Music Hall a25.2 Integrated Amp and cd 25.2 CD Player: Affordable Acquisitions By
Entrance into the realm of real high end audio has a longtime advocate in Roy
Hall and Music Hall Audio. As covered in the previous Audio Files, Music Halls
brand name radios and turntables, as well as their distribution of such lines
as Creek and Epos, have made them a low cost leader. Costing $599 each, Music
Halls a25.2 Integrated Amp and CD 25.2 CD Player continue their tradition
of super bang for the buck.
Often, when friends come over to hear my Shindo/DeVore/Kuzma rig, previously skeptical
listeners are quickly won over by its combination of soundstaging (the ability
to create lifelike images within a listening room), power, detail, and ultimately,
musicality. And that is what Music Hall products do so well. Sure, you can spend
more money to realize greater resolution, depth of soundstage, and neutrality
(the ability of an audio product to let the music pass unhindered by inherent
colorations), but Music Hall has become a success by delivering the essence of
the music as recorded to disc or LP.
Like many products these days, high end audio is experiencing a revolution in
pricing due to offshore construction. Now, I am not exactly sure where the a25.2
and 25.2 are manufactured, but China or Indonesia is my guess. How else to explain
the fantastic quality of these two pieces?
The a25.2 Integrated Amp features a digitally-controlled volume control in its
50 watt per channel design, a pre-amp out/subwoofer connection for home theater
enthusiasts, four analog inputs, with a tape loop, and one headphone input. The
25.2 CD player is no less of a slouch, packed with components normally found in
much more expensive gear. A Burr-Brown PCM 1738 24-bit/192kHz DAC (which converts
the digital signal into analog) is the main workhorse of the player, coupled with
a Philips VAM1202/19 transport (the CD tray mechanism) and two digital outputs:
one coaxial and one optical. A single remote control will operate both units;
each is finished in brushed aluminum, has an easily readable and dimmable florescent
display and detachable power cord. With their dual blue digital readouts resembling
portholes in a cruise ship or perhaps alien eyes peering at me from across the
room, the a25.2 and 25,2 struck a balance between sleekness and functionality.
The first words that leap to mind with the Music Hall amp/CD player combo are:
bold, big, brassy, and dynamic. Audio nerds often use an archaic term reeking
of stuffy British living rooms (the Brits invented serious audio listening) when
they feel their stereo is kicking major butt - PRAT. Defined to normal, non-obsessive
folk, PRAT means pace, rhythm, and timing. The Music Hall tag team does the PRAT
thing in explosive colors.
The 25.2, with its upsampling DAC, easily competes with CD players in the $1,000
range. Too often, less expensive components quickly reveal their deficiencies:
muddy bass, harsh treble, drab soundstaging. The CD 25.2 avoided these gross errors
by, again, delivering the essence of the music. When you have heard dozens of
3k CD players (as have I), it is easy to nitpick problems with lesser components.
For $599 you cant expect pristine treble, ultimate detail, or laser beam
bass, but the Music Hall machines stunned me right out of the box with their powerful
Playing Tools new epic, 10,000 Days, the music leapt out of the speakers,
low end instruments like drums, electric bass, and Maynards garbled voodoo
vocals filling up the room with intensity. Donald Fagens Morph the Cat is
a much better recording, in audiophile terms, than 10,000 Days, and the CD 25.2
did an excellent job of sorting out the myriad information on this very resolute
disc. While the CD 25.2s soundstaging abilities are rather flat, without
a great sense of back to front layering, it did an overall excellent job of revealing
the micro and macro details of the recording. And, it was fairly neutral. I have
certainly heard more expensive CD players color the material to a greater extent
than the CD 25.2.
The a25.2 integrated followed suit as an almost identical audio twin of the CD
player, delivering a smooth, warm reproduction of the music that was easy on the
ears and very easy to enjoy. The biggest sin most inexpensive components commit
is that of a harsh, nasty treble. Playing vinyl usually eliminates that fault,
while CD typically aggravates it. Though digital has greatly improved in the last
two or three years, it is still all too easy to fire up an expensive CD player
that will fry your ears, resulting in ear ringing digititus. The a25.2 boosted
the 25.2s already non-fatiguing, smooth character with a powerful, bass
pumping performance that had me wondering if my yen for tube amplification is
The Music Hall a25.2 Integrated Amp and CD 25.2 CD Player offer high end performance
for the cost of some lesser home theater separates. For audio only lovers, that
is a real blessing.