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Integrated amplifier

Price: 36 500 zł (+1200 zł for XLR inputs)

Distributor: RCM

ul. Matejki 4, 40-077 Katowice
Tel.: 032 / 206-40-16
Tel.: 032 / 201-40-96
Fax: 032 / 253-71-88



Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Marek Dyba

Mr Friedrich Schäfer, owner and designer of ASR Audio Systeme, is one of the most interesting characters in audio business. Huge knowledge, warm, friendly, unpretentious personality make him a fabulous interlocutor. When you talk to him there is no pressure, you don't have to be careful to avoid some mistakes he could hold against you. I think that the way he is, his character are reflected in the sound of his amplifiers manufactured since 1980. ASR devices from Emitter line have been known for many years and both the design and the sound are easily recognizable so you don't need anything special to remember them. These are huge devices with chassis with acrylic panels and lots of LED indicators showing present state of the device. One of Mr Schäfer's priorities is proper power supply circuitry. That's why he uses external power supply and large and powerful high quality Philbert Mantelschnit EI transformers. Additionally the current supply is equipped with an enormous amount of high grade buffering capacitors. The reviewed basic version of Emitter II (there is also less expensive Emitter I) has two external power supplies (one per each channel) and they are equipped with caps of total capacitance of 586 000μF. In the most fancy version of Emitter II - Exclusive that is equipped with battery powered preamplifier section, total capacitance reaches 1 140 000μF. That is a huge amount of energy stored so it has to be managed by special microchip, that is available with different software versions. The amplifier is a dream of most demanding audiphile as it might be customized in many different ways. You can add additional speaker posts, headphone amp, phonostage, change number of inputs and outputs, color of the display (nice, big one that displays information very clearly so you can actually see even from some distance), etc, etc. And there come power supplies – number of all combinations is almost infinite. The device is equipped with two huge radiators as it offers 2 x 250W at 8Ω, 2 x 450W at 4Ω and up to 2 x 800W at 2Ω - yes, advanced safety circuitry turns off Emitter only when shortcut appears. On top of all that frequency range of the amplifier is also very impressive.


Just recently when reviewing Accuphase P-7100 and McIntosh MC-501, absolutely amazing devices, my conclusion was that it would not be really possible to design SS amplifier that would have all advantages of tube design combined with those of SS. Especially when current efficiency was concerned – and I still think so. There must be something in it as even my M-800A Luxman - best solid state amplifier I've heard so far, when compared to tube amps like: Reimyo PAT-777, Art Audio Jota Sentry or Ancient Audio Silver Mono Grand showed some weaknesses. But that's life – I thought – and kept using Luxman only sometimes missing the beauty of Reimyo and resolution of Grand. So I was shocked when I started to listen to the ASR Emitter II – here were the elements of the sound that I thought were out of reach for this type of amp. The German monster has its own problems, different than the ones of amplifiers mentioned above, but also advantages that were unimaginable for devices with silicon chips amplifying signal and not the ones where electrons travel through vacuum or some gas.

ASR offers quite soft sound – but this is a natural softness that we experience every day in our lives. Its timbre seems bit warm but it is not truly so. If I was to point the main range it would be the mid-range and mid-bass. That is exactly how I could start any review of high quality tube amplifier. Voices of Judy Garland or John Wetton from King Crimson's Red sounded fantastic – rich and full. It was not just a bump in a mid-range achieved by tone manipulation or some sort of forced distortions. But I couldn't help the feeling that vocals were somehow handled in a special way. The lower mid-range was clearly dominant and this part was responsible for the volume and so called „tangibility”. I don't know how they do it in ASR but the voices don't „jump” to the front. Sometimes – like when listening to new remasters of The Beatles or Depeche Mode recordings – I had an impression of the voices being even bit blurred. I am referring to high-end sound and that was a comparison to what I could expect from top high-end device. Altogether it resulted in a very well rendered sound-stage – nothing is over-exposed, nothing is taken out of context.. Each element, even the smallest one has its own „cocoon”, which makes it an important part of the whole musical presentation. This reminded me of a sound of live performance – quite difficult to accept as we all have this „mechanical reproduction” way of most devices imprinted in our minds and we have to change our attitude to accept what we hear. It was absolutely amazing how the recordings with a lot of non-musical elements sounded, like for example Pink Floyd from Wish You Were Here. It was a mesmerizing experience to „watch” what was going on in the recording, waiting for next move, next sound. It was incredibly dense, rich sound.

