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Enleum AMP-23R integrated amplifier

The odd arrangement of feet on this amp was arrived at by calculating the exact centre of mass of the amplifier by weighing every component and the chassis so that it’s supported in a balanced fashion. The feet themselves have a loose base that’s designed to provide isolation, these metal bases are very slippery however and Enleum provides silicone discs to put between amp and support surface to stop it sliding. Not that this is likely to be an issue unless you put heavy cables in the back, operation is largely achieved with a compact remote handset that provides a few other features such as mute.

The obvious drawback with a 25 Watt amplifier is that you really need high sensitivity loudspeakers to play music at entertaining levels, 90dB at the full 1w/1m (rather than the misleading 2.83V/1m) is about minimum unless you sit very close or listen at low levels. I don’t actually have such a speaker in my usual armoury but took advantage of some JBL HDI-3800s that were in for review, these are substantial beasts with three 8 inch bass drivers and a compression driver tweeter but they offer a 92dB (2.83V/1m) four Ohm load, which is equivalent to 89dB at eight Ohms, so that’s how listening commenced.

Enleum AMP-23R internals
Small, but beautifully formed, the internal architecture of the AMP-23R is complex.

Actually, I tell a lie, as I had PMC’s mighty (and mighty hard to move) Fenestria loudspeakers in the system when the Enleum dropped I thought what the heck and hooked it up. Given the phenomenal resolution of these speakers and the relatively low sensitivity of transmission lines, the results were remarkably good with excellent delicacy through the midband and decent weight and body to bass guitar. Not Bryston 4B3 (300W) weight and body but enough to really enjoy the poise of Carla Bley’s Life Goes On [ECM] where the playing from bass, piano and sax came across in nimble and charming fashion. I also tried a dem favourite in London Grammar’s ‘Hey Now’ [If You Wait, Metal & Dust], here it was the vocal that really shone alongside the precise nature of the effects used to make it work so well. Even the low end on this was respectable, not floor-shaking but muscular. It reveals that 25W can do a lot more than expected when backed by a decent power supply.

I managed to move the Fenestria in the end and brought things down to a more sensible level with the aforementioned JBLs. These probably need an amplifier with more grip than the Enleum but produced some delicious low end with a number of tracks. The emphasis however is more on timing, texture and the many qualities of musical composition, this amp proved to be exceptionally good at revealing what makes a piece of music appealing. There is a tendency when reviewing to play the first two or three minutes of reference tracks and move on, here that proved almost impossible because the music was so captivating that I had to let it run to the end and often onto the next piece. It’s hard to say exactly how this amplifier achieves this but it clearly has a degree of musicality and charm that eludes a lot of the competition. Low power may have something to do with it and the fact that similarly equipped valve amplifiers can sometimes do the same trick would back this up, but that’s not all. I suspect that the simplicity of circuit and short signal paths are important, that and the fact that it runs so hot, those optional $500/£500 feet aren’t tall for style points, they allow plenty of air to circulate around a box that uses its small case alone to dissipate heat. In fact, the primary goal of the feet is as a vibration and resonance control device, but help as an additional heatsink or heat dissipation device.

I decided to try the AMP-23R with something closer to its own size in the form of PMC twenty5.21 stand-mounts, these aren’t particularly efficient but have a relatively easy load. This combination proved to be addictive, both components have a degree of coherence that’s astonishing and makes the music totally immersive, not to say emotionally overwhelming at times. I tried an old (usually vinyl) favourite in Crosby, Stills and Nash’s ‘Helplessly Hoping’ [Crosby, Stills and Nash, Atlantic] on the Melco N50 and iFi Pro DSD and was blown away by the beauty of the harmonies. Digital transfers of analogue rarely achieve a connection that’s this powerful, and all from a system that would fit in a suitcase. Haydn string quartets were wonderfully spirited, full of refined energy and verve while Radiohead’s oft monochrome ‘Decks Dark’ (A Moon Shaped Pool, XL) revealed tonal colours that are rarely glimpsed. Even Kendrick Lamarr’s ‘How Much a Dollar Cost’ [To Pimp a Butterfly, Interscope)]proved unputdownable thanks to a level of lyrical intelligibility that allows the message behind the song to come across so clearly.

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