Re-imagining "Class A" Amplification

lscangus

Industry Expert
Oct 24, 2018
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An update for you all. Latest customers of Dynamic Audio from Japan took delivery the Quest and Rei, used with a full set of Esoteric source and speakers from Hiro Acoustics. Great looking setup!

IMG_7093.JPG
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
A First Audition Of The WestminsterLab/Rei, Quest ....BRIDGED VERSION

As the saying goes, "you can't unring a bell", Well so also, that having spent the past 3 days with this set up in my sound room I must admit that it is difficult to get this amazing system out of my thoughts.

For those who are following this thread, you all know that I have said the Rei mono version amps IMHO were truly giant slayers. For the price these little 33 pound mono blocks sounded as good or better than many TOTL amplifiers. For the price, the foot print what they do is IMO truly remarkable.

What I have waited months for months to hear , in my system, is a bridged set of the Rei. With my speakers, a bridged set of these Rei monos is now cranking 800 watts whereas the mono version I heard previously was putting out 200 wpc

And, FWIW, everyone knows that for the past 20 years I have not only been an all tube system but so also have I not had anything digital in my system.

My system is all tube, pure Class A. With my huge amps putting out 32 wpc SET. It's a sound that I know and love and I have always said they'll be buried with me. FWIW, I have not changed my mind, Yet for those looking to start a system and get the very best I think these amps could easily be keepers for life. All I can say is the music to my ears was mesmerizing

Having heard the Rei mono version, I felt that these were really special but what really piqued my interest was what a bridged set would sound like in my system. This was to have happened 2 months ago but Gary had a delay in shipment that put things off until we could re-schedule which only became 3 days ago as I spent 8 days with my wife in Maui only to return and develop Covid 2 days later and my wife 4 days after me. Then Gary was at CAF.

Well the stars were all aligned 3 days ago.

I helped Gary in with 2 sets of the Rei's and a large satchel containing all of the PC's and interconnects and speaker cables to make this happen. I was told by Gary that WestminterLab makes 2 lines of cable with their TOTL Ultra PC, and IC. Gary also had a long set of Belden XLR to run from my Horizon (out) to the Quest preamp. From Rei to my speakers Westminster cable was used. Everything was Ultra version

A beautiful star grounded AC box was used that accepted 8 inputs

So in summary, the only part of my system that was being used was my Lampi Horizon DAC and 2 Masterbuilt Ultra PC's

Gary had everything assembled in under 30 minutes but could have been quicker if he didn't stop to show me and to explain to me how the cabling works to produce a bridged set and why the cables are made by Westminster specifically for this as a pair of cables are out of phase on each side

All components sat on beautiful maple wood butcher block.

The system was easily switched on and Gary and I went downstairs for an espresso and to talk for 30 minutes while everything warmed up

We waited 30 minutes (which for my ears was an eternity) . I randomly selected many of my go to demo discs that were either in my library or were streamed via Qobuz or Tidal through a Taiko Extreme using Emile's new XDMS player (which is still in the alpha testing phase)

So How Did It Sound

Suffice it to say that I have not had a solid state system n my house at least 20 years ago when I was using the mighty and hefty Krell 750 Mcx monos

I can easily state that this bridged version outperformed and out sounded the Krell unequivocally and the longer we listened it became clearly evident to me that this system sounded better than many high end systems I have heard, mine included

The ease with which the bridged set breathed was remarkable. I said, the longer we listened, I found that things started to sound really good at about one hour and were really humming at 90 minutes

The soundstage was so full of information that my ears seemed to be all over but the reality was that the lead singer, or lead guitarist was dead center and the ambient information in the sound stage was such that I commented to Gary that I felt as if I was in a private concert or symphony where I had the only seat in the house. This was as up close and as personal as I have ever heard. the tightness of the bass was something. The attack of the drum sticks and the deep bass was tight and articulate. Midrange was beautiful and an extended top end

But here was the beauty of this sound stage. It was so 3D and layered that it was easy to pinpoint where things were whether they were in front, behind or to the side.

How could I compare this...well to try to put some meaning I would suggest the comparison where the Rei monos were 4K, I can say that the bridged version is easily 8K. Many times we read comments where the listener states (myself included) they heard things which. they never heard before, I have to admit that both Gary and I did while listening.

