250i Integrated Amplifier Reviewed in Hong Kong

eloquence 250i Integrated Amplifier TopIssue 279 of Hong Kong hifi magazine HiFi Review features a review of our éloquence 250i Integrated Amplifier.

Many thanks to Raymond Cho, from our Hong Kong distributor Kinetic Audio, for arranging the review.

The review has kindly been translated into English by our Singaporean distributor Audio Basic. A huge "thank you" to Steven Cheah for his efforts.

Here are a couple of the comments reviewer River Chan made about the 250i integrated amplifier:

“Overall performance is so natural that it warms the heart and soothes the ear...”

“...we listened until we drowned in its emotions, shaking our heads in rhythm, swaying with the music, tapping our feet in line with the infectious melodies...”

Feel free to continue reading what other thoughts and emotions were stirred in reviewer River Chan. Alternatively, you can read the original review in Chinese.

Whenever New Zealand is mentioned, I will always think of her soothing four seasons, her natural scenic beauty, her unpolluted oceans, as well as her luscious kiwifruits, sheepskins and dairy products. Not to forget the movie, The Lord of the Rings too!

However with regards to her audio industry, I am sorry to say that I nearly forgot about an established 20 year-old NZ acquaintance, Perreaux, whose fame I only knew, but yet to experience an audition. However, for our local (Hong Kong) seasoned audiophile veterans, just mention Perreaux, and they will recall, "oh that NZ amp", recollecting that it was once distributed 20 years ago by Edward Keller Ltd.

But since then, Perreaux has more or less slowly disappeared from the HK audiophile scene. Thus I am not really familiar with Perreaux in the sense that I have never personally used their equipment before. However, even before I started work as a reviewer, I had already known that Perreaux originates from NZ, and that it's a no-frills piece of solid audio engineering, e.g. their pure Class-A preamp SA3, SM3 and power amplifiers PMF3150, PM2310 etc. Also they were famous for their high powered amps that drove difficult loads, such as the 500 Watts output of the PMF5550.

And take note, these notable products already came out more than 20 years ago, thus it can be seen that Perreaux is something quite extraordinary. One can inspect their simple sophistication of their designs, even by today standards; they still look great, with no hint of obsolescence.

Now twenty years later, I finally have the opportunity to meet up with the latest Perreaux design, feeling very honoured but yet uneasy. That's because the current models don't look like the Perreaux models I remembered. But once I saw the finely engraved Perreaux logo, a sense of familiarity returned, although I am not really convinced of its real performance yet. But since I have yet to personally audition a Perreaux yesterday and today, why not treat it like a new friend and let things take its own course.

New Zealand Roots

Perreaux, which was established in 1974, where NZ has been its base for research, design and commercialisation; pre/power amps, integrated amps, etc. are still being made to demand.

Originally its market was just home-country-based, but two years later its volume grew enough to be exported to NZ's neighbouring Australia.and from early 80's, it soon found inroads to the US, a key audiophile market, entering into well-known NY hifi shops. From then, Perreaux claim prominence in an international audio market, soon reaching the shores of HK hifi shops.

According to Chinese anecdotal sayings that question “how many decades can a human life have?", it seems that Perreaux, from 1974 onwards, can claim at least 3 of them, and seen much ups and downs.

Although it may have disappeared from HK markets for some time, that doesn't really matter much, as compared to having been able to last through 3 long decades of production and still in business today, that is quite a mean feat.

Growing till today, Perreaux current product lineup has 3 main segments, that include CD players, integrated amps, preamps, passive preamps, phono amps, amplifiers (stereo/mono/multi-channel) and headphone amps etc., altogether about 17 models from entry models to ultimate differential balanced sources/pre & power amps.

Readers are welcome to visit their website to understand the wide range of Perreaux products, regardless of how well they know about Perreaux, they will find that after browsing through, even if they just learned about Perreaux, most will have gathered much confidence in Perreaux and feel at ease.

From Within

Today I have the opportunity to review one of Perreaux éloquence line of products, the 250i Integrated Amplifier, and other integrated amps include the éloquence 150i and entry models like the Silhouette SX25i. Thus within Perreaux, there is a total of 3 different models of integrated amps, with the éloquence 250i being the top of the range model.

From the exterior look of 250i, I notice that it still retains the look of simplicity, which is very inline with the simple austere look of modern design. Its simple elegance is further enhanced by the presence of a large centre dial and 5 mini-buttons residing on a very thick front plate, together with a large LCD information display and a prominent deeply engraved Perreaux logo on it too.

There are no other superfluous words or symbols to describe the functionality of the buttons on the front, clean and simple unlike the rest out there. Nevertheless, on the 250i, aside from the power on/off button and the volume dial whose functionality are quite obvious without the needs of any markings, the 5 mini-buttons functionalities are readily identified from the front LCD display when touched, making it visually appealing, refreshing and highly flexible to control.

With such an austere simple design devoid of any distracting details, and a unique material used for its thick casing which is anodized with a titanium-like finishing, the 250i looks stunning pictorially or in reality. Thus a look at its exterior is already very promising, full of wholesomeness and very seductive. As the Chinese saying goes, "A good form outside begins from a good spirit inside", thus if it only looks good on its surface, then I'm afraid Perreaux would not have lasted a few decades, and I would not be making this review now.

