SPEC Real Sound RSA-717EX 100w Integrated amp

SC 03 AI RSA 717
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 3,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 6,995.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 3,000.00 (incl. GST)
SPEC Corp

Our “Real-Sound” brings the true richness of music - Real-Sound” BRINGS THE BREATHS OF PERFORMER JUST IN FRONT OF YOU

Special

1 OFF SPECIAL OFFERREAL SOUND AMPLIFIER RSA-717EX - New concept in Class-D amplifiers
A lot of people may tend to think Class-D means "digital", however, SPEC amplifiers, re "Class-D analogue amplifier" has a very similar circuit as tube amps, only the output tube was replaced by special PWM switching devise, they offer a dynamic engaging musical presentation in a lovely compact form.

"An auspicious debut for this lovely little Japanese amplifier. The exterior finish is unique and the amplifier has a lovely, natural sound quality that makes it very easy on the ear." ....Sound + Image mag

Thanks to the improvement of semiconductor technology, the integrated device composed of an advanced audio controller IC and two power MOS-FETs fully optimized was released from International Rectifier, IR in Calif. in 2012. We found the tremendous sound potential of the device and have been seeking to make best possible use of it. The main portion of the amplifier is a very compact size PCB requiring short wiring which achieves an ideal switching characteristic. Accordingly the sound is natural and at the same time full of dynamic. The amplifier also boasts almost triple higher efficiency compared to a semiconductor linear amplifier.

Natural & Organic sound of latest AC-DC switching power supply

The efficiency of our new Class-D amplifier is so high (more than 96% at full power) that the quality of the power source has a direct effect on the final driving power and the sound quality of this amplifier. The potential of the new switching controller device will surpass the sound of a traditional analog design power supply. In further pursuit of a higher sound quality and a more intimate tonal character, we have adopted the newest SiC(Silicon Carbide) Schottky diodes, a special audio use electrolytic capacitor, custom oil filled capacitor and ultimate quality mica capacitor. It facilitated a massive low range and also fine transparent mid to high-end fully free from switching noise.

New design and construction of Side-Wood and Insulators

The smooth curve side-wood included insulator is unique and also allows the amplifier to realise an acoustic instrument sound. 

Spruce is used for side-wood and Maple for the insulator – these timbers combine to cut off vibration effectively from the outside.

REVIEW SUMMARY from Audiophile-magazine:  (This review was in french! Some bits from Google translation)
I want to say that to date, I remember the little built-SPEC as the only Class D amplifier that has really attracted me and convinced. Never Rotel, 3DLAB, NAD, Bel Canto, Primare, Flying Mole, NuForce and others made me think I could find my happiness in Class D......
Although the advertised power remains relatively modest for a class D amplifier of this type, I was amazed to never detect any power limiting.....
On segments busiest in instruments such as the New World Symphony by the CSO under the baton of Fritz Reiner or Georg Solti, the RSA-717EX never becomes messy as one might fear under the modest power claimed......
I remain surprised by the intrinsic qualities of the entry level SPEC Corporation. Indeed, the RSA-717EX its balanced input holds a candle to many high-end amplifiers......
Listening to the first instalment of Roberta Gambarini "Easy to Love", the chiseled voice of the soprano and the Italian stamps impressive clarity. It's very nice to enjoy an image both large and extremely well focused. And then this little integrated on Vivid Audio K1 holds the grave with a seat and a speed that is hardly common. The rhythm of the bass immediately arouses membership and we begin to listen to the whole album in one go without scroll through the songs.....
It has an immediacy that makes the sound actually very natural. No frills or pretence with RSA-717EX, it makes you jump right into the music......
I would say that the primary qualities of small built-SPEC remain its opening, its intelligibility and exceptional vivacity......
without question, a superb exercise in style. But it's also a machine that distills lot of listening pleasure

REVIEW SUMMARY from Hifi News - 'Highly Commended'
Spec's superb RSA 717ex integrated amplifier has been awarded with 'Highly Commended' honor in this month current edition of Hifi News.
Andrew Everard has been listening to this special amplifier capable of bringing solid state closer to the hallowed ground of valve amplifiers and has been some what surprised by what he heard.
"On first acquaintance with the SPEC amplifier, two things stand out about the sound: the sweetness and purity of the midband, and the sense of effortless control it exudes, even when you push things up to pretty serious levels." "Whichever speakers I tried, and whatever the music I played, it maintained the same smooth, cultured sound, notable for the expressive, unforced way it presents instruments and voices."
 