We had to shut things down and as I was gathering my thoughts, Gary suggested that he was going to leave everything in my room until today. He got little resistance from me:)

Yesterday I powered everything on, waited an hour and sat down for my own personal listen

To.my ears I can easily say that this was probably some of the best sound I have ever heard .....the texture of the soundstage was from side to side and top to bottom was filled with music and ambient sound. This created such as sense of presence that I felt I was there as I was tapping my toes and snapping my fingers or conducting the symphony. I have to admit I couldn't stop listening as it was that good. The amount of head room seemed endless as there was such an ease to even the most complex music. Nothing came apart. Nothing was exaggerated but everything was there

One of the tracks I played for Gary has been in my demo discs for 22years when , at CES I met @KeithR who asked while in every room if they could play a track for him. I remember that when they did the room filled up everywhere. Thanks to @KeithR for introducing me to Black Light Syndrome and Duende. The final 2 minutes of a 7:27 track could make or break a system. The bass guitar throughout the track gets so low that in many systems this falls apart and it becomes loose and floppy. This did not happen here. I know that Gary was very impressed with that track which BTW can be found on Qobuz or Tidal. Everyone should have a listen to it and the complexity of the final 2 minutes

I went through my demos of male voice, female voice, guitars, drums, symphonic and before I knew it I was late into the evening

I found the Quest had 63 detente positions on the gain control. I remember when we listened to the mono version we had the gain between 21-23, Gary in his system usually played at 25...(it all depends on the sensitivity of the speakers )

I started initially at 23 where it was best in mono version. It was just way too.loud for my ears. I did some blind a/b testing and found that in my system, depending on the recording and genre it was sounding best anywhere between 17-20 on the Quest preamp

Everyone would agree that the best test of any new component is in one's system and Gary was great to oblige me that courtesy.

Bottom line is these amps at Class A are remarkable in so many ways including WAF. Their footprint is small and they weigh all of 33 lbs each.

If one only hears the mono version of the Rei they would be eternally happy, but as I said at the start you can't unring a bell and once you hear the bridged version, it is like the mono version on steroids. Going from 4K to 8K

I don't know how Westminster does this but for my ears these are not only the real deal they could easily become lifers in peoples' systems. If I were a lot younger and looking to do a system and wanted the best but had limited funds this is one I would consider.Even if I had unlimited funds , this is a system I would consider. It really was an experience and I look forward to hearing these again

I'll include some picture of this system sitting in front of my 32 wpc system
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
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North Shore of Boston
Nice write up Steve. Will you be buying a set of these solid-state electronics?
 

Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
Nice write up Steve. Will you be buying a set of these solid-state electronics?
I guess you didn't read my write up:cool:
 

microstrip

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Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
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North Shore of Boston
I guess you didn't read my write up:cool:

Sorry Steve. I misunderstood. Keith said that your set arrives tomorrow. I had thought that meant you decided to buy them. It's not "your" set, but just a set you had in for audition. Keith meant that the set that you had in your system arrives to his system tomorrow. I understand now. Thanks for clarifying it for me. Cool.
 
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Steve Williams

Site Founder, Site Owner, Administrator
Thanks for the write-up, Steve. Any thoughts on comparing your Lamm ML3s with the WestminsterLab amps ?
Hi Tim

As I have said ad nauseam, nothing will separate me from my Lamm electronics as they have become a part of my very being for the past 20 years, Simply put I love the sound of a SET in my room. My huge amps are 32 wpc class A and the sound for my ears is what really lights me up.

Having said that if the Rei had been available 20 years ago things could easily have been different. This bridged version that I heard for the past 3 days was better than any amp I have personally heard and I have heard some TOTL excellent and very expensive amps over the years. The amount of detail and information in this sound stage has to be experienced. The layering of sound is so 3D that Gary and I kept looking at one and another and asking "did you just hear that? Ive never heard that before"

I believe as well that having a tube in this system adds much to the overall presentation and the Horizon is filled with tubes. Also I believe that the new XDMS added enormity to the 3D presentation. Yet when all was said and done, for the money this system is 1/3-1/2 the price of most SOTA amps and easily dances circles around them

IIRC the mono version is $28-30K depending on option and the bridged version is around $60K. The Quest IIRC is $23K. The beauty of this gear is the shear amazement hearing such great sound coming from such a small component.

But at the end of the day I love my Lamm gear and have stated many times , this is never going to change. I found my 3 day audition with this gear an absolute experience and I am betting that all of the Rei's Gary has sold, the owners are pinching themselves as they sit and listen. The WestminsterLab Rei and Quest can easily run with the big boys and to my ears I haven't heard anything better. If that sounds fickle, it is as I hated to say good bye to them yesterday
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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the Upper Midwest
The beauty of this gear is the shear amazement hearing such great sound coming from such a small component.

