TRUE LIFE AUDIO SSA-300 REVIEW

True Life Audio is no stranger to those who attended various High-End Audio shows or events over the past few years. Their electronics could be easily noticed in combination with many esteemed brands and always generated an extra involvement factor that doesn't always exist, regardless of pedigree or price.

Those who have not detected or heard TrueLife Audio's product have certainly seen Kronos Audio CAS - a complete analog solution system co-developed with True Life Audio and based on the specifications of Louis Desjardins. Desjardins has a distinctive, demanding standard, which is evident from the Kronos Audio portfolio, and the collaboration with True Life Audio is no happy coincidence.

There is something about the TLA products that has always left a lasting impression on me and we have always wanted to do something together, but with both parties' busy schedules and commitments, time just went by too quickly without our paths crossing.

So when Aristomenis Georgiadis contacted me recently and asked about the possibility of reviewing one of their products, I gladly accepted, despite my fully booked review slots. I was eager to experience TLA's product with the latest updates and refinements in my reference listening room and system and share my findings with our readers. After a few email exchanges, we decided on the new True Life Audio SSA-300 hybrid monoblock power amplifiers from Supreme Series. 

After our arrangement, the pallets with a pair of SSA-300 power amplifiers quickly arrived a few weeks later and as you can see from the review, it was quite an interesting adventure revealing some unexpected newfound insights.

TRUE LIFE AUDIO

TLA was founded by Velissarios Georgiadis in 1995, but its real origins go back much further. It was in 1957 when Velissarios' father Aristomenis, a transformer engineer, started his own company with the aim of manufacturing transformers under contract for telecommunications, broadcasting, medical, military, and industrial applications. It was shortly after 1980 when Velissarios, already experienced in transformer construction having learned all of his father's know-how, began to apply the additional knowledge he had gained through his university studies in chemistry and electronics to develop transformers that would excel in reference standard audio applications.

Velissarios designed, built, and tested his ideas over countless amplifiers before turning all this experience into TLA products in 1995. The name TrueLife Audio was chosen to emphasize TLA's target market. The quest for True Life sound, where the listener can experience music at home like never before, in a True Lifeway!

In 2005, young Aristomenis Georgiadis (son of Velissarios, named after his grandfather) graduated from Electrical Engineering and, in the meantime, having received all his grandfather's and father's experience in manufacturing audio transformers and amplifier circuits with excellent performance, joined the company to help in further improvements and reaching new levels for realistic sound.

"When we come up with a new product, we make it for ourselves first," Velissarios says... 

A TLA amplifier begins its life by having the innovative circuitry built into it tested and optimized in the lab. Once the laboratory tests are completed and TLA is sure that newly found innovation meets the reference standards when compared with high-end products from other manufacturers well-known for their quality, True Life Audio moves on to the next stage: "which consists of turning the same electronic device into a musical instrument. Consequently, our elegant innovations are made to age and get better and better... much like a bottle of fine wine... or a beautiful guitar from the '50s!"

SSA-300 HYBRID MONOBLOCK POWER AMPLIFIER

The SSA-300 monoblock amplifier circuitry is a hybrid design developed to deliver exceptional sound to difficult loads.


It uses both tube and solid-state circuitry, combining the benefits of both technologies to achieve optimum results.

The Class A tube initial stage (6J5) is powered by an independent power supply that uses an EZ81 tube rectifier and a TLA power transformer and filter choke. A solid-state Class A circuit handles further amplification of the signal and delivers the signal to a current amplifier circuit that delivers power to the load. The amplifier is powered by a hand-wound power transformer specially designed by TLA.

The highest quality components are used throughout the circuit. Each component is hand-selected, tested, and matched to compliment the design.

The SSA-300 was designed with the fact in mind that for many loudspeakers, the actual impedance for some frequencies is far below their "rated" impedance.

OPERATIONAL 

Everything about the True Life Audio SSA-300 amplifiers is simple and straightforward. TLA hybrid monoblock amplifiers are designed and manufactured to the highest standards of construction to provide many years of trouble-free operation. Chassis and power supply enclosures are made from solid aerospace aluminum blocks and meet all US and EU safety standards.

Both amplifiers are powered on with the main power button, which illuminates the TLA logo on the front panel. 

The SSA-300 amplifiers feature Delayed Turn On and Protective Circuitry, which avoids the turn-on transients produced by some preamplifiers. To evade unpleasant incidents, the SSA-300 provides a 20-second delay before audio is connected to the output terminals. 

