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Starke Sound AD4.320 Review (Multichannel Amplifier)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Starke Sound AD4.320 four channel amplifier. It was kindly purchased by a member new and drop shipped to me. It costs US $1,499 but they have had sales with prices as low as US $900.

The Ad4.320 looks a bit industrial and is quite heavy for a class D amplifier:

Starke Sound AD4.320 Review Multichannel Amplifier.jpg


The reason for heavy weight is dual linear transformers and power supply on the right side. Usually class D amplifiers use switching power supplies which keeps the unit light. My own switching amplifier also uses a linear power supply with its weight and size penalty.

I was pleased to see balanced inputs and triggers for remote on and off:

Starke Sound AD4.320 Review back panel Multichannel Amplifier.jpg


As you can see, you can bridge two channels together and get double the power. Unlike other amps that require funky connections, you have two dedicated terminals with a slide switch to select the mode (which need to be activated when power is off). When I powered on the unit, I could not get output out of one channel. I switched the bridge mode left and right (when off) and it got both working. For bulk of my testing I tested channels 1 and 2.

Starke Sound AD4.320 Measurements
We start with our usual dashboard of 1 kHz tone with a load of 4 ohm with power of 5 watts:


Stark AD4.320 Measurements Multichannel Amplifier.png


Gain is atypically low at 21 dB (usually it is in 28 to 32 dB). Not a problem with our dedicated DACs as they can easily provide the voltage the unit needs.

Sadly we have high 2nd and 3rd harmonics that cause SINAD to droop down to 73 dB. This is well below average of all amplifiers tested:

Best multichannel amplifier reviewed.png


We are talking chip-amp performance level here not anything that would come at this price range.

Signal to noise ratio is better but not exciting:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements SNR Multichannel Amplifier.png


Multitone test shows rapid rise in distortion with frequency:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Multitone Multichannel Amplifier.png


The class D amplifier filter is not inside the feedback loop so shows high sensitivity to load:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Frequency Response Multichannel Amplifier.png


This means the tonality you get may depend on the actual impedance of the speaker you use.

Crosstalk between channels 1 and 2 is very good:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Crosstalk Multichannel Amplifier.png


Key performance metric for any amplifier is powered and I was very surprised to see far less power than specified:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Power into 4 ohm Multichannel Amplifier.png


We are not even in the same planet with 104 watts vs spec of 320! I switched channel 2 to 3 just in case there is a power supply limit but it almost made no difference. We are still way short of the company specs:

1632810712931.png


Story repeated with 8 ohm load:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Power into 8 ohm Multichannel Amplifier.png


Forgetting about lack of power, we also have very early rise in distortion and rising before clipping.

I thought maybe they had used peak power to rate the amplifier but that is not in the same vicinity either:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Peak and Burst Power into 4 ohm Multichannel Amplifier.png


We do see the benefit of the linear amplifier in the way it allows higher burst power than tightly regulated switching power supplies.

Sweeping the frequency and measuring power and THD+N, shows smooth lines which is good but they are quite elevated at higher frequencies:

Stark AD4.320 Measurements Power vs frequency into 4 ohm Multichannel Amplifier.png


Conclusions
The AD4.320 underperforms in so many categories. You can argue about audibility of this and that measurements but not the lack of power. That, you will hear. Is the unit broken? Could be but it doesn't perform like it is broken. I thought maybe it is set to 240 volts but it is clearly marked as being a 120 volt unit (see the back panel picture). And at any rate, if they shipped the amp this way to a US customer, then that is what they are going to get.

I can't recommend the Starke Audio AD4.320. Getting four channels with so much power would have been a good value if they had delivered. But when they don't, there is no reason to buy it.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

fordiebianco

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I think I will stick with my Marantz SM-80 for the moment (if I would ever again need that much power).
 

Koeitje

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What kind of modules are used? Must be some terrible ones.
 

DHT 845

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Look at Jay review on youtube :)
 

DHT 845

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Does multitone explain "warm sound" in this case?
 

tomtoo

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Hey!
"...We are talking chip-amp performance level here not anything that would come at this price range..."

The allo volt+ is 11 above in sinad. So its under chipamp performance pls.
 

Koeitje

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Maybe.
Tested here, and the reviewer is very positive.
And total bullshit


  • Amplifier speed exposes details starkly (pardon the pun…)
  • Proprietary, high-speed amplifier modules
  • Honestly, if Starke Sound priced this amplifier at three to five times its actual price, audiophiles would be more likely to take it seriously and give it the consistent rave reviews that it deserves. Its performance justifies that level of consideration.
The fuck is high speed amplification? And the reviewer thinks this piece of e-waste should cost 3-5 times its actual price.
 

Matias

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A multichannel amp from Buckeye is a lot better, 1,050 usd for a 4 channel NC502MP gives more power and lower distortion.

