The Brand New Adcom 555SE and 585SE Sound Great

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Agitater, Nov 10, 2017.

  1. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    I was minding my own business, visiting My Kind of Music in Toronto to see the owner, John Costanzo, and pick up some replacement brush/rollers and detergent for my Saidi Audio ultrasonic cleaner. As I was winding up with John - having just completed the latest in our very long series of conversations on all things audio, Lawrence Mitner walked in. Lawrence is the Canadian sales rep for Adcom and for Red Leaf Marketing (that distributes the superb Belles Audio components in Canada). Lawrence brought with him the latest Adcom 555SE power amp, and the latest (monster) Adcom 585SE (85 pound behemoth with a 1.7kVa power transformer). John set up the 585SE first and 555SE after about 45 minutes with the big thing.

    The 585SE is quite something at its price point. 400W per channel. It's got a solid grip on bass, drove the Wilson Benesch Cardinal floor standers quite nicely, and fully fleshed out a wide variety of jazz, orchestral classical, and so on. It's a brute that can handle just about anything.

    [​IMG]

    But . . . to my ears I felt it was a bit congested in the midrange. Nonetheless, it handled the a glorious recording of Milt Jackson on well-recorded vibes in full voice - a notoriously difficult thing for any amp to do - especially with '60s vintage LPs that mastering engineers had to push hard to capture all that resonance. Bass, drums, piano, horns all sounded realistic, full, and give credit as well to the superb EAR preamp. Source was an Origin Live Resolution turntable with its Encounter tonearm and I-forget-what cartridge.

    The new Adcom 555SE was the real treat. 200W per channel. What a delightful power amp. Same speakers, same preamp, same turntable, tonearm and cartridge. The sound was freer, livelier, more engaging. This is the one that really got things going for me.

    [​IMG]

    It's still a heavy chunk of aluminum, rear heat sinks, and so on, and it's easily as fast and rhythmic as its massive big brother, and seems even more nimble. It's so easy to listen to and be drawn deeply into the music by this amp. I think the new 555SE is a home run for Adcom. It has a huge helping of the Nelson Pass sound that originally made Adcom so popular, but now it also has a huge helping of superb speed, dynamics and detail, along with a musical clarity that is absolutely engaging. At a retail list price of ~$1800, I think it's a genuine bargain, and I highly recommend an audition.

    [​IMG]

    The EAR preamp is in the background right, the Origin Live Resolution immediately above. The Wilson Benesch Cardinal speakers are the tall floor standers flanking. The Adcom 555SE is on the light wood platform lower left. The 585SE is on floor in the middle.
     
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  2. Tim Irvine

    Tim Irvine Forum Resident

    Location:
    Austin, Texas
    It is heartwarming when a revered old brand, seemingly struggling to reassert itself, comes out with some good stuff. Thank so much!
     
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  3. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    And I appreciate the fact that they kept the retro look as well. :righton:
     
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  4. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    They do look very Adcom-ish. The sound is the key, as always. I examined the exterior casework, switches, fit and finish. Everything looked very well done. The 585SE has high-grade WBT speaker posts, while the 555SE has lower grade (still quite good) three-way (wire, spade, banana) posts.
     
  5. John Schofield

    John Schofield Forum Resident

    Location:
    OH
    As an original owner of a GFA555II and a GFA7500 it is good to see this brand come out with some nice quality gear. Where are these manufactured?
     
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  6. Listen Carefully

    Listen Carefully New Member

    Location:
    Toronto
    I owned a 555II as well. Wish I still had it today (with a recapping and whatnot). I’d bet the latest caps, specially the big filter caps, would make a big improvement.
     
  7. Benzion

    Benzion "Cogito, ergo sum" Forum Resident

    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thailand
     
  8. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    I did not check the rear plate myself, but the rep told me they’re assembled in Taiwan. From the looks of the build, not to mention the excellent operation and the sheer solidity of both amps, its seems that the company is producing very good quality components. Plitron transformers, dead quiet operation. The rep went on at some length in his build comparisons between both amps and their Bryston competitors. As a Canadian fan of Canadian designed and made components, and considering Bryston’s solid reputation too, I won’t readily criticize the company. But the rep for this new Adcom gear seems insistent on making comparisons like that. The 555SE was particularly good, and less expensive, watt for watt, than the Bryston.
     