From the Web site:
Power ( Bridged )
400 watts @ 8Ω
800 watts @ 4Ω

That is quite a testimonial Steve -- thanks for sharing your thoughts on both amps and bringing them to our attention. I'd heard positive comments about Westminsterlabs but not to that detail. That you find them 'competitive' with the Lamms makes me pay attention. Hard to imagine but you were not imagining. Perhaps Keith will tell us what he finds.
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
689
469
475
Jersey Shore- waterside
Nice write-up and as an owner of Westminster Lab REI's, the Quest Preamp (soon with the addition of the Phono card) and some Westminster Lab umbilical cables between my power supplies and my audio chassis of my MSB DAC. I must state the obvious, your comments are spot on and EXACTLY what I am getting in my system. I have not heard the strapped REI's yet, but have no doubt that they are better than a pair of mono REI's, but what I have is so outstanding sonically and for my system using VSA Ultra 9's more than enough power to totally take over my listening space and keep me listening easily for 10 hours at quite significant levels (preamp levels

I love the super fast signal rise and decay times and there is no substitute for the radically low noise floor, which I believe is a major factor for the amazing and incredibly believable sound stage. For me buying these was a totally paradigm shift away from a totally tube system that I think is amongst the best tube gear currently available.. However, my listening preferences are shifting and I love the imaging and detail of the sound stage, to the point that I cannot imagine not having the Westminster Lab equipment for the balance of my audio listening. It is that special, and I have not heard to strapped version, which I am sure is even better.

I have just gone through a major revision of what was supposedly my finished Bucket List System, by adding the Westminster Lab gear and having the designers of my VSA Ultra 9's and both close friends, come to my house to modify the cabinets to accept CMS LS 1.5 footers for the speakers. To say the changes from putting the Westminster Lab gear in my system, and then putting 4 CMS 2M 1.5 footers under each of the Westminster chassis, brought the sound to a new level (I mean an improvement of at least 1 1/2 orders of magnitude for the entire system), even more so than the impact of the footers had a bigger positive impact than any other equipment I have used the latest CMS footers installed under. What I was not ready for was the increment in sonics from putting the footers under my speakers and some environmental changes to help the 9's operate as ideally as their design will allow.

I cannot wait for the arrival my new TT an ARS Machinae with my My Sonic Labs Signature Platinum cartridge installed. Angus assures both Gary and Me, that the phono stage sounds exact like the preamp and power amps, which is ideal for me and an amazing design achievement.

It does not hurt that this current combination is so believable that it shifts my moods in a positive direction within 1-2 seconds of sitting in the beam. For someone in the midst of serious medical problems that led me to feel someone what despondent maybe a week a month, the believability of the sonic presentation and the incredible sonic improvement from these recent system changes, so exceed all of my experiences from system changes during the past 53 years.

I thought that a I had achieved sonic bliss, but it is clear that this equipment is still not at it sonic limit, because each system improvement is instantly undeniable. Said another way, I have never had this much improvement from any system change, and from a dollar amount , and it was one of the least expensive major system changes I have ever made.

Credit is due where deserved, and in this case that credit goes to Steve for introducing me to Westminster and being a great long-term friend, Gary Leeds for being so excellent in his services and an audio advisor and emerging close friend. Also, as I have said many times, the boys from VSA have also been incredibly helpful and insightful in working with me to help improve the sound of my now massively enhanced Bucket List System.

For a guy with lots of real world concerns due to my medical problems, my system's influence on my being and how I feel each day has become one of, if not the single biggest factors in my recovery and thus the overall state of my life as I recover.

It is getting kind of repetitive how many times I have to thank people like Gary, Steve, Angus, Damon and Leif, Joe Lavrencik from CMS amongst others for the benefits that they brought to my system to the point that it positively impacts my being on every level.

This is what I have dreamed about since I was 10, but have actually exceeded that dream in every way and has been invaluable in ways that I would not have believed was possible if I was not living it every day..
 
