Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary Integrated Amplifier Review
BIG, BEAUTIFUL, POWERFUL, SOULFUL, CHARACTERLESS – FABULOUS
In December 2018 I was delivered a full system for review by a specialist UK HiFi Dealer The Audio Consultants. This consisted of German Physiks speakers, a Norma Audio CD Player, GutWire Cabling and Harmonix Resolutions Systems Isolation products. The amplifier they chose to use with this system delivered many surprises over the three week review period., the Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary Integrated amplifier made a huge impression on me, in more than one way so lets get into the review to look at how and why it did.
Steve and Alex from the Audio Consultants brought everything into my listening room from the car, I didn’t get a chance to look at the sizes of the boxes or feel the weight of any of them. I was warned pretty quickly that the Maestro Anniversary would not fit onto my rack and the guys had brought with them a HRS M3X2 Isolation Base to use so the amplifier would have an ideal setting to work off. Further HRS Nimbus products were added to the underside and top plate of the amplifier for even further improved resonance control.
Looking at the Anniversary Maestro amplifier its size really is a stand out feature and something any potential buyer needa to be aware of. Its an amplifier in some ways of yesteryear, in a day when all audiophiles HiFi systems took pride of place in the listening / living room. I still adopt this approach and applaud any audiophiles who does the same, while fully understanding for a lot of other audiophiles a product like this just wouldn’t be feasible.
The amplifier’s dimensions are 168x450x550 mm and it weighs just over 30kg so its heavy as well. Its not big for the sake of it, the internal layout design dictates its size.
The Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary has quite unique styling for an amplifier designed in recent years, you don’t see many built like this anymore. In some ways it contrasts modern lines with contemporary touches of class. The rotary control on its front is smooth as silk in operation, a real joy to interact with and it doubles as the on and off button. The slimline but still very bright row of volume indicator LED’s is not my preferred method of displaying the volume but there is no denying how sleek and stylish it is. Audio Analogue and the amplifiers designers AIRTECH names are nicely engraved into the amplifier front plate and I fully appreciate attentions to detail like this, especially when your paying this sort of money for a HiFi component, they matter.
That brings us nicely to a design choice that is inevitably bound to split opinions, the side sculpted heat sinks. These hark back to the glory days of HiFi when companies like KRELL were making very esoteric amplifiers styled in this way. You cant look at an amp like the Maestro Anniversary without thinking of a KRELL, this is far from a bad thing. I really like the styling of the sculpted side fins, I think they are an elegant way of visually masking what would otherwise be a very long and rectangular box and they are again a nice attention to detail.
The Maestro Anniversary was designed by AIRTECH Labs following their development of the Audio Analogue Puccini amplifier. The Maestro is a very similar design with the exception that it is fully balanced from the input to the power stage. All stages in the Maestro are without any global negative feedback and the power stages of the amplifier use 4 pairs of transistors per channel. This allows the amplifier to produce a healthy and impressive 150w per channel at 8ohms, 300w per channel into 4 ohms and 520w per channel into 2 ohms.
The Maestro Anniversary is actually separated into three elements the Power, the Amplifier and the Pre Amplifier. For the power Audio Analogue included two separate 600 VA torodial transformers, one huge transformer per channel. The rectifier bridge has discrete diodes that are ultrafast and 50A each. The filtering capacity is 16800μF by branch so the amplifier has a total filter of 67200μF, impressive.
There are two amplifiers within the Maestro Anniversary one per channel and these are totally separated including their power and their grounds, its a true dual mono configuration. The PCB’s used are double thickness to ensure the passage of large currents involved. Along with a very refined circuit Audio Analogue have used very high quality components such as military standard resistors, polypropylene audio grade capacitors, 7N OCC copper wiring and pure copper output connectors.
The pre amplifiers are again true dual mono, completely separated from each other, Class A in design and also have no global negative feedback.
The three elements described above are physically housed on three separate boards so it’s like having a power supply, a pre amplifier and a separate power amp but in the one chassis. With all these design attentions to detail the physical size of the Maestro Anniversary starts to make sense, even more so when you remove the lid and take a look inside.
The Maestro Anniversary sounded pretty impressive from the first note, however I was told that after 24 hours the amplifier would be when things really started to happen and I agree with this comment, this is an amplifier that sounds better once its been on for a while and warmed up.
Combined with the German Physiks Unlimited Ultimate speakers and my usual review setup of my custom built music server, Chord Electronics Hugo M Scaler and Qutest DAC (linked with dual Wave High Fidelity Stream BNC Digital Cables) with Tellurium Q Silver Diamond Analogue and Statement (Power) cabling I was a very happy audiophile listening to this system. Extremely happy in fact, so much so I listened to more music in the first days of having this system than I can remember doing for a long time. When music sounds this sweet, detailed, cohesive and fast with fantastic leading edge clarity and sound stage clarity its a joy to listen to, a joy that keeps pulling you back for more.
You could easily expect an amplifier of this size and stature to be big and bold sounding while imposing itself on the music but in this instance that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Maestro Anniversary manages to bring music to life, to play loud without strain, to drive speakers hard and with complete control, with fantastic musical insight, even into the deepest bass notes.
This is not amplifier for every audiophile and that is not because of its performance, but because of its sheer size and visual styling. The price of £7,000 will deter some where others will see a bargain in terms of the sonic performance per pound spent. I can see some audiophiles preferring a less Neutral amplifier if they favour extra excitement or an extra warm presentation. Leaving those audiophiles to one side there is a lot of audiophiles who would not like, but love the Maestro Anniversary.
With the exception of the amplifier top plate that is too thin and will resonate too much if tapped the build quality is solid and very reassuring in its quality. The remote control is also a high quality affair being made from a solid piece of aluminium. After many hours of loud playback the amplifier is barely warm to the touch and this was another surprise and makes the amplifier easy to live with all year round. I would have liked to have tried the Maestro Anniversary as part of my reference home cinema setup as I can imagine its speed, clarity and control would work wonders for movie sound tracks.
When the Audio Consultants collected the system in January I very quickly missed it, I am still missing parts of it and the amplifier is among the parts I am missing. It would have been excellent to use it with my KEF Reference 3 speakers as I think it would have been an amazing combination. Maybe one day in the future I will get to hear this combination but for all those audiophiles shopping for amplifiers around this price point, if you can accommodate its size the Audio Analogue Maestro Anniversary is a very easy recommendation for your short list.
A Special Performer Award is Pursuit Perfect Systems highest accolade and is in recognition of exceptional product performance regardless of price