CANEVER AUDIO LASCALA POWERAMP REVIEW PART 1


It's a nice feat when manufacturers personally deliver their products. On these occasions, I take the time and we jointly install the product, see how it fits into the system and does the needed to find the proper synergy. 

When Mario Canever and Rainer Israel visited me, we spent the whole day for the installation, talking about the brand and high-end in general as well as going through many songs. They are both most highly interesting persons with decades of experience in different fields. They've worked for some of the most renowned brands and their mileage as well as vast knowledge allowed them to think out of the box and approach to the design of the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp with a refreshing and broadminded mindset.


Nothing in our world is plug and play. Especially in the upper echelon plane, where we're dealing with the products from various designers and many of the different design concepts. I've already discussed the importance of the overall system synergy and if the review sample is delivered personally, then such an encounter allows an opportunity for the designers to hands-on experience the balancing act (or lack of). 

So, when Mario and Rainer were satisfied with the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp synergy within the setup we all had our own share of the listening time at the king's listening chair. The music repertoire couldn't be of more variance and the consensus was the satisfaction of a higher degree.

Reflecting the aura of these two stand-out personas the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp is by no means your usual high-end power amplifier. The looks are not following any instantly recognizable design traits and as you can read on, the same goes for everything surrounded by this Italian hybrid power amplifier. From innards, concepts and to the sound the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp is striking its very own path on the quest for the sonic perfection...

THE MIND BEHIND


Mario Canever has a Master of Science in Digital Electronic Engineering graduating from Padua University in Padua, Italy, in 1986. In 1987 has a second level Master in Radar System Maintenance from the S.T.El.E. Military School in Rome.

He worked for Electrolux and Ericsson as an electronic designer first, and for the last 5 years as a system engineer and system integrator in analog and digital electronics. In 1995 he moved to the Hong Kong branch of a European multinational corporation as a chief system engineer for the upgrading of electronic systems to become EMI, CE, and RoHS compliant. Mario Canever continues as an independent systems engineering consultant for two European multinational corporations.

However, Mario Canever has been an audio enthusiast ever since he was 16 when his mother refused to buy a Vespa and he had fallen to a system built around a pair of Altec 19 speakers. Anyway, he does not like the word audiophile because first of all, it relates to philiausually a pathology – second because the music comes before all the audio things.

Mario’s primary passion remains in audio voted to music and not audio as a technology. Since 1976 he is continuing to update-experiment in audio, moving from Altec to ESS Transar, to TAD and finally to whole OEM systems, always investigating in the state of the art solutions.

He studied almost all the design ideas from La Maison de L’Audiophile and MJ Audio and set up a few audio platforms with the integration of own digital solutions. Tubes, solid states, analog, and digital speaker management system.


In 2014 presented the CorumAudio project, a sophisticated horn system developed with an artist. He designs the whole system, from the circuit topology to the transformer design, from the mechanical structure to the firmware of the microprocessors, from the horn contour to the folded bass horn. He is an expert in room acoustics and sound measurements. 


Last but surely not least, thanks to the very close La Fenice theatre in Venice, there is the passion for the music: the tens of listening sessions at La Fenice theatre pushed him to pursue a natural reproduction and let the CorumAudio System and ZeroUno electronics born.

MEET THE CANEVER AUDIO LASCALA POWER AMP


The LaScala power amplifier is the result of a lot of implementations, mainly with the tubes since the time when nobody was interested in them, in the ’80s and ’90s.

The initial goal of the concept was to understand what makes the tube amplifier so very pleasant to listen and that guided to the circuit design and circuit topology. Another big "push" came from Mario's experiences in other fields of the electronic design where he's still active.


The company is based in the area where almost ten renowned loudspeaker manufacturers are bases and in cooperation with them they've gone through extensive listenings, having the most critical ears available for evaluations. There was also a great possibility to test the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp with the speakers that can be driven at the limit of the impossible.

CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp comes as a sum of decades of experiences working with tubes, power, and digital electronics.   Intriguingly, a lot of ideas came from the power conversion concepts in the solar plants as well as from the battery/hybrid cars technology.

The initial and most important design goal for the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp was from the ground up to achieve the most natural sound possible. 

This imposes a precise technical design and here are the concept's milestones that allowed CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp performing in such way: 
1 –  the number of components in the signal path must be as little as possible because any electronic component, even if extraordinary,  leaves a fingerprint into the sound (the sound is polluted).
2 – Avoid any capacitor in the signal path because, even if the capacitors used are the best possible, the sound is always characterized (smooth, sharp, clear, melted, gummy … usually a combination of these feelings) by them.
3 – Use the fewer stages, mainly not forgetting that for the tubes it is easy to amplify the voltage and for the transistors is easy to amplify the current.
4 - The Class A amplifier circuit, because the ears detect immediately the cross-distortion.
5 – No global feedback, because even if the feedback linearizes and stabilize the system, it kills the dynamic.
 