Last edited:

gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
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454
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Steve, thanks so much for your listening impressions, especially given they come from a die-hard SE tube man like yourself. It took us a while to schedule the following up listening session to hear the bridged version of the Rei. Thank you for your patience while Angus and I organized that. I know how much you do not like to disturb your system set-up, so again I thank you for trusting me to do so for this demo. It was great fun and a real treat for me to hear our product on a true reference system and room with my absolute favorite digital front end in the LampizatOr Horizon and the Taiko Extreme with the latest software.

Russ, what can we say! Thank you for believing in what Angus has created and for trusting me to install them in your system. You recently have Damon and Leif come by to redo your Ultra 9 set-up, and you're re-installing your collection of CMS footers has brought things fully into focus. I will see you right around the New Year to install your new turntable and cannot wait to hear all the improvement wrought by the most recent changes.

Please DM me for WBF members interested in hearing about Westminster electronics and cables in your system. It would be my privilege to make those arrangements. of note for MSB Reference and Select owners, we will also have a new supply of the Westminster MSB DC cables available for in-home demo available.

Thanks again to all our customers and supporters for their positive feedback.. Angus and I are deeply appreciative!
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
689
469
475
Jersey Shore- waterside
A First Audition Of The WestminsterLab/Rei, Quest ....BRIDGED VERSION

As the saying goes, "you can't unring a bell", Well so also, that having spent the past 3 days with this set up in my sound room I must admit that it is difficult to get this amazing system out of my thoughts.

For those who are following this thread, you all know that I have said the Rei mono version amps IMHO were truly giant slayers. For the price these little 33 pound mono blocks sounded as good or better than many TOTL amplifiers. For the price, the foot print what they do is IMO truly remarkable.

What I have waited months for months to hear , in my system, is a bridged set of the Rei. With my speakers, a bridged set of these Rei monos is now cranking 800 watts whereas the mono version I heard previously was putting out 200 wpc

And, FWIW, everyone knows that for the past 20 years I have not only been an all tube system but so also have I not had anything digital in my system.

My system is all tube, pure Class A. With my huge amps putting out 32 wpc SET. It's a sound that I know and love and I have always said they'll be buried with me. FWIW, I have not changed my mind, Yet for those looking to start a system and get the very best I think these amps could easily be keepers for life. All I can say is the music to my ears was mesmerizing

Having heard the Rei mono version, I felt that these were really special but what really piqued my interest was what a bridged set would sound like in my system. This was to have happened 2 months ago but Gary had a delay in shipment that put things off until we could re-schedule which only became 3 days ago as I spent 8 days with my wife in Maui only to return and develop Covid 2 days later and my wife 4 days after me. Then Gary was at CAF.

Well the stars were all aligned 3 days ago.

I helped Gary in with 2 sets of the Rei's and a large satchel containing all of the PC's and interconnects and speaker cables to make this happen. I was told by Gary that WestminterLab makes 2 lines of cable with their TOTL Ultra PC, and IC. Gary also had a long set of Belden XLR to run from my Horizon (out) to the Quest preamp. From Rei to my speakers Westminster cable was used. Everything was Ultra version

A beautiful star grounded AC box was used that accepted 8 inputs

So in summary, the only part of my system that was being used was my Lampi Horizon DAC and 2 Masterbuilt Ultra PC's

Gary had everything assembled in under 30 minutes but could have been quicker if he didn't stop to show me and to explain to me how the cabling works to produce a bridged set and why the cables are made by Westminster specifically for this as a pair of cables are out of phase on each side

All components sat on beautiful maple wood butcher block.

The system was easily switched on and Gary and I went downstairs for an espresso and to talk for 30 minutes while everything warmed up

We waited 30 minutes (which for my ears was an eternity) . I randomly selected many of my go to demo discs that were either in my library or were streamed via Qobuz or Tidal through a Taiko Extreme using Emile's new XDMS player (which is still in the alpha testing phase)

So How Did It Sound

Suffice it to say that I have not had a solid state system n my house at least 20 years ago when I was using the mighty and hefty Krell 750 Mcx monos

I can easily state that this bridged version outperformed and out sounded the Krell unequivocally and the longer we listened it became clearly evident to me that this system sounded better than many high end systems I have heard, mine included

The ease with which the bridged set breathed was remarkable. I said, the longer we listened, I found that things started to sound really good at about one hour and were really humming at 90 minutes

The soundstage was so full of information that my ears seemed to be all over but the reality was that the lead singer, or lead guitarist was dead center and the ambient information in the sound stage was such that I commented to Gary that I felt as if I was in a private concert or symphony where I had the only seat in the house. This was as up close and as personal as I have ever heard. the tightness of the bass was something. The attack of the drum sticks and the deep bass was tight and articulate. Midrange was beautiful and an extended top end

But here was the beauty of this sound stage. It was so 3D and layered that it was easy to pinpoint where things were whether they were in front, behind or to the side.

