Charlize vs. Autocostruire 2020 - diyAudio
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Old 15th February 2006, 04:06 PM   #1
raver is offline raver  Italy
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Default Charlize vs. Autocostruire 2020

Hi,
I need an advice before buying a T-amp.
I want to buy an assembled one, as I'm still too newbie to mount a kit by mayself.
My choice is between Charlize and the Autocostruire 2020, both with aircore inductors.
Anyone who owns or listened to both can tell me how they compare?
Autocostruire is a bit easier for me to get because I am in Italy, moreover it comes already equipped with pot and RCA's, but Charlize surely got more great reviews here (however it's decisely more famous). Prices are about the same (considering shipping).
So, what should I do?
Thanks
Raul
Italy
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Old 15th February 2006, 06:27 PM   #2
keefe is offline keefe  England
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Don't have either myself, but recall that both were compared (with basic t amp and 41Hz's Amp3) a little while back, with Charlize and Autocostruire ranked as 1st and 2nd in the 4-way comparison...

Re the Autocostruire, I also seem to remember the reviewer being very pleased indeed after installing replacement polypropylene capacitors in place of those provided, and it seems the general view that upgrading in this area - irrespective of model involved - is of definite benefit...

I know you stressed your wariness about practical modifications, but the above may provide some motivation either to "get your own hands dirty" or to find someone with more practical experience to install the mod...

From another newbie, the best of luck!...

Keefe.

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Old 16th February 2006, 11:40 AM   #3
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Default Re: Charlize vs. Autocostruire 2020

Quote:
Originally posted by raver
Hi,
I need an advice before buying a T-amp.
I want to buy an assembled one, as I'm still too newbie to mount a kit by mayself.
My choice is between Charlize and the Autocostruire 2020, both with aircore inductors.
Anyone who owns or listened to both can tell me how they compare?
Autocostruire is a bit easier for me to get because I am in Italy, moreover it comes already equipped with pot and RCA's, but Charlize surely got more great reviews here (however it's decisely more famous). Prices are about the same (considering shipping).
So, what should I do?
Thanks
Raul
Italy
Hi Raul,


I have both amp. and in my system Charlize sound the best. I have put some good poly cap in // with the autocostruire input cap, but still Charlize sound better. Bill Evan piano is just more natural, more their. Charlize way to deliver music is very close to the magic sound of my Rogue Tempest magnum ($2000 tubes amp). So, I would say that Charlize is more musical and the bass is amazing.

Note : If you change the autocostruire input cap and don't compare it side by side with Charlize, then you can like it a lot. It's a very good amp.
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Daniel
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Old 17th February 2006, 04:34 AM   #4
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Daniel,
Thanks for the observation.

Since you've both the amp.; this is a very good and direct comparison.
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Old 17th February 2006, 09:42 PM   #5
soufiej is offline soufiej  United States
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Default Autocostruire

I have the Italian amp but not the Charlize so I can only speak to what I have heard. I consider any information valid at this point since so little has been written about either amplifier. Remember any direct comparison between the two amps is still a matter of matching system components and listener preferences when declaring one amp "better" than another. What speakers you pair with these flea watt champs will largely determine what you will hear. The rising response but easy load of a Fostex full range driver will evince a different result than a more neutral two way speaker system with any of these amplifiers. The speakers I've played with would indicate the higher efficiency driver will benefit the amplifier to a great extent. When dealing with just a handful of watts, the headroom provide by a higher sensitivityspeaker will determine the amplifier's personality more than most other alerations. If you are constantly driving the amplifier at is limits, you should concentrate on the speakers before altering your amplifier. In this case watts is watts and when you're done with the 6-7 these amps provide, they begin to spit aluminum projectiles at your ears. Expect to provide them with a top notch power supply also or you will be wasting your time and money.



I bought the Autocostruire amplifier as a kit and had it assembled in about two hours after triple checking all positions and connections before plugging in the soldering iron. Even if you have never assembled a kit before, the Italian version is quite simple and I contend you will learn much more about audio by building even simple kits than you will by merely committing to a plug and play system. A good low wattage iron, a steady hand, a magnifying lens for final inspection and the ability to place Tab "A" in Slot "B" is all that are required to get the amp up and running from kit form.