 

greenpsycho

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WELL, crud. Bought this one last year for my home theater. In reality, I needed something class D, sealed (its in the basement where I'm occasionally woodworking), and had balanced connectors. But if the amp performance of this is worse than a denon x3700, and my emotiva xmc-1's performance is also worse than the denon x3700, then.....why the fudge am I even mucking around with separates with the all in one performs better? stupid choices i've made.
 

peng

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Maybe.
Tested here, and the reviewer is very positive.

That was a test based on "subjective measurements" only. The reviewer said " the Starke amplifier controlled the 5i speakers really well and sounded good while doing it." I usually read those kind of reviews (without any bench measurements) for entertainment only, but in this case, didn't even find it entertaining.:D

Back to the measurements, the FFT does not seem to indicate the so called "warm sound", if one is to believe that it is the lower order even harmonics that contribute to the perceived warmth.
 

peng

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WELL, crud. Bought this one last year for my home theater. In reality, I needed something class D, sealed (its in the basement where I'm occasionally woodworking), and had balanced connectors. But if the amp performance of this is worse than a denon x3700, and my emotiva xmc-1's performance is also worse than the denon x3700, then.....why the fudge am I even mucking around with separates with the all in one performs better? stupid choices i've made.

It is sad that so many people would simply always assume AVR amps are so poor that just about any external power amps or even integrated amps are better better for the so called "sound quality" and more powerful, higher current capability etc. Test after test on ASR and other sited that do bench tests show they should quit assuming and mislead people (obviously unintentionally)..:D
 

greenpsycho

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It is sad that so many people would simply always assume AVR amps are so poor that just about any external power amps or even integrated amps are better better for the so called "sound quality" and more powerful, higher current capability etc. Test after test on ASR and other sited that do bench tests show they should quit assuming and mislead people (obviously unintentionally)..:D
right!?! But here's the thing - we have been fed this for decades, from every corner. "if you want to get better sound..." "if you want to take your stereo seriously..." "if your powering alot of speakers..." "for the best performance..." ----- upgrade from an integrated/avr/receiver/whatever and get separates. Literally every tech/audio/AV publication spouts the same stuff, and for what? For my system, I don't even have budget level processors and amps, but they STILL are outperformed by the most modest of mid tier AVR's.
 

peniku8

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Does multitone explain "warm sound" in this case?
It's quite the opposite. Most of the distortion pools above 1khz, so it should be bright instead of warm ("warm" is typically stuff in the 100-300hz range). But the distortion is still ~70db lower in level than your actual content, so you'll be hard pressed to hear it during regular music listening.


I can't believe what I'm reading about this amp, the marketing team seems to be about as competent as the engineering team.
Calling class D "digital"... Maybe the engineers didn't know any better either...
 
Last edited:

MediumRare

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WELL, crud. Bought this one last year for my home theater. In reality, I needed something class D, sealed (its in the basement where I'm occasionally woodworking), and had balanced connectors. But if the amp performance of this is worse than a denon x3700, and my emotiva xmc-1's performance is also worse than the denon x3700, then.....why the fudge am I even mucking around with separates with the all in one performs better? stupid choices i've made.
Since it is so far from claimed output perhaps you can return it and if they resist tell them you will report them for fraud. Serious.
 

peng

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right!?! But here's the thing - we have been fed this for decades, from every corner. "if you want to get better sound..." "if you want to take your stereo seriously..." "if your powering alot of speakers..." "for the best performance..." ----- upgrade from an integrated/avr/receiver/whatever and get separates. Literally every tech/audio/AV publication spouts the same stuff, and for what? For my system, I don't even have budget level processors and amps, but they STILL are outperformed by the most modest of mid tier AVR's.

Great point, by the way, did you know that Dr. Gedlee was impressed with his $150 Pioneer receiver that he bought several of them? So some of those audio experts do tell the truth..:D Note that he did say he was chastized for using those.:D


Quote:
Originally posted by 4fun
Hi,

Mr. Geddes,

In an earlier thread as well as now you favor a particular Pioneer amp.
I’ll have to ask out of curiosity, what model?

No hardly - I don't "favor it", but I was severly chastized for using it at RMAF when, in fact, no one really knew if it was any good or not. It works just fine as my measurements show. I would not use this amp for many applications, but it suited my point at the time, which was that loudspeakers account for 99% (well you could argue 98%, but you get my point) of the audio systems sound quality.

The amp is a Pioneer DSX-V912 - a receiver. The point is that it was on sale at Costco for $150.00. I bought several of them for home theater use. I used my test to measure the amps and they were quite good actually. Especially for chip amps. I was measuring a lot of chip amps (a survey of capability) and most were pretty bad. As a chip amp this unit deffinately stands out. It compared quite favorably to a very well engineered discrete amp that I also use.

I also tested several other receivers and they were almost universally bad.
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Earl Geddes Gedlee Website
 
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