Orchard Audio CRISPIN
An email from Tommy O’Brien at the Digital Amplifier Company alerted me that an amplifier was coming my way for a quick review. The Orchard Audio CRISPIN (Cherry Inside) Stereo Amplifier is the first Maraschino Module based amplifier to be produced with DAC’s Class-D modules. The CRISPIN was designed by Leonid (Leo) Ayzenshtat, who has previously designed products for several elite names in the industry (NASA, Lockheed Martin, L3 Technologies, Siemens) and launched Orchard Audio LLC in 2017 to independently release its own line of advanced audio products. Orchard Audio has partnered with the Digital Amplifier Company to launch this first product.
To quote Leo, “We design our products for those who appreciate excellence in their listening experience. ”This first use of the Maraschino Module incorporating Cherry Amplifier Technology® makes CRISPIN unique in the market and, sets CRISPIN apart as a future-proof, forward-thinking, sonically optimized contender. Other module based amplifiers on the market use tremendous amounts of negative feedback to correct for output error. The result is ringing and high-frequency hash much like the mega-feedback Class-AB amps of the 1980's. CRISPIN offers amazing bench measurements without massive feedback or phase compensation networks. The Maraschino difference is simply better sonics. The harshness associated with other Class-D amps has been eliminated.”
The CRISPIN shape is unique, with its angled front corners, its casing a simple textured satin black steel. A blue LED glow can be seen through its top vents. There is no LED power light on its front, only a simple switch. The finish is nothing to write home about, nor is the front white tree line graphic.., and yes, I joked with Tommy O’Brien, asking of the CRISPIN should be called the “Cherry Orchard.” Nope, but it’s the start up’s first project – they’ll get lots of feedback on this baby soon enough and, regardless, the CRISPIN appears to be a well built unit.
The CRISPIN's rear panel reveals gold plated inputs for both XLR (balanced) and RCA connectors (single ended), along with 2 pairs of gold plated 5-way banana binding posts. In Full Bridge Mode, the standard model outputs 100 wpc (the Ultra produces 125wpc) into 8Ω and it outputs 200W wpc (the Ultra 250 wpc) into in 4Ω. For other specs you can read the list below. The review sample of the CRISPIN came with a red and black 3.3’ High Performance 10AWG AC Power Cord that comes only with the CRISPIN Ultra model that fits nicely into the Digital Amplifier Company color theme.
I’ve always liked the DAC products I’ve heard and, with DAC’s partnership with Orchard Audio’s CRISPIN, to further quote its maker, “you can get access to the Cherry Amplifier Technology® at an affordable price. CRISPIN is available in two models, the more expensive CRISPIN Ultra Stereo Amplifier version has an additional 50% capacitance on the power rails and an upgraded custom linear power transformer. These upgrades improve bass, transient response and power output.
Listening to CRISPIN
First thought: I reviewed the CRISPIN with a passive preamp under review as well as with an active premium with with speakers of somewhat lower sensitivity than the passive pre liked (I was playing at 62 out of 64 steps on the display with no issue). A visitor maxed out the volume and the CRISPIN did clip – and damn if he didn’t do it again – but it didn’t take out any speakers and that was a relief. I was riding the amp to very near max in our 32’ x 42’ loft styled listening space. Okay, on the listening notes.
I started off with vinyl on my heavily self-modified Well Tempered Simplex. Jerome Sabbagh’s “The Turn” (Sunnyside 2013) was a fun Kickstarter to be a part of, and the resulting vinyl pressing is fantastic, even if it was mastered from high resolution 24/96 files. From what I understand, the engineer used an analog reel to reel to hold the mix so they could reuse the digital tape. The total pressing sounds realistic, fluid and textural. The few microphones used captured the band in a very realistic way. The pressing is quiet, and packed with great dynamics. On “The Turn,” Sabbagh’s sexy horn was one sonorous sax. Ben Monder’s guitar lines overlapping and doubling the sax’ play added a nice dimension, with Monder’s loose, well-crafted guitar accompaniment.
The vinyl presented a nice stage, even though it was small-ish. Monder’s guitar lines, when at a higher gain, were nicely angular with a great crunchy tone. The fantastic bass and percussion really drove this effort… and the drums were very present. The pressing has an AAA feel. On Long Gone, the rhythm section was really supportive and playful and sounded very “in the room.” All players rendered beautifully laid back and the guitar work was haunting. Sabbagh’s sax play was raspy spitty sweet, soft and low in delivery and energy in delivery and execution. Playful percussion… killer!
“Covered - Robert Glasper Trio recorded Live at Capitol Studios” (Blue Note 2015) reunited Glasper with his original rhythm section for some live fun. On I Don’t Even Care, a tune from the “Black Radio” bonus disc, I found the vinyl a touch noisy but the track had a tripping rhythm and super forceful bass the sounded like an over-the-top car system, and a very active, percolating arrangement, delivered with excitement by the CRISPIN. The rhythm section was very tight – the system sounded like it had dual subs booming. On Reckoner, the bass and drums were again quite bombastic in the relative center with Glasper offering up simple piano lines – very alive sounding and… booming! The piano work here was hypnotic and the bass and drums were really locked in with the piano riffing on a descending melody line.
A spin of the McCoy Tyner “New York Reunion” (Chesky Records 1991) reissue on vinyl delivered a nice stage width and depth and a beautiful render of a tight rhythm section, with sax and piano well matched with good weight and focus. Depth of the stage was impressive, the band really rolled back in the recording venue. Bass was nicely supportive and dimensional without being over-powering and percussion was lush, dynamic and just a big “Wow.” Wonderfully recorded, with great drive.
At the time of writing, the CRISPIN is not yet available but will go on sale through the company’s website (www.orchardaudio.com) in early 2018. The CRISPIN is one good sounding Class-D power amplifier. I was less enthusiastic with the finish and the front graphic, but it’s the sound of CRISPIN that I enjoyed – as did Clement Perry. I tried the CRISPIN on a pair of King Audio LTD Model KS-17 Full Range Electrostatic Loudspeakers (reviewed here) with 83 dB sensitivity and did get some nice sound at low volume, but at higher volumes, this proved a mismatch and CRISPIN misbehaved – demanding speakers and a very large room to blame. Yes, CRISPIN sounds and performs best with more efficient transducers.
CRISPIN is one warm and wonderful sounding product with the Maraschino Cherry Core with which to begin the DAC and Orchard Audio partnership. Give it a listen… better yet, support it on Kickstarter and get a backer deal. If you’re in the market for a great sounding 100 wpc into 8Ω Class-D power amplifier, the CRISPIN is the unit to give some of your time.
The Digital Amplifier Company
Tommy O’Brien, designer
Inputs: Gold Plated XLR (balanced) or Gold Plated RCA Connectors (single ended)Input Impedance: 20kΩ
Outputs: Gold Plated 5-Way Banana Binding Posts
Full Bridge Outputs (8Ω): 100W (per channel), Ultra 125W (per channel)
Full Bridge Outputs (4Ω): 200W (per channel), Ultra 250W (per channel)
Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR): 117dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.005%
Frequency Response: 0 – 100kHz
Damping Factor: >400
Enclosure: Steel (14" x 11" x 3")
Power Supply: High Efficiency Linear Transformer, Individual Rails for Left and Right Channels
Other Features: DC Coupled, Low-Impedance True-Balanced Output
CRISPIN Amplifier $1749 USD CRISPIN Ultra Amplifier $2249 USD
Leonid (Leo) Ayzenshtat, Designer and Founder
Orchard Audio, LLC