For 25 years Sonance has blazed a trail of innovation in custom home audio installation. Though they don’t market their products through conventional retail channels, Sonance’s reputation for designing and manufacturing excellent products is very well known amongst custom home audio installers. Recently, we had the opportunity to evaluate and experience Sonance’s new Sonamp 275 SE with BBE Sound Enhancement. It’s a 2-channel amplifier with built in sound processing that promises to deliver better fidelity at lower volumes and even improve the sound of lossy digital music files.
Out of the Box
Pulling the 23 lb. 275 SE from its packaging gave us our first hint at its stellar build quality. Peering beyond the perforations in the rugged chassis, we see a stout, donut-shaped toroidal power transformer and a bay of very large, high-quality capacitors. The rest of the electronic innards appear to be laid out in a modular fashion which we later discover is part of the 275 SE’s upgrade appeal.
On the back of the unit we find a pair of RCA inputs and outputs, two pair of high quality binding posts, two replaceable fuses (one for each channel) a 12-volt trigger connection, a receptacle for the power cord and a switch that adjusts the BBE sound processor’s level of enhancement from off to +6db or +12db. The front of the unit is kept clean with only a power button and a few LED’s to indicate power, signal reception and clipping status. Sonance has gone so far as to clearly label what connections need to be used in order to bridge the amp in order to double it’s output power in mono mode. For those with little audio installation experience, this is a very thoughtful feature.
In the box with the 275 SE you’ll find a thick, grounded 6ft. power cable and a product information sheet.
Features and Design
Unlike an A/V receiver or Preamp/Processor, a dedicated audio amplifier’s job is relatively simple: Take a signal and make it useable to a speaker. As such, there is usually little to discuss when it comes to an amplifier’s features. The Sonance 275 SE is little different, though. While most amplifiers simply boost the signal they are fed, the 275 SE employs BBE technology to improve the sound as it is amplified. BBE processing differs from tone controls and graphic equalizers in that it doesn’t just boost or trim certain parts of the frequency spectrum. Instead, it attempts to time-align the high frequencies with the midrange and bass frequencies so that all of the frequencies get to your ear at the same time. In addition, it boosts the bass output a little to help maintain balance in the sound. Practically speaking, BBE attempts to make the music you listen to sound more natural and “Live”, no matter the volume. In theory, it should also restore some of the high-frequency balance of lossy MP3 files.
The 275 SE’s inclusion of BBE is not the only trick in its bag. The processors are upgradeable because Sonance has made them a modular piece of the amp. To upgrade, simply remove the chips and replace them new processors. It’s a plug and play operation that anyone can perform. Having the ability to customize your amp’s performance in this way is extremely handy for those with particular tastes or changing performance needs.
The 275 SE’s rated power is 75 watts into 8 ohms, but the amp can be bridged to output up to 250 watts into 8 ohms. This amp is also stable down to 2.7 ohms, meaning it can handle a string of speakers wired in parallel or simply take care of a pair of very low impedance speakers. This makes the 275 SE equally comfortable powering speakers all around your home or powering high end home theater speakers in your dedicated room. We should also point out that the 75 watt rating seems to be on the conservative side. During our performance evaluations, we noticed that the 275 SE had plenty more to give after we had reached our peak power needs.