Andrew further offered:-
"Moving up to my usual reference network player then showed that the SPEC can really shine when fed from an extremely high-end source." "Although this isn’t the most hard-charging or attacking amplifier, concentrating instead on that lucid and organic – well, valve-like! – sound for which its designers were aiming for"
"I heard it said on the radio the other day that this latest set ‘sounds just like a James Taylor album’, and I get just what that commentator meant: via the RSA-717EX there’s that wonderful sense of easygoing musicianship, and a writer/performer with nothing to prove, just making a recording because he wants to. Taylor’s voice is tightly focused in the sound-stage, and has a lovely warmth and generosity to it, while the accompanying instrumentation is handled with delicacy and yet delivered in an entirely informative fashion. Put simply, the entire album is an undemanding delight, and even more so when played through this amplifier." 
"Expect it to sound just like conventional solid-state amplification and chances are you’re going to be disappointed; sit back and let it do its thing and there’s plenty to admire and enjoy in the way it plays music."

Summing up Andrew wrote:-
"The SPEC view of proceedings is again rich and warm, but there’s no shortage of drive or rhythmic acuity in the overtures, while the soprano soloist (Elizabeth Watts) has plenty of character, and a quite deliciously luminous quality to her voice. It’s not the most explicit sound I’ve heard, but it’s very enjoyable"

Specifications

Reviews

Videos

Specifications

Maximum output
100W × 2 (4ohm), 75W × 2 (6ohm), 50W × 2 (8ohm)

Frequency response
10 Hz - 30 kHz ±1dB (6Ω, 1W)

Harmonic distortion ratio
0.02% (at 1 kHz, 80% output)

Input sensitivity, gain
300 mVrms, 37.3 dB (at MAX volume, 6Ω, 1kHz, unbalanced input)

Line input terminals
XLR input : 1 RCA inputs : 3

Speaker terminal
1

Power voltage
220V AC,50Hz

Electrical consumption
With no signal : 18 W, during maximum output : 180 W (8 Ω, 100 Hz)

External dimensions
350 mm (width) × 95 mm (height) × 375 mm (depth)

Weight
7.0 kg

Reviews

This is typically the kind of amplifier that can address different profiles, positioning itself as a first foray into true High Fidelity or as an ultimate amplifier for the one that favours the spontaneity and consistency in everything else
Joel Chevassus

REVIEW SUMMARY - (French / English translation) I tested the RSA SPEC-717 EX on 5 pairs of speakers and different systems. I admit that the small built-Japanese was never unworthy and positioned itself as a credible challenger against amplification priced more expensive. Whether on my Vivid K1, the Lawrence Audio Violin, the Sonus faber Guarneri Evolution, Pascal Louvet Isis or small SA2K, the RSA-717 EX has made the show.

On extracts busiest in instruments such as the New World Symphony by the CSO under the baton of Fritz Reiner or Georg Solti, the RSA-717EX never becomes rough as you might fear the light of the modest power claimed. In contrast, the strong are perfectly mastered without this unconditional clarity can be assimilated as too clinical or artificial dilation. There is always an organic side in the result issued by the SPEC.,

EXTENDED REVIEW (French / English translation) - SPEC is a young company , founded in 2010 by respectable samurai of Japanese hifi who cut their teeth in venerable houses like Pioneer and Teac, and have been for many years.

I met my part for the two founders, Messrs Yazaki and Banno, a year ago at the Munich salon. They are lovely people, both humble and passionate, in short everything that makes for me the charm of the Nippon audio tradition.

The company Archipelago began by launching an integrated amplifier called RSA-F1, "RSA" is short for "Real Sound Amplifier". They also launched in the wake of a filter for passive speakers called RSP-101 (Real Sound Processor - 101).

Since then the range has been extended with a number of integrated amplifiers, the latest RSA-717 EX, the subject of this short test and whose realization was possible thanks to the French François Gourdain importer Synergy boss -Esoteric.François is in my opinion one of the few French importers (rest assured there are others) that still work exclusively in heart stroke. There is a year and a half we talked about Lumin, and there's less than a year of SPEC. We tested these two brands a common enthusiasm without flaws. François Gourdain, which I describe as "rare pearl diver" and kindly gave me the opportunity to test for a smallest integrated month range, called the RSA-717 EX. So back to the subject that concerns us, namely amplifiers manufacturer Nippon SPEC ...

The amplifiers available in the manufacturer's catalog now number 4, all developing a power of between 50 and 60 watts into 8 ohms: RSA-F3EX, the RSA-M3EX, the RSA-V1DTEX and of course RSA- 717EX.