  9. JakeMcD

    JakeMcD Forum Resident

    Location:
    SoFla
    Did they represent that this is a fundamentally different model than the GFA555SE that the new(ish) Adcom has been making since 2008?
     
  10. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    Good question. The answer is I don’t know, because I didn’t think to ask and the rep didn’t offer. My deal here is that I hear a half-dozen or so new products, on average, during thorough auditions at home every month and when traveling. I’ve been at it at that pace for three years, and at a slower pace for several years before that. But this is literally the first time I’ve heard the newer (company) Adcom products.
     
  11. psulioninks

    psulioninks Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kansas City, USA
    In the U.S., the 555SE can be ordered direct from Adcom for $1,299 and free shipping. That's a pretty sweet price for the power that piece delivers.
     
  12. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Listening to my original 555II right now, a fussy amp system wise, but when it works, it sings. In my office system it sings.
     
  13. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Brings me back to the early and mid 90s where it was PSB Strata Golds connected up to the biggest Adcom amps, and it always seemed the discussions on the power amps at the affordable end of the range were Adcom, Rotel, and Bryston. Bryston had the warranty (20 years), Adcom had the highest number or watts (close to double the others), and Rotel sounded the best.

    I had just a quick look but it seems all three brands are still on the same path. Bryston has the 20 year warranty and highest price $3800 for the 3B (ouch) for 150 watts. Adcom has the biggest power (2 year warranty) and Rotel is closer to Adcom in power and price with a 5 year warranty. It would be interesting to hear how they stack up with all their respective "revisions" over the years.

    Glad to see Adcom still in the game. While amplifiers using torroid transformers are not my thing generally - it would be nice to see the conversations once again go on. Add in Parasound's A21 $1800 and Odyssey's power amps $1375 (20 year warranty) and it could be a new battle royal for SS watts for a low price). Odyssey Audio: Stratos Stereo amplifiers. Call us (317) 299 5578. IN, USA.

    I always felt Odyssey had the biggest advantage here on price performance and options due to selling direct. And I like their various optional upgrades so you can customize your own amp. Still I like the big ole retro Adcom look.

    I'm actually surprised to see the prices from the three brands (other than Bryston) remain relatively low after 20+ years of inflation.
     
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  14. Art K

    Art K Forum Resident

    Location:
    Corvallis, Oregon
    I had a 555 in the day. Nice to see this post.
     
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  15. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    This is an Adcom thread, and Adcom uses torroidal transformers, and the rep did not give any indication that was going to change.

    I really wish I could get my hands on an Odyssey amp, but the manufacturer sells direct and like all direct sellers relies on good reviews and word of mouth far more than marketing spends. There are no Odyssey amps in dealer showrooms, which means I’m out of luck for a demo in Toronto or in most other places I travel throughout the country and throughout western Europe. A comparison of the latest Adcom amps with Odyssey might be very interesting and enjoyable, but it’s unlikely to happen. Idle speculation.

    I’m a Bryston fan and I put most Bryston components in a class somewhat notably higher than anything Adcom, Parasound and several other companies are producing at this price point. Bryston is more expensive for several good reasons. The thing that impressed me about the Adcom demo at My Kind of Music, was how close the amps (again, the 555SE in particular) seemed to get to a higher level of musical performance than their price points suggested. To my ears, that’s very good value for money.

    Bryston builds a more expensive product because everything is for the most part still built in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, and because Bryston supports a vast network of retailers in Canada, the U.S., Europe, and western Asia too more recently, and because Bryston has a significant annual marketing, advertising and merchandising spend, and because Bryston fully supports its 20 year warranty on most of its products. Of course Bryston components are more expensive. Seems blatantly obvious why Bryston amps are more expensive than similarly powered Adcom and Odyssey amps. That’s all not to mention that the sound quality coming from the comparably powered Bryston is also several notches better to my ears, a difference that puts Bryston up in the true high end. The thing that got me during the Adcom demo was that the sound was so good that it was brushing the high end closely enough to be there in most typical home listening environments.

    So I think the Adcom 555SE is one of those amps about which you have to ask, will I be able to hear anything incrementally better (and almost inevitably more expensive) in my listening room/area/whatever at home? If the hard truth is a firm no, then the Adcom looks like a superb choice. Plus, with its power rating and the current it has on tap, it will drive anything really well.

