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January 2015
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Superior Audio Equipment Review
World Premiere!
Wells Audio Innamorata Signature Amplifier
Configured in a passive vertically bi-amp'ed system.
Finding gold at the end of the rainbow.
Review By Wayne

 

Wells Audio Innamorata Signature Amplifier

  I reviewed the Innamorata amplifier back in May 2013, and awarded it a 2013 Blue Note Award. In January 2014 I followed up that initial review with an account of the additional benefits of vertically bi-amp'ing two Innamoratas. That second review discusses the technical issues involved in setting up this configuration. Had originally expected at least a 10% overall sonic improvement from bi-amp'ing the Wells Audio Innamorata Signature amplifier within this review. But actually the improvements I heard from the bi-amp'ed system were hard to quantify; mainly because they went far beyond my expectations. Doubling the power certainly improved dynamics and enabled playing at higher volume without strain. But that was only the beginning. Dynamic gradations became much more apparent. Imaging was even more three-dimensional, instrumental and vocal locations within the soundscape more "locked in place" with the Wells Audio Innamorata Signature amplifiers. Inner voices within the orchestra emerged more clearly. I felt as if I had gotten closer to the core of the music.

At that point I believed my system's amplification was set for the foreseeable future. In early 2014 when Jeff Wells told me he was developing a Signature version, which would necessarily be considerably more expensive, I didn't think it could sound better enough to justify the additional cost. But then Jeff shipped an early Signature amp to Chicago, arranging for me to have it for four days. He flew in to present the Signature to prospective dealers and retail customers, and he set it up so I could compare the Signature to my bi-amp'ed original Innamoratas. After a couple of long evenings listening to both setups, I decided to have my Innamoratas shipped back one at a time, so I keep a functioning system to be upgraded to Signatures.

After the first night of listening to the first upgraded amp I was astounded at how the single Innamorata Signature performed in comparison to my bi-amped originals. First, although the Signature is rated for the same 140 Wpc continuous output power, its ability to drive my hard-to-drive Analysis dipoles was nearly equal to the bi-amp'ed originals. Also, while I had been quite impressed with the quietness of my original Innamoratas, the Signature offered an even lower, "blacker" noise floor. All of the virtues of the original Innamorata were simply even more evident through the Signature: wider, deeper soundscape, deeper and better defined low frequencies, more open and extended highs, more complete harmonics. I've always held that in audio "the great is the enemy of the good," but now I had to amend that maxim to "the greatest is the enemy of the great." After I had already experienced such an improvement from bi-amp'ing my Innamoratas, I now had to revise my notion of what "the greatest" could be.

 

Physical Description And Technical Overview
The Signature looks identical to the original Innamorata amplifier. It is a solid-state amplifier rated conservatively at a continuous 140 Wpc into 8 Ohms, 220 Wpc into 4 Ohms. Connections are simple: one pair of WBT NextGen RCA input jacks, no XLR jacks, and a single pair of WBT NextGen speaker terminals. The dark Plexiglas front panel has a power switch, an illuminated center voltage meter, and the product name in white script. Heat sinks run down both sides, and sturdy feet support the amplifier. The neat and clean interior of the Innamorata Signature displays high-quality transistors, resistors, capacitors and switches throughout. Wiring paths are short, and critical circuit areas are well shielded. It's easy to see the meticulous layout and workmanship of engineer Scott Frankland, who builds the amplifiers.  

Wells Audio Innamorata Signature Amplifier

In addition to those fine parts, every Innamorata amplifier includes special engineering not found in any other brand. Rather than using off-the-shelf transformers, Scott and Jeff specified precise performance parameters for the Innamorata transformers.  In the Signature, the transformers are cryogenically treated. Proprietary wire that is audibly superior to regular copper and silver hookup wire is used everywhere.

Wells Audio Innamorata Signature Amplifier

The basic Innamorata features Jack Bybee's powerful 'Super Effect' AC purifiers. Those devices are a major reason for the wonderful musicality of the Innamorata. In the first iteration of the Signature, Jeff Wells augmented those devices by adding a Bybee purifier on the ground and using IPC power boosters in the power supply. My Signatures were the first amplifiers to replace that scheme with Bybee AC Modules. The AC Module incorporates two of the Super Effect AC purifiers and a specially designed Bybee device for the ground; the enclosure of the AC Module also includes elements of Bybee's new Crystal Technology. The AC Module functions as a power conditioner for the amplifier, virtually eliminating RFI and EMI noise. These concepts are not yet well known, but their net effect is to make the amplifier even quieter something I had not thought possible and even more convincing in spatial recreation.