The circuit of amplifiers SPEC was designed by the chief designer Koichi Yazaki, which in addition to its long experience as a mechanical engineer and Teac Pioneer, is a passionate amplifiers based 300B. He served as the best achievements in 300B to design an amplifier scheme that can approach it sound qualities while being able to take more ambitious and complicated loads than those normally assigned to the triode. From this research was born the concept of the original SPEC amplifiers, to reach this fullness of sound and the natural dynamics, the main idea was to combine the best analog components with the latest generation of class amplifier modules D Pulse Width Modulation (PWM in English for Pulse Width Modulation) International Rectifier Manu.

All SPEC integrated work well on the very principle of class D modules surrounded by analog components, some like oil capacitors are replicas of OUR components (West Cape) and manufactured directly on specifications by Arizona Capacitors in the United States. The food is traditional and therefore also completely linear, except for one exception, the RSA-717 EX, which implements a so-called switching power supply "audiophile quality". Finally, each amplifier is integrated in an aluminum frame resting on a wooden base of various species, allowing to combine the aesthetic function (decreasing the chassis resonance frequency, and avoiding extraneous vibrations disrupt circuits amplification and pre-amplification). Class D modules enable a very broad picture and generate more power with astonishing insensitivity to acoustic loads associated with them.

Like his elders, the RSA-717 EX youngest adopts a minimalist appearance. Nothing is there to do in my face, the ostentatious: it is undeniably in the Nippon sobriety with obvious care taken in the manufacture of the object including stunning wooden cheeks acting foot, gives it an audiophile chic look the best for those who have known the line of prestigious Pioneer exclusive series, Luxman Marantz Esotec or even Sony ES. As for me, I just love ...

On the front , a source selector and a volume control knob are the main functions available to the user. Always in front, a type Aret power switch "safe power", taking the design of the switches found in aircraft cockpits, and a switch to disable the speaker outputs when you want to change or add a connection on the back panel.The LED system inserted directly into the switches is both elegant and very readable.

At the rear, there are four isolated terminals WBT more traditional, three entries asymmetrical lines and an XLR input. A plug connector for optional remote control box is also there in case. The optional remote control is nevertheless proving to be a gain control and does not control the volume knob. She adds also notoriously the selling price of all and only the irreducible "all from my sofa" may be tempted to take the plunge ...

Inside the housing of the amplifier, there is a scheme articulated around a controller IC and the latest generation of two Mosfets of from International Rectifier. The circuit is ultra-compact, like many amplifiers class D, and with very short connections. This plays on the natural dynamics and although eventually these characteristics have not always been present in some class D achievements I've tried.

This time by cons, the engineers at SPEC decided to opt for a switching power supply to see what they could learn compared to a linear power supply. They took the opportunity to inaugurate a new diode bridge acquired from Silicon Carbides.Include a qualitative approach in the selection of components with electrolytic capacitors, oil capacitors and other top quality mica, the implementation on the circuit also provides a vibration treatment. Finally critics compartments of the box are isolated with a shield Mu-metal to limit any harmful electromagnetic radiation.

As for performances , the power developed by the small SPEC is hardly impressive, since it develops 2 x 50 Watts into 8 ohms and exactly twice into 4 Ohms. But they are real watts available and this modest power already allows many association with speakers of all sizes.

The technical information provided by the manufacturer are quite limited in number, but we note the frequency response, rather wide, measured at + 1dB (6 ohms, 1 watt) over a range of 10Hz to 30kHz. The harmonic distortion (THD) is given to 0.02% at 1 kHz and 80% of maximum power.

The input sensitivity of 300 mV rms and the gain on the unbalanced inputs at maximum volume and an average impedance of 6 ohms is measured to 37.3 dB (1 kHz).

The amplifier is a real lightweight since it weighs only 7 kg, which radically changes the face of the amplifiers that I could handle my house lately ...

Finally, the dimensions make it a more liveable device easily into any piece of furniture: 35 cm wide and 37.5 cm deep with a height of 9.5 cm.

Although the advertised power is relatively modest for a class D amplification of this type (I could also compare to other integrated class D sold a little cheaper but claiming a much higher power), I was amazed never detect power limiting, somewhat in the same style as the little Trends TA-10.2, but with a refinement operation in no way comparable. Indeed, this small integrated proved even more surprising about loads low return on the speakers you would have thought the easiest and therefore likely to better suit him. I would not say as much for the little SPEC does not work well on good performance speakers, but it comes into its own, responding now where we do not necessarily expect, in terms of demanding pregnant power and why we tend to focus a lot beefier amp.