I had started with a Sonic Impact T amp as my first venture into Tripath technology and found the amplifier in stock form to be lacking in emotion (among some other failings of the basic SI product). Instead of going about fixing the SI amp, I wanted to try the Italian version of the T amp as I have always found the Italian sensibility to audio to my liking.


I assembled the kit as instructed by Autocostruire to end up with an integrated amplifier using their supplied volume control. The improvement over the SI amp was immedialtely evident as the Italian amp merely walked away from the SI in the emotion/involement/interest department. After getting used to the sound of the stock amp, I removed a few components to get the amplifier to the "minimalist" style offered as an option in the Autocostruire kit. I played around with the capacitors to arrive at what I felt was the best overall sound with my speakers (all this is spelled out clearly in the kit's instructions) and then added some additional capacitance to the input side of the amp. A Sealed Lead Acid 12VDC, 5 Ah battery has been used to supply constant voltage to the amplifier; it alone providing a sizeable jump in the ability of the amp to convey meaning and intent of the perfomance. Bill Evans was not only in the corner of my room but the communication and experimentation between Evans, LaFaro and Motian now reached the impressive levels this trio was known to achieve.


Now the problem was what to do with the basic board and battery supply. After reading a bit I had made up my mind where to go with that step; and that would be my largest single hestitation in suggesting any raw board to someone who feels uncomfortable with a soldering iron in hand. If you don't think you can put a board in a case and add the necessary hardware to make more than a jumble of wires, the T amp boards may not be for you. The assembly of my case with hardware, connectors, switches, a fuse and an in line capacitor on the battery supply side took more time than the assemby of the amplifier by several hours. In the end I have a neatly packaged amplifier with soft start and an extra 12VDC output jack on the rear for further upgrades from Autocostruire.


Now that the amp was as far along as I could go with available parts, I plugged everyting together last night and was unable to stop pulling discs out of the files until I finally was dozing off to the music at 5AM. The amp is extremely relaxed in its presentation with no hard edges yet sufficient detail for what I consider realistic presentation. Clarity is exceptional with vocals having an inviting texture while being plainly delineated between performers. Each new recording brought a new venue to my room with ambient information taking me to the various recording sites of each performance. The only wall remaining that I could claim was the solitary rear wall which was still bouncing the sounds of the Village Vanguard around to complete the transformation of my listening room into a 1960's New York club. Or a London symphony hall or a Memphis blues bar depending on the recording.


The Autocostruire might not be to everyone's taste as it isn't at all aggressive in its personality. But compared to many of the amplifiers I've had in this room/system, it competes with, and often murders, the other contenders. All total, from ordering the kit to getting it in a nice chassis, I probably (figuring in the cost of items I had on hand) spent a bit less than $200 USD. What I have in the way of sound makes that still a tremendous value since the power supply and some of the other components would be needed with any other T amp I might have purchased. I would strongly suggest you consider the kit as I suspect many listeners will wish to go beyond the sound you are first provided. Sure you can pull out C12 and RzL, etc., but knowing what each of these pieces actually does to the amplifier, as spelled out in the Autocostruire instruction manual, is going to help you decide what to change and what to leave alone. The basic structure of all the 2020 based amps appears to be fairly similar and custom tailoring the Autocostruire kit to your preferences will be an exercise in learning about audio and music. For the money spent, that's an inexpensive and worthwhile lesson in my book. Plus you get a great sounding amplifier.
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Old 18th February 2006, 09:01 AM   #6
raver is offline raver  Italy
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hi soufiej,
thank you for you very detailed and informative reply.
As for power supply, I have a Philips unit with two selecatble outputs 12v and 13.4v (actually giving 13.6v). The power supply is rated at 2.5A and I think shoud be ok for the T-amps. Do you agree?
The pre-mounted Autocostruire comes with an Alps pot and two RCA connectors already installed, so it would be rather easy to complete the amp with a case. It costs only 15 more than the kit form.
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Old 18th February 2006, 06:45 PM   #7
soufiej is offline soufiej  United States
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Default Autocostruire

Which piece you order is your choice. There is a good chance you'll end up with a soldering iron in your hands with either option. My point was learning a bit more about what goes into the kit and ultimately your system rather than just plugging in an RCA connector. This is the "diy" forum after all.

