Okay, earlier than we go any additional let’s cope with the moderately sizable elephant leaping up and down vying for our consideration within the room. In the extremely unlikely occasion that you simply’re ever going to return right into a severe amount of cash – say £65,000 – likelihood is treating your self to a brand new stereo energy amplifier likely received’t be the very first thing you’d take into account spending all of it on. But let’s put mundane obligations like mortgages, that horrific bank card stability, the youngsters’ monetary future and changing the household jalopy to at least one aspect for a second and faux that only for as soon as you possibly can put your self first. After all, that is what our Exotica assessments are all about – placing your self into the footwear of a Russian oligarch, Premiership soccer participant or jetset playboy for whom throwing a ton of cash at certainly one of life’s luxuries is a everlasting state of being. If you had been in a position to depend your self amongst such rarified firm, likelihood is Constellation Audio could be an organisation whose merchandise you’d be capable to routinely take pleasure in, moderately than jealously drool over from a distance.
Individually constructed by hand in California, Constellation counts faithfulness to the unique supply as one of many key tenets of its high-end merchandise, explaining that lots of its proprietary design ideas took place because of the corporate ethos of holding sign paths as easy, clear and ideal as attainable. Consequently, the Centaur II 500 – like all the firm’s energy amps – employs a 125W/8ohm energy module with N-type MOSFETs (moderately than complementary NPN and PNP pairs) in a single-ended configuration. There are 4 pairs of those in a balanced/bridged configuration – a transfer that takes its cues from the 250W Centaur II Stereo (a snip at simply £48,000), albeit with a much-improved transformer and energy provide unit. However, these modules usually are not related to the 4mm output terminals within the conventional means by wires, as Constellation as a substitute utilises a sequence of plated copper bus bars bolted collectively and to the rear of the aforementioned outputs.
Externally, minimalism continues to be the order of the day, with the US producer noting that it spends numerous hours creating industrial designs that whereas pleasing to the attention are by no means supposed to be a distraction. Aesthetically not less than, it’s arduous to inform the distinction between the Centaur II 500 Stereo and an influence amp costing significantly much less. Of course, it’s a on condition that in its minimalist means, its moderately lovely to have a look at with its dimpled end proving each beautiful and extremely resilient. Weighing about the identical as Oprah Winfrey give or take a bag of sugar or two, it’s actually no light-weight and would require a world weightlifter (or two common individuals) to shift into place – and also you’ll in all probability need to go away it there while you’re carried out.
The entrance panel options merely a standing gentle and a bar that can be utilized for switching out and in of standby mode (the primary energy swap is situated across the again). When the ability is on the LED glows crimson, however an extended push on the lefthand fringe of the bar initiates a soft-start/self-diagnosis programme throughout which the sunshine begins to flash inexperienced. The amp unmutes and the LED switches to blue as soon as the process has concluded and the amp is steady and totally powered up.
Around the again is a small toggle swap for muting the sound and one for choosing the inputs. The undeniable fact that they’re each so comparable makes it annoyingly simple to mistake one for the opposite and be thrown right into a match of delicate panic when deciding on an enter that you simply’ve by some means damaged the amp when it’s extra doubtless you’ve merely simply muted it by mistake.
On the topic of connections, your selections lengthen to single-ended RCAs, balanced XLRs and a set of XLRs that may be switched from Balanced to Direct – once more utilizing a small toggle swap. Selecting the latter mode bypasses the Centaur II 500 Stereo’s first achieve stage (voltage preamp) – it makes use of low-noise FETs and is totally differential/balanced – to take away it from the sign chain with a purpose to create what’s described as ‘Constellation Link’. Naturally, this enter boasts a decrease total achieve than the usual balanced one, however that is compensated for by the upper total achieve of the preamp. A USB port for firmware updates, 12V set off and RS232 management sockets full the image.
For these which can be aware of Constellation’s vary, the Centaur II 500 Stereo is successfully a 250W Centaur II 500 Stereo boasted by the addition of an influence provide that’s derived from the corporate’s flagship Hercules II amplifier. However, it’s not fairly that straightforward as the utmost voltage of every of the ability provide capacitors has been upped by 30 % with a purpose to address the brand new greater rail voltages. The output phases and their respective heatsinking, in the meantime, stay the identical as they’re thought of as much as the job of dealing with the elevated output.
Sound high quality
Seeing as this isn’t your typical Exotica evaluation, we felt it solely proper that the ability amp be given sufficient time to correctly present what it will possibly do. Consequently, testing is carried out over a number of months with a sequence of various audio system drafted in, starting from Golden Ear’s Triton One R and Paradigm’s Persona 9H to Focal’s Kanta No3 and Bowers and Wilkins’ 800 D3. Needless to say, when pushed by a dCS Vivaldi One digital media participant and put via its paces as each a preamp and a DAC, the outcomes are jaw-droppingly good – highlighting what that moderately disparate choice of loudspeakers is able to when correctly pushed.
More than the rest, the Centaur II 500 Stereo delivers all of the readability, energy and dynamics that even the showiest of playboys may ever want. In quick, the grunt that it brings to the listening room is positively seismic. There’s the very particular impression that it at all times has loads of energy in reserve, regardless of how arduous it’s pushed. But other than simply being an iron fist in a velvet glove, even probably the most highly effective amp finally ends up sounding synthetic if it will possibly’t match all that heft with the requisite agility, delicacy and finesse wanted to subtly illuminate your music assortment moderately than simply blasting via it like a bull in a DeBeers diamond emporium. And it’s right here that issues change into spectacular.
Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra is a becoming take a look at seeing because it reveals off the tone, color and capacities of the varied sections of the orchestra. The Centaur II 500 Stereo not solely highlights each component of the devices, but additionally throws up a couple of emotional surprises alongside the best way. Everything from the thunder of the percussion and the crisp rattle of the snares is excellent, whereas the best way the ultimate fugue grows to an almighty crescendo is hairs on the again of the neck stuff.
Things are simply as backbone tingling
with Paul Lewis’ piano rendition of Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition. Whether it’s the sooner paced or the sloth-like slower ‘footage’, each notice hangs within the air inserting you firmly within the acoustic of Berlin’s Teldex studio. The sound is lush and wealthy whereas sustaining that all-important tight definition.
Putting it via its paces with the rambunctious histrionics of Queen’s Keep Yourself Alive or the refined tender rock of Listen To What the Man Said by Paul McCartney, the agility of this hefty bruiser is evident to listen to. It’s like some mad scientist determined it might be a good suggestion to fuse the ability of Mike Tyson with the agility of Jackie Chan and the finesse of Nureyev. Whatever you throw at it – from chamber music to drum and bass, jazz to heavy rock – the identical deft combination of delicacy and energy come to the fore each time.
Without wishing to revert to being as crass as mentioning the thorny subject of price, at a worth that few individuals can ever get near spending you’d hope that the Centaur II 500 Stereo could be deeply spectacular – in reality you’d in all probability demand it. But it’s the extent of efficiency it conjures up that basically takes the breath away. Very few of us get to expertise weekending in a luxurious penthouse, flying a non-public jet to our personal desert island or taking a Lamborghini Veneno for a spin on the weekend, however as a sonic equal to those high-end thrills little else comes even shut. HFC
Product: Constellation Centaur II 500 Stereo
Type: Stereo energy amplifier
● Quoted energy output: 500W (8ohm)
● Inputs: 1x RCA; 2x XLR (1 for Constellation Link); USB port (for firmware updates)
Read the total evaluation in Issue 464
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