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Reviews

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.

In Con­clu­si­on

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