Price: 50 000 zł
ul. Skrzetuskiego 42, 02-726 Warszawa
phone: 22 586 32 70
fax: 22 586 32 71
Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski
Thomasa Höhne is a man of many talents. As you can read in the interview, that was part of the test of the amplifier Aaron No.1.a, his main areas of interest are flying and audio. Thomas owns two brands – the mentioned Aaron and the ultra hi-end, very rarely found in tests, Sovereign. The latter is something very special for him, because those are ultimately finished and polished items. This is the brand, where an amplifier was built, that has reached the Guinness Book of Records as “The largest audio amplifier in the world”. However the tested power amplifier, the Glory, has dimensions more classical, more in line with my Luxman M-800A. And that has made the comparison of those two, very distinct construction wise, devices extremely interesting.
Discs used for testing:
Japanese versions of the discs available on CD Japan
Like every high quality amplifier, the Sovereign glued me to the loudspeakers, like a wanderer is being glued to a bottle of water. A device with a similar dimensions to my Luxman M-800A, but with bigger output power, sounded in such a way, that I activated “search mode” – I listened to discs one after another, picking them through associative thinking. When, for example, I heard a nice contrabass on the disc Soul Station Hank Mobley, in the newest re-mastered XRCD24, then I immediately wanted to hear, how Lars Danielsson contrabass will sound on Pasodoble, recorded together with Leszek Możdżer. And how will electronics sound? Hence Void from the group De Vision, and then, the much better recorded, but not so young, album Bird without Wings Diary of Dreams. I am just naming some examples, but I want to convey some of the emotions, that I had during this test. The first question I pose to myself, when testing a high class amplifier, is as follows: “Does the X perform better than my Luxman?” Because only then, I can ask what is better/worse, what is different/the same and relate that to other devices, which I also compared with the Luxman. In that case the answer was quite simple – yes, the Glory is better than the M-800A. Did I like it? Yes, for sure! Would I trade for it? No. Ha! This is deceptive…
The German amplifier sounds in a way, which is quite similar to the Luxman, although somewhat different in many aspects. Splendid tonal balance and incredible cleanness of the sound are favoring it. I mentioned Pasodoble, and this is exactly the disc, where I heard the fantastic piano Możdżer played. The instrument had outstanding upper range, exceptionally vivid, clean and dynamic. Although the Sovereign is not a romantic amplifier, like the slightly warmer Luxman, it is not “bright” in the common meaning of that word. Brighter are for example the integrater Aaron No.1.a, which came from the same hands, and the power amplifier Krell EVO402. Even more - stronger treble can be found in the A-65 Accuphase. But still I would not name any of those “bright”. It is just, that the energy of the treble is high with those, there is a lot happening in that area, etc. The Glory sounds in a very balanced way, but it also does not fear the upper registers, it does not hide anything there. When the cymbals hit, then they are strong, brilliantly articulated and have good weight. They are not so saturated as with the M-800A, but their attack is better, their dynamics is better differentiated and “impulsiveness” too. That makes the sound open and strong. But this is probably the right tonal balance. I remember perfectly the sound of the Silver Grand Mono monoblocks from the Krakow based Ancient Audio (test HERE), and, if I remember well, the “dynamics of the events” was very similar to that, what the Sovereign presented. In contrast, the Reimyo PAT-777, while using the 300B tubes, like the Silver does, sounded much warmer, attention concentrated more on the midrange. The tested amplifier is more open and transparent.
