Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps

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catluck

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Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« on: 1 Sep 2022, 01:43 pm »
Threads in this forum have addressed listening chairs, power conditioners, cables, DAC's, amps, etc., etc.  Recently I acquired a pair of gaNfets, gallium nitride amps from Class D Audio. The transformation in listening was so profound I had to share it.  Originally shared on ASR's site:

"I thought I might weigh in on the Premium Audio mini Gan 5.  After reading Daniboun's comments, and fully aware of Amir's really troubling measurements, I contacted Tom Rost at Class D Audio to discuss. Tom suggested that the unit Amir measured was "broken." Although I found Tom's other answers to my questions less than compelling, Class D Audio allows a 15-day trial period. So, for the total shipping cost of $32 I could try this "new" technology and decide for myself. I ordered a pair of mini Gan 5's ($1,400) to use as monoblocks.  Tom indicates that as monoblocks they output 300 watts @ 8ohms and 400 watts @ 4ohms.  To be truthful, I was expecting, yes the dreaded BIAS!!, the units to be less, far less in fact, than they were advertised to be, i.e., class A quality (?), audiophile quality, SOTA, and so on.  After several email inquiries/responses with Tom, I wanted to be generous but Amir’s measurements on ASR  really troubled me.  Nonetheless, I ordered a pair and several days ago I received a large box containing two small boxes each housing a diminutive, solidly built albeit sober 5 lb. amp.  No audiophile jewelry here and, frankly, I’m grateful for that.  Upon hook-up and initial turn on, only a barely, and I mean just barely, discernable hiss with my ear almost touching the tweeter cover of Spatial Audio Sapphire M3's.  The internal blue led's indicated the amps were operating - SO FAR SO GOOD.  I waited several hours and then couldn't help myself.  Put on Ben Webster "Stormy Weather" and,  and,................................., I was astonished.  Ben's sax was utterly corporeal, burnished, with the most life-like tone color and dynamics I've heard.   As Daniboun noted, the bass is also exemplary.  I won’t claim that the M3's  may as well be different speakers but....I hadn’t heard them sounding this musical previously.  The bass is so alive - propulsive, dense tone, with excellent texture and pitch.  String tone is sweet and superbly textured.  Instrument placing across the soundstage is precise and well differentiated.  Listening to the Baz Trio, an exceptional recording of a great piano trio, and, again, just sat transfixed.  Piano tone was dense, rich, pure with superb  dynamic scaling.  Same with Charlap _ Notes from New York.  Bass is really noticeably more present.  Listened to Lovano, Monk,  Charlap, Evans, Davis, Pepper, Baker, etc.  Snare has greater snap and definition. The sound is utterly refined and by that I guess I mean no discernable noise, hash, grit, grain, glare, edge - nothing one would ordinarily associate with class D and all emanating from a dead silent black background.  This ain’t your father’s class D.  All listenings were revelatory compared to previous listenings.  The clarity, transparency, and resolution are among the best I’ve heard from any circuit topology.  In fact, last night I got up around midnight just to come downstairs and listen. Haven't done that in probably 25 years.  I've run the M3's with (a sampling but not all kit): tubes (Psvane 845, VTL 6550's), class D mosfet (Bel Canto eRef 600's), and class A-A/B sand amps (Pass, Sim Audio, Levinson) - all as monoblocks.  These 5 lb. toys are not just competitive but, IMO, superior to all I’ve owned.  And it's not like you have to ponder, stroke your beard and look to the heavens for signs.  Upon the first hearing it seemed rather obvious.  Like Daniboun, I don't care to, and won't, get into the subjective/objective debate.  Yes, ceteris paribus, I would  prefer kit with superior objective measurements.  But, as noted in the opinion piece (As We See It) in the Jan., 2019 issue of Stereophile (Vol.42, No.1), too many unanswered questions about measurements and their relationship/impact on audio quality and listening preferences.  In truth, I just don't give a shit anymore.  As I noted elsewhere in this forum, I want to be ravished by music and if it sounds good, I don't care if it's generated by mice spinning a wheel.  These amps are transformational in my system.  I don’t mean to gush but when the listening experience is transformed to this degree, well, I have to report what I’m hearing.  I consider it a public service announcement. I'm not typically given to excess.  I understand the objectivists will howl and curse my name as they dance around the bonfire under the full moon.  Don’t care.  Think I'm full of shit?  Maybe I am - but all you need to do is try gallium nitride GanFets..  As noted I went with Tom at Class D Audio and confirmed a trial period of 15 days as advertised on the website. If you try this product and don't agree with me, in the worst case you're out $32 for shipping for 15 days to listen.  But, be prepared to keep the units because you may find your listening experience transformed.  BTW, I'm not affiliated or associated in any way with Premium Audio or Class D Audio."

