Reviewing the Digital Amplifier Company’s MEGAschino Cherry Amp

I was really excited when Tommy O’Brien, owner, and founder of Digital Amplifier Company (DAC), asked me to review their new MEGAschino Stereo amplifier. Digital Amplifier Company was founded in 1996 after several years of developing switching amplifiers for audio. You can read about their journey on their website, but after much research, they eventually decided to manufacture their own finished products. Tommy O’Brien, the founder, says, “We designed our amps for high performance on the bench, but more importantly for ultimate sonic satisfaction!” So far every product I have heard that uses Tommy’s designs has provided sonic satisfaction.

MEGAschino Design Goals

The press release for the MEGAschino says, “Technically speaking, if our Maraschino amp is a ‘V4’ engine (4 MOSFETs/ch), the MEGAschino is a ‘V12’ engine (12 MOSFETs/ch)!” The stereo version of this ‘V12 engine’ delivers 660 watts per channel into 4Ω and 400Wpc into 8Ω with a signal to noise ratio of 120dB. Tommy says, “The design goal of the MEGAschino amplifier was to achieve the sound of their Maraschino amplifiers with the power of their Classic Cherry amplifier. Through years of R&D, we were able to build a new, high-voltage version of the Maraschino, which was no easy feat. With this new design, we were able to provide all the benefits of the Maraschino design with the voltage and current carrying capability of the Classic Cherry, and MORE! With even lower output impedance and wider pulse differentials, you can get approximately 10% more power into your speakers from the same power supply.”

I reviewed the standard Stereo MEGAschine with a 750W transformer and no upgrades. There is also a MONO version of the MEGAschino at about the same physical size and weight. There is a transformer upgrade available to 1500W so far, but even larger transformers may be available in the future. They also offer rail capacitance upgrades; double capacitance for Stereo and MONO versions and quadruple capacitance for MONO only.

As with their Classic Cherry amps, the new MEGAschino uses an internal large toroidal transformer in what Tommy calls “a built-like-a-tank 16-gauge steel chassis.” The standard faceplate for the MEGAchino is black, but the amp I received for review was a beautiful cherry red, and everything about it said quality. However, nothing about the casework says, “We wasted lots of money on looks.” Digital Amplifier Company is known for not using prefabricated Class D modules. Instead, they design all of the vital components in-house with everything built in the United States.

MEGAschino internal view

System Used for this Review

Like all of DAC’s products, the MEGAschino accepts only XLR inputs but very nice RCA-to-XLR adaptors are supplied. This resulted in me putting together a different system than I usually use for reviews. Tommy really wanted me to listen to this amp in a balanced system, so, I used it with their DAC DAC HS that I reviewed and gave The Audio Beatnik’s 2017 award for the Best Digital Product. I also used it with the wonderful OPPO UPD-205 as the source and preamp.

For speakers, I used the Qln Signature 3 speakers that I recently reviewed, the Studio Electric m4 speakers that are also in for review and the Fritz Carrera 7 speakers. Just for fun, I also used it with my 103 dB efficient Teresonic Ingenium XR speakers to satisfy my curiosity I wanted to hear how my speakers would sound with such a powerful amp. Why? One of the best systems I have ever heard had a pair of huge horn speakers that were incredibly efficient being driven by a 2,000-watt amplifier. All of the cables I used for the review were from Audience.

This amp from the Digital Amplifier Company sounded excellent when driving all these speakers. With the MEGAshino, the sound was open, clear, transparent and detailed. The sound top-to-bottom was even-handed sound from all instruments. The amp excelled at letting me hear real inner detail, probably because of the MEGAschinos’ incredibly quiet background. This also allows instruments and voices to have a very impressive immediacy and sound very real. I was especially impressed with what it did for the Qln Signature 3s. So, I used this combo for most of the review.

Megaschino rear view

 

Listening

When it comes to scale and dynamics, these are areas where you get more from the MEGAschino, which really helps speakers to show their potential. Like a good tube amp, the sound was big, dynamic and powerful in its presentation of music. Instruments had a near life-like size. Part of the reason that this amp can do this is the excellent dynamic range that enables the music to come to life. The dynamics of a full orchestra or a rock band were equally impressive. There are no two ways about it; the sound was bigger, faster and more dynamic than most amps I have had in my house.  The MEGAschino played music with startling dynamics, and it can stop-on-a-dime so as not to blur the timing of the music. The power of this amp is intoxicating. It takes control of a speaker. It gets loud without effort, and it produces very big, full and musical bass.

