I’ve previously reviewed the F-11, but this is review is for the mid-line F-22. It uses EL34 or 6550 output tubes to offer between 50-60 watts per channel, a more usable power range for most customers than the F-11’s 18.5 watts. The cosmetics, circuitry, and design mimic the F-11 but with significantly more “oomph!” The F-22 is a fully-featured integrated amplifier with input switching, a subwoofer output, four- and eight-ohm speaker taps, and a remote control. Parts quality is out of this world, and unbelievably stunning at this price. The F-22 amplifier is manufactured in China in a factory fully owned by Black Ice, but final assembly and quality-control checks are done in the U.S.A.
The F-22 has a flatter frequency response than the F-11 (which was already pretty good) while maintaining the spectacular imaging of its little brother. The F-22 also has the lowest background noise of any tube amplifier (or preamplifier, for that matter) I’ve ever heard. In this day of ever-higher sensitivity speakers, a quiet background is more important than ever. No hiss, no hum, and no static make the Black Ice Audio Fusion F-22 one of my favorite tube amplifiers!
In addition to being completely quiet, the Black Ice Audio Fusion F-22 amplifier shares the spacious imaging and the wide, deep soundstage of the Fusion F-11. Since the F-11’s imaging was some of the very best I’ve heard, this is a treat, indeed.
I also find the Fusion F-22’s dynamics to be some of the very best I’ve heard. These amplifiers have that spark that makes music sound alive with all the speakers I tried.
BLACK ICE AUDIO FUSION F-22 INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
- The Black Ice Audio Fusion F-22 amplifier is the quietest I’ve ever heard.
- The Fusion F-22 is an integrated amplifier with remote control.
- The easy-to-use bias meter on the top plate of the amp makes tube rolling simple.
- This amplifier images as well as any I’ve ever heard.
- Available in silver or black, this amp is very attractive.
- The amplifier sounds far more powerful than its specs would indicate.
- The quality for the price ratio is fantastic for the Fusion F-22.
The Black Ice Audio Fusion F-22 integrated tube amplifier has circuitry designed by Jim Fosgate. His V-Drive, balanced, fully-differential, push-pull circuit, called the “Odyssey,” is one of the quietest I’ve ever heard and loses none of the normal tube virtues while completely eliminating audible noise, hum, and hiss. Is there measurable noise, hum, and hiss? Probably, but from what I hear from my highly sensitive Tekton Design Double Impact speakers, I can’t detect it.
The Black Ice Fusion F-22 Tube Integrated Amplifier, with its 50-60 tube watts, can sound like a MUCH more powerful solid-state design and will power even low-sensitivity speakers to adequate levels. That said, if your goal is to throw dorm-room parties or to power football-stadiums then the F-22 is not the right tool for the job. But for turning your listening room sound into the original venue of a recording, the F-22 is magical!
