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Starke Sound AD4.320 Review (Multichannel Amplifier)

greenpsycho

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I am sorry, unicorns are not real but measurements are.
You are happy with your amp, so rock-on. :)

- Rich
No no he's got a point re: it being a unicorn amp: its totally fantasy, only the naive and conspiracy nuts believe it ever existed, and IF it did exist (a flying magical horse with a single horn), it would be so wildly unpractical it would have died off years ago because it can hardly mate or eat with that thing.

not a perfect metaphor of course :)
 

Loron

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Measurements Smeasurements, I was skeptical when I ordered this amp to audition in replacement of an 11K Hegel H590 I regretted selling as soon as it was out the door... I was disappointed with combos of a modified Lumin T2 driving amps like the Benchmark ABH2, and Rogue ST 100 powering my Vandersteen 2ce. I found I could equal the Lumin performance with a $399 iFi streamer feeding a $499 Pro-Ject S2...win for the budgetphile! But I couldn't find an amp that move my bi-wired Vandersteen 2Ce sig IIIs to the heights I wanted.... I've only had the Starke a day....Holly shit! It's a unicorn amp! It sounds so good and so way above its price point, it's really hard to describe. I would say that Jay's review, if anything, doesn't do it justice. Considering how thoroughly the amp moves the vandersteens, I would guess that Amir certainly got a faulty unit. I mean currently my amp/DAC/preamp combo.. whole front end is $2,300...and it sounds better than any system I've had the pleasure of listening to in either a home or an audio shop. The amp does seem to have a hybrid solid state/tube voicing... Heard those claims a lot over the years of course... But this is legit. This is the only amp to consider if you're not spending under 10 grand, as far as I can tell.

This is a unicorn amp!

Matt
Happy for you! As long as you are enjoying all is good. Personally I don’t believe in unicorns. I am wonder…….
 

Jbrunwa

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It’s kind of amusing how we try to explain why gear that measured poorly performed that way, and manufacturers dispute results or bad mouth pretty standard measurements taken, rather than accepting that the results are the results.
 

audio2design

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I asked for measurements…here’s the reply:

John, we are arranging to measure performance of current production units of AD4 and to publish the results along with the analyzer scripts.

We’ll share those with you as soon as they are available.

This has their attention. Hopefully Starke will follow thru and publish here soon. My interactions with Starke on both the sales and service side have been very helpful and professional. Replies are prompt like the one I received from an after hours email today.

It’s too early to jump to conclusions or determine cause. This could be a quality, design, assembly, test, measurement, part, or some other typical manufacturing issue on one amp. It could also be a big issue, who knows. Let’s see what they find.

I have three AD4.320’s built in Jan 2021 and access to low FedEx corporate rates if you want to test more

That sounds like the statement of someone who does not design their own products at least in this case.
 

JohnL

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That sounds like the statement of someone who does not design their own products at least in this case.

I agree, something isn’t right. If they had designers on staff and there ware no problems, they would have quickly responded. Instead Starke has not responded to me or this post in a month.

They responded with Amir doesn’t know how to test and they are hiring an independent third party to run a test. It is foolish to say this about someone who is passionate about audio and technically smart, personally bought expensive measurement equipment and analyzers, and has experience testing and publishing engineering reports on hundreds of amps for several years. Many of these reports Amir verified with the manufacturer. If this doesn’t make Amir an expert I don’t know what would,

The Starke AD4.320 sounds good in my home theater and better then my vintage Yamaha DSP-A3090 and my $350 Sony 7.1 AVR. It sounds similar to my Marantz 7013 AVR configured with 1 channel per speaker. But at $1400 I expected it to sound much better than my Marantz especially when I’m using a RME ADI-2 DAC. It does sound very good and noticeably better when my Tekton Moabs are bi-amped even at low volumes compared to a single channel per speaker but this requires two channels per speaker

I wonder if they will relabel it the AD4.120?
 

fordiebianco

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It's been a month. DENON has been more responsive than that. I think we can safely file this under 'marketing gone bad'. Shame.
 

