The SAE ATP 8500 is a component of tremendous flexibility with several features that make it particularly attractive to my way of thinking. In particular I refer to the great number and variety of inputs [but in particular]:
– a digital XLR [AES EBU] input, used in professional applications and found on the finest consumer products;
– a balanced analog input that can be configured so as to bypass the encode/decode section (i.e., the AD – DA circuits);
– 7.1 channel outputs in both RCA and balanced XLR configurations.
The XLR inputs offer connection to a completely balanced circuit, which means a duplication of all components. Such an approach is normally found only in professional products and at a considerably higher cost.
We could say that this product seems to have been born with all the right answers, and with the aim in mind of inducing even the most demanding audiophile to consider home theatre.
Within the chassis it is evident that much effort went into separating the audio circuitry from video. We can see that the unbalanced output section is completely independent of the main output. This is another clear sign of healthy architecture without easy savings. In all sincerity I have rarely seen a product manufactured so well.
From the point of view of ergonomics, ease of use, and functionality, the SAE 8500 is very reminiscent of a home theatre preamplifier as I would have designed it.
After the initial setup was completed, the ATP 8500 offered extraordinary versatility. It is true that with my Lexicon MC-1 this is something sadly lacking, but in this case [and now] it is a thing of the past.
Audio Review, 8/04
SAE ATP 8500 & AT 3000
In the realm of amplification, the 5-channel SAE AT 3000 (5x300W) operates in rarefied air. It strikes a delicate balance between brute force and elegance. In many ways it is the consummate arbiter of detail while harboring huge amounts of reserve power. It is capable of resolving the most delicate inner detail yet delivering the grandest fortissimo with complete command and authority. This is all accomplished in the staggeringly difficult, and usually compromised, world of 5.1 audio.
SAE (Scientific Audio Electronics) is a name not without memories. To those whose personal affection for music goes back to the seventies and eighties, SAE as a company represents a commitment to excellence, remembered but not forgotten. For all those audiophiles of that great time, the name SAE evokes more than nostalgia; it talks to things such as quality of manufacture, attention to detail-things that inspire confidence.
SAE is also remembered for graphic and parametric equalizers. They were beautifully manufactured, well conceived, and examples of reliability. They found their way not only into the homes of the discerning, but the laboratories, test facilities, and studios of professionals around the world.
With new and current products, all conceived in the United States, SAE oversees and orchestrates a sophisticated manufacturing facility to ensure product consistency and reliability on a large scale basis. Quality of manufacture is exemplary; very much true to the SAE tradition of excellence. SAE products are designed and built to the exacting standards usually reserved only for the professional market.
The five channel AT 3000 is a true case in point. With modular construction, this amplifier employs two very substantial toroidal transformers (18.5 cm in diameter) and five modules of 300 Watts of pure balanced power. Each module is equipped with its own dedicated rectification circuit, power filtering, and an output stage made up of 12 transistors.
Listening critically in two channel stereo, a familiar benchmark for us all, the impression of power and purity was unmistakeable. Critics have tested and listeners have commented, but whether high efficiency monitor loudspeakers, or difficult to drive low efficiency electrostatics the criterion, the result was phenomenal energy, musicality, and a sense of vivid realism.
The SAE promise proved alluring, but most importantly it was delivered in the case of the AT 3000. The amplifier demonstrated an ability to beautifully resolve the delicacy of timbre. Admitting to a certain expectation because of the mechanical construction and the overall look of the product, we were expecting an artificially mechanical sonic presentation, virile and muscular, but not one necessarily ideal in terms of its ability to resolve subtle and delicate nuances. However, the story was quite different.
Low level detail was exceptional. It is rare that such a powerful amplifier could prove capable of such a measure of control and balance at low volumes. There was no sense of lethargy—no feeling of “sample and hold”-to balance the bottom registers with the highest frequencies. As to performance at low levels, harmonic integrity was excellent; bass was deep and well defined. Emotion was very much present. This amplifier displayed remarkable musicality.
In the 5.1 cinema mode, the sonic resolution of the SAE ATP 8500 unit was quite simply fabulous.
The vibrant and natural character of the ATP 8500 plus AT 3000 was truly pleasurable. Our „cinema in the home“ sessions acquired a realistic dimension that practically imposed the presence of a large screen image. Indeed, the sound and the image must be coherent, proportioned; and the sound of the SAE system was so „magnificent“ that it begged for an image the height and width of a large screen.
Similarly in terms of its dynamics, or in what we would describe in image terms as motion-a sense of movement-where sound describes trajectories precisely identical to what is observed on the screen, movement was executed in a smooth and progressive manner, without the effects of sudden jumps from one speaker to the other. The sound effects were of a seizing realism; we completely forgot the electronics and the speakers.
Having just been introduced, the SAE units have instantly positioned themselves as one of the most powerful home cinema systems on the market. Although one could perhaps regret a little of the absence of THX homologation, there was nothing missing in this amplifier otherwise to prevent it from being added to the short list of the three or four multichannel products of true „audiophile“ quality on the market. All in all what we have here is a very impressive amplifier –powerful, exacting, and very musical –and one which will no doubt garner much ink. We urge you to discover what we mean without delay.
Audio Video Prestige, 12/03