Buying the kit also allows easier experimentation with the various forms of the Auitocostruire amplifier. Purchasing the pre-assembled version and then taking out the Zobel network or changing the gain of the amp is more difficult than making those decisions as you assemble the kit. The same goes for the other options Auotcostruire affords you. Desoldering on this board is far more difficult than the intial assembly. By the time you have removed a diode or capacitor you might easily lift a trace from the board. That makes going back to the original format more difficult should you change your mind.


On the other hand, the assembled board is a quick and easy way to a good sounding amplifier. You decide.




Autocostruire has not announced a release date for their next models but they might be worth waiting for. Ultimately I have preferred the sound of the 2020 amp when I run my tube based pre amp in line before the T amp's inputs. This could easily be a mind set that tells me I must have tubes in my system at some point. The alteration to the system's final sound is not dramatic (some slight amount of noise and a more complicated signal path must be introduced by way of the tubes) when my Audible Illusions pre amp is inserted, but the improvement is, at this point, certainly enough to keep the pre amp in the signal path. This is especially true since the AI also provides the option of using a phono section. If you are only running line level sources, the proposed T amp with an included tube based pre amp section (all connected through a very short signal path) might be of interest and could easily elevate the Autocostruire component above the competition. I can't help but think it should enhance the cost to sound quality performance of the Autocostruire product over the other manufacturers' board options. Depending on the availablity of the new module and the pricing, it might be a more desirable option than the straight T amp with a passive volume control mounted. The picture from the Milan show indicates a quirky, attractive component when placed in the Autocostruire enclosure. With the interest in the T amps currently running high, should you decide to purchase the existing amplifier immediately I would think you could resell any piece and, considering the low initial outlay, recoup most of your investment.


The choice of power supply is also up to you. What you feed the amplifier will most definitely affect the sound you hear. From everything I've read the PS you have will probably be sufficient if it is a regulated supply that provides a constant voltage, low ripple supply within the requirements of the 2020 chip. I chose the battery supply to eliminate any induced line noise. None of my comparisons were between power supplies than could be considered exactly identical in voltage or amperage but the higher current capacity of the battery supply gave what I felt was a more relaxed presentation without compromising the dynamic ability of the amplifier. To my ears, the AC based supplies gave a slightly more "immediate" (?) sound from the amplifier but not a sound that I felt was an improvement over the battery supply. However, I live in a large metroplex with less than terrific AC provided at my outlets. Your results could be difefrent than mine. Unregulated supplies appear to give less satisfactory results overall and have the potential to run the chip too hot which will ultimately affect longevity and reliability. Check the voltage of the power supply to get an idea of what the unit actually outputs before making a decision to plug the lead into the amplifier. It seems silly to run the chip at a higher voltage and hotter temperature just to squeeze out an additional 0.25 watts.
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Old 19th February 2006, 12:47 AM   #8
bigbulb is offline bigbulb  Canada
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Hi,

I found that charlize used gold plated PCB, with thicker tracks foil than normal PCB, and the capacitor for power supply seems like using some kind of high quality low ESR caps. I think this helps on its performance.
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Old 19th February 2006, 08:24 AM   #9
raver is offline raver  Italy
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I actually have done some soldering, as I collect vintage tube amps, and I replace some caps or resistors in them, but they are all wired point-to-point and I never soldered on a PCB.
So I know how tubes sound and I usually am very biased in my judgement of any solid state amp, however I read so much good things about these T-amps that I want to try one.
Actually I have another soli-state amp in my collection, it's a Grundig V-20 from the early 80's. These old grundig have become a cult in some audiophile circle here, and I have to admit that mine sounds very very nice (much better than any solid-state that I have listened to).
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