Llano Design Group A-100 Amplifiers

Llano Design Group A-100 Amplifiers 


(See reviews)


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[Jul 08, 1997]
Ivan Johnson
an Audio Enthusiast

Pure class A amplifier 100 watts/channel ( mine measures 175) using distributed node power supply and Hexfets in 2 stage signal path.
Comparison: Madrigal 331, Quicksilver 135 monos. System with Linn Sondek, ADCOM CD player, Mark Levinson ML1/A4E phono, QUAD ESL 63s, stereo JANIS/interfase subwoofers, ADCOM subwoofer amp, also ran amp full range.

Quicksilvers sounded powerful and a large image but made everything sound the same. 331 excellent but sounded electronic compared to the LLANO.

The LLANO is the first amplifier that provided a 3 dimensional image in the system that R & P Walker promised the '63s would if driven by "excellent" electronics.

Highly recommended, a bargain at the price of $1995. Also kudos to the company for good customer service.

[Jun 22, 1997]
Joseph Lee Jr.
an Audiophile

I ordered a LLano Design A-100 power amplifier recentlyand finally had the opportunity to listen to it. The LLano Design
A-100 is a hand-built 100 watt per channel pure CLASS-A stereo power
amplifier designed and built by Randy White of Lubbock, Texas.
It weighs about 65lbs, has a very simple (but carefully engineered)
circuit topology. Adorned with both gold-plated RCA (single-ended)
and XLR (balanced) inputs and two (2) sets of output binding posts
for bi-wire capability.
The A-100 employes a total of two (2) discrete CLASS-A gain stages (from input to output. LLano Design Group, Nelson Pass amplifers and a few others use this type of circuit for optimum signal integrity. Most amps use
three (3) or more gain stages with all manner of complex biasing
schemes and other signal-degrading protection circuits. The LLano
Design Group chose to go with a high-bias, direct-coupled, pure CLASS-A
circuit employing eight (8) pair of modern HEXFET power transistors like those
used in the PASS amps. The HEXFETS are a new type of (power Field
Effect Transistor) with a greater power-handling capability and
linearity than standard MOSFETS. The HEXFETS also cost three (3)
times as much as Bi-Polar transistors (a Krell staple). The stiffly
regulated power supply is an impressive 2kVA with 300,000 mFD of filter
capicitors and mil-spec parts tolerances. This is alot of amp
for the price of a 'used' Krell and at $1,995 (*Including FED EX air freight!) it competes with all but the BIGGEST, 'BADDEST', cost-no-object superamps.
By the way, for power freaks, White makes several superamps including a 200
watt/channel CLASS-A model (the A-200) and SA-2.5 Differential amp (750 watts at 8 ohms/ biased @ 150 watts CLASS-A)

The LLano A-100 runs quite warm...but it sounds SO good! I
played a few reference CD's (the one's I use when trying out new gear
because I know how they're supposed to sound) and the sound quality
was delightfully listenable...
I'm impressed! This amp sounds totally different than my former Krell KSA-50...Much better and talkin' about 'balls!", Randy wasn't
lying. This amp has so much speaker control and dynamics
... and the A-100 is so petite (not little in the sense that it's a
little amp). It's got a small footprint. The A-100 has considerably more musicality than the Krell with a lively (non-analytical) character akin to the
PASS Alephs...just like Randy said! Not only that, the A-100 has
greater degree of transparency than the KSA-50, the soundstage is also
deeper than the Krell with a better sense of musical pace and
immediacy. The A-100 is a lively sounding amplifier!

The perceived soundstage depth between and behind the speakers
is greater with a very defined space and placement of each instrument.
Also recorded reverbs and ambience (that hang in silent passages) have
very distinct decays and HF rolloffs that can be plainly heard thru
this amp. I know a little bit about recording and can tell if even the
reverbs used sound processed or not as well as if a Neumann, AKG-414, Shure SM-57, or CAD mic was utilized. The mids have a high degree of
delicacy and sweetnes (very much like the PASS) smooth...By no means
does the amp have a laid back character with rolled-off highs. The
highs are smooth and articulate out past the range of human hearing.

