Member of the Trade: HiFlight Topkits
Joined: Feb 12, 2005
Location: Fort Myers, FL
While I probably own more amplifiers that I have need for, both desktop and portable, I am always on the lookout for new or innovative products which serve well their intended purpose, namely reproducing music at the output that mirrors that which is presented at the input.
Some time back, I happened across a single review of the Andante, manufactured by Scherzo Audio, located in Kissimmee, Florida. Interestingly, the Andante is completely designed, sourced and built in the USA!
The review was quite positive, so I visited the company website to gain further information. There was not a great deal of technical information to be found on the website, other than the fact that it was powered by SLA rechargeable batteries with a play time of approximately 60 hours and the normal specifications commonly found in amplifier listings.
An interesting bit of information that caught my eye was that the Andante is DC-coupled; this results in excellent low-frequency response.
While spending some quality time pursuing one of my favorite pastimes, (perusing the Head-Fi classified threads), I happened to spot an pre-owned Andante listed for sale. After exchanging a few emails and PMs with the owner, the amplifier became mine and shortly thereafter, appeared at my doorstep.
I have since spent considerable time auditioning this unique amplifier, using a variety of music genres and many headphones of differing impedances and sensitivities.
I can say at the outset that the Andante has exceeded my expectations in every way: quality of construction, size, faithful reproduction of all types of music; vocal, instrumental, classical, rock...it handles them all with grace and aplomb, performing well above its price point. For those who consider this an important consideration, the amplifier as well as the components used therein are manufactured in the USA!
The first and most obvious impression at first listen was how full and rich this amplifier sounded. Bass is almost palpable, effortlessly reaching the lowest registers of the recording. It is not blooming or thumping, just full, lifelike deep bass. This is, undoubtedly the result of the direct-coupled design.
There is no smearing of instruments and timing is excellent. Midrange frequencies are uncolored and high-frequency detail and harmonics in such instruments as triangles, piccolo, violins, etc. are reproduced in a most realistic manner but without sibilance. One caveat is that any shortcomings in your recordings will also be faithfully reproduced! This is a revealing but not overly analytical amplifier.
As can be expected from an "off-the-grid" amplifier, with no input signal there is an absolute lack of hum or noise even at full volume which results in a totally and utterly black blackground.
While the Andante was designed for 32 ohm impedance phones, it has been able to handle all of my phones with aplomb, even my HE-5LE's, which have quite a low sensitivity. Gain is fixed at 10.5 but a higher or lower gain is available on request. As the amplifier is DC-coupled, any input device should be checked for excessive DC offset. Even when running at very high settings on the volume control, there was no evidence of strain or distortion.
I originally exchanged several emails with the builder, as I had a number of questions that were not addressed in the Scherzo Audio website. Some of the details are as follows: Originally manufactured with SLA batteries of a high quality similar to those used in medical devices, etc., those particular batteries are no longer available so the builder has re-designed the power supply with state-of-the-art lithium cells. The L-R amplifier modules are potted and are of discrete components. This is not an opamp-based amplifier!
The batteries are maintained by a sophisticated battery-management circuit which warns of low battery charge, and will enable the amplifier to enter a suspended state if battery voltage decreases to 11 volts. The amplifier can be operated while recharging, if desired.
It is not my intent to write a full and detailed review, but rather to present my first impressions so as to bring this somewhat obscure, but very high-quality amplifier to the attention of the Head-Fi community. Please note the fact that I am in no way affiliated with Scherzo Audio, but rather a very satisfied owner of the Andante.
While not a true portable, the fact that there is no requirement for AC power allows the Andante to serve as an ideal movable desktop or bedside amplifier. The weight of less than 2 lbs and the small non-skid feet are more than adequate to keep the amplifier securely in place, even with cables and headphones attached.
Size-wise, the Andante is about the size of two stacked CD jewel cases. Besides the 1/8" input on the front face, there are dual pairs of RCA jacks on the rear for additional input and output connections. Note also that there are both 1/4" and 1/8" stereo jacks on the front face which eliminates the need for adapters.
The Andante is built to order on request directly from Scherzo Audio.
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