It's a family affair, it's a family affair." Sly and the Family Stone
The newest addition to the family affair is Behold's Gentile G192 integrated amplifier ($11,500). Boasting huge 7-inch touch-screen display a
plethora of digital ins and outs (8 analogue, 6 digital), and 6-channel FireWire support. In addition, the Gentile employs four discrete channels
of amplification (two 80-watt analogue and two 160-watt switching), while room correction and digital crossover options are also available. I found
it amazing that something so small could pack so many ins and outs AND allow room correction and digital crossover software. Simply amazing.
Sonically, the Gentile wasn't the equal of its big brother shown in the photo above. That didn't mean it didn't put up one heck of showing trying
to keep up however. In fact, the Gentile drove the Ascendo System Ms with such power, finesse and grace, I had a hard time picking which was which
during a blind A/B test. Initially, I thought, the Gentile nearly mimicked what the big Behold BPA768s did when they were switched back. But with a
more careful ear, it was obvious the sound wasn't quite as voluptuous in the high registers, sounding just a tad more closed in. Considering what
this product sells for versus a full stack of Behold, the Gentile is a sure winner and may very well be the best integrated amplifier I've heard.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows what Behold is capable of. The Gentile should come as welcome addition, especially for anyone
who wanted a Behold system but wallets said otherwise.
At the urging of Sam Laufer, the Podium Model 1s were briefly setup in the Behold/Ascendo room. The idea was to see how these lovely panels would
react to more power and better acoustic surroundings. The result were simple: this loudspeaker is destined for glory. The Podium Model 1, in my opinion,
sonically stands above all the criticisms we audiophiles enjoy throwing at products. The Podium Model 1s simply play music with no apology. If you don't
like them, don't blame them. Blame your preconceived notions for telling you what they ought to sound like.
Best Sound at Show...again!
Once again the sound of the Behold electronics and the Ascendo System M loudspeakers took top honors. Back in '04 when I first heard the Behold electronics,
a technical tour de force in digital and analogue circuit topology, paired up with the Isophon Europa, I almost gagged at how good they sounded together -
even under less than ideal show conditions. At High End 2005, they teamed up with Ascendo for the first time and the results were very disappointing thanks
to the horrible makeshift room they were forced to use down in the main convention hall. They're subsequent showings at this previous CES only brought mixed
results. Personally, I wondered if these two mighty products could in fact produce perfect harmony together. As in pro sports, two superstars on the same
team don't necessarily always guarantee a championship. Don't blame the players. Blame the coach.
The problems with the sonics at last CES were cable and room related. When the cables were replaced nearing the end of the show, the sound changed dramatically
for the better. Laufer used this same approach at the previous Home Entertainment show and the sound of this setup proved quite desirable sounding.
The sound of this particular setup was no different from the sound from the CES room because this setup too used the same cheap generic cables that Behold's
brilliant designer Ralf Ballmann swears by. I find God's checks and balances rather fascinating in how brilliant a designer Ballmann is but how little he believes
(or hears) in wires, AC cords and the like. I, on the other hand, can barely understand what I'm looking at when gazing into a Behold amplifier, but can easily
hear how dramatic a cable changes its sonic character.
Needless to say, when assistant coach and U.S. importer Sam Laufer insisted to Ralf Ballmann, at the very
least, to try a different cable, he reluctantly obliged. The sound changed once again - dramatically for the better. Comments from at least a half-dozen spectators was "Wow!"
Synergy was in order and for the first time I heard these two mighty products working in complete unison like a championship caliber team.
This was far and away the best sound to come from the Munich Show.
Auszug aus dem Show Report von Robert Jörgensen
I find myself in agreement with Clement+#25; s observations of the +#28; best sound+#29; at the show coming from Behold and Podium Sound.
Behold has, as we all have remarked earlier, the ability to take professionally and industrially used standards and apply them to audio products in such
away that the technically right solution also is translated into a musically superior solution.
I am quite exited about the Gentile 192 integrated amp since it really offers great sound at a much lower price point than the big Behold system.
It+#25; s about 10% of the cost of the big amps alone. The ability to hook into networked disk drives and replay of various compressed (lossy and lossless)
formats makes it one hot option in my book, since it can single-handedly be a whole system when you add speakers.
