ToneWinner AD-7300PA+ 7-Channel Amplifier Review

Introduction

I wanted to have a look at the ToneWinner for a while now, but I wasn’t exactly full of cash after having just paid for the JVC NZ8 (review incoming). As my luck would have it, Fundamental Audio (Melbourne, Australia) was kind enough to provide me with their review unit which they had just gotten back from a previous reviewer.

Since this is a review unit, there are a few caveats:

  1. The manufacturer or supplier is able to pick a well-performing unit to send out for reviews. I don’t see any evidence to support this in this case. It’s certainly much easier to do so with projectors than audio equipment.
  2. You need to be aware of a reviewer’s tendency to be more tactful in their review with manufacturer-supplied equipment – at least if they want to receive further review units.

However, I will mention this: Fundamental Audio encouraged me to be honest in my review and did not in any way try to influence what I wrote. In fact, I had dealings with them on other fronts and the people behind it have some of the best and most honest customer service in Audio-Visual Equipment in the country. While with other people I sometimes feel like I’m being pushed a product, I never feel like that talking to these guys!

One final thing in the interest of transparency: Fundamental Audio was provided with the draft of this review before publication for two reasons:

  1. To be able to correct any factual errors – they did correct a couple of typos – thx guys!
  2. To be able to provide commentary – if they chose – on any of my findings

Now that’s out of the way, let’s have a look at the unit.

Specifications

The manufacturer provides the following specifications for the unit:

ParametersAD-7300PA+Rated impedance8 ohms
SNR≥100dB(A weighted)Gain28dB
THD≤0.09%(1kHz)Dimendion440×197×445mm(W×H×D)
Output power per channel515W RMS(4Ω,THD=3%,1kHz)310W RMS(8Ω,THD=3%,1kHz)N.W.25kg
Frequency response20Hz-50KHz(+1/-3dB)MaterialAluminum alloy
Channel7Accessoriesmanual, certificate, power cord, signal cable
Applicable placesliving room, display room, club, karaoke room, etcColourblack

However, Summit Hifi in the US has tested the unit and found out the following:

Audio Specifications: 120 Volts Test Results:

  • Topology: Fully discrete, dual differential, high current, short signal path Class A/B – Class “H” power supply.
  • Numbers of Channel: 7 Channels – High powered single channel modules.
  • Power Output: ( Rated Power; THD <0.1% @ 120V (Tested @ AC 120V) – (AC 240V Will Increase the output wattage and maintain the THD<0.1%.)
  • 300 watts RMS/channel; 20 Hz – 20 kHz; THD<0.1%; 8 Ohms; one channel driven.
  • 507 watts RMS/channel; 20 Hz – 20 kHz; THD<0.1%; 4 Ohms; one channel driven.
  • 266 watts RMS/channel; THD<0.1%; 8 Ohms; two channels driven.
  • 434 watts RMS/channel; THD<0.1%; 4 Ohms; two channels driven.
  • 180 watts RMS/channel; THD<0.1%; 8 Ohms; all Seven channels driven.

Audio Specifications: 240 Volts Test Results:

  • Topology: Fully discrete, dual differential, high current, short signal path Class A/B – Class “H” power supply.
  • Numbers of Channel: 7 Channels – High powered single channel modules.
  • Power Output: ( Rated Power; THD <0.1% @ 240V (Tested @ AC 240V) – (AC 240V Will Increase the output wattage and maintain the THD<0.1%.)
  • 324 watts RMS/channel; 20 Hz – 20 kHz; THD<0.1%; 8 Ohms; one channel driven.
  • 584 watts RMS/channel; 20 Hz – 20 kHz; THD<0.1%; 4 Ohms; one channel driven.
  • 307 watts RMS/channel; THD<0.1%; 8 Ohms; two channels driven.
  • 500 watts RMS/channel; THD<0.1%; 4 Ohms; two channels driven.
  • 190+ watts RMS/channel; THD<0.1%; 8 Ohms; all Seven channels driven.
  • Power Bandwidth (at rated power; 8 Ohm load): 20 Hz to 20 kHz (+ / – 0.1 dB).
  • Broad-Band Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 70 kHz +0/-2 dB.
  • THD + noise: < 0.006%; at 100 watts RMS; 1 kHz; 8 Ohms.
  • Signal to Noise Ratio (8 Ohm load):
  • > 106 dB; ref FTC rated power; unbalanced input (A-weighted).
  • > 91 dB; ref 1 watt; unbalanced input (A-weighted).
  • Minimum Recommended Load Impedance (per channel): 4 Ohms (which equals one 4 Ohm load or two paralleled 8 Ohm loads).
  • Damping Factor (8 Ohm load): > 149.
  • Input Sensitivity (for rated power; 8 Ohm load): 1.5 V.
  • Gain: 28 dB.
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 2056 watts at 120V & 1128W at 240V

