When it comes to amplifiers power is cheap, especially if you are looking at transistors. You can get 100 Watt amps for sums that don’t break the bank… and that’s your classic Class A/B types; if you go for Class D, prices are significantly lower. But there was a time when modest power outputs were the norm for solid-state amplifiers and 50 Watts was considered more than sufficient for the average system. Indeed, there used to be a school of thought that considered high power to be a bad thing, quite possibly a philosophy emanating from a certain Salisbury based company where 100 Watts used to be considered so excessive as to be vulgar.
Enleum is very much in favour of low power amplifiers and has been making them under the Bakoon name for 12 years now. Its biggest AMP-51R is specified to produce 100W but it costs nearly twenty thousand dollars. By contrast, its debut product, the AMP-31 offered 25W for approximately the same price as the Enleum AMP-23R. The new AMP-23R is also a 25 Watter and a rather distinctive beast with three large and asymmetrically placed feet under a small but perfectly formed enclosure. An amp that is more minimalist than most, its maker Soo In Chae has taken the less is more philosophy to heart and extended it to the power output and size of this amplifier. Specifically in the way that the signal paths are much shorter than usual and the circuit was designed to be quieter and more efficient than most.
The AMP-23R is an integrated amplifier with only two controls; a button that switches it on or off that also doubles as an input selector and volume control. That’s it, there is a headphone output but that requires no switching and merely cuts the speaker output when a quarter-inch headphone jack is inserted. There is barely anything in the way of lighting either, just tiny LEDs to indicate input. The volume knob, which is actually a stepped attenuator, has a delightful mechanical display where a white indicator moves behind the pierced holes that surround the knob, so this is pretty much invisible in low light. The design of the case alone makes the Enleum a cult product, but things are a bit different around the back as well.
Two of the AMP-23R’s inputs are on conventional RCA phono connections but the third pair are on BNC connectors, the type used to make a proper 75 Ohm link between a digital source and DAC. The RCA phonos are marked ‘voltage’ while the BNCs have ‘Enlink’ beneath them and provide a proprietary current-based connection for forthcoming Enleum source components. Prior to the fire at AKM (which eliminated a key supplier of audio chips), Soo In had planned to release a phono stage and a DAC with Enlink outputs, these are now expected “later next year”. The only other elements on the back of the AMP-23R are a pair of good quality five-way binding posts for speaker cables and a power inlet, there really isn’t the space for anything else.