    But if we get ‘down’ to a comparison with the Parasound A21, to my ears things get very interesting. I lived with an A21 for a couple of months in 2009. I really liked it, but it lacked the sophistication I was looking for. Fast forward to 2017 at My Kind of Music during the Adcom demo and I heard a tremendous amount of sophistication, not just the brute force of 200 continuous watts on tap, along with a prodigious amount of current just straining at its leash for even the slightest opportunity to attack. To my ears as well, the Adcom 555SE is more nuanced than the A21, They’re both very good amps for the money, but I give the 555SE the clear edge. To my ears, it’s something through which I could listen to music fully involved for hours on end. I can say that about the Bryston, Krell, LFD, Naim, and EAR too, at an even higher sound quality level, but only for a much higher price.

    For anyone in the market for great sound and plenty of sophisticated power from a stereo amp, the Adcom 555SE is very well worth an audition. It has power, consistency, nuance and transparency to the source material. If you have an opportunity in some dealer sound room to audition the Adcom 555SE, Parasound A21 and Bryston 3B side-by-side, be prepared to lose several hours of your life to rapt music listening.
     
  16. Ron Scubadiver

    Ron Scubadiver Forum Resident

    Location:
    Houston TX
    Those transformers are great source of back pain. Lots of copper and iron in them, plus a couple of pounds of aluminum for the heat sinks and steel for the box.
     
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  17. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Adcom are the amps you slam and dismiss because they are so inexpensive and look like generic overseas sourced commodities.
    Then you notice some very good sound in a record store (for example) and ask about the system- 9 out of 10 it's an Adcom.
     
    Agitater likes this.
  18. brockgaw

    brockgaw Forum Resident

    Speaking of Belles, I have a Reference 150A V2 amp rated at 125 w/c but actually does 200 w/c into 8 ohms (according to HiFi News review and test).
    Considered Adcom at the time but chose the newer Belles design. Wondering how the new 555SE would stack up. My nephew has the original 555 and is contemplating a change.
    I'll let his ears decide. Nice to see SAE, Dynaco and Adcom coming back.
     
  19. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    But to be fair you were listening to the Adcom with Wilson Benesch Cardinal speakers and you are comparing that to the Parasound A21 with your speakers back in 2009 (which probably wasn't the Cardinal ($100,000 loudspeakers) and presumably different cables and source player. Ie; you're not just listening to the amplifier.

    I've not had much luck with Bryston in my home with the nature of their design (and amps like it) on certain kinds of speakers - I found Bryston (and amps like it) work better on speakers using long throw woofer types - like a PMC/Dynaudio.

    Regardless - Adcom offers a significantly lower price point of entry so we'll see if they can build back up and get some name recognition again.

    Re: Odyssey - they used to attend audio shows - perhaps they will again. I wasn't a huge fan of the sound - way back in the day I heard them with the Gershman Acoustics X1-Sub-1 speaker along with amps from Celeste(now Sim Audio).

    I am presently trying to find a high power amplifier for review purposes but it's been difficult finding anything I like. The Adcom ticks a few boxes - high power - not crazy priced. Not a big fan of high power tube amps because they usually take a bunch of tubes - that becomes costly to replace and hot. A high power SS amp that a SET guy could like. If no such thing exists then may as well get the highest power best measuring thing available for the lowest price. Adcom ticks that box.

    Have you heard ATI? I have been looking at the Monoprice Monolith 7 (no name ATI apparently - same amp but no balanced inputs) for high power home theater duty (200 watts per channel, 7 channels and $1499) Monoprice Monolith 7 Seven-Channel Amplifier Reviewed

    People seem to like Emotiva too but like you - the direct sales is difficult to try before you buy - I just got lucky to hear Odyssey at an audiophile's house.
     
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  20. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    No - of course the electronics weren’t identical, but they were equally impressive. The system back then consisted of a tricked out LP12, Audio Research preamp, Ortofon Cadenza cartridge IIRC (can’t remember the colour), and Nola Baby Grand Reference speakers. Slotting the A21 into such a system readily revealed the differences between it and the Rowland amp it was substituting for, just as obviously as the apparent differences between the Adcom 555SE and 585SE we substituted for the Graaf amps in the system at My Kind of Music on November 10. Understand, I’m not knocking your suggestion of a Parasound A21 at all (in the midst of an Adcom thread), but rather merely insisting that the thread is focused on the newer generation of Adcom products that I had a chance to audition for the very first time and under good listening conditions too. Strictly in that context, I don’t care about Parasound for the purposes of this thread.