However you look at it, these are some impressive specifications. The only one that I will pull out is the damping factor, which is a little bit less known by folks.

The damping factor is the measure of how much control an amplifier has on the speaker coil as the voice coil kicks or flies back after reproducing the impulse response. The issue is that if the amplifier has too low a damping factor, the speaker will keep vibrating and produce ringing and other artefacts that colour the sound.

Too low a damping factor will sound too mushy, and too high a damping factor can sound hard and clinical. A damping factor of around 150-200 is ideal for an amplifier to be easy to listen to for both music and home theatre which is what ToneWinner has hit as a sweet spot for most people’s listening habits.

The amplifier I am using in my home theatre, the Rotel RMB-1077, has lower power per channel, but a much higher damping factor of 400. What’s more, the ToneWinner is a class AB amp, while my Rotel is a Class D with ICEPower modules. I will compare the two amps as I do this review.

Just to put things into perspective, an AVR from most of the top manufacturers will have a damping factor of around 50. This will provide ok control of your speakers, but there will be artefacts beyond what’s in the signal in the form of ringing (and dB fluctuations for hard to drive speakers) which will cause auditory masking of certain low-level (meaning quieter) detail.

Look & Feel

I will be honest. I am not a huge fan of HiFi-looking gear in my home theatre so the pictures of the unit didn’t exactly appeal to me with its flashy UV meter. If I was building a music-focused system, I might have felt differently about this.

However, I was quite surprised just how great the brushed aluminium body looked in person. Thankfully, the lighting for the UV meter can be turned off (or stepped down in multiple steps) so you don’t see it and the unit blends into the blackness of the home theatre.

The unit came double-boxed and nicely packed.

In terms of feel, the unit is built like a tank and has a very high-quality feel to it from the body to the connections at the back.

Installation

The unit weights a tonne (well, 25kgs to be exact) and it isn’t the easiest to lift or manoeuvre into place due to the heatsinks on the side digging into your hand. I would actually like to see the next version extend the bottom plate under the side heatsinks to resolve this. Otherwise just wear gloves if you are as precious about your hands as I am. So precious in fact that as a young man, I refused to learn the guitar due to the strings digging into my fingers and went with the piano instead. So it might just be me…

I removed my Proart 12-channel amp that currently drives the bass shakers in the seats and placed the ToneWinner in its place. This allowed as little lifting and shifting as possible.

Once in place, connecting the unit up is a piece of cake. The inputs and binding posts are very well laid out and labelled. They don’t feel cramped at all.

There is a trigger input at the back or you can operate the unit manually using the front power button. I would highly recommend you use the trigger input from your AVR or processor to any external amp or you will drive yourself crazy. There isn’t a remote control input on most external amps because manufacturers assume you will use the trigger cable where available.

We installed the ToneWinner connected to a Marantz mid-level AVR (SR6013) for about a month. The speakers were 4ohm Jamo D500 THX speakers.

Listening Tests – Overall

The first thing that struck me – with both movies and music – was the sheer amount of detail present. You could hear every little detail in the soundtrack or the music. I had friends visiting and they were equally impressed with the sound quality of the presentation.

The amp had a great response across the frequency spectrum that I would consider fairly neutral, but more on the lively – as opposed to dry – side of neutral. My own class D has a lot more matter of fact – some would say drier – presentation.

Listening Tests – Movies

Before I talk about surround steering and sound-field, I want to make something clear. I am incredibly detail-oriented when it comes to this topic. So much so that I would NEVER use different speaker cabinets across the front sound-stage – e.g. tower speakers as left / right with a smaller centre speaker. While that might be appropriate for a system with dual duty: HiFi and home theatre, I ultimately don’t want to compromise home theatre as that is 99% of my listening.

