Tonewinner AD-2PRO: Heavy amplifier with ‘light’, transparent sound

The Tonewinner AD-2PRO is a huge and heavy beast.

By Lam Seng Fatt

For RM10,800 you get a really heavy and huge component. If size does matter, then the Tonewinner AD-2PRO is surely a winner.

The Tonewinner AD-2PRO integrated amplifier with built-in DAC and phono (MM/MC) preamp measures 44.4 x 22.8 x 42.4 cm and weighs about 36 kg. It takes two persons to carry it.

For a made-in-China product it actually looks quite impressive and well made and the heat sink fins do not cut your fingers.

I used the Auto Class A function most of the time.

This component ended up in my house for review after the Gelombang show when David Kestez, the super Sales Manager of Audio Art asked me if I wanted to review it. Days later, Audio Art’s boss Yoon Tuck Chee drove all the way from Ipoh to deliver the Tonewinner to me.

The AD-2PRO is actually quite an interesting component. It offers Class A, Class AB and Auto Class A amplification and changes can be made on the fly. On Class A it is an 80 watter and on Class AB it becomes a 200 watter.

It was quite fun playing around with the different classes of amplification. On Class A, the mids — especially the vocals — became more prominent and forward. On Class AB, the mids were pushed back a bit but the bass became more authoritative. In the end, I used Auto Class A most of the time. On Class A and Auto Class A, the AD-2PRO gets quite hot, but not that hot that you cannot even touch it.

Its built-in DAC uses the top-of-the-line ESS Sabre ES9038 chip and there are one co-ax and two optical inputs featured. I would have preferred a USB input as well. The DAC supports DSD, AIFF, ALAC, APE, DIFF, DSF, FLAC, OGG, WAV, AAC, MP3, WMA and PCM.

The phono input offers MM/MC options but the MC loading is limited to 100 Ohms.

The manufacturer, Guangzhou Tonewinner Electronics Co Ltd, has ensured that the AD-2-PRO is an all-in-one solution and even offers a sub-woofer out (balanced and RCA).

The Tonewinner AD-2PRO has many inputs and outputs but the back panel is neatly laid out.

What about the sound? The sound quality is admirably quite transparent, but the soundstage is quite narrow but rather deep. This was more apparent when using the built-in DAC. Also the sound quality seemed a bit ‘light’ as in the opposite of ‘dense’. It is like a water colour painting compared with a thickly-layered oil painting.

I had connected a Silent Angel Munich M1T to the Tonewinner AD-2PRO with an Acoustic Zen Silver Photon co-ax cable. I had also connected the AD-2PRO to an iFi ZEN DAC using a Shunyata Omega USB cable to stream from the Silent Angel Munich M1T and a pair of WyWire Platinum interconnects to link the iFi ZEN DAC to the analogue inputs of the AD-2PRO.

Using the external iFi ZEN DAC with the analogue inputs resulted in the soundstage becoming wider and assuming the dimensions that I am accustomed to. So it was obvious that the AD-2PRO’s internal DAC resulted in a narrow but deep soundstage with the tendency for the images to be layered behind the singer.

I also compared the AD-2PRO’s internal DAC with my Wyred4Sound DAC2 which uses the older ESS Sabre ES9018 chip. The current-generation ES9038 chip obviously sounds clearer and cleaner.

As for the phono stage, I played a few LPs on my modded Rega Planar 3 with RB250 tonearm and Benz Glider SM MC cartridge which has an output of 0.8mV. I had to turn the volume up to quite high levels to achieve reasonable loudness. It appears that the AD-2PRO’s phono stage prefers high-output MC cartridges.

On the whole, the sound quality was quite consistent in that it was transparent and ‘light’, but the soundstage was a bit narrow albeit quite deep. And I would have liked a more rhythmic and quicker pace.

Tonewinner products are available from Audio Art in Ipoh. Contact Sales Manager David Kestez at 012-2499823 for more details.

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