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The A50125A is one brute of an amp and the polar opposite to Almarro's own wee A205A SET. Eight 6550 power tubes and two huge output transformers dominate the chassis. The amp is a class A/B parallel push-pull design that runs its 6550s in pentode mode. The engraved wooden front panel features just two controls for volume and source selection. The power on/off switch is located on the left side near the front. The rear panel offers metal binding posts for 4 and 8-ohm loudspeakers, modest RCA connectors for three sources, an IEC power inlet, a fuse and a small, relatively quiet fan to keep this beastie from melting. And boy does it run hot as our curious Newfoundlander Boomer discovered the hard way.

It's not every day you see a 160lb dog yelp and belt away in fear. Now I know how to keep him from sleeping on the sofa when we're not around: put a tube amp in front of it. But I digress. As you can see from the photos, all internal wiring is point-to-point, with nary a

circuit board in sight. I realize many audio purists frown on boards. However, I have yet to read a reasonable explanation why point-to-point wiring is superior. As with many closely held audio beliefs such as biwiring, speakers requiring spikes and tone controls as bad, I believe that this is merely a myth in need of busting. It would seem logical that the most important factor is implementation. Nevertheless, if that sort of thing is important to you, rest assured the Almarro gets an A+. The A50125A also features a choke-filtered power supply. The trim pots for adjusting bias are on the top adjacent to the tubes. The layout, while perfectly acceptable, did not approach the Manley Labs Stingray, which is exemplary in my book. Upon turn-on, there is a two-minute boot-up sequence before the amp goes on song.

The A50125A weighs in at a heavy 39 kilos. Be careful when lifting it. This thing is more rear-heavy than J-Lo. Must be all that iron in the trannies. Overall, this is an impressive looking amp in an industrial sort of way. There are a few sharp edges here and there but overall, this is clearly a competently built amp. My only gripe is with the volume control. Its taper is far too steep and goes from barely audible to window-shattering levels over the smallest range. With my 91dB GMAs and even the Almarros' 88dB, it was impossible to get much past 7 o'clock. It took considerable fiddling to nail the volume right and I was never completely satisfied. With the Manley Labs Shrimp preamp I have in for review, the volume control is one of the most useful I have encountered yet, affording plenty of range to fine-tune settings. Perhaps my sample was an aberration. If not, I suggest the folks at Almarro take a closer look at this amp's volume control and consider replacing it with one featuring a much shallower slope.

The amp comes with a 5-year limited warranty. The output tubes ship packaged separately in numbered boxes to guarantee proper matching with their respective sockets. Also included is a pair of cotton gloves for handling. The manual is a mixed bag. Apart from the obligatory grammar and spelling errors common to offshore origins, I can't recall seeing so many warnings for an audio product ever. Granted, most of them were the standard "keep away from moisture" variety. Their sheer number however would probably scare off tube neophytes. I suspect this was a result of translation issues since several passages were a little difficult to grasp. I must have read the bias instructions a dozen times and still couldn't properly adjust the settings. After several attempts, I gave up. Perhaps the folks at Almarro can hire a professional translator to tweak their future manuals for us anglophiles.

Specs are as follows:
Output tubes: EH 6550 x 8 run in pentode mode, Class A/B parallel push-pull
Input tubes: NOS 6DJ8 x 2
Driver tubes: NOS 5687 x 2
Output Power: 125wpc
Frequency: 15Hz-30 kHz+/-6dB
Distortion: .75% 0.01w/10kHz
Power consumption: 330w
Dimension: 29cm (W) x 57cm (D) x 20cm (H)
Weight 25 kg

This was the second A50125A I had in because the first was unfortunately damaged during shipping and refused to power up. Once a tolerable volume level was found, this beastie delivered exactly what its appearance suggested: brute balls-to-the-wall power and mondo image density. The Almarro was definitely not what I'd call a shy or polite amp. It unabashedly threw music into my living room. It certainly conveyed the spit and grit of the Stooges' Raw Power [Columbia/Legacy 66229] as well as the colossal power of Verdi's Requiem [RCA- 82876 62318]). I can't recall ever hearing those tympanis as physically as with the Almarro.

