High-end audio as we think of it today is about fifty years old. Some brands from the early days are still around and iconic today. Others have faded into fond memories of beautiful musical moments gone by. Few companies have proven successful in maintaining their creativity and innovation after the passing of the visionary founder.
In the case of Spread Spectrum Technologies, a fortuitous introduction between founder James Bongiorno (1943-2013) and EJ Sarmento of Wyred 4 Sound cemented the continuation of the company. Bongiorno had a long design history with brands such as Dynaco, Sumo, SAE, GAS, Constellation, and others. He was looking for someone who had the engineering and manufacturing knowledge to put his innovative ideas into wider production, and EJ was the perfect partner given his extensive industry background and with many of his own product innovations. The goal was to maintain the core of Bongiorno’s circuit designs and his ingenious power supply while ramping up to a true large-scale distribution model.
As Bongiorno’s health failed, EJ acquired the rights to Spread Spectrum Technologies with the plan to offer its well-regarded products as well as future designs he and James had discussed as a separate company from Wyred 4 Sound. The products would all be designed and manufactured in the USA. The first product out of the gate is the rebirth of an SST legend, the Son of Ampzilla II.
The original Ampzilla started as a DIY project for Popular Electronics magazine. The design was so popular that James left SAE and started Great American Sound (GAS) to manufacture the Ampzilla for retail sale. The original Ampzilla offered 200 Watts into 8 Ohms. The Son of Ampzilla at 100 watts into 8 Ohms followed Ampzilla. Today, the new incarnation – Son of Ampzilla II – gives full weight to its progenitor, coming in at 220 watts into 8 Ohms and 350 Watts into 4 Ohms.
I have found in over 30 years of listening that, for a high fidelity amplifier, robust and clean power is a must for quality amplification. James Bongiorno spent years seeking better ways to bring clean and massive power reserves to his designs. The Son of Ampzilla II does this in part by using a massive 2kVA power supply for each channel, with each side benefiting from its own independent windings. Both channels also have a healthy 100,000µF of capacitance. As expected, the front-end voltage power supplies are fully regulated. Finally, there is a thermal protection automatic shutdown circuit to protect in the event of failure.
Output power is doubled from the original SOA, and SOA II delivers 200 watts into 8 Ohms by doubling the number of power transistors per channel. So it has the strength and reserves to manage most any transient peak for nearly anything but concert hall applications.
Given it’s such a plastic term, I often wonder what others would require of an amplifier to have it qualify as ‘High Fidelity’? Recently I was perusing the Harbeth Users Group and I came across an interesting comment from Alan Shaw, lead designer and owner at Harbeth; “A truly high fidelity amplifier should be load insensitive and no matter what sort of speaker by make, concept, size, impedance or power is clamped across its outputs, the amp should perform identically. And that just does not seem to be the case with many so called ‘high-end’ amps (whatever that means). They may well be ‘high-end’ but they cannot meet the elementary definition of ‘high fidelity’ because the signal that leaves them to drive the speaker does not have the same energy/frequency balance as the signal that arrived at the amp input sockets.”
Coming from one the world’s most distinguished speaker designers, this was interesting. So I asked Tony Holt from Spread Spectrum Technologies what he thought of this. His response was; “We agree with Alan on this. Likewise, our amps adhere to his philosophy of ‘high-fidelity’, which is achieved with solid engineering for exemplary amplifier performance and stability. Both the SoA and Ampzilla 2k are very much in this ‘load insensitive’ camp, in that their outputs are consistently more or less flat across the frequency spectrum regardless of load. We spent a lot of time and effort in the design process to ensure this.”
Nice to know I am in good company in thinking this amp is High Fidelity!