a musical power amp.
So, A-500x is very powerfull, but doesn't sounds powerfull. It sounds warm, but it isn't musical. It has good detail and headroom, but it isn't analytical. It just kind of is there, but then again, it isn't neutral(...). It sounds clear, but it isn't what one might call 'open'.
Who should buy a Carver A-500x: Hi-fi enthusiast on a budget and the patience to match them with the right pre-amp. My claim is, you haven't heard what A-500x is capable of, if you haven't heard the with a tube pre-amp. But these Carvers are not good enough for an audiophile, hence they can everything rather well, but nothing (except power) exceptionally good. Although I must add, I have a hard time finding out, what amplifier I should buy next; while I'm used to (and happy with) the Carvers special sound. So my plan for the moment is to upgrade the Carvers. First of all, the potentiometers on the back got to go. These are, as far as I can tell, 'of the rack' ((really!!!) poor quality). Also, there is a problem with hum. This is from the transformator, and I cannot belive, this has no influence on the sound. So a better power supply is next step. With these two upgrades, it might be a lot better. And it might not.
A return to the special sound: The sound of these power amps are, in my opinion, to prefer with blues, jazz and soft rock; and some fine classical music. Heavy rock and big orchestral arrangements are let down by the lack of impact (keep in mind, my speakers also have these tendencies, but hearing them in combination with other power amplifiers has maked me convinced, it is not just the speakers). Used for A/V I'm not sure. Many A/V-products sounds a little hard, a little bright and a little metallic; great for movies, but that kind of sound is not a good match for the Carver. It will really make it scream!
Listening mostly to LPs through a tube pre-amp, the sound is very involving. I think, if you match the A-500x with a Croft Vitale, you got a combo that will sing. The Vitale are inexpensive and have a pair of tubes, so even this is possible to run on a budget. And strangely, a pair of easy driven speakers might be the right choice; though my speakers aren't exactly easy to drive.
This is the end: The sound of 'little' or 'weak' amplifier is present, but it never gets nervous og 'jumpy' - and it never becomes short of breath. It just plays smoothly; LP/tube-like and with fairly good dynamics.
So, when you are sitting quietly enjoying those delicate sounds, then suddenly there is a transient, and this power amplifier will blow your house down, and then you're sitting there, wondering what happened, while the A-500x sounds oh so delicate once more.
Used product for: More than 1 year
Duration Product Used: Audio Enthusiast
Product model year: 1999
Purchased At: 2005-?-?