The amp displayed all the attributes one associates with tubes i.e. presence, image density and tonal richness, yet
partnered them to slam and sheer power. It also exhibited a few of the less welcome aspects of certain glowing glass designs - such as a slightly loose and flabby bottom end. Bass was somewhat sluggish when compared to my Manley Labs Stingray. It also did not offer the sharply defined imaging of some solid-state designs. However, the big Almarro offered a lovely, smooth and fluid midrange that was quite enjoyable. It also delivered the full Monty of orchestral colors, particularly with Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique [RCA- 74321 845 872] and Debussy's La Mer [Telarc- 60617]. There was a fine sense of scale and instrumental and vocal images were solid to boot. Stage depth and width were exceptional, big orchestral climaxes thunderous and exciting, tympani and drumbeats awesome.

The Almarro is an amp that delivers on the macro or big picture of the music. It's in the micro where it gets into a little trouble, missing just a touch of inner detail or that elusive lit-from-within quality that seems to be the providence of smaller, lower powered amps. This was especially noticeable on chamber music such as Schumann's tortured string quartets [Harmonia Mundi 907270]. Subtle secondary instrumental lines were ever so slightly obscured where the Leben CS-300X and Manley Labs Stingray had excelled. Still, music over the Almarro was always involving and seductive with a natural sense of flow.

While I have not heard the puny A205 that Jeff Day enthused about, I suspect that amp would excel at precisely the sorts of things that I thought were missing on the A50125A. I'm also pretty sure the little Almarro would not have driven the M2A as well as its big brother nor delivered the scale and power. Such is life for the audiophile: you can't have everything. It all comes down to priorities. If you listen mostly to Mahler or Led Zep, the A50125A just might be the ticket. If you dig Beethoven's String Quartets and Bill Evans, the A205 will likely hoist your sail.

Comparing the Almarro to my Manley Labs Stingray or even Manley's seafood combo aka Shrimp preamp and Mahi monoblocks was fascinating. Both lines could not have sounded more different. Music via the Manley gear was swift, dynamic and incisive. With the Almarro, playback was big, weighty, powerful yet also a trifle sluggish - but man when the hammer came down, it hit hard. Perhaps the sonic differences were more a result of different output tubes than circuit topologies? The small EL84 is valued for its speed and sparkling extended highs rather than power or bass extension while the big 6550 is all about weight, punch and bottom-end grunt.

Apart from my quibble regarding the volume control, the Almarro A50125A was a delightful amp that offered considerable power and weight while just missing out on inner detail and ultimate transparency. However, it will be a balm to those tired of dimensionally flat, bright and glary solid-state amps. Together, the M2A and A50125A combo offered a large, powerful, rich Technicolor performance a trifle soft and wooly in the bottom end yet always smooth and easy-going sans distress or glare. The A50125A's propensity to thrust music forward helped to offset the M2A's laidback vibe. There definitely is some inbuilt synergy of
complementary opposites going on. The word that crept up most often during my time with this system was musical. I realize this is a commonly used reviewer term and one that readers invariably interpret as a codeword for thoroughly enjoyable if not the last word in low-level resolution. In this case, that would be an accurate assessment.
Almarro responds

Dear Paul-san,
I sincerely appreciate your review of our M2As and A50125A. This is trifling information but regarding your introduction of Almarro, we are are 12-member tiny company with 5 engineers and 7 workers. It is our honor and pleasure to be able to have your review for our M2As and A50125A. Every point described is fair and exact.

I don't believe the myth either but point-to-point wiring is convenient to change from pentode connection to UL/triode mode or to upgrade parts. This flexibility may be of lesser concern to audiopiles but we would like to also make our amps available for DIY projects. The A50125A is capable of supplying up to 650V of plate voltages to the 6550s. This allows the enjoyment of UL or triode connection with higher resolution and a mellower sound that the pentode connection. We are currently preparing the information and part list for this modifications as well as for the A50125A-UL which was originally connected in UL mode.

Best regards,
Yoshihiro Muramatsu
Almarro products

Manufacturer's website