JaredW

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Hey, Guys and Gals and Robots, I'm new and I've never posted on things like these but I figured I'd give my two cents from my end of the industry...

If anyone cares, I am a 25 year AV specialty retailer veteran and I brought one of these amps into the shop based on the buzz 4-5 weeks before this review. And yes, I have been just an average lurker/avid reader till, I guess, now.

First off.. Decent looking product, okay in the hands (you know when you pick something special up) but I wasn't expecting much aesthetically based on the price. Connectors were good, especially for the price, functionality and the bridging seemed straightforward. That god-awful light though! Pay attention to the market people, it has to look good in a rack, hello.

The real surprise is when I hooked it up to a pair of LS50 Metas (8 ohms, but we all know they should be 4) and compare it to other amplifiers I had on hand, I always had to turn the Starke up higher than the others... Anthem MCA 5 Gen 2, Audio Control Avalon G4, and even a 1990s Citation 5.1 with 100 watts @ 8 Ohms. I did try other loads too like the Magnepan LRS and 1.7s, Sonus Faber Olympica Nova Vs, KEF R3s, even Premier 800F, so I don't wanna hear shit from anyone lol.

All had the same issue relatively... again, this was in real-world use, I was listening mostly because I care about the perceived performance and not what a published measurement says. You can hear real-world differences in the things that matter... background noise, sure we all know when something sounds really clean, and you bet your ass power is one of those things. So I took out a UMIK-1 and sure enough compared to the Citation (which was the real shocker) it was 9-11 dB down at the MLP, grabbed the SPL meter, just the same in general. Most average people wouldn't really notice 3 dB, but when something like this happens, it's broke PERIOD. I don't have time to run tests that a manufacturer should have done way back in prototyping. So I bridged it, yay! 3 more dB than it's already ****** power delivery, what a joke. Of course, I thought I must have done something wrong, I'm still an ape. Nope! I checked everything I could think of.

Then weeks later, on my favorite review site, was this same amp. YAY! I feel kind of vindicated so I gave that Rep an earful of my finding and Amir's measurements. He reached out to Starke for an answer or comment, whom I'm sure will read this, and their answer was... ASR methods, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, sorry, we can give a refund??? And that's all she wrote folks. I have not done that yet BTW. But honestly, they can keep my money if they can produce factual unbiased paperwork on this unit. I'm getting sick of this "take my word" shit... back it up! A refund is a bow-out in my book. Feels like F'n kindergarten out there from my end sometimes folks, seriously. Don't get a "D" on your paper and try to defend it with whimsical explanations like my nephews. It wasn't a bad-sounding piece either. And let me be clear, all they had to do was meet the specifications they set for themselves and they would have been good like Amir said. I would have sold these for my big immersive system's surround speakers all day long.

Wow, this went way longer than I thought. If this Amp gets re-reviewed by Amir favorably, by the time you read this... my bad. I'm a working man and I just figured I'd give back to a community that has brought me so much help. Sorry if the writing and grammar suck, sorry-not-sorry for any language, and I might not even proofread this so there! Like I said I never do these things because I type way too many client emails to wanna do it at night too. I thought I just might actually have info that matters for once.

Thanks to the best community out there! Cheers!
 

PascalP

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So I took out a UMIK-1 and sure enough compared to the Citation (which was the real shocker) it was 9-11 dB down at the MLP, grabbed the SPL meter, just the same in general. Most average people wouldn't really notice 3 dB, but when something like this happens, it's broke PERIOD.

Not surprising as the spec says 23dB gain, which is also confirmed in Amir's test.
Bet most other amps you have compared is against have 26-29dB gain...

But once level matched, how did it sound?
 

JaredW

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Not surprising as the spec says 23dB gain, which is also confirmed in Amir's test.
Bet most other amps you have compared is against have 26-29dB gain...