The protection circuitry also shuts down the load if a significant DC is present at the output. In the event of the heatsink overheating, the unit will shut down (power off) and not turn back on until the temperature has dropped to normal.

The amplifier has two separate covers, one on the front closer to the front panel of the amplifier, and one on the rear of the unit. When you open the front cover, the driver tube (6J5) is located in the right corner of the unit, and by opening the rear cover, the rectifier tube (EZ81) is located in the left corner.

On the rear panel, there are shielded RCA and XLR inputs and speaker terminals. 

To take full advantage of the high damping factor of the SSA-300 amplifiers and to minimize energy loss, the use of 16 gauge or larger speaker cables is recommended, especially for speakers with an impedance of fewer than 8 ohms or where the cable runs 5 meters or more.

Unlike some high-end amplifiers, the SSA-300 can be used with both banana plugs and spade plugs.

THE MUSIC  

When a high-end audio product is properly tuned, such particular quality becomes somewhat unfathomable at first, even to some of the well-trained ear and experienced audiophiles or music lovers. 

Any extreme sound signature that may impress on first listen is only later proven to be of artificial origin. Our brain perceives some distortions as pleasant, but when these attributes are outside the comfort zone, we react unpleasantly with our entire being. 

With True Life Audio's SSA-300 monoblock amplifiers, there were no conflicting extremes fighting for their dominance. SSA-300 produced remarkably well-dosed even and odd harmonics. This is where the well-matured, great-sounding amplifiers differ from the merely good-sounding ones. And as you can read below, the SSA-300s were voiced and "tuned" with an extra effort. 

"Come to Find" by Doug MacLeod from the album Come to Find always quickly reveals the inner workings of any amp. 

True Life Audio SSA-300 amps articulated "Come to Find" with uncharacteristic clarity, pasting the massive trajectory dynamics that MacLeod creates so energetically and emotionally. 

The SSA-300 transgressed the usual limitation of dynamics and went even further with an enchanting quality not easily found in the solid-state or tube amps. 

The way True Life Audio SSA-300 hybrids encapsulated the centrality of the music was further hinted at with Tord Gustavsen Trio's "What was said" from the Journey of life.

A high-end audio amplifier should never go down the road of sonic course correction. The real positive quality is creating a clear, vibrant/vivid path, and this is where the SSA-300 hybrids excel in many ways. 

SSA-300 did not embellish nor adorn the hauntingly beautiful musical presentation of "What Was Said", but simply enriched the experience by broadcasting reality with sometimes shuddering realism and by preserving fundamental subtleness of dynamics. 

When complex orchestra particles of sound coalesce into a thunderous but orderly whole, one can speak of an amplifier in awe of his art. With Minnesota Orchestra - Vänskä Conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 7 True Life Audio SSA-300 decoded the elemental essence with feather-light ease and in the absence of rarefaction effect. SSA-300 allowed shouts of excitement with equidistant quality that did not cause the usual juxtaposition of dynamics and transparency, and there was no flexing of the music into uncontrollable chaos of sonic bits and pieces.

SSA-300 had no trouble laying the groundwork for "No. 7." vigorous nature. The sound particles, details, and notes zigzagged with unique ease, projecting into the holographic sphere of sound with trajectory weight and speed that was superbly organized. Not something I would associate with hybrid amplifiers. But there it is. 

The TLA SSA-300 hybrid amplifiers allowed the necessary dynamic mass of Minnesota Orchestra's rendition of Mahler to fully unwind, letting decays and delays properly develop sonically and dynamically in the transverse and longitudinal directions, rather than repel and ricocheting themselves uncontrollably in the environment. 

As the top of the ice cake, the True Life Audio SSA-300 revealed their ability to form a vernal emotional bond and occasional breath-stopping tenacity.

Margriet Sjoerdsma's "Wade in the water" from A Tribute to Eva Cassidy was projected as a harmonic nexus rather than a fragmentary claustrophobically shaped kaleidoscope of sound, too often associated with a solid-state, tube, or even hybrid amplifiers regardless of their given price. 

The "Wade In The Water" sounded just right with the True Life Audio hybrid monoblocks. The grainless nature of the TLA SSA-300 reflected Margriet Sjoerdsma's hauntingly mesmerizing vocal with a potpourri sense of pleasant evenness, setting an unusual equalness and equilibrium of emotionally charged particles of music. 