The second important goal was the creation of a potent power supply because it is the very heart of the amplifier.


With 120W class A amplifier the demand for current is very high! Not only because the 500W of continuous power is needed, but mainly because of the rectifiers.

The power unit is optimized to source picks of 2000W with a lot of care for a slow turn-on of the rectifiers themselves. The rectifiers are a solid-state but they act similarly the tubes rectifiers. 

These rectifiers are not usual ones, that you'll find in the high-end audio product. They come from highly demanding solar industry, where the plants are not permitted to generate non-clean power. Each power supply channel implements a CLC/π design with huge inductors to mitigate the current flowing into the rectifiers.

The power supply is located in a separated cabinet for better isolation from the amplifier, avoiding any induction of noise. The dual-mono principle is followed thoroughly and by separating the power supply and the amplifier.

Mario has achieved the best results separating the power supply from the amplification circuits while still keeping the dual-mono topology.

The power supply is made of two blocks, one for each channel. Not forgetting the continuous power needed it is possible to set the amplifier for a 210W of power consumption with a useful power of 50W, of course in class A.


The third goal was the balanced design, to have the best possible immunity to the hums and noises. The grounding topology completes the care of noise immunity. It is probably one of the secrets to having a natural reproduction. The grounding is the reference of the system and it must be perfect.

Following this goal is the design of the cabinet and Class A heat dissipation optimization. The chassis is the heatsink itself and a "chimney" topology is at the base of the design.


The power devices are squeezed in a sandwich with a water-cooled heatsink on the back and a chimney on the top.

There are also 4 fans but they can be excluded from the menu and must be only accepted 10°C of increment of the temperature at the heatsinks. Without the fans, the amplifier remains in the safe area with a headroom of other 30°C. In that way exposed it is possible to have 120Wrms per channel is within small chassis.

We've already addressed some of the technical points that offer some insights, but what does make CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp sounding so different and potent?

This intimately connected with the parts count. The amplifier is at all-time implementing only five of the building blocks:
1.      The input transformer used to drive the first tube stage.2.      The tube stage is the ONLY responsible for the whole VOLTAGE amplification.3.      The interstate transformer used to drive the output stage.4.      The output stage made of 2 only Mosfet and the ONLY responsible for the whole CURRENT production.5.      The output transformer used to let the MOSFET work in their best area, isolate the loudspeaker from the electronic, avoid the use of the output capacitor.
So, the 120W class A amplifier, with no feedback and the above refined internal structure lets CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp sounds very, very different.

THE HYBRID DESIGN


To fulfill the initial design goal of making CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp a class A, no global feedback, no capacitor amplifier and only two active components it was only possible to pursue the hybrid design.


Interestingly and intriguingly the tubes (triodes) are not implementing for making sound sweet, adding pleasing distortion characteristics or other audiophile reasons... They were picked up as the only solution as due to the double triode nature it is possible to use one tube per channel for the complete voltage amplification. This is followed by two MOSFETs, that are only being used at the output stage to source the whole current needed by the loudspeaker.

To make such a concept working it necessary to use the transformers used as an interface between the stages. The bandwidth of the input, interstage and output transformers, is over 70KHz. This ensures the audio bandwidth is not bound to any phase rotations.

This clearly explains why the hybrid design was the way to go and why CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp can sound so natural and stress-free. 

SIMPLE, BUT NOT SIMPLER 


Mario writes: "An amplifier is made of cascade stages, usually with feedback that reports the output signal at the input so to let the design becomes simpler. The feedback cares a lot of limits of every single stage and their interconnections, it is like a medicine.

But the feedback cares also the sound. So the sound is affected by the same medicine even if not needed.

Work without medicine it is difficult because the design must be perfect and strong enough so to do not need any extra care. Every single part must be designed perfectly to be intrinsically strong.

Everything must be at the “state of the art”. What just said is behind the “simple” concept. An interstage transformer and an output transformer at the state of the art is something difficult to reach.

It is a matter of know-how, almost lost for decades. The only way to have a transformer in the state of art is to design by yourself.

This is another “simple” thing fundamental in the chain."

THE VOICING


When you ask the high-end audio designer about the voicing you'll more than often get a long staring look of disapproval or fierce, laser-like see-through scanning. I guess that relates to the mental checkup :).  On the contrary, Mario replied...  "It's tentative to have the musicians as close as possible to you. It is tentative to create the same feeling of a live experience."

This reflects with the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp's radiant heart. It conveys the music with a much bigger believability factor than most of the hybrid amplifiers and this was confirmed from song to song. A pleasant quality that I wish many more of the audio designers would follow. 

