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One of the biggest challenges of human existence is the ability to let go. This is always very easy if something more interesting, better or newer comes next – nobody said something younger. So far at least in theory. When Audionet announced to discontinue the SAM V2, we impulsively set the flag in front of the editorial building at half mast and for several weeks we were wearing mourning clothes. Because this integrated amplifier had rendered us an excellent, long-standing service. Its reliability was exemplary, its sound quality immaculate. So why the heck cease the production? »Technical progress – and this also implies tonal advancement«, replies Audionet managing director Thomas Gessler upon request in a rather low voice. And Audionet sales manager Andreas Selhorst, who is also largely responsible for the audio quality, adds: »Soundwise we were able to take another leap forward!«



In a branch which is by no means free from marketing chitchat we must of course believe such statements first and then verify their intrinsic value on the living object. Yet after far more than one decade of market presence Audionet enjoys confidence in this respect, which makes the test of the SAM G2 for about 4,000 EUR certainly even more exciting. So let’s see what the designers have conceived for the new model.

Facelift or new design

It goes without saying that technical equipment can be improved over time. In the field of consumer electronics this is often emphasised by a shorthand symbol like Mk II, III, IV etc. annexed to the product name. In most cases detail improvements like new power transistors, an innovative display or a modified power supply hide behind such symbols. The basic design of the component, however, remains unchanged.



While the »V2« of the previous SAM designated »Version 2«, the »G2« of the new model stands for »Generation 2«. Buy why isn’t it called »SAM V3« then? The answer is as consistent as it is logical: the scope of modifications was just too large. Because inside and outside the new SAM generation puts sweeping innovations forward.

Disappointment at the beginning

After depriving the SAM G2 of its packaging, three editors are surrounding the device in a half circle, giving utterance to their disappointment. Where have the two big rotary knobs for the input selection and above all the volume control gone? The SAM now looks like an oversized Audionet PRE I G3 Preamplifier. A pretty mess which hopefully will have no sequel.



At least not as far as the workmanship is concerned, for this is marvellous as usual. The screws fit snugly in the housing, the clearances are correct and the sockets are mounted so firmly that one might be tempted to lift the 16 kg amplifier by them. As to the colour selection nothing has changed, by the way: body in silver or black, display in blue or red. Instead of the two rotary knobs for input selection and volume control, these functions are now operated via pushbuttons. 



Alright, due to the omission of the two large rotary knobs the design now matches the other components. Especially that of the brandnew Audionet ART G3 CD player which is also present in our testroom. Luckily the ensuing practical tests show that the new SAM is almost entirely operated via the optional remote control. Now the response to commands typed in comes from the graphics display.



The upper half of the display shows which outputs are active; up for choice are headphones and loudspeaker outputs. In the same line any desired name may be assigned to the source. This is a pretty time-consuming procedure, but it’s worthwhile for your daily routine. Below it we see the displays with a bigger font for the selected input and the volume level.

Of course, the display can be step-varied in its brightness or also turned off completely. In the latter setting it will temporarily come alive upon operation just to go out quickly again afterwards. By the way, during the tests no detrimental influence by the display on the sound quality could be detected. Disciples of a »puristic« reproduction may therefore leave it on, too.

SAM’s enchanting back

The back holds two surprises in store: besides five RCA inputs, SAM G2 now also offers a pair of balanced XLR connectors, and the loudspeaker terminals still come from contact specialist WBT, but now in the Nextgen version which is far superior soundwise. So here we see distinct changes as well.



A preamp output is provided for connecting an additional power amplifier or an active subwoofer. Hence bi-amping is another option which can be easily realised using a second power amp. Users who need the source signal for recording purposes, will resort to the Rec Out sockets which put out the signal with a fixed level. The ground terminal has moved, but is still there. 



Inconspicuous, but significant for convenience is the Link socket. Via an optical cable multiple Audionet devices can communicate over this system, which means in practice the minimisation of operating steps. But since Audionet stands for superb audio quality, hardly anyone makes use of this valuable option. Comfort still seems to be a horror to many a high-end lover. 