    Precisely, because a bit more competition in the form of high quality, very good sounding amplifiers in this price range benefits music lovers and audiophiles. That’s why I started this thread.

    Then you should audition an Adcom 555SE.
     
  21. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    Lawrence Mitner who did the Adcom demo, likes the Belles gear he reps for the same reason he likes his Adcom products - great value for the money. He’s clear that Belles is the next solid step up from Adcom in his lineup, and I personally think Belles makes remarkably good amps.
     
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  22. ghost rider

    ghost rider Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago
    As it was said earlier I'm glad to see Adcom back in the game. I still have my 555ll as mono sub amps for the HT side of my system. Using old 535 and 2535 for my top and back channels have worked great.
     
  23. Richard Austen

    Richard Austen Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hong Kong
    Just read an interesting tidbit

    "Founded in the early ’90s by Morris Kessler of SAE fame, ATI has spent much of its time working quietly behind the scenes building amplifiers for the likes of Adcom and Theta Digital."
    Read more at Top Picks Processors and Power Amps

    You may want to look into whether there is a comparable amp from ATI and Monolith as both may have an identical amplifier to the ADCOM amplifiers for the same money as the ASCOM - and ATI has a fully transferable 7 year warranty as opposed to just 2 years from ADCOM.

    Who knows you might be able to get the same amp for less money or the same money with longer warranty. Worth investigating anyway.
     
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  24. GuildX700

    GuildX700 Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I've always been impressed with several key units of Adcom's old line, but I can't speak for these "new" Adcom.

    So..... are they in any way directly related to the original company?
    Or are they just Adcom in name, looks, takeoff of original designs by a totally different company?

    Years ago they got a lot of rav reviews, some slams, but had an overall very good rep, especially at their price point.

    For me, the original Adcoms were well designed and constructed units far beyond their price points.

    But, as with any audio component they depend upon what they were mated with, and IMO, this consideration was even moreso important for many Adcom models.

    The GFA 555II amp with rav reviews also got knocked as being harsh, brittle.

    Well the fact of the matter is it can be, depending on what it is mated with.

    I have my original 555 II and in several, actually 9 systems of mine it has resided or been tested in, with some it was ok, a few it was indeed harsh, but the system it long term resides in, well.... it sounds AMAZING.

    I also have 2 Adcom GFP 565 preamps, one stock, on personally modded by designer Nelson Pass.

    Both are amazing, and have what IMO is one of the best ever solid state MM phono sections ever offered, regardless of price.

    Folks too often get hung up on brands, prices, even looks, we all filter our decisions to some degree.

    But as far as Adcom, for me? Well I have a lot of other brands in my house, as I said, in 9 audio systems in total. The few Adcom units I own have enjoyed very long term positions in the systems they reside in.

    For me, that speaks a lot.
     
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  25. Agitater

    Agitater Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Toronto
    According to the rep, the current Adcom has all of the Pass intellectual property that was associated with Adcom along with all of the trademarks. In the 555SE in partcular, I can readily hear the Pass influence and that’s one of the reasons I like the current design despite the fact that Pass has not had anything to do with Adcom in any iteration for a very long time.

    No doubt absolutely accurate. I do not think that sort of dependency applies quite so strictly to the current 555SE however. The design and engineering have advanced. This 555SE is a very contemporary sounding amp. By that, I mean it doesn’t expose music listeners to failures or poor reproduction anywhere in the audible spectrum.

    But perspective is needed. It’s always important to have a good preamp and good sources in any system. However, if the last electronic link (the amp) has issues, no matter how good the upstream feed happens to be the amp will still have the same issues and affect the sound accordingly and then feed the result to the loudspeakers. This Adcom 555SE had no issues that I could hear at all. It couldn’t produce the ultimately fine resolution/instrument detail and fullness of some orchestral material in exactly the same way as some components that are twice or three times the price (or even higher), but the recordings were nonetheless glorious to listen to on the 555SE. That’s my key point.

    I think your sentence should preface every audio component review, and it should be included in the majority of audio component discussion threads. There’s a list of stereo power amps on the market (as there always has been) that effectively represent the state-of-the-art that most music lovers and audiophiles should choose from. The list consists of amps in this price range ($1800, list price in Canada) that in most of the less than stellar listening rooms and room compromises (kids, apartments, condos, family rooms, rec rooms, multi-use, protection from pets and all sorts of other important considerations having their inevitable effects) will be more than good enough to keep music listeners glued to their chairs for hours on end.
     
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