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A large orange LED display and three chromium knobs dominate the front panel. The large center knob adjusts volume via 32 stepped relays in 1dB increments over a total range of 75dB. Unlike conventional volume pots, the music signal does not pass through the step relay control. ASR claims its volume control has no sonic impact upon the amp’s performance regardless of setting. Channel-to-channel deviation is less than 0.1dB at all settings.
To the right of the volume control is the source selector knob. On the far left sits the power on/off knob, which has no less than four settings. There’s Off, Standby to keep the input stage warmed up and 1 and 2. Position 1 fires up the amp and puts it into energy-saving mode which allows a volume range from 0-61dB and runs the output devices at half power. Turning it up past 35 on the display disables energy saving and puts the amp in full-power mode. Position 2 automatically switches the output devices to full-power mode and allows a volume range of 0-71dB. There was a minor yet audible improvement in full-power mode. Since the remote can only switch from standby to position 1, I lowered the threshold of full-power mode in Position 1 from 35 to 05. Thereafter I could switch from standby to energy saving to full power without leaving my chair. I could also keep the amp fully warmed up and ready for action without my hydro meter spinning like a busy fan at the height of summer. When I wanted tunes, I just turned up the volume. As soon as I hit 05, full power mode kicked in for optimum sonics. Confused? It certainly reads that way but is a snap once you get used to it. I quickly forgot about it.
There is one caveat for obsessive compulsives. Because none of the three rotary controls is motorized, the indents on the knobs will obviously not move when adjusting volume, source or power status. However, the main display and a series of LEDs surrounding each knob will indicate proper status.