ASR showed here its potential for reproducing great timbre. This was absolute top solid-state, top any-amp performance. Floyd's and King Crimson's guitars sounded remarkable – I had never heard them sounding that well in my place before. OK – maybe once with Reimyo amp. On one hand both Ancient and my Luxman can deliver more details and better resolution but on the other presentation of ASR or Reimyo is more plausible. That is right ‘plausible’ not ‘realistic’. The meaning of both words is quite similar but this case proves that they are not identical, synonymous but not quite meaning the same. The presentation of German device is plausible because the sound is remarkably organic it gets under listener's skin. It is very easy to loose yourself into the music, to forget that this is just a presentation of the recording. It is not a perfect reproduction of reality (I will explain later) but such treatment of the signal that uses psycho-acoustic methods to give listener an „image” that he accepts as a sure thing. Therefore some recording like Spiritchaser Dead Can Dance and IV Peter Gabriel's constructed of many layers of natural and electronic sounds seem to be very „acoustic”. Beautiful deep bass, richness and grand scale created such an effect. It unified a bit the character of each layer because they all sounded just … pretty, which is not quite real, but you have to listen for yourself to find out what you really expect from life.

I have listened to jazz recordings for a very long time. Starting from great Italian band Trovajoly with their Softly to amazing Peaceof Chet Baker, with Coltrane and Pepper somewhere in between. It always sounded in a quite similar beautiful way, I would even say too beautiful. I was particularly impressed by the way of presentation of top-end range. If I hadn't known I would have said that it was driven by 300B tube – maybe not configured for maximum resolution like in Ancient Audio but more for coherency like Reimyo or Art Audio. Or Kondo. Yes – that is the correct lead - Kondo and Japanese versions of Audio Note present crash cymbals in the same way. The top treble was a little bit rounded, bit warm but so … delicious. Only the best tube devices are capable of delivering not only the sense of impact, but following it also rich harmonics, this little „rustle” - I don't know how to call it – it is always there during performance but it is usually lost when played even by very good systems. These are small, one would say insignificant, signals but they make the whole presentation complete, full, or not if missing. ASR is capable of showing them effortlessly, making presentation of each instrument complete.

So now I had a dilemma like I never had before – should I have asked the Distributor to make me an offer for reviewed device? I didn't do it – as hard as this decision was – I found some elements of its presentation that were not exactly what I expected from „my sound”. Did it mean it was worse than my reference sound? I wasn't sure – it was just different – my twice as expensive amplification offers a different approach to high-end sound. I thought that sound Emitter II offered wasn't „brutal”, terse enough. My system combined of Luxman and Ayon Polaris II offers bigger dynamics, sounds are presented in more precise way. It means it shows more precisely the leading edge of the sounds and their contours. ASR is better when it comes to filling up what is between the sound's leading edge and its decay. German amplifier presents both instruments and voices in the most beautiful way. But for me it was bit TOO beautiful. Maybe this is what it is all about – that all the recordings are acceptable – it is about music after all, right? Well, that is surely true but I prefer to hear exactly what is there in the recording even if it is not precisely what was going on in the front of a microphone. I don't claim it is a better approach to listening to the music – it is just a different one. If you consider that my amplification is twice as expensive and you have to add one more IC I must admit that ASR is an extremely attractive product. I was also using only attached power cords and my amp and pre use Acrolinks 7N-PC7100! The design is under permanent development – new ideas are introduced to the design, new elements can be added – it is a very important factor. The price is quite high so if after some time you would figure out that you miss something it is surely a much better idea to upgrade it with new company's developments and not to sell it. Emitter II is quite a big unit – you should put power supplies on the lower shelf and the amplifier itself above them. For quite some time now I am aware that system that is too complex is not the best idea. That is why an integrated amplifier (like reviewed one) might be a very good choice. The sound of this device will not be the choice of everybody because is sounds more tube-like than most tube amplifiers, but … Beautiful design, unrivaled upgrading possibilities combined with the sound that will take us to unknown territory – and all that for half a price of my amplification! Incredible…


