Arte Forme Integrated stereo amplifier
Always eager to discover something new and exciting in the world of high-end audio, I was delighted when Arte Forme sent me their latest Ruby integrated amplifier. Michael Gill, one of the designers at Arte Forme, had contacted me about a review and I checked their website: "Arte Forme started out as a collection of experienced DIY hobbyists from Taiwan, who came together to form a company that embodies the spirit of the DIY movement. The founding members have a diverse background, but the common factor is that each person is passionate about the reproduction of music. Members of Arte Forma are computer engineers, electrical engineers, retired air force and navy technicians, and communication industry specialists. Arte Forma is composed of 26 members. Each person is capable of building an amplifier from start to finish. This includes the CNC production stage. This is not a company headed by one or two engineers and a gaggle of workers assembling a product."
I think you'll agree that this is a highly unusual curriculum vitae for an audio company. I was intrigued and I requested to hear the amplifier before it got sent to other reviewers. Michael Gill obliged and the Ruby arrived at my doorstep some weeks later.
The Ruby features a slenderly built and attractively designed dark chassis with its Power On centered (along with AFA initials above it), evenly between a silver Input selection and Volume control knob. It weighs fifteen pounds, amongst the lightest amplifiers I've handled. It is rated at 75 watts per channel, while looking from the rear, sports four RCA inputs, two pairs of speaker terminals and I male IEC power outlet.
Arte Forme until now, has built only tube components: the Ruby being their very first solid-state product. My initial concern was whether the Ruby would offer the softer and more rolled off sonic signature typical of tube devices. Not in the least.
The Ruby surprised me with its well-balanced sonic capabilities. It sounded more refined and sophisticated than its $1350 asking price would suggest. With the Tekton Double Impact loudspeakers (review in the works), which are 97dB efficient, the Ruby really came to life. With the 95db efficient Bache loudspeakers (reviewed here), the Ruby provided a great sense of harmonic rightness and palpability, particularly on vocals.
Dwight Trible's gospel-infused baritone on What the World Needs Now is Love (featuring trumpeter Matthew Halsall), had me and my friends swooning over the sweetness and articulateness of this little amp. Bass was clean and tight with nice weight and balance. "Just right" was the guys' repeated comment.
The Grandinote, which have been around here for awhile, is a superb amplifier. It also costs forty times the cost of the Ruby. The surprising thing, which impressed all of us, is how well the Ruby acquitted itself in comparison. It was a real shocker. The Ruby/Tekton combination sounded nearly as good as the Grandinote/Bache Audio combination!
There is something unusual in the synergy between the Ruby and the Tekton. First off, the speed and density of the images seemed to rise another level. Focus, soundstage, dynamics and treble smoothness were great. Folks agreed that the Tekton doesn't just live up to all the hype you hear on the audio forums, it actually exceeds it! The Ruby didn't sound quite as good as the Grandinote, but that was to be expected.
When I swapped the Bache Audio loudspeakers for the Tekton Double Impacts and let the Ruby run free, it was quite astounding. The Ruby has its own sonic signature that is very much solid-state-like but without the harshness many associate with affordably-priced solid-state. Never once did I find the sound slow and/or soft-edged: reminiscent of tubes. It's not the most liquid sounding, solid-state amplifier I've heard, but for $1350.00 it far exceeded my expectations.
It's obvious that the few dozen DYI guys at Arte Forme believe in art over science. They base their designs on how good a product sounds rather than how it measures. I've heard a ton of products that measured near-perfect but left me cold. On the other hand, I've heard gear (like KR Audio) that didn't measure all that well that nonetheless left me and my audio friends absolutely speechless.
I'm not sure why this is. The Ruby simply just sounds good, looks good and has lots to offer anyone looking for an affordable amplifier. Built to provide the type of sonic excellence usually missing in lower powered tube alternatives, Arte Forme developed the Ruby especially for the power hungry loudspeaker. Unfortunately, I did not have such a loudspeaker available during my time with the Ruby. But the Bache Audio and Tekton Double Impact demonstrated to me how remarkable the performance of a well designed amplifier like the Ruby can be when partnered with a high efficiency loudspeaker. It is in that regard, that I am hereby nominating the Arte Forme Ruby integrated as my choice for 2017 Most Wanted Component: Publisher's Choice!
Solid State integrated amplifier
Bandwidth : 12 – 35k Hz
S/N Ratio : > 94dB
THD + N : < 0.001%
Inputs : 4 x RCA
Outputs : 75 W + 75W class A/B
Dimensions (W x D x H) mm : 430 x 320 x 70
Weight : 15 lbs / 7 kg