Where Micromega AS-400 seemed quite flat , lacking life and extension at the top as in the low end, SPEC RSA-717 EX appeared hyper-tonic come, high contrast with sharp 300B of more realistic than my little class T, and superbly authoritarian in the extreme low as very few much more expensive and more powerful amps have previously been able to convince me.

I want to say that to date, I remember the small built-SPEC as the only Class D amplifier that has really attracted me and convinced. Never Rotel 3DLAB, NAD, Bel Canto, Primare, Flying Mole, NuForce, and others made me think I could find my happiness in Class D. Only small Trends had impressed me but remained in an envelope budget and in a format that matchbox bridled in their absolute undeniable qualities in relation to the prices at which they were offered. SPEC RSA-717 EX is for me the only device working in this amplification class, and I was given a try, coming within a dimension of high-end, real upscale.

Its holding in the bass and treble quality is really excellent for the price and you quickly forget the Spartan side of the object reviling in its sound capabilities. I do not know what actually equivalent in these price ranges in class A or AB could compete with this newcomer. Some candidates values that I could confront him as the LFD NCSE are able to offer a valid alternative listening.

The LFD NCSE nevertheless a little too overweight in the low end and more generosity in the midrange with an incredible density but lack of ventilation and expansion in the treble. So, this makes it a very attractive proposition to hear jazz club or pop rock fashion requiring a great seat and extent, with a very powerful rhythm. The integrated LFD has an incredible opening. SPEC, which is nevertheless not left, yet can almost pass for a wise child. But it is mostly neutral and versatile than the LFD offers a more distinctive, more crude even if it is particularly addictive final ...

I tested the RSA SPEC-717 EX on 5 pairs of speakers and different systems. I admit that the small built-Japanese was never unworthy and has positioned itself as a credible challenger against amplification priced more expensive. Whether on my Vivid K1, the Lawrence Audio Violin, the Sonus faber Guarneri Evolution, Pascal Louvet Isis or small SA2K, the RSA-717 EX has made the show. I found it surprisingly also sensitive to the quality of cables areas. At more than 96% efficiency (at full power), we can also understand that the quality of the current sector is of importance ...

Only the middle register (especially lower midrange) and dissociation plans benefit from being more developed. This is where my Luxman M800a couple made the hole Coincident with the preamp. But how many times the price? And when I compare them to all the other criteria: extension, held in the grave, fluidity, openness, depth scene ... I am surprised by the beam qualities inherent in the entry level of SPEC Corporation. Indeed, the RSA-717EX its balanced input holds a candle to many high-end amplifiers. Of course, looking good, we'll find some other advantages to Luxman, but I would not risk a confrontation listening blindly betting on the fact that I would be able to distinguish each time. That is to say that beyond a slight lack of heat and thick, the performance displayed by the small built are really impressive. This is in any case which leads me to think that we can finally hope for any better in terms of sound performance Class D, not only from the point of view of energy balance ...

Listening to the first instalment of Roberta Gambarini "Easy to Love", the chiseled voice of the soprano and the Italian stamps impressive clarity. It's very nice to enjoy an image both large and extremely focused. And this small built on the Vivid Audio K1 holds the grave with a seat and a speed which is not common. The rhythm of the bass immediately arouses membership and we begin to listen to the whole album in one go without scroll through the songs.

On extracts busiest in instruments such as the New World Symphony by the CSO under the baton of Fritz Reiner or Georg Solti, the RSA-717EX never becomes rough as you might fear the light of the modest power claimed. In contrast, the strong are perfectly mastered without this unconditional clarity can be assimilated as too clinical or artificial dilation. There is always an organic side in the result issued by the SPEC .ss in the lower midrange.

On flamenco guitar and the album Jazzpaña II (Gerardo Núñez), attacks of notes are really frank and well clipped instruments without anyone feels at any moment an impression of hardness or ear fatigue. The rhythm and stamps are ideally transcribed and never have I had the feeling that the sound could become chaotic. The extinction of notes are perhaps not so marked that with my Luxman couples, but there is a very fine yarn in the treble and reverb recording out very clearly.