A PERFECT AMPLIFIER!? 


I've asked Mario what would make a perfect amplifier?

"The perfect amplifier doesn’t exist. Always any design is the result of compromises. A good amplifier is an amplifier that touches your feeling when you listen to your preferred music.
If this feeling remains after days the amplifier is super." 

THE INNER HEART 


CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp outputs 120 W per Channel (90 Wrms – 180 Wpeak) in pure class A with very low distortion and this is the strong reason for the unaltered natural sound. Natural sound is also consequential to the absence of capacitors in the signal. This imprint-less single path allows the maximum transfer of energy and causes no distortion or phase rotation.

The two stages design, one for the voltage amplification,  one for the current amplification allows unaltered delivery of the energy from the input to the output with a full scope of signal integrity. 


CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp highly minimalist approach operates with the minimum number of active components. The voltage stage with only one push-pull of triode and current stage with only one push-pull MOSFETs.

So, the signal amplification is operated by triodes and power amplification by MOSFETs. This juxtaposition permits the maximum performance at any time. The output current stage with buffer configuration was designed to drive with ease almost any kind of speaker including transducers with complex impedance curves. 


But it doesn't end here. As stated the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp has no global feedback. In connection with the smart BIAS control circuit (supervised by a microprocessor) circuit always works in the optimum area minimalizing the crossover distortion. This translates to the maximum dynamic impact and unaltered performance. 


One of the things that usually turn off quite some people is the longevity of the tubes. Well, even this is taken after. The triodes are automatically managed!

THE CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp's inner clockings' AND benefits were covered. How about the power supply!?...

THE POWERFUL HEART


A hefty dual-mono configuration power supply with 1900 Wrms of reservoir power provides a huge current available for the rectifier to avoid injection of distortion. 

The massive inductive filters and high current capacitors provide the reduction of current peaks for the lowest possible distortion.


Each stage is powered by its dedicated power supply. This means the dual-mono power supply for the MOSFET stage and pure inductive power supply for the triodes filament power supply for the heating of the tubes with dedicated transformer low noise power supply for the microprocessor with independent transformers. Quite mind-boggling ordnance,right :)!


Additionally, the soft-start dual technology at power allows the absence of non-linear resistors. Another feat that adds on the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp thumb up checklist.

And last but not least. The main unit and power supply chassis are both made from massive aluminum and stainless steel to guarantee maximum mechanical stability. This particular blueprint offers a substantial feeling of assuring positive massiveness. Yes, even this matters, but more about it later on.

OPERATIONAL 


Connecting the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp into the system shouldn't be a problem. Massive professional connectors on the back of the amplifier have a contact resistance of 0.2 milliohms and they are rated for a current of up to 63A.


There is no risk to damage the loudspeakers in the event of a fault of one of the output MOSFETs. The output transformer galvanically isolates the speaker from the amp ́s electrical circuit.

You can select the most appropriate impedance position while the amplifier is working. There is no need to power off the La Scala while switching between 4 Ohms and 8 Ohms.


Because of the irregularities of the loudspeaker impedance, the 4 Ohms or 8 Ohms switch positions do not reflect the impedance of the loudspeaker.

CanEVER advises to pick up the “best” setting based on the sound of your stereo system...

As the main rule, the 8 Ohms position grants more voltage swing and sources lower current and vice-versa in the 4 Ohms setting. The power amplifier has real balanced inputs only for the best immunity to electric noise. The XLR input is directly connected to the input transformer for total galvanic isolation from the preamplifier.

If the preamplifier doesn't have the balanced outputs it's advised to make a custom RCA cable as shown in the image below. 


The above matter is not simple and depends on the earth connections of the system. The risk of a no qualified installation is to have ground loops that pick up the hum from the power network of the transformers of other units.


The temperature of the unit depends on the power selector at the rear side of the power supply. Higher power means higher temperatures.

The heat is naturally dissipated by the 4 chimney heatsinks on the top of the power amplifier. To complete the structure, another 4 liquid cooled heatsinks are installed on the downside of the top plane.

The power MOSFETs are glued like a sandwich in between the bottom of the chimney and the top of the liquid-cooled heatsink on the bottom. Basically, there is no need for fans. They are used only to let the air circulate more freely inside the cabinet. Without the fans, expect a temperature increase of 10 to 15°C. In this case, the unit would continue to work without any problems.

On the right side above, you see the structure of the cooling system of one of the 4 MOSFETs.

The CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp limits the heat to dissipate without the need for any electronic feedback network.

The CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp is intrinsically safe because the MOSFETs used are of the LATERAL technology. If the temperature rises over the maximum stated at the technical datasheets, the MOSFETs automatically reduce the current flowing through them instantly lowering the heat to dissipate too. Of course, in this case, also the released power decreases.