Did we forget something? Yes, below the loudspeaker terminals sits – a bit hard-to-reach – the ¼” jack socket for connecting a headphone set. Furthermore the SAM G2 has a true mains switch on the rear panel which should be used in case of prolonged absence. Otherwise the amplifier should stay on mains – the power consumption in standby mode is below one watt, as it is now required by law.

The phase-labelled socket is exemplary. Owners of a marked power cord can therefore do without the tiresome plug rotation. But if you do make a mistake at this point, the display will read: »Attention! Mains Phase Incorrect«. Stay cool, we’ll turn the plug into the phase-correct position immediately.

Current as lifeblood

Although some readers have read this piece of advice several times already and maybe too often, the practice shows that the message has not even hit home with every dealer: to soar to maximum performance, the units need one thing above all: time on mains. The new SAM G2, too, is happy when you let it suck permanently at the juice. Audionet amplifiers which have just made contact with the power grid will stay far below their actual sound potential – many a sonic misjudgement has thus been pronounced yet, as was confirmed once again by a recent conversation with a reader.

Power and beauty also inside

Upon removing the numerous top lid screws it’s still a matter of feeling to gently lift up the cover, for the tension between the side parts creates a strong support. After the »hood« is finally taken off, one thing hits the eye right away: instead of two electrolytic capacitors, as they were used in the SAM V2, no less than eight caps with a filtering capacity of 12,000 microfarads each are now at work. The decentralisation of the 96,000 microfarads to eight subunits shall release energy even faster with signal transient peaks.

The electrolytic caps are fed from a sealed 700 watts toroidal transformer. The transistors used to produce the actual power sit on a massive heatsink. Eyecatchers are the, in some cases, considerably shorter distances between the modules and the wiring carried out with silver cables. To say it clearly: the material quality we can witness here for the current transport, is not even used by other manufacturers for the signal transmission.

The power of the low figure

In lieu of a central power supply we see little pre-regulators everywhere on the pc board which are to filter and stabilise the supply voltages. The negative feedback works like multiple floodgates in a river: instead of one huge stage, we have several local units. This is another factor of the Audionet design (called ultralinear amplifier) which is to yield excellent specs. In the i-fidelity.net laboratory the SAM G2 has to deliver the telling proof for the correctness.

As to the selection of the electronic components there is nothing to bitch about – only the crème de la crème. With some candidates one will begin to wonder because they can’t be ordered by catalogue. Our inquiry at the factory in Bochum reveals that e.g. the capacitors are made in the USA according to Audionet specifications and thus are not freely available. Here, too, the effort seems almost excessively great. Other manufacturers often use such production details as a justification why the prices for their components start no lower than in the five-digit range.

Integration and operation

Being the heart of the chain the integrated amplifier plays a truly important role. It receives low-level signals from the sources, amplifies them and feeds them to the loudspeakers. Here the inputs are switched and the levels controlled. All this must happen flawlessly and as intuitively for the user as possible. 



So let’s patch an RCA cable from the Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD/CD player, hook up the HMS Concertato to the speaker terminals and we have already our first signal connection. Owners of a record player can also purchase the SAM G2 with a built-in MM/MC phono board (extra charge: 320 EUR), then it will handle analogue signals directly as well. But for the test i-fidelity.net decided to put a Lehmann Audio Decade between the Clearaudio Anniversary turntable, fitted with a Stradivari pickup catridge, and the SAM G2. 



Of the loudspeaker department we were using mainly the T+A KS300 floorstanders and the Mordaunt Short Performance 2 high-end two-way monitors. Both of them unfold an absolutely formidable soundscape, provided the preceding electronic components were expertly combined. If something in the chain is not in harmony, no music experience will be achieved and, most notably, you will get no realistic equivalent value for the quite respectable cost price. 



For a really comfortable operation of SAM, one should definitely go for the Harmony 785 system remote control. True, this will require you to shell out another 170 EUR, but it makes the coexistence with the SAM G2 a lot easier. And for buyers of the bundle with the Audionet ART G3 CD player the remote is included. Because once properly installed, you will touch the SAM G2 no more, but handle everything over the infrared transducer. So maybe I can get over the loss of the two rotary knobs after all?