This is also a character all terrain reveals that Japanese integrated amplifier because it also feels comfortable on pop than classical. It has an emergency case and immediacy that makes the sound finally very natural. No frills or pretence with RSA-717EX, it makes you jump right into the music.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, I would say that the primary qualities of the small built-SPEC remain its opening, its intelligibility and exceptional vivacity. Let's add-y impressive stability and ultimately its very sweet to have a good idea of his abilities. The RSA-717EX is in some ways the theory of the right wire, and undoubtedly a superb exercise in style. But it's also a machine that distills lot of listening pleasure, the easy way! This is typically the kind of amplifier that can address different profiles, positioning itself as a first foray into true High Fidelity or as an ultimate amplifier for the one that favours the spontaneity and consistency in everything else .
..
….. Joel Chevassus

In terms of amplifier/speaker matching, we found the Spec to be very tolerant: it sounded fabulous with all the speakers we tried, irrespective of their impedance

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Spec also showed its mettle on the moody intro to ‘State of Mind’ where drums and bass dredge the depths of the sonic melange, before the tortured sound of a synth interrupts the croaked lyric and ethereally-echoed backing voices. The resulting fat, multi-layered sound was delivered perfectly by the Spec RSA-717EX, with the amplifier never losing the thread of the musical performance, or failing to reveal any of the layers.
The simple but effective bass lines played by Michael Meagher were delivered with the classic ‘steel fist in velvet glove’ feel by the Spec in such a way that they were pervasive but never dominating,
On ‘Seeing Me Round’, all the musicians get a brief shot at the spotlight, so we enjoyed deliciously natural, realistic sound from acoustic and electric guitars, synths, organs… you name it, 

EXTENDED REVIEW: Spec Corporation is something of a rarity: a newly-founded (2013) high-end audio company that manufactures its products in Japan. Of course some might say that because Spec is a Japanese company (founded by Syuzou Ishimi), manufacturing its products in Japan makes perfect sense.

EQUIPMENT

The company’s product line is a little eclectic, because although it includes stereo amplifiers and a phono preamplifier, it also ranges a string-driven turntable, also a device called a ‘PSP-901EX Real Sound Processor’ that says it ‘absorbs back-emf from speaker systems’, and a range of mica capacitors that electronics technicians can use to replace or bypass the standard capacitors in valve amplifiers made by other manufacturers.

The company places more importance than most on the design and manufacture of the capacitors used in its products. One example of this is the fact that it uses not only its own mica capacitors in its products, but also ‘paper-in-oil’ capacitors manufactured by Arizona Capacitors (US) to the specifications of capacitors originally made by West Cap. It also uses SiC (Silicon Carbide) Schottky diodes rather than standard silicon types, due to their lower reverse leakage current and higher reverse voltage (two of the reasons they’re specified for use in aerospace applications). And in common with all other amplifiers made by Spec, the RSA-717 EX is equipped with a Class-D ‘digital’ output stage manufactured by Californian outfit International Rectifier.

Chief designer at Spec is none other than Koichi Yazaki, who joined Spec after working at Teac and Pioneer, but we wonder if he ever worked for Japan Airlines, because the power switch on the front panel is like nothing we’d ever seen before and, according to Craig Johnstone, of local Australian Spec distributor Audio Heaven, they’re used in aircraft cockpits in applications where it’s essential that a switch can’t be inadvertently ‘bumped’ from one position to another.

Although the power switch looks like a standard (well perhaps not-so-standard!) two- pole toggle switch, you can’t just flick the switch lever up and down. In order to move the lever, you need to grasp it firmly, then pull it outwards at the same angle the toggle is pointing. Once this is done, the switch can be moved up or down, after which a spring pulls it back in towards the front panel where it locks, after which it cannot be moved without repeating the same operation (in reverse).

The ‘On’ LED immediately adjacent to the power switch glows green when the amplifier is on, as you’d expect, but the ‘Off ’ LED has a rather strange action. When the amplifier is turned on it glows red for a short period, then pulses and turns off. When the amplifier is turned off, the red LED glows brightly, then once again pulses on and off weakly before extinguishing completely.

Although it’s also a toggle, the speaker switch is a standard toggle switch, without a safety lock. Well, once again, perhaps it’s not quite standard: the switch has a tiny ‘chameleon’ LED built into its end which, so far as the RSA-717EX is concerned, glows green when the speaker output is active, and red when the speaker output is off. A feature of both switches is that ‘Off ’ is the downwards position of the switch, and ‘On’ is the upwards position, which may be the convention in Japan and North America, but is the ‘wrong way around’ for Australians.

The volume control appears (and feels) as if it’s a standard analogue potentiometer, but it’s not: it’s a rotary encoder that instructs a solid-state volume circuit in order that, according to Spec “audio quality is not affected depending on the volume (level adjustment knob) position”.