Its midrange is just a continuation of the whole frequency range, there are no “swings” or “circumvents”. It reminds me much of the Silver, but that tube is more resolving, what makes the midrange more “to the front”. This sub-range sounded best with the Reimyo, but also the Luxman plays it in an incredibly full way. The Glory does not slim anything, does not brighten anything – it is just, that the resolution of this range is a tad lower than in the other devices mentioned. For example the Krell is less saturated than the tested amplifier; the Sovereign guarantees better flow of information and emotions, and that due to the splendid continuity. Rhythm is kept almost ideally here – almost as good, as in the mentioned EVO402, and this is just outstanding. Here the Luxman shows itself slower, it reminds me what I wrote during the test of the Krell, that the Japanese product has slightly colored medium bass, what makes the attack slightly, but still, rounded. But we should not make the mistake of putting the Glory in one bag with all the “consumptive” devices. Becaue vocals, like Sinatra’s, from the fantastic re-edition of the disc My Way, prepared by the Sinatra Society of Japan, was full, slightly warm – just like it is recorded on that disc – at least I think so. The same case was with the voice of Chris Connor, which was placed centrally on the stage (I Miss You). This is a mono recording, what makes the singer most important in a natural way, but in this case, it could have been heard, that this is recorded and mixed that way, that the vocal is not louder than the big-band, but that it was just the choice of the recording engineer. Both voices were full and strong, although it could also be heard, that Chris had a mike with lesser quality, which emphasized the upper midrange a little, what made some, “throat” elements of singing being underlined.
The cleanness of the sound was impressive – I’ll repeat: only the Silver Grand Mono, and to some extent the Krell, sound in this way, and only the Polish amplifier was better. At least from the devices I heard at home. I could confirm the fact, that the Sovereign does not dry anything out, when I listened to two discs, recorded in an ultra-purist way, the Heartplay Charlie Haden and Antonio Forcione and Salzau Music On The Water Danielsson, Dell and Landgren. Those were reproduced with passion, with emphasis, like I would not expect from a solid state amplifier. Saturation had a different structure than with tubes, and differed also from that, what could been heard with the P-7100 Accuphase. Because this was not saturating in every possible moment. The Glory differentiates timbres splendidly, also due to the fact, that it does not play everything in the same “pleasing” way.
With less well recorded discs, like with the mentioned electronic music from De Vision and Diary of Dreams, the lack of bass base, or light sound, was communicated immediately. The amplifier did not try to “improve” them, what does sometimes happen to my Luxman. Because it is enough to round off the hoarse midrange and slightly underline medium bass, and the sound, while still readable in its flaws, is “better”, everything flows a bit nicer. And, frankly speaking, in most cases, this “repairing” activity is quite desirable, and in lower price ranges even required – otherwise most disc would not be able to be listened to. But the best devices I know, and the Sovereign is on the verge of this exclusive group, with a single digit number of members, do it differently. They just show the reality as it is. If there is little bass, then there is little, if the treble is sharp, then it is sharp. But if they are really remarkable – because that, what I just wrote, is plain neutrality, and this can sometimes be found in gear for about 5000zl – then they go a step further, and have an “inclination” towards music. The flaws and errors of the signal are then something aside to the music, many times “behind” music. Those two plains interact, it is still the same recording, but are not identical. This can be greatly heard on the example of turntables – the tracking noise, clicks, distortion resulting from tracking error, etc, are obvious in good turntables. But it is enough to hear a few first notes of music, the first second of any disc, to let them be insignificant, become something “accompanying”, and not leading. And this is exactly what I am talking here about.
I will be short when talking about bass: it reaches lower than in the Luxman, and although it is not as atomic, so brilliantly controlled like in the Krell, still it is an exceptionally high level. The timbre of this sub-range is also very good, although in this aspect, the slightly more saturated bass, slightly “nicer”, was from the Luxman and Accuphase. But none of those amplifiers could show the sub-bass passages of electronic music discs with such ease and naturalness (I exaggerate a little, I am talking about the 20-30Hz range, but this describes the impression, the sound makes, well). And with all this, the sub-range remains agile and hellishly rhythmical. When the piano player hits an accord with his left hand, then it is really reproduced in one, single moment, without splitting it in separate sounds, when a good big-band, like the one from the Sinatra disc, directed by Don Costa, swings, then this is a classy swing, and not a fireman party. The mid bass is slightly drier here, that with my amplifier, or the Emitter II ASR, but this is probably the price to pay.