It’s showtime, SAM G2

Compared with other test candidates, the SAM didn’t have an easy standing. For almost seven years its ancestor has been a constant partner in very diverse listening tests. Deskmen’s ears know and love it, hence anything but simple preconditions for the new guy. Should it only draw level in terms of audio quality, this would be tantamount to a defeat.

The first to give us a song is Aaron Neville with »Summertime«. SAM V2 is playing in the usual manner. Wide room image, exact accentuation and position of the singing voice and wonderful, controlled power down to the lower octaves. What more could the new SAM G2 essentially offer? No longer than 30 seconds does it take to come up with a reply: it succeeds in presenting a much more composed reproduction, creating a very pleasant, but for older Audionet amps rather unusual atmosphere that can be outlined in one word: musicality. The soundscape is more colourful.



With the track »Rising Star« by trumpet player Till Brönner from Berlin, the new version gets down to work in a fresher and noticeably more light-footed way. Single notes arise like out of nowhere, provide more acoustical information, which becomes audible especially with the trumpet. Instead of going about it vigorously only in the low registers like the old SAM can certainly do, the G2 apparently opens up a new octave level deep down below. Representative of this shall be the remark by a colleague referring to the T+A loudspeaker: »I don’t see a 12” woofer, where does the energy in the low range come from?«



Good question – and the answer is that this is obviously one of the virtues of the new Audionet amplifier. But this is still not enough to run rings around its forerunner or even send it to the backbenches. Which is why Vast may now step up with their song »Touched«. What begins with harmless guitar music and soft vocals, turns just over a minute later into a brutal rock piece. Here many amplifiers simply fall so much from grace that the result sounds dull, dreary and annoying. 



The new SAM G2 handles this music in a serene, nonchalant manner, it has the gift to revamp even this track with some sort of slinky swing. Its predecessor sounds more clinical, intellectually cooler and – one can hardly describe it with another term – anemic, too. Dynamically speaking, the two of them are not all that far apart with this song, but the G2 plays clearer, without limitations. Its style of elocution bears similarities to mostly American integrated amplifiers beyond the 10,000 EUR threshold. For an integrated amplifier from Audionet this quality level is sensational virgin territory. 



And the longer the new SAM G2 is allowed to audition, the more attractive virtues it serves up which until now were never to be expected in this price category. There is an album by David Gilmour called »Live In Gdansk«. Naturally it contains »Shine On You Crazy Diamond« in its original version, i.e. with those tones at the beginning which occur when you sweep gently with your fingertips over the edges of differently filled wine glasses. The old Audionet performs this melodic epos »ostensibly«, the new one »profoundly«. Once it’s the pin sharp image of a landscape (SAM V2), and then it’s the landscape itself (SAM G2).

The old SAM seems to flatten the melody line or in other words: it carves it out not nearly as impressively as its heir. And the G2 demonstrates that Gilmour’s guitar playing is more to its liking. Despite a live recording which is precisely not abounding in precise moments, it carves out all the edges without literally getting analytic; there is way too much music involved in this track as well. Now it’s preparing to not only overtake its forerunner, but also to define a new class standard.

Charlie Haden and Keith Jarret »Jasmine«

The album was produced in Jarret’s home studio already some time ago and is a true gem. Like before on a duet album with Pat Metheney, bassist Charlie Haden seems to have a positive influence on his fellow musicians, for we haven’t heard piano man Keith Jarret next to him playing so relaxed – and by this I don’t mean boring! – in a long time. »Jasmine« has turned out to be a fantastic album. 



For this album I will not give the normal »listen-in-tips«, the opus as a whole. For such records, for such music Audionet develops reproducing electronics, hifi and high-end devices or experience machines – you name them. Whereas Haden’s bass sounds more reserved and is sometimes barely audible over the old SAM, the new G2 presents the picture of an acoustic »HD camera«. No detail is lost and even the subtle passages don’t lack the force typical of this instrument.