Wells Audio Innamorata Signature Amplifier

The Innamorata was the first production amplifier to incorporate Bybee Music Rails, and the Signature amplifier maintains them. Unlike the passive Bybee devices described above, the Music Rail is an active electronic noise-filtering circuit that reduces the amplifier's noise floor by up to 45dB below incoming line noise. That feature is especially useful to me; for years I've referred to my 12th-floor Chicago Loop apartment as "RFI Ground Zero." I have spent years working to eliminate the abundant RFI streaming into my listening room, and now I can't hear it at all, even at very high volume settings.

Wells Audio Innamorata Signature Amplifier

Let me summarize the features that distinguish the Signature from the basic Innamorata amplifier:
  Duelund Cast PIO input coupling capacitors
  Bybee AC Module with IEC input jack, mounted beneath the power supply board
  Fast-recovery diode bridges
  Cryogenically treated transformers
  WBT NextGen RCA & Speaker terminations

 

Listening to the Innamorata Signature
Because this review is the third time we are exploring the evolution of the Innamorata amplifier, I decided to go back and listen to some of the same recordings discussed in the previous reviews. For example, I had found the spacious big-hall acoustic of Valery Gergiev leading the London Symphony Orchestra on the LSO Live label was captured to perfection with a single Innamorata.  But now I hear the extended reverberation of London's Barbicon Centre reproduced with more of a "you are there" sensation, while every nuance of this superb performance is more audible. The ability to capture very different acoustic environments has from the first been a strength of this amplifier. In comparing the close-up, almost in-your-face presentation of John Adams' Harmonielehre (Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the San Francisco Symphony on SFS Media) to the more distant mid-to-rear-hall perspective of Mahler's First Symphony with Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra on Channel Classics, we can easily perceive that these two marvelous performances could hardly be recorded more differently. Yet to an even greater degree than previously, each of those very different recording techniques results in a compelling, emotionally engaging experience.

The same kinds of greater emotional engagement occur with chamber and solo performances. For Jon Manasse and the Tokyo Quartet playing the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, I could previously hear a smaller but still generous acoustic space with the players' positions clearly identifiable, and the "woodiness" of the clarinet was a special pleasure. But with the Signatures, am astounded by how naturally present that clarinet has become.  Piano reproduction one of the very hardest tests for audio to get right was the most realistic my ears had yet heard with the Innamorata in place, but the Signatures also superior with piano recordings. Returning to Paul Lewis playing Schubert Impromptus and Stephen Hough doing Chopin Waltzes, listening to those recordings is still revelatory for me. Now listening with my eyes closed, it is as if the piano is physically within the room.

With the bi-amp'ed Signatures driving the system I am amazed by hearing one of my favorite older recordings, Otto Klemperer's 1962 Mahler Resurrection Symphony on EMI LP. It captures a bass drum strike throughout the Scherzo that for me no other recording has ever quite equaled.  The original Innamorata made that drum strike sound virtually subterranean; felt as much as heard. But with the Signatures it is now literally, bone-shaking, to the extent that I had to find and remove from the listening room a ceramic ornament that was audibly vibrating!

 

Conclusion
Listening "epiphanies" have been happening to me since I began my Innamorata journey. In all my decades of seeking audio that can seriously challenge listening to live music, nothing has brought me closer than these Innamorata Signatures, except years ago when changing from box speakers to my beloved Analysis planar/ribbon dipoles. That change and this one and, I must say, the digital transformation from the LampizatOr DAC reviewed last month have made the audio listening experience more pleasurable than I would have thought possible. The many other upgrades I have heard over the years have been rewarding and sometimes startling, but until now nothing has improved the audio experience to such a fundamental degree. I feel like the leprechaun who finally found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

 

 

Specifications
Type: Solid-state stereo amplifier
Power Output: 140 Wpc at 8 Ohms, 220 Wpc at 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 50 kHz (+/-0.25dB)
Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR): -103dB at full power output
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): <0.025% at 1 kHz at 100 W at 8 Ohms
Gain: 30dB
Inputs: WBT NextGen RCA unbalanced
Input Impedance: 50kOhms
Outputs: WBT NextGen five-way binding posts
Damping Factor: 200, reference 8 Ohms nominal
Dimensions: 19" x 6" x 17" (WxHxD)
Shipping Weight: 60 lbs.
Warranty: Three years parts and labor
Price: $15,000

 

Company Information
Wells Audio
106 Bascom Court
San Jose, CA 95008

Voice: (408) 376-0861
Fax: (408) 376-0862
E-mail: jeff@wellsaudio.com
Website: www.WellsAudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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