At this weekend’s CEDIA Expo there were signs of digital this, digital that, digital everything. In case you missed it, digital is in. Change is even coming to the last items left in the music reproduction chain that are not digital: amplifiers and speakers.
Recently, I’ve told you about a number of interesting digital amp designs using Tripath integrated circuits instead of transistors or tubes. A bunch of brand new designs are about to be released; I'll tell you about them in the next few months. And later this month, I’m going to tell you about a magic black box that lets you hear error free, great-sounding music coming from your computer’s USB port. Here’s a hint — it’s pretty terrific.
But one company’s amplifiers recently caught my eye. About the size of a paperback book, these small black boxes weigh slightly less than 1.5 pounds each and look like anything other than what they are: great-sounding, 100 watt high-fidelity music amplifiers.
Flying Mole is a silly name for a serious company. (There, I got that out of my system.) On the other hand, the people behind the Mole are pretty terrific engineers. They used to work for Yamaha in the early days of digital sound technology and have now gone out on their own.
They currently sell two lines of amplifiers: modules for mounting together in multi-channel systems and standalone models. All are small, lightweight monoblocks (one amplifier for each music channel). That makes it easy for people who want one amplifier (maybe for a PA system) or two (for a two-channel stereo) or six, seven or eight (for a surround-sound home theater set-up.)
Flying Mole’s DAD M-100 series of amplifiers are designed to be unobtrusive in every sense of the word. They take up very little space (you could mount them on your speakers or in the wall), they barely harm the environment (they’re 85 percent efficient, use very little electricity and barely get warm in use) plus they’re very easy on the ears.
Early digital amplifiers sounded — well, digital. They were cold, harsh and steely. Some made your teeth chatter. Not exactly how you want your music to sound. Those early digital amps weren’t really great at handling problem loudspeakers or complicated music, either. If too many demands were made on the amps, the music suffered.
The guys at Flying Mole have figured out how to change all that by using newly designed internal power supplies and circuitry to stop high-frequency peaks and, at the same time, minimize loss of power.
Basically what this all means is these amplifiers sound warm and musical. They are actually the smoothest, natural sounding digital amplifiers I have ever heard in my system.
It’s difficult for me to convey to you just how much bass comes from these little boxes. It’s hard to believe they’re capable of producing 100 watts into 8 ohms or 160 watts into 4 ohms. Voices and most musical instruments in the middle range sound clear and sweet — almost as if you were listening to a tube amplifier. High pitched treble sounds were smooth and fairly extended. Overall, on my single-driver Cain and Cain Abbys the Flying Moles sounded very impressive.
I’ve been testing the Flying Mole DAD-M100pro HT model with RCA connectors and standard 4mm speaker binding posts. A pair of these retail for $750, not dirt cheap but reasonable for the sound quality provided. There are also versions with balanced inputs and Speakon speaker connections meant primarily for professional applications. There are also models that not only run on AC mains power but also have 12-volt circuitry for portable use.
At CEDIA, Flying Mole was proudly introducing more compact amplifiers (300 and 500-watt power amps), an interesting stereo pre-amplifier (with inputs for both moving coil and moving magnet phono cartridges) and a beautiful 30-watt per channel stereo integrated amp. I’m hoping to hear the new models before the end of the year.
Flying Mole just proudly announced that in a recent survey they’re fifth in amplifier sales in Japan after well-known big companies like Accuphase, Luxman, Technics and McIntosh. I expect you’ll be hearing a lot more about them in this country very soon.
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