But once level matched, how did it sound?

Not bad, I'm not sure how to describe it. When I unplugged our McIntosh MC462 to listen to the Starke I wasn't expecting as much power so I wasn't paying attention to the issue just the sound. Honestly, it kind of had a little of the same overall sound signature. Smooth, but a little less detail. More like a middle-of-the-road, better than a Marantz or other big-box store product, more like Rotel, old Bryston, decent just not detail happy as the ATI AT543 which is just a super fun amplifier for the price but a totally different sound. The ATI has a more forward presentation, where the MC462 sounds like real music on a stage behind the speaker plane. Starke is neither, just in between and maybe it's the design but that's the way I thought it sounded to me. That was not very specific... but If they had the power, I would sell these over something like Anthem or Rotel because of the installation flexibility. As of right now, it runs 4 KEF Q50A Atmos speakers just fine if I don't push them otherwise they run out of gas fast and can't keep up.
 

PascalP

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yeah it is a pretty good amp once you actually listen to it despites these measurements ;)
Keeping mine as well as I quite like it, little bit smoother and more laid back sound when I compare them to my other amps with Hypex NC500 modules, but pretty close in performance if you ask me.
 

JRaab

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So it would appear that Starke has given, at least to me, their answer. They were promoting their Black Friday sale for the amp on Instagram when I asked in the comments if they were going to respond to @amirm review and how his measured numbers didn't match up to their listed numbers at all. I was promptly blocked by the StarkeSound team and can no longer see their posts. Not sure if everyone is going to take it they same as I did, but I'm pretty sure that's their way of saying they don't give a shit. And I can still see OTHER sites tagging them in their posts, but when I click on the tag it takes me to a blank page saying that account can't be found.
 

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audio2design

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So it would appear that Starke has given, at least to me, their answer. They were promoting their Black Friday sale for the amp on Instagram when I asked in the comments if they were going to respond to @amirm review and how his measured numbers didn't match up to their listed numbers at all. I was promptly blocked by the StarkeSound team and can no longer see their posts. Not sure if everyone is going to take it they same as I did, but I'm pretty sure that's their way of saying they don't give a shit. And I can still see OTHER sites tagging them in their posts, but when I click on the tag it takes me to a blank page saying that account can't be found.

Oh they give a shit, they just don't like it :cool:
 

Shanman

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Man, their lack of reply and shenanigans like that speak volumes. What a disappointing shame. Oh well, put em' on sale baby!!
 

mdzzle

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Man, their lack of reply and shenanigans like that speak volumes. What a disappointing shame. Oh well, put em' on sale baby!!
Could not agree more. I've been following this thread with interest, as I own two of these and have been waiting to see if there are going to be any updates from Starke. (As an aside, I am a long time lurker; I created this account just to comment on this thread).

I will say, I liked the amps when I got them and thought they helped improve my system. Please note, though, I got and installed the Anthem AVM70 at the same time and was not and am not sure to which new product--amps or processor--to assign the improvement. I could not do any testing as my previous AVR had died. Maybe the amps did help, or maybe it was all the AVM70. Judging by this review of the ad4.320 and the recent review of the AVM70 I'm happy to give the Anthem 100% credit!

Regardless, I am not posting here to defend the Starke amp. I am not going to throw them away just because they weren't as advertised. To be fair, if I had the funds for that I would, but also if I had those funds I would not have bought these amps in the first place! I am, however, going to save up, sell these and then get something else. Likely Buckeye, but open to suggestions.

In the meantime, seeing as I enjoyed them before I can still try to enjoy them until I upgrade, and I will try. (Maybe that's Stockhold syndrome talking as I don't have other options quite yet.) Regardless, though, it's not just the review/measurements that stick in my craw: it's Starke's complete lack of a response that sours me on both the amps (to a fair degree) and to the company (100%).

