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Reviewer: John Potis
Analog Source: Rega P9 turntable, RB1000 & Hadcock GH Export arms, Benz Micro MC Silver, Rega Super Elys & Garrott Bros Optim FGS Cartridges.
Digital Source: Accustic Arts Drive 1/Audio Aero Prima SE DAC
Preamp: Bel Canto Pre2P
Power Amp: Art Audio Carissa, Bel Canto Design e.One Ref1000s
Speakers: Hørning Perikles, Anthony Gallo Acoustics Reference 3, Ohm Acoustics Walsh 4 with 4.5 mk.2 upgrade
Cables: JPS Labs Superconductor and Superconductor FX interconnects and speaker wire, Furutech Digi Reference digital
Power Cords: ZCable Heavys & Black Lightnings, PS Power AC, Analog AC, Digital AC and Kaptovator power cords
Powerline conditioning: Balanced Power Technology 3.5 Signature Plus with ZCable Heavy Power Cord, Auric Illuminator
Sundry accessories: Vibrapod Isolators and Cones, Ultra & Heavy ZSleeves
Room size: 12' by 16' with 9' ceiling
Review component retail: $8,750/pr

I have to admit it - I love tubes. Not all that weighty an admission, is it? I'm guessing that the majority of 6moons readers will both agree and identify with me. There's just something about those bottles. Sure, they sound great but that's only the beginning of their appeal. I'm not even talking about how relaxing it is to listen to music in an otherwise darkened room to the warm glow of tubes. Buy a good solid-state amplifier and (hopefully) once it's past its break-in period, it'll sound the same each and every time you fire it up. There's something to be said for that. But buy a tube amp and through a little tube rolling, you can season your sound to taste no matter what those tastes and no matter (within reason, of course) how your tastes change as you continue down the road on your musical journey. As you move from brand to brand, tubes vary in sound to such an extent that you can effectively change the sound of your amp to the same extent as you would if buying a different amplifier. That's pretty cool when you think about it - if you're up for the adventure. And depending upon your sonic priorities, you can choose an amplifier that both appreciates and respects your priorities once you identify a sympathetic tube. When it comes to push-pull amplifiers, the EL34 tube has always done it for me. It's a great tube. Don't get me wrong, the 845 and 300B are superb tubes if you want to go single-ended but sometimes you have to think about others and not just about yourself.

Sometimes you have to think about your speakers and what's best for them. 6moons has always been about efficient speakers that thrive on low-powered amplifiers but let's not lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of speakers out there is looking for more than 10 watts. And while 20 watts may indeed provide sufficiently loud listening levels, that's not the same as actually being able to drive your loudspeakers. No matter your choice in speakers, you'll want an amplifier that can really man-handle them. Unlike your daily meds, more than you need is generally a good thing when it comes to power. When you consider that it's seldom too much power that kills speakers (but actually the distortions that result from an underpowered amplifier clipping that'll destroy your tweeters faster than you can reach for the remote)... well, as Scotty would say, sometimes you just need more power. And for me, more tube power has always meant the EL34. It would seem that Canary Audio agrees with me.

Canary makes a substantial line of amplifiers. What makes them slightly different from other companies is that they focus on primarily the 300B triode. SET amplifiers then? You bet. But if a single 300B can't produce your desired power, Canary doubles up on the 300Bs and gives you a push-pull amplifier rather than move to a different triode. And if you can't squeeze the necessary juice from a pair of 300Bs in push-pull? How about a pair of their CA-339 monos with four 300Bs in each chassis to produce 50 watts per side? Still not enough power? How about eight 300Bs per mono block? Well, even Canary balked at that. Can you imagine the cost of tube replacement? Let's not be ridiculous. It's clearly time to start thinking about another tube, right? Canary agrees so at this point, they move over to the aforementioned EL34.

The EL34 has a lot in common with the 300B, sonically speaking, though one would never mistake the signature of one for the other. Without casting aspersions, they are both known as midrange tubes. Aspersions? Well, both tubes indeed excel in the midrange where they offer superb clarity, transparency and the kind of harmonic density that tube lovers crave. But as it turns out, the design of the partnering amplifier seems to be at least as much responsible for the tube's success at the frequency extremes as the EL34 itself. In other words, over the years the EL34 has gathered a reputation for being rolled off at both ends of the frequency spectrum and, shall we say, a little less than iron-fisted through the bass region. But I've heard some modern EL34 amplifiers that would argue that this is no longer the case. In fact, the Canary CA 160 amplifiers make that counter argument quite convincingly.
Each 65-pound CA-160 measures a generous 13" W x 24" D x 8.5" H and produces 140 watts in ultralinear mode. Via the rear-mounted toggle switch, you can configure the amp to summon up 100 watts in triode. Canary quotes a signal-to-noise ratio of minus 77dB below 1 watt in ultralinear or minus 78dB in triode. Specified input sensitivity is .60 volts for full output (UL) or 0.53 volts in triode. Canary quotes a frequency response of +/-1dB from 10Hz to 50,000Hz (UL), +/-1dB from 10Hz to 40,000Hz (triode) and THD of less than 0.06% and .5% in ultralinear and triode respectively. Tube complement per monaural amp? Try eight EL34/6CA7s, two 6922s, one 6GU7 and one 12BH7.

When it comes to fit, finish and build quality, the Canary amplifiers, while not flashy or garish, are first-class and fully commensurate for their asking price. These amplifiers are large. Handsome, too. As for that asking price, $8,750 is indeed a healthy chunk of change. But if one mono channel was instead stereo and produced 70 or 80 watts of power into two channels, an asking price of $4,375 would certainly not be high by today's standards. The EL34s supplied are Slovakian Golden Aero Silver Series as are the 6GU7 and 12BH7. The 6922s are by Electro Harmonix. As for the innards, Canary says that only the highest quality parts and components are used in key locations, including Hovland MusiCaps®. Canary hand-wires point-to-point with Teflon-coated silver wire. Oversize custom-wound power and output transformers are used to extend the bass and the highs. Discrete chokes filter the high-voltage power supplies. Military-grade epoxy circuit boards are said to minimize component interaction and each EL34 tube has a separate bias adjustment pot mounted on the top panel for easy access, with each tube biased to 35 volts DC.

Around back, the CA160s continue to impress. Three oversized binding posts on each channel (com, 4-ohm, 8-ohm) provide easy and secure connections no matter your speaker cable terminations - as does the solid RCA terminal. The ubiquitous IEC power inlet means that your favorite power cords won't be orphaned and the ultralinear/triode toggle switch has a confidence-inspiring feel to it. The front-panel mounted rocker type power switch (there is no stand-by power) doesn't quite inspire the same confidence but I don't see why it shouldn't nevertheless do the job for years to come. It's mounted directly under the blue pilot light that indicates power-up. The company's brand name, the amplifier's model designation and "Hand Crafted In California" are all silk-screened below the power LED and once again on the top panel