The input selector has only four positions, all of which are line-level: there is no phono input. Line 1, 2 and 3 are all unbalanced inputs (via RCA sockets), while Line 4 is balanced (via XLR sockets). Although four inputs should be sufficient for most applications, some might find an extra one or two handy. There is no balance control either, which could help compensate for poor recordings and/or for speaker level compensation.

As you can tell from our photograph, although the Spec RSA-717 EX has a headphone socket, it’s a small 3.5mm phone type. We have always preferred full-sized phone jacks, as they’re physically and electrically more robust and need no adaptor when using professional- grade headphones, but we admit there is these days the opposite argument that most headphones now have minijack plugs, so would require an adaptor for the larger socket. The rear panel of the RSA-717EX has just a single set of high-quality speaker terminals. All the RCA input terminals are gold-plated, though the XLR terminals are not.

The Spec RSA-717EX is a ‘non-standard’ size, somewhat smaller than usual, measuring just 375mm wide, 350mm deep and 95mm high. The aluminium chassis is beautifully finished with an attractive anodised coating, and wood panels at either end made from a combination of Japanese spruce and Japanese maple. These panels are said to be made “by craftsmen in the historic town of Hida Takayama in Japan.” Spec claims that the use of these two timbers “cut off vibration effectively from the outside”.

The Spec RSA-717EX can be controlled by remote, but the remote control is not included with the amplifier — indeed the circuitry for remote operation isn’t built into the amplifier at all. It’s available only by separate purchase, and it costs $750, because you’re buying not only the remote control itself, but also a separate output ‘receiver’ that plugs into the ‘remote’ jack on the rear panel, and a power supply for that receiver. We’re so accustomed to remote control ourselves that we’d factor this in, but if you’re happy to set and forget, this could be a useful saving.

PERFORMANCE

It seemed appropriate to kick off the listening sessions with Sydney-based hip-hop artist Tuka’s latest album ‘Life Death Time Eternal’, and this certainly proved a good choice to demonstrate the Spec RSA-717EX’s many sonic strengths. The simple but effective bass lines played by Michael Meagher were delivered with the classic ‘steel fist in velvet glove’ feel by the Spec in such a way that they were pervasive but never dominating, particularly notably on ‘My Star’ which also offers classic electric guitar sound by Counterbounce (Pip Norman) and backing vocals that include infectious unison whistling.

The Spec also showed its mettle on the moody intro to ‘State of Mind’ where drums and bass dredge the depths of the sonic melange, before the tortured sound of a synth interrupts the croaked lyric and ethereally-echoed backing voices. The resulting fat, multi-layered sound was delivered perfectly by the Spec RSA-717EX, with the amplifier never losing the thread of the musical performance, or failing to reveal any of the layers.

It was an altogether cleaner sound when we switched to Josh Ritter’s new album ‘Sermon on the Rocks’, but the greater use of real instruments allowed us to better evaluate the tonal qualities of the Spec, and we can report that designer Koichi Yazaki has nailed it, such that the company’s ‘Real Sound’ catch-phrase certainly rings true. The clarity of Ritter’s vocal rang through as life-like as a live performance and Zac Hickman’s acoustic bass was as woody and natural as you’d expect.

The transients of the percussive sound, courtesy Matt Barrick’s drum kit, were delivered brilliantly by the Spec. On ‘Seeing Me Round’, all the musicians get a brief shot at the spotlight, so we enjoyed deliciously natural, realistic sound from acoustic and electric guitars, synths, organs… you name it, including a lyric for the ages. Rolling Stone magazine said Sermon was “awash with biblical imagery and mythological Americana”. True enough, but also awash with great music.

In terms of amplifier/speaker matching, we found the Spec to be very tolerant: it sounded fabulous with all the speakers we tried, irrespective of their impedance. If you routinely listen at loud to very loud levels we think you’ll find that the RSA-717EX will, however, work best when it’s paired with high-efficiency loud- speakers — those with sensitivity ratings of 89dBSPL or more: it just seemed to sound more dynamically unrestrained with these higher-efficiency designs when playing at these volume levels. If you’re not listening at high levels, and/or you have a smaller room, lower- sensitivity speakers will suit just as well.

CONCLUSION

An auspicious debut for this quirky little Japanese amplifier. The exterior finish is unique and the amplifier has a lovely, natural sound quality that makes it very easy on the ear. #

Videos

High End 2014: Spec RSA-717EX