RATED POWER OUTPUT:
(8Ω / 28-72kHz / EL34 tubes) – 50 watts per channel
RATED POWER OUTPUT:
(8Ω / 25-60kHz / 6550 tubes) – 60 watts per channel
(8Ω / 1W / +1, -0dB) – 8Hz to 130kHz
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION:
(20V output / 28-15kHz) – <1%
NOISE & HUM:
95dB below rated output
Fully-balanced differential push-pull
1V @ 1kHz for 50/60-watt output
OUTPUT IMPEDANCE TAPS:
4Ω & 8Ω
(4) EL34 or 6550 output tubes & (4) 12AX7 / ECC83 input tubes
40 milliamps± 4mA for EL 34s, 50 milliamps ± 5mA for 6550s
top panel lighted meter with tube selection switch and individual dial adjusters
Alps Blue volume control, gold plated RCA jacks, Black Ice film coupling caps
Available in silver or black
Via panel touch control or remote
4 pairs line level (no phono input)
One pair fixed level record-outputs & One mono RCA subwoofer output
Via panel touch or remote
¼” front-panel jack with tube amplification
110-120VAC @ 60Hz or 220VAC @ 50Hz (optional)
6W standby to 450W maximum
(5x 20mm) 110–120 VAC, 6.3 Ampere slo-Blo; 200 – 240VAC, 3.15 Ampere slo-Blo
14.5” (37cm) W x 11.5” (29cm) D x 7.5” (19 cm) H
32 pounds (14.5 Kg) net, approximately 43 pounds (19.5 Kg) packaged
Two years limited parts and labor. One year or 1000 hours whichever comes first on Black Ice Audio Tubes
Integrated amplifier, tube, Black Ice, Jim Fosgate, Mike Allen, Jerred Dunkerson, 2020, F-22, Fusion, Tube Amplifier Review, reiew 2021
All the Fusion series amplifiers from Black Ice Audio, including this F-22 model, use an “Odyssey” circuit by Mr. Jim Fosgate that sports fully-differential, noise-canceling, fully balanced, and low-feedback circuitry to provide a virtually noise-free output. The average tube amplifier, even from the most prestigious manufacturers, seems to have more noise, hum, and hiss than do these Black Ice Fusion models. When using loudspeakers with sensitivities over 90dB at one watt, even the least bit of background noise can be audible. Even with my 98dB rated Tekton Double Impact speakers, the F-22 amplifier has a completely quiet background. This makes music sound more dynamic and is a specific buying point favoring the F-22.
The back panel of the F-22 offers five-way binding posts for both four- and eight-Ohm loads. The four input jack pairs are all line level; there is no phono section in this amp. There are a monophonic subwoofer output jack and a fixed-level pair of RCA record-out jacks as well.
The front panel of the F-22 offers the tube-bias dial, rotary switch, and adjuster pots, an illuminated on/off logo-switch in the center of the panel, the four illuminated input touch-switches, a volume knob, and a quarter-inch headphone jack. The headphone jack is driven from the tube circuitry and the speakers can be muted (or left active) while the headphones are being used.
The remote control works perfectly and has more than the usual volume up/down functions included. Its metal body is far more substantial than the average plastic handset but lacks some 21st Century conveniences like self-illumination. Black Ice remotes also tend to rattle a bit, making the unwary consumer think they’re broken. They’re not. The remotes all work reliably, and the “something’s loose” sound is normal.
It must also be mentioned that if you’re used to 10-pound, lightweight, Class-D amplifiers, the Black Ice Fusion F-22’s weight of 34 pounds is startling. The three transformers (one power and two audio-output) are “heavy iron” compared to current solid-state designs. Be sure that any shelf or stand you put this amp on can hold its weight.
Heat must also be a consideration when placing the Fusion F-22. Output tubes in particular are low-efficiency thermionic devices. Any power not used for audio output is dissipated as heat. Plan on having double or triple the air space above this tube amplifier than you’d need for a typical solid-state design. Although some Class A solid-state amps generate significant heat, most don’t. But the F-22 needs about a foot of air space above it to run at a safe temperature. Don’t place this amplifier in a closed audio cabinet unless you’re also using forced-air ventilation. (And why would you, it’s beautiful to look at. Ed.)
At first, I feared that the company had shipped me the Fusion F-22 amplifier without the tube complement, but I discovered a “trap door” in the packing foam, that when opened revealed the very-well-protected tube set. Since the Fusion F-22 owners’ manual doesn’t mention where this foam strip is located, it might be good to mark it.
But once the tubes were inserted (and wiped clean of fingerprints using the included micro-fiber cloth – my hands are too large for the gloves that are provided), the tubes were easy to bias using the top-panel-mounted and well-illuminated bias meter. The insulated screwdriver for adjustment is included in the accessory pack. Once biased, the tubes held their bias perfectly, and re-biasing shouldn’t be needed except for a once-per-year routine check. But what’s nice about the F-22 is that should you be curious, the knob on top shows you the current bias of each of the four output tubes in seconds.