I say that not just because they have not "officially" responded to this review. It's also the petty blocking described above. But primarily it's because I emailed them directly, politely asking them for a response to this review/Amir's measurements. I was upfront and said that I owned two and did enjoy them, but wanted to hear what they had to say in response as it was making me reevaluate whether to buy future Starke Sound products. All true statements.

No response at all. Not even a blow-off, "we're sorry to hear that and we are looking into it" type thing. Nothing. Safe to say I will never buy any more of their products, definitely no amplifiers, but also no speakers/subs. All I can do at this point is not give them any future business, which I will not, and will definitely recommend others stay away as well.

If anyone else hears back from Starke please do share, and thanks for the space to vent!
 

greenpsycho

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Hey all, not to bring up a dead thread BUUT - Starke Sound usually does some big blowouts for Black Friday. Unfettered commercialism aside, keep an eye out for folks eyeing these deals or advertising them (youtube, insta, other forums), and point them all this way. Starke Sound lies about their products and should not be patronized (though admittedly, their deals would be pretty good, if their products weren't fraudulent)

 

JRaab

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Hey all,

Beating that dead horse. Went onto their Facebook black Friday posts and asked if they would be releasing the 3rd party #s to refute Amir's measurements, as they promised 2-3 months back. I was promptly blocked from their Facebook page (already blocked on Instagram). So Starke Sound continues to show they don't stand behind their products and don't care about their customers. Essentially, buy ANY Starke sound equipment at your own risk.
 

NJC

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Measurements Smeasurements, I was skeptical when I ordered this amp to audition in replacement of an 11K Hegel H590 I regretted selling as soon as it was out the door... I was disappointed with combos of a modified Lumin T2 driving amps like the Benchmark ABH2, and Rogue ST 100 powering my Vandersteen 2ce. I found I could equal the Lumin performance with a $399 iFi streamer feeding a $499 Pro-Ject S2...win for the budgetphile! But I couldn't find an amp that move my bi-wired Vandersteen 2Ce sig IIIs to the heights I wanted.... I've only had the Starke a day....Holly shit! It's a unicorn amp! It sounds so good and so way above its price point, it's really hard to describe. I would say that Jay's review, if anything, doesn't do it justice. Considering how thoroughly the amp moves the vandersteens, I would guess that Amir certainly got a faulty unit. I mean currently my amp/DAC/preamp combo.. whole front end is $2,300...and it sounds better than any system I've had the pleasure of listening to in either a home or an audio shop. The amp does seem to have a hybrid solid state/tube voicing... Heard those claims a lot over the years of course... But this is legit. This is the only amp to consider if you're not spending under 10 grand, as far as I can tell.

This is a unicorn amp!

Matt
How did it compare to the Hegel?
 

nstzya

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I purchased one of these on trial last holiday postseason (@$999). I actually had several pleasant email exchanges with Scott, the president of Starke, both before and after the purchase. In those, I actually asked him specifically about their rather confusing specs. He confirmed the specs were per channel figures. And also clarified that the bridged figures stated into 2 ohms (since that’s what the amp sees in bridged mode) were for 4 ohm speaker loads. And that the modules were stable down to 1 ohm (since my speakers dipped significantly below 4 ohms).

Interesting now in retrospect, I also asked Scott if we could perhaps drop ship to Amir for testing. I commented how the design was an interesting variation on class D and how it might provide the company some good exposure if it tested well, etc. In retrospect, the response was interesting. I was told that although he was not familiar with ASR, several members of his team were “very familiar with the site” so he visited and found several of reviews and opinions to be rather strong (I wasn’t sure if he was referring to Amir or the posters). He went on to politely decline with something to the effect that it’s a new product we’re trying to establish in the market, etc. etc.

So I purchased on 30 day trial. The amp arrived packaged upside down and with a distorted (bent) bottom plate such that the feet wobbled on a flat surface. And the right bridge pair would continuously shutdown (power protect?) for no apparent reason. I‘d obviously received a lemon, so returned the unit within the trial period and was issued a prompt refund. I’d actually thought the amp sounded quite transparent and was going to allow them to work on what appeared to be growing pains (or pandemic related). Thanked them for the opportunity and told them I’d be watching what they did. So I am disappointed (and surprised) in their lack of response here, given my prior dealings with them.

