Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Short Review: Lepai LP-2020TI amplifier

I'm in the midst of building a small home studio for recording synth and guitar.  My plan for monitoring was to use a pair of KEF Q350 speakers with a small amplifier.  With my past love of the Charlize and other Class T amplifiers, and a low budget, I decided to give the Lepai LP-2020TI, available from Parts Express, a try.  For $25 it is hard to go wrong.  If I didn't like it, no big hit to the pocket book.

This thing is tiny - like the size of two packs of cards.  It is also extremely light; helped by the 12V outboard power supply.  Build quality is just okay.  I'm not a big fan of the spring clip speaker wire connectors or the tone controls; which can thankfully be bypassed.  The light-up volume control is gimmicky too but no real major complaints given the silly low price.

In my garage system - replacing the venerable Adcom 545 - I was surprised how good CDs from the old Pioneer DVD player sounded.  There was a toe-tappin' excitement to the music with plenty of kick.  The Wharfedale Denton speakers are a good match with this amplifier, making more volume than I expected.  There was a nice speed to the sound too.  Over all I would give the slight nod of the Lepai over the Adcom, but we are talking a garage system so let's not get too carried away!

I originally wasn't thinking of plonking this little amp into my main system, but given the amount of free time I have due to being furloughed, I decided to give it a try.  Initial impressions were rather eye opening.  This is one very nice sounding amplifier.  But a few minutes of listening, even with my Dual CS5000 and Schiit Mani phono, I could hear a loss of detail and blurring compared to the Aleph J.  Bass of the Lepai was also a little rolled off and there was some solid-state grit and forwardness on top.  But to be fair, the Aleph cost in the neighborhood of $900 to build; a far cry from the dinner-for-one price of the Lepai.

Conclusions?  It's a good amp for cottages, garages small apartments, dorms, or where critical listening is not of upmost importance.  I could easily imagine a system with a Rega RP1, Schiit Mani, the Lepai, and your favorite budget mini-monitors.  Such a stereo would best a lot of ones that I've heard (or even owned!). 

Garage System:
Pioneer DV-V7400 DVD/CD Player
Schiit SYS passive linestage
Adcom 545
Wharfedale Denton 80th Anniversary
Belden 9497 speaker cable
generic interconnects

Main System (second turntable)
Dual CS5000
Schiit Mani
Classe Five preamplifier
DIY First Watt Aleph J amplifier
KEF R500 speakers
Cardas Twinlink speaker cables
Cardas Neutral Reference and Iridium interconnects