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ATI AT1506 Amplifier Review

Audio Video Shopper

There's no way this six-channel amplifier should cost only $1,995 Essentially three stereo amplifiers sharing a single chassis, the AT1506 treats each pair of 150-watt channels to an independent power supply, featuring computer-grade capacitors and a custom-made toroidal transformer. The machined-aluminum faceplate features signal-sensing and overload indicators. 'Round back, you'll find jewelry-like RCA jacks and a trio of bridging switches that can turn the amp into a 3-by-450-watt monster. Unfortunately, the substantial binding posts - designed to meet international safety standards - cannot accept spade-lug connections, while the absence of carry handles makes it difficult to heft this 88 pounder. Despite the rows of finned heat sinks that form the left and right side panels, the amp got toasty warm during marathon listening sessions.

Neither as powerful as the Sunfire and Cinepro amps nor as refined as the Krell, the ATI nonetheless struck a perfect balance between brute force and sophistication. Visceral bass response provides a solid foundation for a vivid, upfront midrange presentation. Above that, treble was clean and precise, but don't expect the airy extension of the best high-end designs. Excellent stereo separation and a surprisingly large soundstage make this a great choice for music-loving movie fans.

Happily, the ATI1506 had no problem satisfying the Aerial speakers' voracious power appetite, encompassing large-scale dynamic contrasts with ease. When confronted with climactic special effects that demand simultaneous high volume from all channels - the train wreck scene from The Fugitive, for example - this amp refused to lose its composure, remaining relaxed and articulate where lesser products become flustered.

If you're looking to fuel a major-statement theater system in a reasonably sized room and can provide this large amp with adequate ventilation, the AT1506 is the best buy in home theater. Period.