Tower of Power
Ramsa 9000 Seres Power Amps
Len Davies of Apex Studio, Cardiff assesses the performance of two of Ramsa's powerful new 9000 Series amps.
Over recent months, Ramsa have received acclaim from many reviewers for their microphones and speaker systems, and it would be so easy to be blinkered by the name. Can their new WP-9110 and WP-9220 power amplifiers live up to such a reputation? Len Davies of Apex Studio, Cardiff finds out.
Both amplifiers under review are 19-inch rack mountable, with a pair of sturdy handles on the front, and both sport a very hi-tech black livery - the only cosmetic difference between the models being that the 9220 (200 watts RMS per side) is the larger unit of the two, therefore the description that follows is applicable to both models.
What immediately struck me about the Ramsa units was the uncluttered front panel design that leaves you in no doubt as to the amplifier's status at any time.
Starting from the right of the unit there are three LEDs, the top one being the Peak level indicator that shows red when distortion occurs. The next one down is the Signal level indicator which shows green when the unit reaches -20dB below the rated output level, and the bottom one being the Protect indicator lamp which is a thoughtful aspect of the design as it illuminates red when the amplifier's muting circuit is activated.
'Muting' is a term used to describe the output status during initial power-on, when no sound will be heard for the first four to six seconds to prevent turn on noise and allow the unit to warm up. Muting also operates during overheating or any malfunction, thus saving any damage to the connected speakers. It's good to be able to see at a glance whether or not the amplifier is at fault when you are suddenly faced with silence.
Below the LEDs is the input level control - a small, notched dial with calibrated markings showing the amount of attenuation applied to the input signal. With the control at '0' (set fully clockwise), the unit should reach its rated output when a +4dB input level is reached. The input control is not recessed into the front panel, as some potential users may prefer, but is mounted so as not to protrude too far out that it might get accidentally knocked in passing.
The lefthand side of the amp is the same as above, with the addition of the all-important power on/off switch and red 'power on' LED above it.
In the centre of the unit is a large, protective grille covering a removable, washable air filter, behind which lies the amplifier's cooling fan (a spare filter is generously supplied by Ramsa along with simple instructions for changing it - every 12,000 miles?). This fan is always on when the amp is on but, cleverly, runs faster or slower according to the operating temperature of the amp and is quiet enough to present no noise problems if you are contemplating installing one in your control room.
A useful point for a permanently fixed amplifier is the ability to remove the input level knobs and insert protective caps (also supplied) into the holes to prevent undesirable bodies from adjusting preset levels. Great for studio work, although they could cause more hassle than they're worth on the road.
On both sides of the rear panel there are four-pin Molex-type connectors for remote monitors (enabling you to position bargraph or VU meters etc where you can see them more easily), a mode switch allowing Stereo, Mono or Bridge modes to be selected (for the uninitiated, Bridge mode is when both sides of a stereo amp are summed together, eg. 150W + 150W would give a total mono output of 300W).
On the bottom righthand side there is a captive mains lead and an automatic resetting AC mains circuit breaker (much better than hunting for the spare fuse that you know was "in here somewhere"). This is easy to miss being hidden below channel A's input jack.
The Ramsa amp rear panels are fitted with a generous helping of 'balanced' input sockets, both male and female XLRs and a stereo jack socket per side, although due to the internal wiring configuration only one can be used per side at any time. Outputs appear on a pair of quarter-inch mono jack sockets (4 ohms) as well as the more conventional 'banana' type screw connectors (8 ohms), the latter providing a reduced power output of 100W + 100W on the 9110 model and 200W + 200W on the 9220.
Two solid rubber feet prevent damage to the rear connectors, and these can be easily removed for rack mounting.
The opening word must be about the comprehensive manual which accompanies each Ramsa amp. There are certain things to be careful of when wiring the unit up, so consultation of the manual is vital before switching on.
Tests started with the lower powered 9110 amplifier. The speakers used for the practical studio test were a pair of Tannoy studio monitors, and a pair of old, highly abused but much-loved, ex-Disco 'Glitter System' speakers, boasting 160 watt H/H drivers each side, that up until now have taken everything I could pump through them.
I selected a very bassy track from a tape of a local band, and through the Tannoys the sound was crystal clear - no apparent distortion (and I might add that the Peak LED didn't come on once, even though the monitors were close to tearing the building down), no sign of clipping, and all frequencies appeared to be there in correct abundance. A change of tape provided rock music with the same result.
So on to the Glitters. An initial look at the individual specs indicated that the Ramsa amps, theoretically, should pump out more than the rated output. The test with the Tannoys seemed to bear this out, but the Glitters would prove it.
On went the bassy tape, up went the volume, and the sound was superb. This time the Peak light illuminated occasionally, although no apparent distortion could be discerned with the naked ear. I drove the amp as hard as I could, but the attenuator could still give me more, even when I thought that the speakers were going to crumple into a gibbering heap!
Based on that result, I decided that I didn't have the speakers capable of handling the more powerful 9220, so I contacted my favourite music store, and one of my associates who I knew could help.
At the music store, the unit was fed through several of the Tannoy 'Wildcat' speaker range, with similar results to the 9110 being achieved. However, due - to the compact nature of the shop, the test wasn't too conclusive. So on to a pair of Bose PA speakers in a local club, and a compact disc of Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms album. The result was 'sensational' as Tony Blackburn might have said.
The graphic equaliser in the club's PA system was negated for the duration of the tests so that I could judge the frequency response, and I was impressed. The combination of 'Money For Nothing', the 9220, and the Bose speakers was nothing short of beautiful.
The power was there in abundance, no Peak light at all, no distortion or signal clipping, and the sound became unbearably loud at well below maximum attenuation. Again, all the frequencies were there, my only comment being that it sounded a touch 'toppy' with the desk EQ set 'flat', which was mainly due to the acoustics of the hall I suspect, as it balanced out nicely when the graphic equaliser was switched back in. All in all, an excellent result.
Without a doubt, these amps are worth checking out. Ramsa openly states that at the prices quoted these amplifiers are undoubtedly in the 'Rolls Royce' league, but that shouldn't stop professionals and amateurs alike benefitting from the quality offered. The only negative point is a subjective one concerning the small input level controls, which one of my co-engineers at Apex Studio felt "would drive him crazy" if he was faced with adjusting the attenuation regularly.
The amps retail at £589.99 including VAT for the WP-9110, and £799.99 including VAT for the WP-9220. Both would be suitable for either studio or PA work and, overall, in answer to the question posed in the opening of this review - yes, Ramsa have done it again. The amps impressed me so much that I want one!
Review by Len Davies
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