When the bias dial is not in service, its light dims, and it becomes inconspicuous in the glow of the tubes themselves. The amplifier is available at no additional charge in either black or silver. Having seen both, my preference is for the silver, but I know that I’m in the minority on this. The black unit (see the Black Ice Audio Fusion F-11 review for the cosmetics of the black version) is also a handsome beast.
OK – THIS is the part of the review I’ve been looking forward to writing! The Fusion F-22 integrated amplifier isn’t a dreadnaught intended to power any speaker, regardless of how low its impedance. For that, you want maybe a Krell or a Starke-Sound amplifier. The Fusion F-22 is also not a bullet-proof, spare-no-cost family heirloom that you’ll be handing down to your great-great-grandchildren. For that, you might want a McIntosh solid-state powerhouse. But if you want totally amazing tube sound and exceptional value in a well-designed, easy-to-use, and highly versatile package, then the Fusion F-22 is for YOU!
Associated Equipment Used During the Fusion F-22 Review:
- AURALiC Aries Mini streamer / DAC fed via Ethernet
- Audioquest Dragonfly 1.5 Black DAC
- Apple Mini computer with Roon software and external USB HDD music library
- Qobuz streaming music service
- Emotiva PA-1 power amplifiers
- Emotiva T-2 loudspeakers
- Tekton Design Double Impact loudspeakers
- Kimber Kable interconnects & speaker cables
- ATS Acoustics diffusers and absorbers as room treatment
The Black Ice Fusion F-22 amplifier just sounds great! How so, I hear you ask? Well, it’s the tubes. Those who dwell on specs generally dismiss tubes for their second-order harmonic distortion. And although most tube designs do exhibit an excess of such distortion, it is minimized by the Fusion F-22’s “Jim Fosgate V-Drive circuit.” What’s left is pure music. I’ve yet to hear any solid-state design that exhibits the depth and width of soundstage and the illusion of “you are there” that the Fusion F-22 produces.
Ninth Symphony, Beethoven
I particularly like the ability of the F-22 to give weight and verisimilitude to orchestral music. On Christmas Day, I like to revisit Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (I listen to it more frequently, of course, but I particularly like it on Christmas as a family tradition). This year, I chose the CBS “Great Performances” live version by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir as the vocal component.
The Fusion F-22 amplifier gave a clear impression of the size of the orchestra and choir that I just don’t hear with most amplifiers. Soloists were well rendered with good definition and none of the “blended into the orchestra” effect that many solid-state amps provide. The definition of the music was excellent, and the width and depth of the soundstage were exceptional. Despite being played louder than I normally listen, there was no audible clipping on peaks nor was there any distortion, even at high volumes.
But the main thing that recommends the Fusion F-22 is its ability to stunt the listener’s tendency toward analytical listening. Instead, I just relaxed and enjoyed hearing the Philadelphia Orchestra playing one of the greatest symphonies ever. The feeling of hearing a live musical event is enhanced by the F-22 amplifier, and that is worth experiencing!
“I Am Australian“, Farewell, Seekers
Track 11 from the Seekers’ Farewell CD is a live recording called “I Am Australian.” It’s one of those anthem-type songs that you either love or hate. But regardless of your opinion of the music itself, the recording is most excellent. Voices are clear, and the applause at the end of the track is some of the most realistic I’ve ever heard on a recording.
The Fusion F-22 amplifier preserves every single nuance of this song, making it sound both live and hair-raisingly startling. Dynamics are excellent, the image is deep and wide, and, as the music swells, it’s as if the recording becomes more and more expansive as each additional layer of orchestration is introduced.
I like the Seekers in general, but some of their folk material strikes me as simply hokey. But at their best, wow! They, being a highly commercially successful group over many years, used the very best in recording equipment and techniques for this CD and both the instruments and voices were lovingly recorded. My favorites from their catalog include “A World of Our Own,” “I’ll Never Find Another You,” and this anthem “I Am Australian.”