No doubt, the new SAM G2 defines the new audio quality benchmark in its class. Four representative points shall be mentioned: dynamics, spatial imaging capacity, the absence of limitations and a musical reproduction level which is absolutely unique in this price range. Now then, SAM G2, you’re going to supersede our longtime companion, your predecessor SAM V2, with flying colours. Holding its head high, the V2 may go into its well-deserved retirement. 


The Audionet SAM G2 is granted the most important label, the most precious i-fidelity.net award: reference in the league of integrated amplifiers.

Measured data Integrated amplifier Audionet SAM G2

 

Output power:

Nominal output power @ 4 ohms (1% THD):   178 W

Nominal output power @ 8 ohms (1% THD):   105 W

 

Distortion:

Distortion (THD+N, 10 watts @ 4 ohms):   0.0010 %

IM distortion SMPTE (5 watts @ 4 ohms):   0.0035 %

IM distortion CCIF (5 watts @ 4 ohms):   0.0006%

 

SNR specifications:

Unweighted S/N ratio (- 20 kHz):   -106.7 dB

Unweighted S/N ratio (- 250 kHz):   -90.3 dB

S/N ratio (A-weighted):   -109.5 dB

 

Additional data:

Upper limit frequency (-3dB / 10 W @ 4 ohms):   > 185 kHz

Channel deviation:   0.1 dB

Input resistance:   7.9 kohms

DC output offset:   < 0.5 mV


Power consumption:

Off:   0 W

Stand-by:   < 1 W

On:   34 W


Dimensions (W x H x D):  43 x 11 x 36.5 cm

Weight:   16 kg

Lab commentary

Once again, Audionet doesn’t miss out on anything with the SAM G2 in terms of metrological data: the distortion figures are low, the S/N ratios very good and the channel deviation is flawless. The SAM is a modern broadband integrated amplifier with ample output power (with a stable 230 volts mains grid some more watts may be teased out). Exemplary: already today the standby power consumption is below one watt. First-class all round, lab mark »very good«.

Inputs:
5 x RCA, teflon-insulated and gold-plated
1 x XLR, gold-plated

Outputs:
1 x Tape out RCA
1 x Preamp out, gold-plated
1 x Audionet-Link, optical
1 x WBT Nextgen output posts for cable lugs and banana plugs
1 x Headphones

Model versions:

Body:   Silver or black
Display:   Red or blue    

Available options:
Audionet system remote control Harmony 785
Plug-in phono module for MM and MC

Special features:
Home cinema bypass option
Audionet ultralinear amplifier
Automatic mains phase recognition
Freely nameable inputs
Balanced input

Audionet is a division and registered trademark of

IDEKTRON


Unternehmens- und Technologieberatung GmbH & Co.
Herner Strasse 299
44809 Bochum


Phone.: +49 (0)2 34 / 50 72 7-0
Fax : +49 (0)2 34 / 5 07 27 -27

E-mail:   contact(at)audionet.de
Internet:    www.audionet.de

Audionet has thorougly evolved their integrated amplifier SAM. With the new G2 logogram it lines up with the best-sounding amplifiers on the market. The volume level can no longer be dialed in via a big rotary knob, but thanks to the clever remote one can get over it. Towering over all the good features is the impressive sound quality, especially the tremendous degree of musicality. The performance of the SAM G2 will leave no listener unaffected. With its depth of expression it is clearly reminiscent of far more costly amps. From now on, the SAM G2 has to perform its duty as i-fidelity.net reference. That way test jobs can also become a real pleasure.   Olaf Sturm

Audionet SAM G2
Price: 3,990 EUR
Guarantee: 3 years (Audionet Plus)
 
Phono MM/MC module: 320 EUR
Audionet Harmony 785 remote control: 169 EUR
Superb
Very good
Very good
Very good
Very good

TEST

Amplifier:
Audionet SAM G2
Author:
Olaf Sturm
Date:
07.11.2010
Manufacturer:
Audionet