This is a fantastically made, hellishly “true” amplifier, which does not need to improve anything. I’ll repeat: is it better, than my Luxman M-800A, that costs the same amount of money? In some aspects – yes. Do I need to have it? Rather – not. The differences I am talking about are not systemic, but happen within the same paradigm. Something here is better, something there, that is why I write, that the Glory is a better amplifier, but I am not forced to make the change, to do so, I would need an amplifier better by at least a class. On the other hand, the Luxman is the best amplifier in the range up to 50000zl I heard, or at least it was the one, and that was true for all solid state amps, and – with some exceptions – with tube ones. And that aspect makes the test of the Sovereign something special, for me. An amplifier, that keeps the power of the transistor, and does not introduce its annoying distortions onto the music, should be especially appreciated. And I am doing exactly that now.DESCRIPTION
The Glory is a stereo power amplifier from the German company Sovereign. This device, part of the prestige Signature Series, is the cheapest amplifier in the company’s lineup. The enclosure is made perfectly. The unit resembles modernist, Bauhaus shapes, was clearly designed by somebody, who has an idea about industrial design. The Glory resembles a black cube, a form, which was exposed in the London Tate Modern by Mirosław Białka ("How it is" ("Jak to jest") , a gigantic, 13 meters tall, and 30 meters wide, covered from the inside with black velvet. Inside it, even hundreds of visitors “loose vision” due to the overwhelming darkness - R. Romanowski, „Gazeta Wyborcza”, 29.12.2009). The ideal proportions of the German amplifier combine with perfect craftsmanship. Each of the sides is an aluminum plate, fitted together with the rest of them, so that they look like one block of aluminum. There are also no bolts visible – the sides were connected inside with aluminum bars, and bolts, and the top and bottom are also mounted from the inside, by means of long screws, which connect with the feet on the bottom. Very solid feet, made from aluminum and with a soft cushion. In the front, there is a small “window” cut out, where, from the inside, a golden plate with the name of the device is affixed, and a blue led. On the top cover there is also a big, golden plate is mounted, with Thomas Höhne signature, the owner of Sovereign, with wishes to enjoy music. A final, also golden plate, is on the back plate, also in a cutout. To this one, all the inputs and outputs were mounted. In the middle there is an IEC socket, to its sides there are RCA input sockets (gold plated, but quite ordinary), XLR sockets and loudspeaker terminals. The latter are really bad, because they are quite deep in the cutout, what impairs handling. And more – they do not accept spades!!! Fortunately, the Omega Onyx loudspeaker cables have exchangeable plugs. But I think, that with such an incredible shape of the Glory, it would be worthwhile to equip it with the best terminals available on the market (for example the NextGen WBT). And one more thing – on the front panel there is a big letter “S” looking like milled in the panel. But when we touch it, it will turn out, that this is the power switch – really tasty.
After removing the cover, it can be seen, that this is a solid construction, quite traditional, but in the best tradition. Like in any good amplifier, also here, most space is occupied by the power supply. This is a dual mono unit, that is why we have two transformers, separately for each channel. Those are big toroidal ones, each mounted in an enclosure damping vibrations. In front of them, on a thick shape made from a material resembling polypropylene (again – vibration damping) we have four, big capacitors, filtering the voltages for the power transistors.
The power stages are bolted directly to the side panels, on both sides of the amplifier. They are split in two sections. The part with the input and control circuits received a small PCB, poring many transistors and metalized resistors. The output transistors were fixed to a thick aluminum slab, and that one is then mounted onto the side panel. So there are no traditional heat sinks, and yet the unit does not get really hot. Probably something like a “floating” class A was utilized, or a similar solution. Each power stage has 10 transistors – five complimentary pairs working in push-pull. Interestingly, the transistors have old type TO-3 enclosures, and the markings on them were erased. Those are controlled by bipolar transistors MJE15030G from Motorola. In the front, there is also a PCB with the standby and protection circuitry. The whole is very neat and nicely looking.
Technical data (according to manufacturer):
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