But it was the all-new Cantata m100s that really took our fancy. As you might have guessed from the name, it’s a 100W per channel mono amplifier, not dissimilar in effect from the c50 stereo amplifier that has been in the range for some time, except it that removes the control amplifier section.
There’s a little extra 4mm plug beneath the red and black terminals that might give some suggestion as to the DNA of the Cantata m100. Not many amplifier companies have promoted the idea of a signal ground at the speaker terminals, but one comes to mind: DNM Design. Jeff Kalt of Resolution Audio might know his way around an audio circuit, but he handed the op-amp/bi-polar Class AB design over to DNM’s Dennis Moorecroft for optimum performance. Resolution Audio’s distributor Redline also supplied a set of DNM interconnects and loudspeaker cables for the purposes of the test. The plug sockets in the amplifiers only accept 4mm connectors, which might be an issue in some parts of the world. Resolution also supplies the amp with little jumper-connectors in its XLR sockets as standard, which must be kept in place when using RCAs. Simple answer; use RCA, as they sound better in this context.
All three amps come supplied in neat little wooden crates (another DNM touch), which are best retained for later use should the need arise. And all three boxes (four if you count the Pont Neuf) sport Resolution’s distinctive style; slim, black-based with a solid (but not grotesquely thick or heavy) aluminium top panel, and a unique dimpled top pattern that looks surprisingly organic in the flesh.
Then there is that elegant dot-matrix style front panel display, as seen on the Music Center. It manages to look elegant, and yet can be seen across a room, all the while not at eye-ball scorching levels.
It was a good thing the three devices showed up, because they work together superbly. The m100’s by their very nature bestow more grip and authority on the sound compared to the c50, more than enough for most real-world users. Yes, those who think amplifiers are there to be crushed under the weight of a loudspeaker will think the amps lack sufficient low-impedance drive, and they have a point. But for most of us, this is an academic argument pushed by those who think amps don’t sound good unless they come with a hernia.
The Cantata amps show strong similarity of tone and character. Tone is the key word here, but ‘detailed’ is another; incredibly, intensely detailed. These amps deliver tone with accuracy and even mojo. But it’s the detail that will woo and wow you. These are information retrievers par excellence, and if a scintilla of musical data is on the disc or in the file, the Cantata Music Center will pick it up and the m100’s will convey it with the least amount of reduction and the absolute maximum amount of speed of delivery.
Your ability to recognise this speed of delivery occurs about as quickly too, although initially it blind-sides the listener. There’s so much information being sent to the listener, you become almost overwhelmed and start from a position of picking out one instrument in the mix for your attention. This is not necessarily the one front and centre. On ‘Holes’ by Mercury Rev [Deserter’s Songs, V2], you’re not drawn by Jonathan Donahue’s depressed vocals, not even the use of the musical saw (although that’s hard to avoid), but rather it’s the strings that accompany that musical saw. It isn’t an exceptional string part, and it isn’t exceptionally well recorded, but it catches you unawares.