Sympahique, Pink Martini
I like quite a bit of the music by jazz group Pink Martini. That said, I have some issue with citing them here. I first came learned of them by way of their live performances on YouTube. With that enthusiastic introduction, I quickly bought several of their CDs – and was badly disappointed. Their studio work, as recorded on CD, lacks the enthusiasm, fire, and jump factor of their live presentations.
Although the CDs have better fidelity, from a mastering, bitrate, and technical performance standpoint, the performances themselves are nowhere as exciting as their live work, minor mistakes and all. I’ve written to the group, asking for CD issues of their better live performances, but so far, nothing doing. So to see this group at their best, fire up your browser, visit YouTube and check out “Amado Mio | Live from Seattle | 2011,” “Kaj Kolah Kahn | Live from Bend, Oregon | 2017,” or “Malagueña | Live from Portland | 2005.” If you’re not interested in having your audio despoiled by video, then close your eyes and just listen.
The Fusion F-22 amplifier just LOVES this band. Even with the compressed dynamics of the YouTube material, the band sounds alive, exciting, and clean. With the F-22, the music transcends its technical limitations and not only excites but also inspires.
“In the Death Car, We Are Alive”, Goran Brevogic
And if we’re going YouTubing, let’s not forget “Goran Brevogic with orchestra Serbia 2007.” This hour and twenty-four-minute concert will introduce you to an entirely different musical world from American pop. The concert offers the spookiest version of “In the Death Car, We Are Alive” ever heard. Mr. David Bowie profoundly messed up the version released to the Western World. That song alone justifies listening to this whole concert.
And once again, notice that I’m cleaving strongly to live performances in this review… The Black Ice Audio Fusion F-22 Tube Integrated Amplifier brings out the absolute best of this live YouTube performance. Despite the humble and compressed source material, the music’s magic comes through loud and clear. This performance just doesn’t sound as gripping with ANY of the solid-state amplification combinations that I’ve tried it with.
Alas – I lack any test gear for electronics. I can’t measure power output, input sensitivity, gain, or clipping limits. I’m therefore at the mercy of manufacturers for honest specifications. I feel relatively confident that electronics manufacturers generally provide honest specs because they’re easy to confirm (if you have the test gear). A YouTube search will often tell you how closely an amplifier’s or DAC’s measured specifications match the manufacturer’s claims. Speaker outputs are also easy to measure if one has a calibrated microphone and software.
But interconnects and speaker wires are virtually impossible to test because their characteristics may affect the sound differently depending on the source and destination component combinations. I found the Kimber Kable products worked great with this amp.
The Black Ice Fusion F-22 Tube Integrated Amplifier is one of the best I’ve heard. Its sound quality is amazing at its price. Recommended!
- Amazing sound quality
- Very high-quality parts and construction
- Exceptionally deep and tuneful bass
- Additional power available with a simple tube swap
- Attractive appearance in silver or black
- Fewer panel lights in standby mode
- Finer volume control increments from the remote
- Illuminated remote control
Although its little brother, the Black Ice Audio Fusion F-11 integrated tube amplifier is equally great-sounding, those with a desire for more than 18.5 watts per channel will quickly decide that the $200 additional cost of the F-22 with its 50-60 watts per channel is money well invested. This review, again, was of the 50-watt F-22 version that uses the EL34 output tubes. I’ve had other amps with 6550 tubes before, and in my opinion, the small increase in output wattage isn’t worth the loss of sound quality. I prefer the EL34 output tubes. Of course, you could easily try both and run only the ones that YOU like best…
Considering the outstanding parts quality, superb sound, and reasonable price, I consider the Black Ice Audio Fusion F-22 tube integrated amplifier one of the best bargains on the audio market. Some could argue that perhaps it should have had a phono input or a DAC, but I disagree. Good phono preamps and DACs are relatively inexpensive these days and given the price limitations of the F-22, I’d rather do without the phono preamp and/or built-in DAC rather than pay more.
How much do I like this amplifier? I bought the review sample (something I rarely do). Draw your own conclusions!