The top-end is the best I have heard from a Class D amp so far. It is nicely textured and extended, but compared to my reference Pass 30.8, there is an ever so slight amount of homogenization in the upper octaves, but it is ever so slight.The top-end is nicely detailed, and it has no glare or edginess. The truth is that it is quite beautiful.

The other thing I would say about the MEGAschino is that it has great attack and definition in the midrange without sounding aggressive or the least bit “transitory.” It sounds smooth throughout its frequency range, and it also seems more tonally accurate than other Class D amps. For that matter, it also sounds better than most transistor amps. Vocals were played with an incredibly clear window on the performance, and instruments seemed to be right there in the room with me. Vocals also had good body and weight.

It has a bit of the bloom in the midrange that I most often associate with single-ended Triode tube amps. It also lets you hear the layering of the music like SET amps. Now don’t get me wrong, the MEGAschino will never be mistaken for a SET tube amp, but it does give you just a touch of their magic but with much more power. I was rather surprised by this.

There’s one thing that even a tube lover like me has had to admit over the years, this kind of power can surely take hold and control the bottom-end of a speaker. Upright basses came through with plenty of texture and were very solid.  It had both good attack, was quite fast and had better decay and air around the instrument than I had expected from such a high-powered amp. Drums sounded very solid and full; let’s just say the MEGAschino had terrific bass.

The amp images in a way that was focused, clear and sharp. When used with the Qln Signature 3s  the soundstage was as good as I have ever heard. For those of you who love a ‘reach out and touch you’ soundstage, you need to hear this combo. You will not believe the bass either; it was just mind-blowing from a speaker this size. And, It’s not just the bass that’s special with this combo. As always, I spent a good bit of time listening to male and female vocals as well as piano music on this combo. Voices sounded beautifully natural and more open then the speakers had on other amps. With female voices, there wasn’t the least bit of a nasal tone or over emphasis of sibilance. Likewise, male voices came from a more open background with no problem in the crossover range. Pianos sounded more alive and had more presences with this amp. The MEGAschino had a very special way with the Qlns; it was a very special combination indeed!

Conclusion

At this point, all I can say is that I am not only impressed but also a bit astonished by how much I liked the Digital Amplifier Company’s MEGAschino Cherry amplifier. I should also add that the Digital Audio Company is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for developing an optimized board set and 2000W transformer for the MEGAschino Amplifier. You can find out more about the campaign and campaign incentives here.

Experiencing this wonderful amplifier has made me come to realize not only how good a Class D amplifier can sound, but also how good a truly high-powered amplifier can sound. In the case of the Qln Signature 3 speakers, I would say that this amp was able to breathe life into the speakers in a way I had not heard with other amps. Kudos go out to Tommy for bringing us what is a truly wonderful amp.

Technical Specifications

Gain: 26dB
SNR: 120dB
1W THD+N: 0.005%
Size: 17.0″ x 14.3″ x 4.6″
Power Stage Efficiency: 95%
Output Impedance: <0.03Ω wideband
Sensitivity: 3.0Vin for 400Wout into 8Ω
Weight: 30-40 lbs (depending on version)
Input Impedance: 20kΩ true balanced
Frequency Response: 0Hz to 150kHz (DC coupled)
Output Power (standard 750W transformer): ???
  Stereo Version: 660Wpc into 4Ω, 400Wpc into 8Ω
  MONO Version: 720Wpc into 4Ω, 430Wpc into 8Ω
Output Power (1500W transformer):
  Stereo Version: 750Wpc into 4Ω, 440Wpc into 8Ω
  MONO Version: 850Wpc into 4Ω, 460Wpc into 8Ω
Protection: Thermal, Current, Voltage, Auto-Recovery
Output Connectors: WBT Gold Binding Posts
Input Connectors: Neutrik Gold XLR (RCA-to-XLR adapters included)
Idle Power Consumption:
  Stereo Version: 36W
  MONO Version: 20W
Sleep Mode Power Consumption:
  Stereo Version: 11W
  MONO Version: 8W
AC MAINS: 120VAC nominal, 230VAC upon request
Stereo MEGAschino:   $6,100
MONO MEGAschino:   $9,800/pr or $5,000

 

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