Boulder Amplifiers, Inc. of Louisville, Colorado, USA has over thirty plus years in developing an enviable reputation for world class audio electronics. Manufactured entirely in-house, most of their designs stay current for many years. Indeed, changes to or new models of their lines come only from years of research to determine if something merits taking a place in the line-up over its progenitor. The 1060 amplifier had been around for nearly eighteen years before the 1160 made its debut. The 1010 pre-amplifier had over a 12-year run before the 1110 was developed. Putting long term quality ahead of short term annual upgrade models speaks to their excellence as an aspirational brand.
Upon delivery I assisted the driver in moving the amp to my study. In its wooden shipping crate the 1160 amp weighs in at 98 Kg. The 1110 preamp is a more manageable 22.25 Kgin its carton. Unpacking the 1160 requires a power drill and screwdriver bit. Two to four people are recommended for extraction from the crate. Moving the amp into its position we then placed the pre-amp on top. The CNC’d casework on both pieces line up to show a relief of the topographical map of Flagstaff Mountain west of Boulder, Colorado. The effect is quite stunning and a nice change from the typical amp case work.
Connecting sources to the 1110 pre-amp also includes an ethernet cable to your home router. Both the 1110 and 1160 have an advanced ARM (Advanced RISC Machine) computer processor in them. The 1110 preamp uses the services of the chip to manage communications, protection, and operations. Software allows the pre-amp to be upgraded or refined as needed over the internet. Trouble shooting can also be done remotely saving time and potentially shipping costs. Input naming functions, input re-assignments, and home theatre audio integration can now be done from your home computer via the 1110’s internal web page rather than scrolling through a multi layered on screen menu. To adjust settings, I entered the local IP address for the preamp on my Mac and up came the 1110’s web page. I entered my input names for their sources, Input 1 for my PS Audio DirectStream DAC, Input 2 for ‘Home Theater By-Pass’ and Input 3 for my Moon 610 LP phono pre connected to the VPI Prime Signature turntable. Inputs 4 and 5 remained empty. They instantly changed on the preamp itself. Simple!
The 1160 amplifier accepts spade connections only via beefy knobs to allow for a solid connection. Attaching my AudioQuest Castle-Rock spade-ended speaker cables was straight forward. As with the preamp the amp is balanced only and accepts XLR as its single connection to the preamp. The 1160 also utilizes an ARM chip. The chip is used to regulate power and protection circuitry. Errors can be sent to a row of LED’s on the amp’s circuit board for fast identification of error types. It also allows for the creation of an error log to be sent directly to the factory to speed analysis for faster repairs.
Being fully balanced each of the five preamp inputs accept only XLR cabling. The preamp uses a standard IEC power cable. I used a new AudioQuest NRG-Y3 power cable. The 1160 amplifier uses a higher rated 32A IEC connector. This included cable came with a standard North American three prong power plug on the other end allowing for use in any home. However, since the amplifier can draw up to 25 amps and 3000 watts the goal was not to have the amp limited on its end. I had the 1160 plugged into a dedicated 20-amp circuit and experienced no issues with power during the review period.
The 1110 does offer a ‘Home Theater Bypass’ function which can be assigned to any of the five inputs. In my home theatre system using a Denon AVR-X8500H Flagship receiver I needed single ended output capability from the 1110 pre-amp. Boulder can provide a stereo pair of male XLR to female RCA to facilitate the appropriate connections. Take your time matching output levels so when you hand off volume control of your front L/R speakers from the 1110 pre-amp to the receiver you do not have too much power going to your speakers. The 1160 amp is powerful and could cause damage if you are not careful when operating in home theatre bypass mode. Once configured, the Boulder pair fit right into my home theatre system.