 


musicdre

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #1 on: 1 Sep 2022, 02:07 pm »
great post!  i have had a similar experience very recently with a nord one class D "ncore" amp.  utterly fabulous sound with my M3s.  and i had been biased against class D from prior experience, but took advantage of a return policy and gave class D another shot after reading reviews confirming that Class D has come a long way forward recenlty.

really dont want to open the door to a debate on measurements either - but the amir/audioscience site never seems to correlate the dreaded distortion that they giddily measure with any sonic effects whatsoever.  its like they dont care at all what something sounds like, only how it measures.  i am the other way around, only care about how something sounds, not how it measures.  if others find that measurements correspond with what they hear - i am happy.

thanks again for bringing these particular amps to the attention of spatial owners. 

spatial sounds great with good class D = who knew? :)

catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #2 on: 1 Sep 2022, 02:20 pm »
Musicdre,
Thanks for chiming in.  As I've matured, i.e., gotten old, through decades of pursuing this passionate "hobby?" I've come to agree with you far more than disagree, i.e., ultimately it's what the kit sounds like. If not, what?  Does one buy a piece for its measurements even if you're not enamored with its "sound"?   Don't think so. And that's without even beginning to consider how to correlate measurements with musical presentation and listening preferences.  As I've noted, yeah, we would generally prefer better measuring kit to lesser measuring. But isn't is ultimately the "sound"?  Anyway, thanks for the support. The objectivist crowd really seems to have great difficulty with the role sound appreciation should play in deciding what to own.  So, again, thank you for that.  One last thing: I do want to emphasize that as much as I like my Bel Canto eRef 600's (class D MOSFET amps) the sonic differences in gallium nitride (gaNfets) are striking - something to hear. But, in the end, I wholly agree with you about how good class D sounds on the Sapphires.

newzooreview

Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #3 on: 1 Sep 2022, 02:42 pm »
The Premium Audio Products website doesn't list monoblocks for sale. There is a link for monoblocks, but the page just displays "We can't find products matching the selection." https://premium-audio.com/catalog/category/view/s/gan-amps/id/54/

Was your pair of monoblocks a prototype or one-off custom set?

Many thanks.

Nevermind. The classdaudio site shows a pair of monoblocks. https://classdaudio.com/pair-of-mini-gan-5-monoblock-amplifiers.html

It seems as if the Premium Audio Products site is run by the same person but not as up to date as the classdaudio site. There is no physical address for the company(ies) visible on either site. They say they offer a 15 day trial in some places and a 21 day trial in others. Hmmm.

Mr. Big

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #4 on: 1 Sep 2022, 03:18 pm »
The Premium Audio Products website doesn't list monoblocks for sale. There is a link for monoblocks, but the page just displays "We can't find products matching the selection." https://premium-audio.com/catalog/category/view/s/gan-amps/id/54/

Was your pair of monoblocks a prototype or one-off custom set?

Many thanks.

You have to wonder about this manufacturer. Here today is gone tomorrow?. The site is just not that good.

catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #5 on: 1 Sep 2022, 03:33 pm »
NewZooReview - try "Class D Audio" for the monoblocks.  They're listed.

Mr. Big - You're RIGHT.  And your observations definitely informed my concerns hence the colloquy between Tom and myself. Turns out Class D Audio does substantial design/manufacture work, according to Tom, for other companies.  True? I have no idea but I'll be generous and take Tom at his word.  Tom indicates that he has website additions in design.  We'll see. Could cost me $1,400 and that's meaningful for sure.  I admit I took a leap here. 

newzooreview

Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #6 on: 1 Sep 2022, 03:38 pm »
You have to wonder about this manufacturer. Here today is gone tomorrow?. The site is just not that good.

Yeah, touting designed and made in the USA and concealing the physical address of the business is an odd choice, as is the poorly photoshopped stock photo on the home page. I know the amp might sound fantastic. One is alway intrigued with potential technological advances. But a trustworthy business, I have found, matters just as much.