Uniquely Outstanding

250i internal specs (its electronics design especially) are:

High Power Ratings - in order to ensure that it can drive very difficult speaker loads, Perreaux used powerful MOSFET fast switching power output devices, and it can continuously support loads of (maximum ratings) 360W into 8 Ohms, 530W into 4 Ohms, while rated at 250W into 8 Ohms, 500W into 4 Ohms. This shows the wide range of loads that Perreaux can drive.

High Damping Factor - reaching 800 @ 1 kHz, 250W into 8 Ohms. Further proving the control strength of 250i.

Advanced MOSFET Design - With decades of experience designing MOSFET based amplifiers, Perreaux has developed a rich heritage of very mature and advanced MOSFET designs.

Advanced Microprocessor Control - User functions and complex functions are managed by a powerful onboard microprocessor. This gives you more control but is electrically isolated from the audio paths, ensuring faithful sound reproduction.

Advanced Stepped Volume Control - Advance microprocessor controlled analogue volume control, providing pure unaltered analogue signal path right to your desired volume.

High-Current Custom Power Supply - A massive custom made toroidal, together with 3 separate transformers feeds 4 independent power supplies to ensure that the 250i will drive difficult speakers with strength and musicality, without any noisy interference, maintaining sonic purity.

Additional Inputs Capability - Includes balanced XLR inputs, built-in headphone amplifier and iPod inputs, with optional phono modules for MM/MC cartridge as well as a 24bit/192khz upsampling DAC add-on module.

In their circuitry layout designs, Perreaux relies on its strong experienced design fundamentals, every step is laid with care and purpose, and its specifications for Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N), Frequency Response and Signal to Noise Ratio are provided accurately, to convince the potential buyer that all these measurements are taken seriously. Of course, the final test of audio equipment will be ultimately the listening tests.

Neither Artificial Nor Etched

At its price level (list 70k HKD), there will be some high expectations of 250i in respect of external and internal designs, the 250i has already met some of these. With regards to its audio performance, by its cool and digital-like appearance, one will think that it will sound very cold and detached, however, on actual listening, it is certainly not.

It does not have that cold emotionless sound, but instead sounds very natural and neutral. Maybe, due to the islandic living conditions in NZ, the 250i does not sound artificial or etched, but sounds clear and not murky, very dynamic, no mechanical sounds, produces clean bass, fast transients, strings instruments are not thick-sounding (like ribs) but delicate and refined.

Overall performance is so natural that it warms the heart and soothes the ear, and with very refined European flair as opposed to easily fatiguing Japanese glamorous designs.

Listening through the price matching Spendor ST flagship speakers, the Hagen Quartet played with emotions and a vividness that was full of passion and fire, and the violin was so fast as though sparks flew through the bow, the highs were soaring but not piercing, and also we could listen to the correct presence of the slightly coarse texture of the cello's rich-sounding string in the midst of a very soothing and spatial soundstage.

When listening to "Memories" track on the LPCD 1630 version of Lam's Original Works, it truthfully portray the virtues and transparency of the LPCD, even with Lam's rather prominent vocals, his voice, the music and the sound effects all 3 congealed together to form an atmosphere that was melancholic but yet with a hint of cheer. With more listening, we felt that his moving performance was reproduced so truthfully we were naturally touched by the song.

Next, "Ordinary Man" by Koji Tamaki was played, and we listened until we drowned in its emotions, shaking our heads in rhythm, swaying with the music, tapping our feet in line with the infectious melodies that were being reproduced without any doubt or inhibition by the 250i.

Finally, we test the limits of the 250i with a heavy drum track called "Drumming Heartstrings, Red Cliff Battle Drums", proving that the 250i can certainly endure heavy blasting, although not to tsunami levels, but enough to thump the chest, solidly stirring up a big body of air in our big hifi testing. The mid to bass delivery was quick and fast, up to very high-end equipment standards, and was neither slow or muddy, but clear enough to hear the presence of the drum's bouncing skin reverberating.

Thus by auditioning the éloquence 250i with Spendor ST, we felt that speaker matching with 250i is not at all difficult, just personallly feel that one need to avoid matching with speakers that sounds lean like those with metallic or ceramic drivers. Thus besides Spendor, it should match quite well with speakers from B&W, Dali, PMC, KEF and Jamo etc.

In Between the Mountain and the Sea

Twenty years later, I had the opportunity to try the sound of Perreaux, it was with mixed emotions, unsure but yet with good results. That's because throughout these years, I only knew the name but never ever heard one in reality until today.

Now having tried it, I felt good that this NZ brand was true to its fame, a purist and wholesome design, that can be trusted. It's only reasonable to expect that the 250i can have such a performance, for after all, it has evolved from a company with a few decades of heritage that resides in a country blessed with great natural mountain and sea resources.

Thus the 250i character is like NZ's natural beauty and serenity that is quite different from Soochow forest, and Japan's surroundings. To simply state, Perreaux éloquence 250i is true to nature, if it sees a mountain it will be mountain, if it sees the sea, it will be sea.

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