The two red cables delivered together with the amplifier connects the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp to the power supply.


The cables are equipped with professional connectors and there is only one way of inserting the connectors into the sockets at the backplane of both units.


The insulation material of the cables has a high specific weight, which results in a heavyweight of the cables. The polymers used for the insulation have high immunity to the mechanical vibrations too.

A power selector should be used regarding power needs. In most audio systems, there is no need to set the amp for maximum power, but anyone can experiment with the best setup for their system by listening.

The inrush current at the power-on of the unit is limited avoiding that the current sink by the big transformers forces to blow the main fuse in your house. A double technology is implemented avoiding solutions with non-linear resistors. 

SUM UP 


"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” - Einstein

Reaching so far throughout the review, you've probably already have a pretty good idea. The CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp is no ordinary amplifier by any means. 

The convoluted concept executed into a trickled down simplicity is an extraordinary achievement.

There is something very unique about the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp that vividly separates it from the competition. LaScala's hybrid heart delivers an ingenious quality. This is intimately connected with how reproduced music reflects reality. The absence of mechanical and unwanted sonic traits  CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp manages to dive deep into the music's core. 


A stress-free and natural presence of music's momentum instantly captivates listening attention. When everything clicks on the certain plane the state of the oblivion kicks in. This is a rare feat worthy alone of all of the highlights. 

"Forget about the technology and simply immerse into the music". This phrase is so overused and it sadly became an outspoken cliché in our industry. There is a vast amount of technical concepts floating around for years and in reality, there is "much ado about nothing". The practical application results are of varying degrees too many times its a big fuss over a trifle.

In abundance of déjà vu CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp is a proof of complex concept being proven righteously. This Italian hybrid power amplifier delivers the sonic impact that correlates with the elaborated technical background. 

In the past few years, some of the high-end audio manufacturers are finally figuring out, that the story and technical background do have a very strong impact on the overall brand recognition. It's one of the key elements for customers as well as dealers and distributors to pick up a certain product among, what it sometimes seems like an endless universe of product offerings. 

A lot of intriguing theoretical peculiarities seem to be lost in the translation with too many products. Especially when it comes to the real-world test... The listening! The proof will be always in the pudding!


This is where the reviewer's role comes in. The process of distinguishing and highlight products that stand out. This comes with mileage and certainly with the reference system and listening environment. For that very reason I've invested enormous time and funds to conclude my studio. Despite yours truly almost going almost nuts with everything surrounded with the finalization of my reference listening room the past year has proven that decision was spot on and needed. While high-end audio shows give you a certain idea about some qualities of the system and dedicated components, the real professionals' assessment starts in a highly controlled and known environment. 

CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp belongs to a few of the stand-out products that I've got the pleasure to evaluate in my studio/listening room after the completion, that truly shines in my beloved surroundings. 

CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp escapes any of the precognition tube's paradigms yet it keeps, the harmonic density that is cherished by valve connoisseurs. The same goes for Class A. While the CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp's hybrid design cannot be pin-pointed to the typical class A amp it certainly displays its upper-scale qualities.  

CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp was designed from the ground up to deliver pure emotional impact regardless of music being served and it grandly succeeded the marked goals. 

Despite its modest size compared to many giant amps on the market CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp possess a certain Art Deco, the masculine and refined machine-like timeless aura that instantly separates it from the crowd. This is noticeable even at the very fist eye glance and the appearance instantly imprints into the memory.    

CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp deserves to get a broader recognition not only for it's the stand-out sonic performance but also for reaching out to the frontiers, that most designers are not willing to cross path. I'm happily granting CanEVER Audio LaScala PowerAmp the 2019 Mono and Stereo Upper Echelon Class Award!

A lot was covered in this first part. Stay tuned for part two, where'll address a few of the performance highlights and advantages...

Stay tuned for the part two soon...

Matej Isak

THE PRICE


- EUR 22.500.- including VAT

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS




Frequency Response at full power, 5 Ohm / 200 W resistive load and impedance selector set to 8 Ohm.
  • within ±0.5 dB across the whole audio band 20 Hz-20 kHz
  • within ±3 dB across 10 Hz-70 kHz

Note: Due to the custom transformers made for the La Scala Power Amp, there is no phase rotation in the whole audio band!


THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) at full power, 5 Ohm / 200 W resistive load, impedance selector set to 8 Ohm.
  • 100Hz 0.3%
  • 1kHz 0.5% 
  • 10kHz 0.7%

CONTACT


CanEVER AUDIO
Indirizzo: Panfilo Castaldi 6 - 30020
Località: Noventa di Piave VENICE
Italy

Mob: +393357082807
Skype: canever.mario