With a site re-design underway then perhaps the owner can consider such feedback. It would be good to see a small business with a good product grow and succeed.





catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #7 on: 1 Sep 2022, 03:39 pm »
Newzooreview - Sorry. I didn't see your "nevermind" stuff. You're right about the 15 day - 21 day conflict.  Tom indicated 15 days no problem.  Again, I'm trying to be generous in this situation and if you argued, "why?" I get it.  I tried to do as much due diligence as reasonable under the circumstances.  If these amps weren't so musical, to my worthless brain, well they would have gone back by now.  But even acknowledging Mr. Big's wholly meritorious comments, and your concerns as well, I'm keeping them.  My hope, and it's only hope (and, yes, I know, "live in hope, die in despair") is that if Tom's shop has made it through the last 2 years or so perhaps it's indicative of staying power.  I don't know and I readily admit that. Choose another gallium nitride brand and see if you can get a trial period. If so, I highly recommend this technology.

catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #8 on: 1 Sep 2022, 03:42 pm »
Folks,
FWIW, below is a snippet of Tom's response to some of my questions which were instigated by the very concerns you raised,

"Hi Rob,
 
 
Thank you.. this sounds really good. Of course I don't like the Amir thing mentioned only because whenever this comes up, I get overwhelmed with emails asking about it and I can't get my work done. People don't understand that we are a small company and the only reason we can sell a product of this quality, and make them here in the USA is because we actually manufacture these ourselves. I'm not sitting at the computer all day marketing products or answering phones, but I am actually out in the shop running these boards and other to make these amps. I don't know any other company that does this as it is so much easier to have other companies manufacture their products or buy amp modules from companies like Hypex, ICEpower, and others. They put then in their own case and charge a bundle for them.  I'm working 7 days a week and most evenings trying to get these fantastic amplifiers out at a price average people can afford. it's easy to make a great product if money is no object, but to make a great product and bring it in at a price average people can afford, this is the hard part and has been my focus for the last 14 years."

catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #9 on: 1 Sep 2022, 03:47 pm »
Newzooreview,
I forgot to mention that when the amps are shipped the address of Class D Audio is included on the label.  They're located in Corona, CA at 1149 Pomona Road.  Not to get too nerdy I also checked with the Secretary of State's office as part of my due diligence.  In any event, you and Mr. Big are still right to express concern.  I guess I've been won over by my several emails with Tom and the final product which shipped in 48 hours and is really quite beautiful to behold in a spartan sort of way.  But be clear, it's a totally finished product. As always, FWIW.

newzooreview

Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #10 on: 1 Sep 2022, 04:54 pm »
Newzooreview,
I forgot to mention that when the amps are shipped the address of Class D Audio is included on the label.  They're located in Corona, CA at 1149 Pomona Road.  Not to get too nerdy I also checked with the Secretary of State's office as part of my due diligence.  In any event, you and Mr. Big are still right to express concern.  I guess I've been won over by my several emails with Tom and the final product which shipped in 48 hours and is really quite beautiful to behold in a spartan sort of way.  But be clear, it's a totally finished product. As always, FWIW.

Thanks. Makes good sense.

How are the Monoblocks set up on the rear? The only photos on the site are for the stereo version.

mick wolfe

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #11 on: 1 Sep 2022, 05:19 pm »
Several months ago when tube shortages appeared and the tube gouging began, I went ahead and purchased a Classdaudio Mini GaN 3.  This figuring it was less costly than retubing any of my three tube amps with the then current tube gouge in play.  Having owned a few Classdaudio amps in the past, I've always been impressed with their overall value and fit/finish. Although the Mini GaN 3 is much smaller than my previous Classdaudio amps, the quality fit/finish and overall feel of the amp remains exceptional at this price point. In regard to the sound, very good with exceptional bass response. While not quite at the level of my tube amps in regard to midrange presence, its bass response surpasses them.  All in all, a superb value IMHO. 

Mr. Big

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #12 on: 1 Sep 2022, 05:36 pm »
Several months ago when tube shortages appeared and the tube gouging began, I went ahead and purchased a Classdaudio Mini GaN 3.  This figuring it was less costly than retubing any of my three tube amps with the then current tube gouge in play.  Having owned a few Classdaudio amps in the past, I've always been impressed with their overall value and fit/finish. Although the Mini GaN 3 is much smaller than my previous Classdaudio amps, the quality fit/finish and overall feel of the amp remains exceptional at this price point. In regard to the sound, very good with exceptional bass response. While not quite at the level of my tube amps in regard to midrange presence, its bass response surpasses them.  All in all, a superb value IMHO.

Class D amps always have good bass, the rest is lacking.

mick wolfe

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #13 on: 1 Sep 2022, 05:38 pm »
Just a quick caveat to the above assessment.  The Mini GaN 3 was NOT used with a Spatial speaker in this case.  That said, I'm fairly confident there would be no compatibility issues.

mick wolfe

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #14 on: 1 Sep 2022, 05:46 pm »
Class D amps always have good bass, the rest is lacking.

Point well taken. Yet better than one might think at this price point. Still, tube amps rule the midrange with overall "in the room" presence.

Early B.

Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #15 on: 1 Sep 2022, 07:34 pm »
Timely topic. Today, the amp on my second system gave out, so I began searching for a replacement and ran into this thread. I just pulled the trigger on a Mini gaN 5 which will be paired with a tube preamp. I took advantage of their Labor Day sale which is $10 off. :lol: 

I'm sold on Class D. My main system is powered by Purifi modules. Best amp I've ever owned.




catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #16 on: 1 Sep 2022, 09:41 pm »
The monos use the stereo chassis for now.  Tom blocks the 2 speaker binding post holes and XLR input with some kind of very dense material possibly a plastic which is secured by screws. Very tight and not at all hokey or DIY garage stuff.  I respectfully disagree with Mick Wolfe (and maybe Mr. Big) concerning mid-range presence. Not in the sense that the Wolfe contends his tube amps give a better midrange presence. I can't argue with his experience (or Mr. Big's for that matter).  But, I'm using monos, not the stereo version and I can say that these amps appear, in every way, to be the equal of my tube amps albeit they are 50 watt class A not 300 watt class D.  To me,  the point is that the Mini Gans are every bit as satisfying and, in fact to my brain, more so, than my tube amps.  I'm currently using the Psvane 845's and I'll put them up against any 845 amp made.  As I've stated previously, I've owned Nagra, Cary, Bel Canto and these Psvanes.  But, the goofy little Mini Gan 5's are just that good to my ears.  Likewise, the Bel Canto eRef 600's which have garnered rave reviews and deservedly so.  But these MiniGans rule IMO. And I would humbly, sincerely so, remind the doubters that until you've actually listened to these amps,  you don't have an informed opinion. I keep listening to them to see if I'll derive the same sense, feelings, conclusions about their musicality. So far, I do.  And understand I would never disserve my brothers and sisters in this forum if I thought otherwise. I would much prefer to embarrass myself by publicly admitting I've changed my mind (I made a mistake!) about these amps,  than be the cause of someone here spending $ because I knowingly misled them and lacked the integrity to admit it.  Not going to happen.   

catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #17 on: 1 Sep 2022, 09:57 pm »
One more thing: The Wolfe's minGan 3 is a stereo amp with 120 watts/channel while, again, the stereo 5 being 200 watts/channel unless you get the monos (I'm using) which increases to 300 watts/channel and 400 watts @ 4 ohms (relevant given the M3's impedance curve). It could make a difference in mid-range presence and bass. And, FWIW, how does one value exceptional bass (which the miniGans deliver) even against a tube amp which one feels might score higher in midrange presence but has, by comparison, a much less musical bass presentation? I'm trying to suggest that you needn't give up exceptional bass to gain tube-like mid-range presence. I know I sound crazy.  Believe me. Who knows - maybe it's time for me to move to Happy Acres and buy a bib. But rest assured - I'm takin' the miniGans with me.

Daryl Zero

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #18 on: 1 Sep 2022, 10:38 pm »
One more thing: The Wolfe's minGan 3 is a stereo amp with 120 watts/channel while, again, the stereo 5 being 200 watts/channel unless you get the monos (I'm using) which increases to 300 watts/channel and 400 watts @ 4 ohms (relevant given the M3's impedance curve). It could make a difference in mid-range presence and bass. And, FWIW, how does one value exceptional bass (which the miniGans deliver) even against a tube amp which one feels might score higher in midrange presence but has, by comparison, a much less musical bass presentation? I'm trying to suggest that you needn't give up exceptional bass to gain tube-like mid-range presence. I know I sound crazy.  Believe me. Who knows - maybe it's time for me to move to Happy Acres and buy a bib. But rest assured - I'm takin' the miniGans with me.

What preamp are you using?
Also, I think Happy Acres supplies the bibs for free, at least, they did for me.  :D

catluck

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Re: Sapphire M3's - Gallium Nitride Amps
« Reply #19 on: 1 Sep 2022, 11:49 pm »
Dr. Z,
Was using a BAT VK-52SE. Got really tired of dealing with the 6h30's (at least one was, too often, unhappy about something and spitting, noisy, etc.) so I got rid of it and just started using the DAC. Now using Okto Research DAC 8's upstairs and downstairs.  Outstanding DAC w/volume control.  Additionally, after reading Atkinson's review on the Topping Pre90 (a glowing review) I'm trying that as well with the DAC's volume control by-passed.  I was thinking of starting a new thread - Are We Ready To Simplify- because that's the direction I'm heading.  Sound with DAC alone (and even slightly more so with Pre 90) remains vivid, dimensional, but with a much, much quieter background allowing for greater immediacy and detail, IMO, than the BAT or any other tube pre's I've owned.  I'm really looking for the proverbial wire with gain (fix tone issues upstream) and the naked DAC and/or Topping seem closer to that than any preamp I've owned. Where impedance and/or voltage values make a pre necessary, well, that's why I'm trying the Pre90.