Peeking inside a Carver Crimson 275 Tube Amplifier

So, I just had to pop the hood on the Carver Crimson 275 tube amplifier. I was so curious as to how this little guy weighs so little and sounds so lovely.

  • The layout is simple and clean looking. Unlike the larger monoblocks (that cost $10k), this model uses a PCB.
  • The DC restorer circuit is nicely off to one side and out of the way. It doesn’t look all that complicated but I’m no electrical engineer. Why don’t more designers use this feature? It allows the power tubes to idle around 9.75w. Amazingly efficient.
  • The amp has very good planned out ventilation and spacing. No parts are on top of each other.
  • Most of the parts quality is good. There’s a host of Dale resistors, what look like Takmans, nice RCA jacks, heavy teflon hookup wire, and so on.
  • Some of the parts quality is questionable. There’s some cheap Suntan (Hong Kong mfr.) film caps coupled to the power tubes and some no name caps linked to the gain signal tubes. I was not happy to see those, but I very much understand building stuff to a price point.
Overall, this is a very tidy build and construction by the Wyred4Sound plant in California is A grade. I’m wondering a few things.

Does the sound quality of this amp bear a relationship to the fact that there’s not too much going on in the unit? There are very few caps--from what this humble hobbyist can tell--in the signal chain. And, none of these caps are even what many would consider decent quality--i.e. they aren’t WIMA level, just generic. This amplifier beat out a PrimaLuna Dialogue HP (in my room/to my ears...much love for what PrimaLuna does). When I explored the innards of the PrimaLuna, it was cramped, busy and had so much going on--a way more complicated design.

Is it possible that Bob Carver, who many regard as a wily electronics expert, is able to truly tweak the sound by adding a resistor here or there, etc.? Surely all designers are doing this, but is he just really adroit at this? I wonder this because while some parts quality is very good to excellent, I was shocked to see the Suntan caps. They might be cheaper than some of the Dale resistors in the unit. I should note that Carver reportedly designed this amp and others similar with Tim de Paravicini--no slouch indeed!

I have described the sound of this amp as delicious. It’s that musical and good. But, as our esteemed member jjss [ @jjss ] pointed out in his review, he wondered if the sound quality could be improved further still. He detected a tiny amount of sheen here and there [I cannot recall his exact words.] even though he loved it like I do.

I may extract the two .22uF caps that look to be dealing with signal related to the 12at7 gain tubes and do a quick listening test.

Reality slaps some people harder than others. If you mistake that for killing puppies, you are part of the problem.

I had a crimson 275  in my system for about 2 weeks. To be fair, the unit appeared to offer more power and headroom than my lowest wattage amps on hand at the time (35 watt Latino ST-70 and Muzishare X7). The sound of the Crimson 275 was fine, not great, not terrible. Fine. However, I didn't feel it was worth the price given the ST-70 is half the price and also made in the U.S.A.  

In the end, I sent the unit back because the transformer buzz was clearly heard from 10 feet away. JCS honored their return process for which I'm grateful. I'd hate to be stuck with one of these given recent drama since most secondhand buyers will probably be turned off at anything but fire sale pricing.

For an industry and hobbyists obsessed with specifications, and wary of snake oil, this unit seems like a major gaff. 

The speaker ground vs. audio ground issue was brought to my attention and I tried the suggestion of connecting my FFT to the audio ground instead of the speaker ground and it made no appreciable difference.  Amir is also aware of this and I believe he will be posting his measurements very shortly.