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In a previous post I reviewed 10 amps, one of those 10 was a Dussun V6i and it ranked quite well. I later got to thinking about this “enhanced class A” trend that a few manufacturers have embraced and it seemed like a fair idea to compare them directly with each other. So what the heck, I gave it a go.
Only 3 companies make an “enhanced class A” integrated amp (that I am aware of), they are:
Opera Consonance who call their version “cool running class A”.
Cambridge Audio with their “class XD”, the 840A being the only example in their line up.
Dussun with the V6, V8 and R30 “hyper class A” amps.
Unfortunately I could not find (or borrow) an Opera Consonance amp at the right price so I had to make do with a Dussun V6i and a Cambridge 840A V2.
I hooked up the 840A and ran it in for 50 hours or so, right away I was struck by how rich and warm it sounded. It was also very smooth. The warmth settled with burn in but the rich, smooth sound stayed. The 840A has plenty of power at 130W and it always gave the impression that it had a large power reserve as well. I really liked the performance of the 840A, it never missed a beat and gave a very even presentation with that nice smoothness, richness and fullness to the entire soundstage permeating from the highs all the way through to the lows. A very pleasing performance!
I should mention too that, if you take the top plate off the 840A its insides are a thing of beauty indeed. The PCB’s shine blue with white “Cambridge Audio” script standing out a mile and a pair of massive 15000uF capacitors per channel of power filtration/supply. A massive toroidal transformer surrounded by 2 crescent moon shaped heat sinks finishes off the picture. If there were an award for the sexiest integrated amp interior design of all time then this would definitely be a finalist.
It is worth noting at this point that I had not heard the V6i for several months prior to this comparo, since it was already run in I had no real need to, I remembered it as being a fine amp at about the same level as the 840A. I was looking forward to the competition that the 840A would give it since both seemed to be very good examples of integrated amps.
Quite a bit clearer than the 840A with a much more forward soundstage and an edge to the sound that I could only really refer to as “Def Leppard-ish”, distortion used in a “pump your fist in the air” kind of way. The edgy sound that the V6i lends to an electric guitar just has to be heard to be believed and as for power reserves, I’m afraid the word ample is just not big enough to be used here, no integrated I have yet heard has come close to matching the sheer awesome power that the V6i has on tap. An excellent amp, but that edginess that is such a large aspect of its sonic signature gets very hard to take at high volume, and by high volume I mean anything over 3.5 on the dial, which maxes out at 12. I can only imagine how powerful the V8i sounds!
You would never mistake one amp for the other, they sound markedly different, but which one sounds better? I have to give the nod to the Dussun, it is quite likely that any vinyl lovers would choose the Cambridge in a heartbeat but I’m not one of them, the Dussun has the edge in power and clarity.
As for other differences there are a few, the Cambridge can be turned on and off (or into standby) via the remote where the Dussun cannot, it has no standby function and has to be turned on and off at the power button on the amp itself. Both amps start themselves up at zero volume but only the Cambridge ramps itself back up to its previous set volume a few seconds after startup. The Dussun just sits at zero and waits for you to turn the volume up, any previous settings have to be remembered by the user or they are lost for good. One interesting point, which I will address in more depth in the next paragraph, is that the Dussun pre and power stages are not connected internally, the signal from pre to power travels via jumpers bridging the pre out and power in plugs on the rear of the amp. While the Cambridge has a pre out, it does not have a power in. The Cambridge also has balanced in, 12v trigger connections and a network port, which the Dussun does not have.
I have mentioned the Cambridge interior design above and I have to say that the Dussun is indeed very different. For a start it is about twice the size of the Cambridge with 2 toroidal transformers (one for each channel) mounted in separate enclosures. The power filtration capacitors are mounted in between the transformers, with 4 8500uF caps per channel, more than the 840A certainly, but not a lot more. The PCB’s are all separated by a fair amount of space, preamp board at the back and power board along each side. The Dussun also makes use of a copper interior chassis, similar to the higher end Marantz designs, which looks very classy and probably helps with heat dissipation.
Both amps get quite warm, I would not put either of them in an enclosed cabinet and I certainly would not place anything on top of them, but not seriously hot.
After I had finished with my comparo, I remembered reading somewhere that the Dussun sounds better if the stock jumpers (pre out to power in) are replaced, so, just for kicks, I pulled them out and replaced them with a standard interconnect. The result was quite remarkable, that edge that was so hard to take at high volume was reduced, the very forward presentation that the amp was responsible for earlier was pulled back to a slightly forward presentation and yet that edge was still present where it should be, on the electric guitar. I would not have thought it possible but the entire sound range became much more level and listen-able. In short the Dussun became a 15% better amp for the cost of a $25 cable, now that is what I call value for money.
And thinking of money, the Cambridge retails for 2K, the Dussun for 3K (supposedly) in Oz. Realistically the Cambridge can be purchased for 1 to 1.1K over ebay and the Dussun can be had for $1400 from Eastwood HiFi or for about 1K plus postage over ebay. So at the moment the Dussun, which is a more powerful amp that sounds cooler and clearer, is available cheaper than the Cambridge.
At some point I am going to have to listen to the V8i. Last weekend I had the V6i blasting out 98db rock music at a setting of about 4.25 on the volume dial, do I need more power than that, hell no, but I want it!