JRaab‘s experience is not a positive sign. Given my own prior experience, I’ve sent an email myself to see If I might persuade a response from the company.
 
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Bobo77

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I purchased one of these on trial last holiday postseason (@$999). I actually had several pleasant email exchanges with Scott, the president of Starke, both before and after the purchase. In those, I actually asked him specifically about their rather confusing specs. He confirmed the specs were per channel figures. And also clarified that the bridged figures stated into 2 ohms (since that’s what the amp sees in bridged mode) were for 4 ohm speaker loads. And that the modules were stable down to 1 ohm (since my speakers dipped significantly below 4 ohms).

Interesting now in retrospect, I also asked Scott if we could perhaps drop ship to Amir for testing. I commented how the design was an interesting variation on class D and how it might provide the company some good exposure if it tested well, etc. In retrospect, the response was interesting. I was told that although he was not familiar with ASR, several members of his team were “very familiar with the site” so he visited and found several of reviews and opinions to be rather strong (I wasn’t sure if he was referring to Amir or the posters). He went on to politely decline with something to the effect that it’s a new product we’re trying to establish in the market, etc. etc.

So I purchased on 30 day trial. The amp arrived packaged upside down and with a distorted (bent) bottom plate such that the feet wobbled on a flat surface. And the right bridge pair would continuously shutdown (power protect?) for no apparent reason. I‘d obviously received a lemon, so returned the unit within the trial period and was issued a prompt refund. I’d actually thought the amp sounded quite transparent and was going to allow them to work on what appeared to be growing pains (or pandemic related). Thanked them for the opportunity and told them I’d be watching what they did. So I am disappointed (and surprised) in their lack of response here, given my prior dealings with them. Why does Starke not step up and clear the air with an explanation? Something is not right, here.

JRaab‘s experience is not a positive sign. Given my own prior experience, I’ve sent an email myself to see If I might persuade a response from the company.
This thread is disturbing. I was excited about this amp after watching Jay Iyagi's review on YouTube…I am a fan of Jay's channel, but, to be honest, I was somewhat suspicious of his GUSHING review…just because I am a savvy guy from N.J.…. I had never heard of Starke, also the price, the power rating and the sound quality just seemed "too good to be true" from a domestic company. Then I read the review and posts here and an EXACT OPPOSITE of Jay's review is what is portrayed about this amplifier...
So…based on the fact that Jay's most recent review of The Buchardt s400 Mark II Speakers, which is sponsored by Starke Audio :) …I guess I got my answer. CLEARLY Jay is being paid by Starke. (something to keep in mind when watching ANY of Jay's reviews in the future). I guess everyone has to make a buck…but his review of this amp will be considered total bullshit by this enthusiast.
nstzya, your experience, along with other accounts I have read online, you can bet I would not take a chance with this company, based solely on their lack of transparency and how they treat people…not to mention the condition that your amp arrived in. There are some very positive comments by owners on the pages of this forum, but they do not confirm the power rating claimed by Starke, which are suspect just by the unorthodox manner in which they list the stats. I do not know of any other audio company that behaves this way and surely seems to have something to hide. What other explanation is there?
nstzya, thanks for posting your balanced, honest experience!
 
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nstzya

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Bobo77,

I am adopting a wait and see attitude until I see how they respond. As I say, they were very responsive before and during my trial. Everyone is struggling a bit these days with supply chain and manpower Issues, so I’m trying to give them some leeway.

I can’t help but think that it was a 110/220 volt switch error - the values are just so far off and do seem consistent with that. But then why not immediately check and respond to that effect? This is the sort of thing that can be very damaging to a fledgling company and their reputation. Your reaction only confirms this.
 
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