Power Amplifiers

Halcro MC70 Seven-Channel Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

The rear panel contains a communications card, which includes the Ethernet port, RS232 serial connection for control systems, and a remote trigger (the Halcro does not come with its own remote control, but it's a pretty safe bet anyone buying this unit will integrate it into a fully programmed system). Each channel module sports both single-ended and balanced XLR inputs, with a selector switch, depending on which connection is being used, and heavy duty speaker binding posts. The Halcro comes with both 120 and 250 VAC detachable power cords.

Setup consists of connecting the interconnects from your SSP to the balanced or unbalanced inputs on the Halcro (and flipping the toggle switch to the appropriate setting), connecting the speaker cables, plugging it in, switching on the master power on the back panel, and then triggering it from standby using your control or the standby switch on the front panel. The LED panel flashes for about a second, after which the blue amp module lights come on, accompanied by a quiet but surprisingly audible snap through all the speakers. Then it was time to settle in and see what Class D could do.

The Sound

Music (primarily DVD-A and SACD) was sourced from my Oppo DV-980H player. DVDs were also played on the Oppo, and hi-def movies via the Toshiba HD-A2, all using Wireworld Starlight HDMI cables. The Halcro was mated with an Anthem Statement D2 processor, although I also experimented with using an Integra DTR 7.8 receiver's pre-out section.

I wasn't really sure what to expect from a Class D amp that aspired to be compared to its more pedigreed Class A/B counterparts. I knew it could play loud, but would it sound strident, grainy, or, heaven forbid, harsh with demanding material? Well, if you read my review of the Integra, you'll recall my reaction when I first hooked up the Halcro: "Wow!" Herbert von Karajan's 1962 interpretation of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony No. 6 with the Berlin Philharmonic (SACD) is the subject of debate, but the recording itself is top-notch. Plus, it is a two-channel SACD, and I wanted to focus initially on the Halcro's ability to reproduce details and transients without having my attention pulled in six different directions. The first movement (yes it is faster than usual) contains wonderful layering of strings and woodwinds, and the Halcro handled the dynamics without glare or stridency. Switching to contemporary multi-channel, I cranked up the title track from Roxie Music's Avalon (SACD). It is a dense arrangement of vocals, synths, guitars and saxophone, making ample use of all five channels. The Halcro managed to squeeze subtle nuances out of the mix that had gone overlooked, especially in the surround channels.

Aeon Flux was a mixed bag as a film, but had plenty of ear candy on the HD DVD. The scene where Charlize Theron whistles for a parade of marble-like balls to help her escape from her cell is a popular trade show demo, with lots of panning across the soundstage. Again, where the Halcro really excelled was the consistent clarity and definition across every channel.

American Gangster, the fact-based drama of a New York drug lord and the cop who eventually brought him down (along with most of the NYPD narcotics department), uses all five channels to re-create the life-like sounds of the big city. The HC70 did a magnificent job of putting me right in the middle of the action, so that I found myself immersed in the experience rather than noticing it.

The bottom line on the sound was that I thought it might turn out to be harsh because switching amplifiers can be harsh, but it was not. In fact, it was terrific.

Conclusions

The Halcro HC70 might be a Class D design, but it gets an A for accurate reproduction of music and soundtracks. From a subjective perspective, it held its own against the traditional Class A/B-designed amps in its price range.

At $7,000, it is certainly not an amplifier for everyone. But the Halcro's modular design, lightweight chassis, and top-notch performance make the whole seem greater than the sum of its parts.