Among other mentioned SSA-300 stand-out attributes, this luminous quality simply cannot be found downstream at the affordable level of high-end audio. Period!

CONCLUSION

Even a quick look under the hood of the True Life Audio SSA-300 monoblock amplifiers, revealing a hybrid design, shows the quality, dedication, and selection of fine components used in the circuits. Each component is handpicked, tested, and matched to serve the design.

With the hybrid design, TLA has blended both solid-state and tube technology, combining the benefits of both camps. The design of the SSA-300 took into account from the beginning that the actual impedance of many, if not most, high-end audio speakers is well below their "rated" impedance. 

And these Greek power amplifiers have shown their right-doing with different speakers. The Raidho TD 4.8 speakers are no easy load for any power amps, yet SSA-300 literary anchored and loaded, revealed the music with unexpected ease and finesse, rendering the ineffable essence of the music. 

As described in the music section, the SSA-300 amplifiers have a highly engaging factor that allows the music to fully unfold and engage the listener with a higher-order emotional bond that is not easily found. 

It is always interesting to see how well an amplifier performs when it comes to highly demanding tasks that require complete authority without losing the tick in time. 

The TLA SSA-300 amplifier PRAT was of essential quality and without fail when following tempos across all genres of music. 

But the radiant inner core is only part of the much-needed whole that makes any power amp truly worthy of being called high-end.  In addition to vibrancy, it requires unsurpassed energy output and projection of unsuppressed horizontal and vertical dimensions. 

Even at this price level, the leading edges of tones or sharp stacks could be rounded, preventing the music from spreading to its full potential. Without such drawbacks and in contrast, the SSA-300 is capable of delivering the entire frequency spectrum without any particular frequency jumps and without smearing the pinpoint projection of localization. 

The True Life Audio flagship hybrids not only allowed for a higher-than-expected level of anchor points, which is crucial for the formation of properly positioned and believably shaped instruments and performances. SSA-300 threw a sonic and musical spectacle that is hard to forget.  The musical energy was never stifled, or taken away from the richness of the harmonies, nor the variety of timbre of the instruments. 

All this is possible not only through the use of sophisticated hybrid circuitry but also through the specific construction methods and techniques, carefully tuned and treated in a special way to minimize any influence on the sound quality. The chassis of the SSA-300 has been designed from the outset to avoid the concentration of standing acoustic waves, resonance, and overdamping of vibrations. 

As already mentioned, all parts and components have been carefully selected, individually tested, and evaluated not only for their high quality and reliability but also for their least contribution to the overall sound character, which is expressed above all in the lowest possible own sound imprint.

The TLA SSA-300 power amplifiers belonging to Supreme Series address the demand of audiophiles and music lovers who are looking for hybrid power amplifiers with a radiant heart that do not diminish the transparency and accuracy but reproduce the very heart of music. 

Aristomenis Georgiadis is proud to follow in the footsteps set by his grandfather and his father, who unfortunately passed away much too early. 

By following the family trail and incorporating his vision, Aristomenis Georgiadis has penned a masterpiece that offers an inexhaustible vigor not easily found in any price range. 

For what they represent musically and how well the SSA-300 hybrid monoblock power amps are matched to the music, I am happy to give them the 2021 Mono and Stereo Upper Echelon Product Award. 

Matej Isak 

PRICE

  •  65.000 EUR (wihtout VAT)

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATONS

  • Maximum Voltage Input: 1.5 Vrms
  • Wattage: 150w @ 8ohm, 300w @ 4ohm
  • Input Impedance: 100K
  • Voltage Gain: 23
  • Frequency Bandwidth: 330Khz
  • Tubes used: 6J5G (6SN7 can be used with an adaptor or set in factory upon request)EZ81 rectifier
  • Voltage Options (Factory Set): 230-240VAC or 110-120VAC
  • Fuses (5x20mm): T3A (Slow Blow) @ 230V-240 VAC, T6A (Slow Blow) @ 110-120 VAC
  • Color Options (Front Plate): Silver or Black
  • Unit Dimensions (W x D x H): 440 X 445 X 192 (with feet)mm
  • Unit Weight: 36 Kg
  • Shipping Dimensions (W x H x D): 530 X 250 X 520mm
  • Shipping Weight: 41 Kg

CONTACT 

True Life Audio

Ippokratous 13

Keratsini 18756Athens

Greece


Tel: +30 210 5757605, +30 694 8787510

Web: www.truelifeaudio.com

Email: info@truelifeaudio.com