It started with the Kraken,
a sea-green finned integrated amp rising from the depths of not-exactly-famous-for-hi-fi
Muswell Hill in North London. Now comes another triumph: the Forseti
pre/power amp, with the same marvellously flamboyant gold and stainless
steel finish of the integrated version reviewed last month.
By the time you've unboxed the system and hefted the big APD20A power
amp onto an equipment rack, you can believe it's capable of 150watts
for each of its channels (dual-mono operation) into 8ohms or 256W a
side into 4 ohms, and that it can be bridged (see glossary on p210)
to give a massive 450W in mono. The rather lighter APD21A preamp offers
both balanced and conventional outputs to match the 20A's inputs, four
line inputs (one with a balanced option) and two tape loops. Separate
record and listen selectors are provided and there's a £45 moving coil
phono stage available for turntable users.
In use, the Forseti duo builds on the powerful, substantial sound of
the Kraken amps, adding seemingly endless power to the equation. And
the strength isn't hellbent on just massive volumes, though it'll certainly
do that with no problems. Instead, it uses its power to achieve the
effortlessness with which it handles dynamics of music. Whether you're
listening to pounding rock, delicate acoustic music or orchestral pieces,
this Alchemist retains its composure, allowing the music to sing through
in a delightful fashion.
It's transparent enough to let you hear the slightest patter of percussion
in busy mixes, it gives everything from snarling guitars to the rasp
of brass full measure, and conjures up superb three-dimensional images
- so long as you provide it with suitable accomplished speakers and
sources. The clarity of expression here is stunning. Without any vestige
of being false or processed, the Forseti allows you to follow every
element of music with almost disdainful ease.
So striking does the Forseti pre/power combination look with its tubular
side bars, smooth brushed steel and golden detailing that you could
almost forgive it the odd sonic foible. Yet these amps demand
no excuses be made whatsoever. They deliver substance as well as style,
and present an enchanting sound to match those drop-dead looks. This
is truly a world-class British product.
Pre/power amplifier £870/£1250
For: Weight, power and scale; effortless musicality; superb build
Against: If the price isn't a problem, then nothing
Verdict: Another cracking amplifier from Alchemist, the Forseti pair
deserves to further strengthen this British company's reputation.