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Power amplifier + linestage + phonostage
ARRAY S-10 + A-3 + PH-2

Price in Poland: PH-2 2475 EUR | A-3 2475 EUR | S-10 4675 EUR (plus 300 EUR with mirror-like faceplate)

Manufacturer: ARRAY Audio



Country of origin: Holland

Text: Marek Dyba
Pictures: Array Audio, Marek Dyba

Even though Holland isn't one of the biggest countries in Europe it is a land of quite a few well-known audio brands. Most audiophile at least heard about Van Den Hul or Siltech, some also about PrimaLuna. I won't even mention Philips as from audiophile's point of view nowadays that's only a brand name of some NOS tubes.

I don't think that Array Audio sounds familiar to too many people in our country and I believe we are not alone in this lack of knowledge (it would at least seem so from my quick web search). It looks like this company hasn't really cared about commercial success, but recently they decided to change that. Thanks to Polish Distributor High Fidelity is among first audio magazines that has a chance to review some of Array Audio products. A you will soon read for yourself I really enjoyed reviewing these devices and I'm glad I can share my experience with you.


Recordings used during the test (a selection):

  • Beethoven, Symphonie No. 9, Deutsche Grammophon, DG 445 503-2, CD.
  • Joseph Haydn, Les sept dernieres paroles de notre Rédempteur sur la Croix, Le Concert des Nations, Jordi Savall, Astree, B00004R7PQ, CD.
  • Holst, The Planets, DECCA, SXL6529, LP.
  • Albeniz, Suita Espanola, KIJC 9144, LP.
  • Metallica, Metallica, 511831-1, 4 x LP.
  • AC/DC, Live, EPIC, E2 90553, LP.
  • Kate Bush, The sensual world, Audio Fidelity, AFZLP 082, 180 g LP.
  • Patricia Barber, Companion, Premonition/Mobile Fidelity, MFSL 2-45003, 180 g LP.
  • Janis Joplin, Greatest hits, Columbia, PC 32168, LP.
  • U2, Joshua Tree, UNIVERSAL, UNILP75094, 180g, LP.

I wasn't able to find too many information about Array Audio – their web page is still mostly in Dutch, which in my case is limited to very few words. If you check the website you will find some links to English reviews of some devices but all of them come from time when Array Audio products were sold under Van Den Hul name, so the reviewers treat them as VandenHul products which means those reviews did not contain any information about Array Audio company. Left with no option I contacted one of Array Audio's owners – Mr Willem van der Brug - and he was kind enough to offer some information about company's history.

That's what he wrote:
„The company started in 1995 and was founded by Chris van Liempd and myself, Willem van der Brug. Chris and I were both signal processing specialists for Philips Medical Systems, one of the top-3 radiology companies in the world. We knew a lot about state-of-the art signal processing, so when a friend of ours bought a tube amplifier we naturally laughed in his face. Only to be humiliated when he invited us to a listening session and compare the tube amp with our perfect measuring transistor amps. The tube amp was superior in all important aspects: imaging, liveliness, even transparency. We were flabbergasted. What followed were 15 years of trying to find out how to make transistor amps just as good, and now better. We have learned a lot about phase noise and how the spectral distribution of that phase noise and correlation with the audio signal causes loss of imaging as well as "dullness", a total absence of emotional binding, warmth and dynamics. In 1997 we found out how to make an amplifier with good stereo imaging and started selling those, in 2000 we discovered thermally induced memory distortion (Pioneered by Lavardin, see
Also in 2000 we associated with Mr. Van Den Hul, who was impressed when he heard our products in the PolyDor studios for SACD mastering (who had in the meantime purchased our amps). He wanted to sell our amps worldwide under the VDH brand name. We did so for 2 years after which different insights parted the companies.

In the last 7 years we have further pioneered improvement in the area of tonal correctness, "Lebendigkeit" and imaging. A radical new design (the first to be 80% new compared to our original 1997 products) has been implemented, the S-10 stereo power amplifier, which takes a next step in lowering midfrequent thermal modulation and phase noise to start to create a mid frequency band sounding much like tubes. Our M-10 monoblocks, not yet available in Poland, are vitually impossible to distinguish from tubes except that they sound so much better in tonal accuracy (bass slam, low coloration in mid-high).
As such, Array is a somewhat strange company in that achieving sonic perfection is much more our goal than commercial success. We plan to improve on that too, by starting EU distribution via various partners, Studio VanderBrug being our partner in Poland.”

I received this text after I finished listening sessions so my impressions were not affected by it in any way. But why during tests I tried to answer questions about this system asked by some of my friends I told them that it was incredibly transparent system, though surely not over-analytical nor dry sounding – just in opposite it's second strongest advantage was its musicality. People who knew me were surprised as they were aware that I was “a tube guy” and suddenly I was praising solid-state, that in general I usually described as “dry sounding, analytical, and their performance as lacking … music in it (in general with some, usually very expensive, exceptions). But let's not rush things up... .

The look of Array Audio devices is quite special. Why? Because there are no push-buttons, knobs or whatsoever on their fronts – there are just four LEDs in vertical column, plus linestage and phonostage are equipped with small displays. That's still not all. Linestage and phonostage don't have on/off buttons (and their front panels are identical by the way). Only on the back of power amplifier there is on/off switch. So it become clear that one needs a remote control to operate these two devices and that includes also turning on and off. If you think about it you will probably agree that this is a good idea at least until you can't turn on your system because of dead battery and no replacement handy… . Not to worry – this won't happen often enough to be a problem.
Another surprise is … a universal Philips remote control. Have a look at what Mr Willem van der Brug said – company focused all its efforts on achieving top level of performance of their devices – surely remote control doesn't directly affect sound quality, so why bother designing and having manufactured a special one (or a couple of them for that matter). Why not use an universal one – this will spare you a lot of effort and costs. This Philips remote worked perfectly once I had read a short manual (which is always advisable). It comes originally packed so I assume it is not tailored for Array Audio's needs. My guess – Array Audio uses some of this remote pre-programmed functions to operate whatever they need for their linestage and phono. In my opinion that's very reasonable approach, I would even suggest other manufacturers to follow in Array Audio's footsteps. They will save some time they might used for improving performance of their devices and there is additional bonus for Customers – they get an universal remote they may use also with their TV set, DVD or BR player, or some other devices. I bet most of them will appreciate it.

Both linestage and phonostage operations are based on relays and thus manufacturer informs in the manual not to worry when you hear relays switching after you plug these devices to power outlet (as none of them has on/off switch).
Obsydian A-3 linestage is equipped with four RCA inputs, tape and a single RCA output. Switching between inputs is possible executed with the remote control. Basing day-to-day operations would be volume control as the preamplifier seems to recognize an input with active signal. When a VOL button is pressed once shortly the volume will change by a single (half dB) step. When the VOL button is kept pressed the volume will at first alter slowly and later with increasing speed (incremental autorepeat). The speed at which the volume changes can be set to three different values. In standard your Array Obsydian is set to a speed that is most comfortable to the average user. When desired it is possible to program this speed to a higher or lower value. There is also another smart and useful programmable feature that will deal with different signal levels from different sources. This linestage is equipped with a function that allows one to set and program compensations for such level differences. Afterwards, when switching between inputs the volume will be automatically equalized.

Obsydian phonostage works with both MC and MM cartridges but there is only single input. Depending on the cartridge used all the settings might be adjusted with remote control including gain and thus there is no need for separate inputs for MM and MC cartridges. Manufacturer decided to make user's life easier and offered preset settings for MM and MC that can be set by use of single key on remote. Of course these are some average settings of gain, input resistance and capacitance that can later be adjusted according to cartridge's requirements or owners preferences. There are 12 different gain settings starting from 42 up to 77dB which means that it will work fine with any cartridge. Another adjustable parameters are: input capacitance starting from 100 up to 810 pF (selectable values are: 100, 200, 320, 420, 490, 590, 710, 810 pF), and loading (resistance) from 100 Ω up to 47 kΩ (selectable values are: 100, 135, 160, 250, 350, 1K, 10K, 47K). Additional selectable option is a subsonic filter that might be turn on or off. All present settings might be checked on device's display, although not all at once unfortunately.

Power amplifier S-10 sports both RCA and XLR inputs. Manufacturer clearly states in the manual that if RCA connection is used user has to use also additional grounding cable connecting power amplifier with one of the empty inputs in preamplifier. In general XLR connection is recommended even if preamplifier isn't a balanced device (just as A-3 is not) – in such case user might use some good quality RCA/XLR adapter. S-10 sports also high quality WBT.

The sound of this set was hell of a surprise for me. I am a great fan of tube devices – can't help it. Most of reasonable priced solid-state amplifiers have many strengths but in my ears they lack one thing - music (that's my private opinion and not an objective fact!!). Surely there some exception – I own myself Dan Wright's (ModWright) solid-state power amplifier called KWA100SE, that offers wonderful midrange matching this of many good tube amps, keeping still all advantages of SS device. I still kept my 300B SET but Modwright is much more useful when reviewing different devices and not only it “doesn't hurt” when I have to use it, but I really enjoy its sound (especially when paired with LS100 preamplifier). It is so good that don't have to worry what happens if for whatever reason I have to get rid of my beloved SET – I will be able to keep enjoying my favorite music without missing my tubes too much.

Array Audio solid-state set delivers different kind of performance, though. Here the first impression is not about dense, smooth, liquid midrange (as it is with Modwright) but about amazing transparency of the sound. Transparency is accompanied with lots of details and great precision of presentation but it is the transparency that amazes even shocks from the very first moment. I started listening sessions with my favorite performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony – this time I was truly impressed! I use this recording quite often to test reviewed equipment and sometimes I was impressed with powerful presentations, sometimes with exceptional precision or ability to deliver whole dynamic range of the orchestra. But this time presentation was extremely realistic because of this outstanding transparency and high resolution that allowed to follow each and every instrument in the orchestra separately. Not in a sense of listening to a group of separate instruments – it was still a fabulous collective effort, but as during the live concert also here I was able to pick one instrument and follow it without loosing the “big picture” from my sight.

I didn't have to stretch my ears to focus on particular violin or cello – it came effortlessly, and as easy during great forte as during very quit piano which proved also great resolution and good micro-dynamics. I remember same recording played by Gryphon Scorpio. Transparency of the presentation was similar, power of the orchestra showed as convincingly as now but then I felt like the presentation was bit too analytical, sounded bit dry, and even though each separate element sounded really good but they just didn't all come together, didn't fall into correct places of the whole musical puzzle. Here quite the opposite – orchestra at its full power, playing in perfect harmony and in perfectly orderly way – delivering exactly what it was supposed meaning wonder music of a brilliant composer.

The Seven last words of Christ on the Cross is a reference recording for me when it comes to presenting fantastic acoustic surrounding of the musicians. Usually tube amps do it very well and solid-states are not capable of such z great presentation. It looks like though, that this particular pursuit after tube amps sound qualities reflected in Array Audio's solid-state amplifier worked very well for Willem and Chris and for all potential customers too, of course. Not only can one hear all the reverberations, ambiance caught in the recording, but also one can also feel how huge this church, in which the recording of Haydn's music took place, was. I couldn't resist the feeling that it sound engineer of this recording wanted to achieve this effect of listener feeling very, very small (I guess in front of God). Each time I listen to this particular work on some good system I feel just like the “dust in the wind” – like I did this time. All this huge space filled with air and great music bouncing off the big church walls – one hell of an experience!

Some of the same advantages of this system worked also to the benefit of a music performed by Metallica or AC/DC. Even the best vinyl edition of a black Metallica (45 rpm, 180g vinyl, newest special remaster) doesn't offer perfectly clear sound – simply the master-tapes were not perfect so it couldn't be done. Surely sound quality on this issue is much better than on any other but from audiophile's point of view it is still not as good as expected. Or maybe it is not about the recording itself but about equipment I used to play it that wasn't able to deliver sound with proper clarity, transparency and in orderly fashion? I wonder because Array Audio system set a new standard of performance for this record. Even during the most dense, rough guitar riffs, most crazy solos of the drummer or bassist sound had a clarity I never heard from this record before. There was roughness when needed, there was drive, beat, incredibly low and rich bass, and shimmering cymbals like I had not heard them before. Even James Hetfield's vocal, rough as it should have been, had finally the proper weight, sounded richer – definitely more natural than usually. The “Live” record from AC/DC proved very quickly that pace&rhythm is another strength of this Dutch system. It followed Angus Young's guitar effortlessly and equally easily kept the pace with all these “crazy” Aussies which made it a really “live”, involving presentation. System also produced huge amount of energy coming from both – the band and audience. I felt like I was an active member of that audience enjoying the concert very much and having a lot of fun.

I left some female vocal recordings for dessert as these usually showed the difference between tube and solid-state presentation most clearly. Even the most tube-lover-friendly ModWright KWA100SE wasn't able to deliver such level of tangibility/presence and emotional load as my own 300B SET did. System by Array Audio… was close, and surely those two solid-state amps were much closer than any other SS I had ever heard. When I listened to famous “Companion” by Patricia Barber (MoFi 45 rpm record) everything seemed to be OK. Very convincing Hammonds, amazing diversity of all these small percussion instruments, precise spacing and imaging – sounds clearly moved from left channel to the right one and back. Even Patricia's voice was delivered with nice timbre, pitch and texture. So everything was there except for... the last step. When I listen to this recording using my 300B SET it takes me to the concert hall, places me in the middle of third, maybe fourth row and overwhelms me with emotions. Tested system rather took Patricia and the band from the stage and put them in my room which made it less palpable, less realistic. You might think that there is not much of a difference between listener taken to the concert hall or the performers taken to listener's room, but trust me there is a difference and a significant one (at least for me). I am really curious if this declaration of Array Audio stating that new monoblock amps take this one more, last step towards beauty of tube sound and offer same level of performance as the best tube devices. Hopefully there will be a chance in a future to find it out. The reviewed system is in in my opinion very, very good offering level of performance achievable (in my ears) up to now only for good tube amps and the best (much more expensive) solid-state ones. Surely the Accuphase C-3800 + M-6000 system I reviewed some months ago was even a better one, but the price difference is also significant. Accuphase was close to top-high-end level performance whereas Array is in my ears at the beginning of high-end class (not that I like to use “high-end” term to describe sound quality but I can't find a more communicative description so don't really have a choice).

I decided to offer you a short separate description of PH-2 as it fully deserved it. Its general sound characteristic is similar to the one of the whole system as I already described it- fabulous transparency, tones of details with lots of air, great imaging – all that creates wonderful, precise, orderly soundstage. The point is that while you get all that also midrange is a real strong – colorful, rich, palpable – coming quite close to what a good SET amp delivers.
Quite large number of settings allows not only to choose the recommended by manufacturer ones but also to try if those are really the best ones, or simply to find the ones particular listener prefers (from my experience the recommended settings might be the best ones but sometimes I prefer a slight deviation). What is important and convenient – here you don't need to stand up from the couch, go to the device, find proper switch and so on – you can chose any setting you want using remote control This makes life easier and more interesting. It is easy to try different settings of gain, loading and capacitance observing how it changes the sound. What's more – you can adjust settings for particular record which might be handy sometimes. The special anniversary edition of U2 “Joshua Tree” despite its new mastering still doesn't sound too good (no record of U2 does) – it lacks clarity, transparency of the sound. Thanks to Array system's transparency and adjustable settings of phonostage I could finally really enjoy it. Not that it became suddenly a MoFi kind of quality recording, but it became good enough not to think about its technical shortcomings. During PH-2 tests I used two cartridges – my own Koetsu Black and wonderful Accuphase AC-5 (on loan for a test). There is some similarity of sound between these two – both offer a little (natural in my opinion) warm in the midrange (definitely there is more warmth in Koetsu sound). Clearly Accuphase is a better cartridge in every aspect, but the general sound character is somehow similar. Array system was able to emphasize advantages of both cartridges, “lending” them some of its own amazing transparency, and taking advantage of great deal of details delivered by both Japanese products. Despite its own “tube-like” midrange PH-2 did not accumulate it with similar feature of cartridges, which if executed would have lead to exaggeration in this aspect. The most important conclusion for me coming from this test was that PH-2 potential must be great as it seemed not to limit even such a fantastic cartridge as AC-5. I'm not saying it is the best phonostage in the world. All I'm saying is that it offers much more than its price suggests and in terms of both: sound quality and versatility. It won't be a bottleneck even in the high-quality system.


Al tested Array Audio devices look very alike (linestage and phono have exactly the same faceplate). Fronts are made of thick aluminum plates sporting 4 LEDs placed in one column, and small display. The other parts of casings are made of non-magnetic steel.

Phonostage Array Obsydian PH-2
This device works with both MC and MM cartridges. Unlike other products of that type this one sports only one pair of inputs that is used regardless of cartridge type. All adjustable parameters can be set with remote control. These parameters are: gain, input capacitance and resistance. There is also sub-sonic filter that can be turn on or off. There are twelve gain settings (from 42 to 77 dB), and switching between them is carried out with air-tight relays. There are also 8 resistance settings, also switched with same kind of relays. Settings start from 100 Ω and go up to 47 kΩ. User can choose between 8 settings from 100 to 810 pF, switching is also done with relays. is a discrete bipolar design and it works in class A. There are separate power supplies for signal path and control circuits (including relays). All gain stages are cascoded. It sports magnetically shielded chassis and cover, aluminum front and puresonic Teflon insulated RCA type (cinch) connectors.

Linestage Array Obsydian A-3
It is an active preamplifier with four linear inputs, tape and one output. Its chassis is also magnetically shielded, with thick aluminum front (identical as in phonostage). Four LEDs indicate which input is currently active. There is no on/off switch – this device is operational only with remote control. Volume control is realized via series/shunt resistor networks with air-tight gold-plated relays and source selection by means of air-tight gold-plated relays. There are separate power supplies for signal path and control. It's a zero-feedback class-A device with discrete signal path. It's equipped with quadruple DC servo and there are no capacitors anywhere in signal path. Programmable signal source level and volume change speed are additional advantages of this device.

Power amplifier Array S-10
Like the other two devices also S-10 has a non-magnetic stainless steel chassis and aluminum front with radiators bolted to it from inside (which is important as this power amp works in AB class producing significant amounts of heat). It is the only piece of equipment (among tested ones) with on/off switch, that is placed on the back panel. There are two sets of inputs (RCA and XLR) and very nice WBT speaker posts.
Devices sports true-balanced topology bipolar class-A FET cascoded input stage and 120 MHz unity gain bandwidth power output stages. Amplifier is equipped with short circuit, overload and DC protection systems that are totally separated from signal path. Front panel includes warning indicators for voltage and current clipping as well as mains voltage irregularities.

Technical data (according to the manufacturer):
Phonostage Obsydian PH-2
Dimensions 430 x 300 x 79 mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 8,2 kg
Output impedance: 50 Ω

Linestage Obsydian A-3
Dimensions: 430 x 300 x 67,5 mm
Weight: 7,1 kg
THD+N: 0,0006% (@ 300 mV)
S/N: 101 dB (@ 300 mV)

Power amplifier S-10
Dimensions: 440 x 413 x 133 mm
Weight: 18,5 kg
Power: 2 x 100 W @ 4 Ω
THD+N: 0,0001% (for 20 Hz-20 kHz)

Polish Distributor:

Studio Van der Brug

os. Parkowe Wzgórze 26
32-031 Mogilany
tel.: +48 66 88 21 021


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