How could I compare this...well to try to put some meaning I would suggest the comparison where the Rei monos were 4K, I can say that the bridged version is easily 8K. Many times we read comments where the listener states (myself included) they heard things which. they never heard before, I have to admit that both Gary and I did while listening.

We had to shut things down and as I was gathering my thoughts, Gary suggested that he was going to leave everything in my room until today. He got little resistance from me:)

Yesterday I powered everything on, waited an hour and sat down for my own personal listen

To.my ears I can easily say that this was probably some of the best sound I have ever heard .....the texture of the soundstage was from side to side and top to bottom was filled with music and ambient sound. This created such as sense of presence that I felt I was there as I was tapping my toes and snapping my fingers or conducting the symphony. I have to admit I couldn't stop listening as it was that good. The amount of head room seemed endless as there was such an ease to even the most complex music. Nothing came apart. Nothing was exaggerated but everything was there

One of the tracks I played for Gary has been in my demo discs for 22years when , at CES I met @KeithR who asked while in every room if they could play a track for him. I remember that when they did the room filled up everywhere. Thanks to @KeithR for introducing me to Black Light Syndrome and Duende. The final 2 minutes of a 7:27 track could make or break a system. The bass guitar throughout the track gets so low that in many systems this falls apart and it becomes loose and floppy. This did not happen here. I know that Gary was very impressed with that track which BTW can be found on Qobuz or Tidal. Everyone should have a listen to it and the complexity of the final 2 minutes

I went through my demos of male voice, female voice, guitars, drums, symphonic and before I knew it I was late into the evening

I found the Quest had 63 detente positions on the gain control. I remember when we listened to the mono version we had the gain between 21-23, Gary in his system usually played at 25...(it all depends on the sensitivity of the speakers )

I started initially at 23 where it was best in mono version. It was just way too.loud for my ears. I did some blind a/b testing and found that in my system, depending on the recording and genre it was sounding best anywhere between 17-20 on the Quest preamp

Everyone would agree that the best test of any new component is in one's system and Gary was great to oblige me that courtesy.

Bottom line is these amps at Class A are remarkable in so many ways including WAF. Their footprint is small and they weigh all of 33 lbs each.

If one only hears the mono version of the Rei they would be eternally happy, but as I said at the start you can't unring a bell and once you hear the bridged version, it is like the mono version on steroids. Going from 4K to 8K

I don't know how Westminster does this but for my ears these are not only the real deal they could easily become lifers in peoples' systems. If I were a lot younger and looking to do a system and wanted the best but had limited funds this is one I would consider.Even if I had unlimited funds , this is a system I would consider. It really was an experience and I look forward to hearing these again

I'll include some picture of this system sitting in front of my 32 wpc system
Steve,

You and I have always had similar sonic taste, but this time, if you told me that I wrote your poste, I would probably believe you because you described what is so special about these amps, and preamp, even a mono pair.

Thank you again for turning me in this direction. I would love to hear a strapped pair.
 

LampiNA

Well-Known Member
Jul 1, 2015
274
543
225
Thank you for the fantastic write up, Steve! I'm a little bit jealous I have not had the opportunity to hear them in bridged mode myself and am considering demonstrating them at the Florida Audio Expo that way.

On the subject of shows, I wanted to share a picture of the Westminster Labs gear in all of it's glory powering what many believed to be the very best sounding room at Capital Audio Fest 2022.
1669058113668.png

1669058023004.png
 
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viola

VIP/Donor
Apr 22, 2021
7
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Connecticut
Thank you for the fantastic write up, Steve! I'm a little bit jealous I have not had the opportunity to hear them in bridged mode myself and am considering demonstrating them at the Florida Audio Expo that way.

On the subject of shows, I wanted to share a picture of the Westminster Labs gear in all of it's glory powering what many believed to be the very best sounding room at Capital Audio Fest 2022.
View attachment 100643

View attachment 100642
The GT Audio speakers powered by the Westminster Labs Rei and Quest electronics and the Lampizator Horizon was indeed one of the best, if not the very best, rooms at CAF 2022. Lots of people walked out of that room just stunned at the detail, speed, decay, imaging and overall realism.
 

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