ASR amplifiers are simply different than anything else you might find on the market. It is an integrated amplifier as preamp and amp are both placed in one chassis but on the other hand they have separate external power supplies. Reviewed version includes two power supplies – one for each channel They offer also special version called Exclusive where there is an additional power supply just for preamp section (just two small PCBs make the whole section)… The main unit is huge and weights 50 kg. It has oversized radiators at both sides. The chassis is made of semi-transparent acrylic plates. There are three knobs at the front – volume control in the middle, the one at the left switches between standby/regular/power saving operation, and the last one is an input selector. Current level of volume is shown on the large, easily readable display. The reviewed version was equipped with orange display but you can also choose a blue one. There are several nicely glowing LED indicators under front panel. As already mentioned this amp is highly customizable which means it can be adjusted to your preferences. You can order Emitter II with single, double or even triple speaker posts, , with headphone amp and/or phonostage inside. There are a lot of connectors at the back panel. There is a balanced XLR input,but preamp is not a balanced device (amp is) and so signal has to be converted right at the input for unbalanced in Analog Devices SSM2143 chips. An interesting detail – to adjust the input to any device that might be connected there is a small switch changing input impedance – you can choose 1kΩ or 10kΩ. There are also some RCA inputs (6) with colored LED indicators showing which one is currently selected. The RCA input sockets of the direct input are connected directly to the volume control relays via silver wire - highly recommended solution! Speakers binding posts are very solid and doing their job right. In the middle of the back panel you will find two (at least in this version of the device) thick, shielded power cords coming directly from the inside of the amp and connecting it to power supplies. The power supplies end PC are equipped with large, solid connectors. Manufacturer delivers PC for power supplies – those are 1,5m long AC Magic Power with large 20A connectors. That excluded possibility of using my own Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 .

Power supplies are extremely well developed – each chassis contains two huge PM transformers, separate for positive (+) and negative (-). There are also lots of buffering capacitors. But the really huge amount of those is placed in the amplifier. There are two large PCBs inside amplifier – the upper one with amplifying circuitry and the lower one with great amount of capacitors., They cover the whole PCB offering in total breath taking capacity of 586 000 μF. To manage such an energy stored in these capacitors, to control proper charging and discharging ASR used a special advanced microchip. Interestingly there is more than one version of the software for this chip, and different software means different sound … so I've heard.

As already mentioned the input connectors are very nice – solid, gold plated with thick leads soldered directly to PCB. There signal is switched by excellent electro-magnetic switches (selected input is marked with a LED) and it goes to an attenuator. As Mr Schäfer says Emitter II is more a main powerful (450W/4Ω) amp with high input sensitivity and an attenuator at the beginning. Such a design requires high performance pots – that is why ASR doesn't use them. Attenuator is built around fantastic electro-magnetic switches that control a resistor ladder – in particular moment there are always only two resistors in signal's path. Customer gets a volume control with relay attenuator in 1dB-Steps up to 75dB. Than signal goes via single gain step – in this particular case it was Analog Devices AD 843 BQ chip with Mundorf capacitor at the side. In some versions they put additional radiator over this chip. The output stage is made with 2x4 high power audio Mosfets in push-pull config, in AB class, that are driven by a pair of very fast Toshiba's Mosfets 2SK1530+2SJ201, attached to solid copper slabs and than to radiators. There are only high quality elements used, gold plated, thick traces on PCB, grounds terminated at a single designated point on the system’s ground conductor, and polypropylene caps. Path of the signal is extremely short – it is just a couple of centimeters. The amplifier is equipped with nice, made of Corian (artificial marble) remote control. Handling of the device is perfect and assures you that you deal with real high-end.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Output power: 2 x 250W/8Ω, 2 x 450W/4Ω, 2 x 800W/2Ω
Total harmonic distortion: <0,02%
S/N ratio: >90dB (1W/8Ω)
Frequency response: 0,2Hz-500kHz (-3dB)
Input impedance: 10kΩ
Dimensions: 570 x 440 x 230mm (amp) + 2 x 460 x 320 x 160mm (power supplies)
Weight: 47kg (amp) + 2 x 32kg (power supplies)

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  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime (tested HERE)
  • Phono preamp: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC (tested HERE)
  • Preamp: Leben RS-28CX (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Polaris II, tested HERE)
  • Power amp: Luxman M-800A (tested HERE)
  • Integrated amp: Leben CS300 (reviewed HERE)
  • Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann (tested HERE)
  • headphones: AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, 600 Ω version (reviewed HERE, HERE, and HERE)
  • interconnects: CD-preamp: Wireworld Gold Eclipse 52 (tested HERE; soon to be changed to Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, article HERE), preamp-power amp: Velum NF-G SE (tested HERE)
  • speaker cable: Velum LS-G (tested HERE)
  • power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9100 (CD; reviewed HERE) and 2 x Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC7100 (preamp, power amp (reviewed HERE)
  • power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2 Filtering Power Strip (reviewed HERE)
  • audio stand Base
  • resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD (article HERE ) Turntables change continuously, as do cartridges. My dream setup: SME 30 with Series V tone-arm and Air Tight PC-1 cartridge (also in the PC-1 Mono version).