In addition, I also replaced my surround speakers with exactly the same LCR cabinets, in spite of the manufacturer providing surround speakers with the same cabinet size and speaker drivers – but in a different configuration. This is because I felt that I could only achieve that holographic 3D sound in my listening space if all speakers were exactly the same, not just had the same drivers.

This allows absolute precision with surround-steering where the speakers disappear and you can literally point in 3D space as to where the sound is coming from.

I am telling you this, because while on a mismatched system, some slight steering precision loss would not be audible, on my system it is – however slight.

So with regards to surround steering and sound-field, I felt that for some reason, the left and right speakers were just a touch more dynamic when the action got going and I got a little bit more of a forward tilt in the presentation with the centre speaker feeling a bit recessed and the surround speakers dropping off a bit too much. I was initially puzzled by this, as a casual browse-through on ToneWinner’s website didn’t make it obvious that the left and right channels were receiving more power or had a different amplifier design from the rest of the channels. Then I went to our local reseller’s website and there it was:

“…channels FL and FR (front left and front right) use a higher current configuration, similar to Class A spec and use the external heatsink fins of the chassis for better cooling and efficiency.”

Now this made a lot more sense as to why I felt there was more dynamic headroom for the Left and Right channels. While this could be remedied by lowering the Left and Right channels by 0.5 to 1dB from what Audyssey had calibrated them, this isn’t necessarily ideal.

While my Rotel amp has a drier presentation, which might not be as great for music, for movies I prefer its almost oppressive hold on the speaker drivers, as if they were running on rails and weren’t allowed to deviate – likely due to its high damping factor. This – along with 7 channels of equal power – allows the sound-field to have an almost uncanny precision. While the ToneWinner had a good sound-field, I felt it didn’t quite match my Rotel in this area.

However, as I said, the ToneWinner could eek just a little bit more detail out of a soundtrack, with more air at the top. Again, the difference with movies was slight but it was there.

Listening Tests – Music

When it came to music, the ToneWinner is really really really good – especially in two channel! You could hear every little nuance of both vocals and instruments. The sound also had an airy feel – likely because of the clear top end. The sound quality from this amp is exceptionally good, certainly better than any AVR amp can muster including top-end Denon, Marantz or Yamaha AVRs.

I also felt like the ToneWinner had bags of power to drive the 14 woofers and 14 midrange drivers it was connected to with excellent clarity and provided excellent integration at the crossover points to my dual REL Predators. 

I would say that it was certainly a more exciting listen for music than my own Rotel.

Conclusion

Make no mistake about it, regardless of any criticism, the ToneWinner is a very impressive piece of hardware, especially for the price. If you have a setup with dual duties: both music and movies, especially if your left and right speakers require more power, it is an absolute recommendation.

If you listen to only movies, or you have gone to the trouble of matching your left, right, centre and surround speakers to be the exact same for that pin-point accurate surround-steering, then I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the ToneWinner AD-7300PA+. To be frank, I would prefer ToneWinner to release both its 7 and 11-channel offerings with the exact same amplifier modules on all channels without ANY alterations regarding power delivery, capacitors for dynamic headroom or anything else. Those that must have large tower speakers for their front left and right can supplement the multi-channel amps with either mono-blocks or a higher-powered two-channel offering.

It is clear that ToneWinner’s offering here is for those that would otherwise need separate amps for the front left and right channels but don’t want to spend the money or don’t have the space for separate amps. In that regard, this is a very cost-effective and excellent offering.

Now the only thing we need to consider is that the industry is likely moving towards Class D – in the form of Purify and Hypex. This is not only because of their lower power consumption and lower heat – as previous-gen Class D such as my Rotel’s ICEPower amps already provide that – but mainly because of their performance. When built properly – Purify and Hypex designs far exceed Class A/B designs in their performance, and this gap will widen over time.

However, such an amp in a 7-channel configuration at the same wattage ratings would cost 3-4x the price of the ToneWinner. So from a price/performance perspective, the ToneWinner is indeed a winner.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: