Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Short Take: the Adcom 545

(picture from Google Images)

My old McIntosh MC2100 is in desperate need of a rebuild.  This poor amplifier, after all, is knocking on forty or more years of usage, which means capacitors, resistors, and other bits are due for replacement.  This age has shown up as "vintage" warmth, but also a rolled-off top, plummy bass, and some signal degradation.  To put it bluntly, this amp sounds old and tired.

With that in mind I decided to replace the Mac with a partner to the Adcom GFP-555, the venerable GFA-545.  Of course the 545 is no youngster either, but it is inexpensive and can also be stacked on top of the preamplifier.  Given my tight listening space this was the biggest reason to go this route.

The Adcom GFP-545 is a conservatively rated 2-channel power amplifier making 100WPC.  5-way binding posts, RCA inputs, captive power cord, etc.  Very basic and no frills with only the mentioned connections, an on-off switch and indicators if either channel is clipping.  Designed by Nelson Pass, it sits between two other models, the 60WPC GFA-535 and the 200WPC GFA-545.

In the 80s and even up to the 90s, Adcom amplifiers were mainstays in many, many systems,  My father still has an original 555 running in his downstairs home theater system, so that speaks of some good reliability.  But, like my McIntosh 2100, they are getting to the point where some maintenance is due.

How does it sound?  At least in my budget system, very good.  With the fresh power supply and direct coupling, the Adcom had much better and tighter bass than the McIntosh.  It does lack some of the warmth, but the clarity and detail is higher along with a less grainy presentation.  Top end is extended, perhaps a little etchy compared to the best tube amps, but nothing that will drive the listener out of the room.  So a good basic power amp that can be used in a variety of systems.

Ultimate fidelity?  In a word: no.  But my current system is a whole bunch of compromise, and with the soft presentation of the Shure M97xe / Dual CS5000 combination and the nature of the Adcom GFP-555 preamplifier, it somehow all works, even blunting the forward character of the B&W 805s,

So for now the Adcom 545 delivers music and does it in a way that I find inoffensive.  But with tube amps coming soon it's time in my system is short.