The LLano A-100 makes music sound more believable than the KSA-50.
Also, the dynamic range with the Apogee Stages seems almost unrestricted. It
will play them VERY loud without fatigue. I knew when the KSA-50 was
at or near clipping because:
1) It just wouldn't go any louder and started sounding compressed.
2) One or both tweeter panels would totally freak-out and start
twisting and turning (a VERY bad sign!!!) which is
a visual queue that the amp is starting to put out square waves
(distortion) AND the tweeter panels are getting ready to
overheat...which could prove disasterous.
3) Anomolies such as high-pitched 'ringing' or a 'ping-sound' on
certain passages (further signs of distress).

I experienced none of these phenomenon with the Apogee Stages being
driven by the LLano A-100. The music had the same sense of believability
when played at loud volumes as it did at soft or middle listening
levels. Also, there was no audible compression, narrowing of the
soundstage or displacement of instruments (overall congestion) in the
music with the A-100.

I just couldn't wait 'til the A-100 arrived and bought an Aragon 4004
for the interim (you know the one that Stereophile went 'nuts' over)
It does not sound (by any stretch of the imagination) near as good.
Not even close...and the bass was over-ripe at that...akin to a
modified Adcom GFA 555 II mid-fi amp. Either the 4004 was not
designed for use with ribbon loudspeakes or the reviwers at
Stereophile are getting 'PAID' for favorable comments and
recommendations. I feel that the Aragon 4004 is a mid-fi amp at
best...and it received a CLASS-B recommendation!?
Probably would work good for the MiniGrand subs...but that's about

The build-quality of the LLano A-100 is definitely on-par
with the Krell & Mark Levinsons in terms of fit and finish. This was a major concern of mine, having never seen one up-close. The amp
is black aluminum and has a 1/4 inch thick faceplate with beveled
rackmount holes. It's got these two (2) big cylindrical handles on
the front which are at least 3/4 inch thick. The chassis
and faceplate are attached with brass allen bolts (they give it a
'bold' kind of look) and the LLANO emblem is a thick brass plackard.
Also the heat sinks are not thin mickey-mouse type that'll cut you,
like those on 'mid-fi' amplifiers. The heatsinks on the A-100 are
very thick and distribute the heat away from the amplifier very
evenly. In fact, the entire chassis is a very effective heatsink.

My first impression of the LLano Design A-100 is:
sweet, articulate, powerful, dynamic...great sense of
musical pace, ect...ect...
It's a 'first rate' thoughtfully designed component,
built like a tank, and a pleasure to listen to...with truly
remarkable sonic integrity, and speaker control...(I almost
forgot) and DEAD quiet! ***There's alot of engineering and research that
went into the design of this amp.
Randy White made such a big deal about how quiet his amps were and why he utilizes wooden feet to reduce noise.
Once the amp is powered-up you can't tell it's on without looking at
the blue LED on the front panel...it's THAT quiet!

If Randy White gets a favorable review in Stereophile or
Absolute Sound (which he probably will...unless the reviewer has a
'bad-hair' day), he's going to corner the market with these amps and
gain the recognition he deserves in this industry. LLano Design
Group's product speaks for itself!

***And on a more personal note, Randy White, chief designer is the
nicest guy you could ever meet. He will take the time to talk or
write to you and answer in-depth questions (even those not directly
related to his products). Additionally, Mr. White does not 'down' the
designs (current or past) of other manufacturers and spoke in
reverence to D'Agostino's Krells and the Nelson PASS amps of late.

I can fully understand why people hang on to these amps
(barring financial difficulty) and why there are SO few for sale on
the 'used' market. The only LLano (or White) amp I've even heard was
forsale recently was an SA2.5 in a well-known bi-weekly audio
publication for top $$$

Affectionately named 'DARLA' , my LLano Design A-100 is definitely a keeper!

Please give the LLano an audition before considering the
purchase of a Krell or Pass. You won't be disappointed!

Check out LLano Design Group's homepage at: http://www.LLanodesign.com
for more information about LLano amplifiers.

There are several reviews of LLano amps (by other owners) on Usenet newsgroups: rec.audio.high-end and rec.audio.opinion
If these can't be found on your server go to http://www.DEJANEWS.com
and type in "LLano"

Best regards,
Joseph Lee Jr. (Joe Lee)

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