World Premiere!‌ The Enchanting Audio By Van Alstine SET 120 Integrated Amplifier-First Impressions And Unboxing

While many Audiophiles, including myself, enjoy whiz-bang mass-market Hi-Fi, we should never forget the essence of this hobby lies in gear produced by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. These (usually) small scale manufacturers pour over every detail, not to meet a price point or marketing strategy, but to obtain the best possible sound for the money. One such manufacturer is Frank Van Alstine, owner of Audio by Van Alstine. His (Made in the USA!!!) amps and preamps have garnered accolades at many an audio show, including the largest here in the United States, AXPONA. We are happy to present a World Premiere of their latest creation, the $1199 SET 120 Control Amplifier!

I thank Frank and his team for giving us the opportunity to check out this brand-new product!

Based on Audio by Van Alstine’s award-winning Class AB SET 120 Power Amplifier, the SET‌ 120 Control Amp adds a basic passive preamp section with an Alps volume pot, selector switch, four sets of line-level inputs, a strong headphone out, and speaker on/off switch. From this info, you can infer this is an all-analog Integrated Amplifier.

It’s rated at 60W per channel and built to sound identical to the aforementioned SET‌ 120 Power Amp. On the control amp, the gain is increased in the power amp section to take advantage of the passive preamp, which in theory should be more linear than an active preamp since it uses fewer components.

From the Audio By Van Alstine website:

Our new SET Control Amplifier runs Class A/B, and is biased as Class A at normal listening levels. It puts out 60 watts per channel into 8 ohms and much more into 4 ohm loads. The SET name stands for its unique Single Ended Transistor voltage amplifier design. This is our newest design with a simple but amazingly effective bipolar transistor front end followed by a very fast and rugged power mos-fet current amplifier section. Bandwidth is flat from 3Hz to 70KHz. For use with its passive control section, the gain of the power amplifier sections are set 6dB higher than in the separate SET 120 power amp.

While the simplicity of the design should yield sonic benefits, it also has some trade-offs, such as no remote control or internal phono section. However, Audio by Van Alstine does offer a discount on their Vision Q phono preamp ($399 vs. $499) if purchased along with the SET‌ Control Amplifier.

I‌ recently unboxed and set up the SET‌ 120 Control Amp, and the build quality is very impressive. The first thing I‌ noticed was how heavy the amp was. That caused me to look inside. When I did, I‌ was shocked to see a toroidal transformer that went about a third of the way across the chassis!

That’s enormous, which gives you an idea of how determined the designers are to make a great sounding product. Audio Van Alstine believes in using readily available but carefully selected parts in order to offer relatively low-cost, high-performance components. We love it because that’s what we’re here to showcase!

Set 120 Control Amplifier-Inside

I‌ teamed it with a pair of Triangle Titus Ez bookshelf speakers and a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 DAC/Streamer, and I was impressed right away with the depth and width of the soundstage, and how natural everything sounded. I‌ will be listening more over the next few weeks, and give you a full review of this remarkable product!‌

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, for updates on our upcoming stories, including the SET‌ 120 Control Amp review. Thanks for reading!‌

Unboxing Pics:




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