Secrets Product Review

PS Audio GCP 200 Stereo Preamplifier and GCA MC-500 Five-Channel (500 Watts per Channel) Power Amplifier

Part II

January, 2006

John E. Johnson, Jr.


The Sound

I listened to the pair of components with a McCormack CD transport and DAC, and Carver Amazing Platinum Mark IV ribbon speakers. I also listened to the GCA MC-500 using a Denon DVD-5900 DVD Player, Lexicon MC-12 SSP, BAT VK5i Preamplifier, and Final Acoustic Electrostatic Speakers. The projector was a Panasonic PT-AE900U with a Stewart Grayhawk Screen. Cables were Nordost.

The combination of the GCP 200 and GCA MC-500 produced some of the crispest and tightest sound I have heard.

At first, I thought that this might be harshness, but no, it was simply very detailed with distinct transient edges. If it had been just harshness, it would have been very irritating when the loudness was turned up, and that did not happen. It was a sound that is somewhat hard to describe, because I have not listened to many digital switching power amplifiers before. Sort of like a fine Belgian chocolate that has a very strong, intense flavor, but is still smooth.

And I do mean intense. The 500 watt output is independent on each channel, because there is no power transformer. The incoming 120 volt AC is filtered and goes to the rails, without any transformer involved, and each module has its own capacitors. Although I did take my usual measurements on the GCA 200 Preamplifier, which is analog all the way, I was not able to measure the GCP MC-500 because its digital switching interfered with my measurement software, even though I had an Audio Precision AUX-0025 Digital Low-Pass Filter in place to reduce high frequency digital switching noise. This has nothing to do with the PS Audio product in particular, it is just something I have to work out with my software so that I can test digital switching products.

Although I do not have graphs on the GCP MC-500, I compared its output in SPL to my McIntosh MC-602 Power Amplifier, which outputs 600 watts RMS per channel, and I turned up the GCP MC-500 to a point where I could start to hear distortion. It was almost, but not quite, as loud as the MC-602, so it appears, at least to my subjective hearing, that the GCP MC-500 puts out its rated power, but not much above that level. In any case, 500 watts RMS is mucho power, especially when you consider it is 500 watts x 5 channels. When the PS Audio clipped, the midrange became very congested, but that was only at very loud levels with high impact music. This is not a level I would listen to under normal circumstances. I just wanted to hear what it sounded like when it clipped.

So, now to the music and movies.

This new Telarc SACD of Vivaldi and Bach period instrument Baroque music (Telarc SACD-60651) was a perfect way to start the listening.

Even if you are not Vivaldi or Bach fan, you can tell by the title that this is "glorious" music. It is not something that needs to be played loud to enjoy, but still, having 500 watts per channel makes a difference because of the leading edge transients, which can require a lot of energy.



Well, if you are not a Baroque music fan, you probably do like Tchaikovsky, who was from the Romantic Period. One of my favorites is his "Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture", such as this one on a new EMI two-disc package by EMI (7-24358-65312-0).

It's just two-channel stereo, but who cares with a composer of this magnitude? I used the PS Audio pair of components for this listening, and I enjoyed it immensely. However, at my age (60), I like a bit more laid-back sound, so if I had this amplifier in my permanent system, I would probably pair it with the BAT VK-5i, which is a pure Class A triode tube preamplifier. The combination of the tube and solid state gave me a more satisfying presentation. If I were to have the GCA-200, I would pair it with a tube power amplifier. Of course, that is only my preference. Solid state aficionados will love the sound of these two products together.



Lute is a good instrument to test the attack transients, such as the new Profil CD, Lute Concertos (Profil PH05018).

I found the PS Audio pair of components to have excellent transients without sounding too in my face.

The background instruments did not veil the lute transients either.



Ah, here is another good test: Baroque trumpet, in this case, Alison Balsom in EMI's new Works for Trumpet (EMI 7-24355-80472-3).

Frankly, I was surprised at the incredible lung power of this young lady, but not surprised at the ability of the PS Audio's preamp and power amp to reproduce it beautifully.


Rachmaninov's Preludes are some of my favorite classical music of any period.

EMI has released this new disc (EMI 7-24355-79432-1) featuring Simon Trpceski. Piano is a very difficult instrument to reproduce, partly because of those attack transients I mentioned, but the PS Audio pair thundered them out with no problems of any kind. Nothing like raw power!



One of the DVDs I entertained myself with when listening to the PS Audio power amplifier was Lord of War.

Oh yes, 500 watts per channel comes in real handy with a movie like this. When you see Nick Cage standing in a street full of AK-47 cartridges, you know you are in for an evening of action!

Plus, I used electrostatic speakers, which are not the most amplifier-friendly loads in the world. The PS Audio tamed them real fast. Plenty of SPL, clear dialogue, and no distortion.

Click Here to Go to Part III.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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