It exhibited a bit less bass control when directly compared to the bigger amps, but this could easily improve (remember this was the first time it
really played) and it did take some effort to even notice the difference. But I suspect this is a speaker/room dependent thing and not an absolute.
With its multiple connections and the built-in computing power, I think it has the potential of being a killer product. It also demonstrates, in a
very convincing way, how an increased use of computing technology does not necessarily compromise the audiophile qualities of a product, but actually
can go a long way in creating products of audiophile quality with a set of facilities that in no practical way would be possible without the computing
aspect. I think Ralf Ballman and his happy cohorts have a real winner here.
From plenty of wood, copper and vacuum tubes, we then made a big leap into the behold world of brushed aluminum and ultrasonic digital.
Designer Ralf Ballmann was very enthusiastic about his latest offering, the Gentle integrated amplifier. In this case, the word integrated
encompasses more than one would expect. And yes, the Gentle is an integrated amplifier in the common sense first. In basic trim, it accepts
four S/PDIF inputs and handles sampling rates from 32kHz/24-bit to 192kHz/24-bit. The input signal is greeted by two double D/A converters
and then handed over to two 160wpc fully balanced power amplifiers with discrete switch-mode power supplies to make recalcitrant power
conditioners redundant. On top of this, even the basic version is equipped with an Ascendo room-correction system. As with all behold
equipment, a PC connection is included, in this case via twin USB ports to enable firmware and software upgrades. Phono lovers needn't
feel left out as behold also offers a separate phono-to-digital solution outputting a 24/192 stream ready for the standard Gentle which
beckons further with three hardware upgrades. You can add analog inputs that are subsequent converted to 24/192 for further processing or
add six analog inputs and corresponding converters if you like multi channel. Next, additional power may be added by way of two additional
balanced 160wpc amplifier boards. And the specifications go on and on. All features and settings are operated via either a wide touch screen
display or a remote aka hand-held PC. The Gentle can also accept a streaming Internet connection and it is foreseeable that the installed hard
disk may be employed for music storage. With a fair starting price of 7500 euros, behold has indeed dispatched a strong contender into the market.
Germany's Ballmann Electronica impressed us in previous years with its all-digital Behold electronics. One problem with them, though, is that they're extremely expensive.
That, though, is changing with the € 8000 Gentle, something that designer Ralf Ballmann calls an integrated amplifier but is really
something more. There are a plethora of analog and digital inputs on the back panel, but all signals are handled in the digital domain, just as with the expensive Behold gear.
The Gentle delivers four channels of power, so you can biamp with it; there are two 80Wpc conventional analog amplifiers and two 160Wpc switching amplifiers. Furthermore,
a peak inside reveals a small hard drive -- but what for? The Gentle is a fully functional music server too, controlled via the touch-screen front panel or remote control!
Another example where a much different approach can yield superior results comes from Germany's Ballmann Electronica, once again showing the Behold
series of electronics in Munich. We first discovered this company at this show a few years ago, and the products have never ceased to impress us.
What Ballmann is doing different from every other company is creating a truly digital signal path, starting at the turntable (via an A/D converter that fits atop a cartridge) or CD player (Ballmann offers what designer Ralf Ballmann calls a "stupid transport" -- "stupid" because it does nothing but read the disc). The signal stays in the digital domain until it hits the power amplifier, where it's finally converted to analog. From what we've experienced, the results have been astonishingly good.
One problem with the Behold system, though, is that it's expensive. It'll cost you more than $40,000 to buy the power amplifier and control unit with only minimal options. However, that's not the biggest problem -- many audiophiles today spend more big money on conventional amp/preamp combinations. The problem is the same one as with the Aurum system -- you have to buy a large chunk of your system as one unit, taking all the mixing, matching, and tweaking out of the picture. No matter how good the results might be, audiophiles just don't seem to like that.
However, Ballmann might be able to change that a little with the Behold Gentle integrated amplifier. It takes technologies from the statement-level products and puts them into a one-chassis integrated amplifier that costs just € 8000. It's still not quite the product for every audiophile on the planet, but it might help more become convinced of the superiority of the "combined" approach that companies like Ballmann and Aurum offer.