ALLO VOLT+D Long term Review

Berlyassocial

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I've been a fan of cost-effective amplifiers all my life. Maybe because the initial days of my audiophile journey were with class A tube amps which were comparatively expensive but in the long run didn't satisfy me on price to performance ratio.

That's how I started looking for a NO-Frills Amplifier with a simple design that measures well and doesn't cost a kidney. Eventually, I ended up buying the Volt+D from ALLO and it's been close to 2 years since I started using it.

SOUND AND PERFORMANCE
Right out of the box the VOLT+D sounded very clean. extremely low noise floor compared to tubes and class AB designs.
It doesn't give extra emphasis on any particular frequency range, just a neutral-sounding amplifier.
Power delivery was a bit limited. even though ALLO spec sheet says 50 WATTS per channel, it was very clear that I was getting only around 15-25 watts per channel with the supplied 19V SMPS.
This power issue was evident when I was playing some movies as I would keep the attenuator well past the Midpoint to get a reasonable SPL.
For music it was okay. so overall headroom in terms of power is quite low with the 19v power supply.

someone had told in a forum that "if the stepped attenuator is bypassed then the performance is much better"
So I did it too. It was a pretty straightforward process and I used it like that for about 1 year and then connected the attenuator back to its original configuration with the attenuator set at last detent (MAX VOLUME) and guess what I couldn't spot any difference. Who knows! maybe my 29-year-old ears are not good enough to hear the difference.

For performance measurements please refer to https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/allo-volt-d-amplifier-review.15539/

BUILD
Build quality of the cabinet is very low.
It feels like a toy you buy from a festival shack
The acrylic panels have gaps in between and are loosely fitted to each other.
The feel of the stepped attenuator is quite bad and it reminds me of the rotary switch of my mom's old mixer grinder.

Build quality of PCB looks very good. Most of the components are of good quality. but I encountered some issues in the last 1 month.

issue#1
The toggle switch in the front panel is a mute switch. Since there is no power switch I do not switch it off at all because to my logic if the company doesn't equip the unit with a power switch then they don't want you to switch it off and moreover, I live in the UAE where the voltage doesn't fluctuate and there is no risk of surge because there is hardly any thunderstorms. But around 3 weeks back one of the channels suddenly was sounding very low. On further investigation found that this issue is common among VOLT+D users and the culprit is the GAIN selector switch at the bottom of the unit. so as a fix I disconnected the unit put some drops of alcohol on the gain switch, toggled it a few times, and "Voila!" it's working fine again. The same thing happened after 1 week so it concludes that the implementation or the quality of the Gain selector switch is not good enough.

issue#2
Yesterday I was casually sitting in the room and one channel had a high noise floor like a poorly implemented tube amp. To check if the problem persists during playback I tried to play some music and discovered that the particular channel in question is not making any music.
Assuming that it's the gain selector making issues again because it was sober for more than a week, I gave it some booze again. But this time even after all the alcohol consumption the problem persisted.
Eventually after much troubleshooting like switching off & on, toggling the mute switch many times, I found that this time the culprit was the stepped attenuator.
So the last detent of the stepped attenuator was somehow causing one channel to misbehave and produce a loud noise floor with no music.
once I put the attenuator one step back everything was working normally again. maybe one of the resistors at the last detent went kaput.

At this point, I'm thinking that may be "its time to see other amps". Not in any way a bad breakup though, because for the investment I did for her she served me very well for the last 2 years.
I mean seriously despite the issues I had, you have to give credit to ALLO for providing us with a clean sounding product at a very competitive cost.
What I think ALLO is doing here is that they are on the path to a more refined amplifier by fine-tuning their best implementations. And instead of years of R&D with no profit, they are going the path where they are providing a decent but incomplete implementation to the customers for a very reasonable cost.
So basically it's a win-win for both parties given that both parties accept some compromises.

VERDICT

There is no doubt that ALLO VOLT+D is a price to performance king.
yes, there are quality control and implementation issues.

Will I buy it again ? and the answer is NO!
But my NO is not on a bad note. It is just that now I'm comfortable buying a bit more expensive and finished product and not bother about the nicks and nags of DIYish design.
But again that's the whole point of an amp like this. I mean honestly, I don't think even ALLO expects someone to buy this amp and use it their whole audiophile journey.

The point of this amp is very simple.
let's say you are an amateur audiophile who wants to get a straightforward, good-sounding, very reasonably priced amp to start your hobby and you do not wish to enter the confusing and elusive vintage amp underworld.
Then this is exactly one of the amplifiers you should seriously consider buying. It will stay loyal and serve you well for around 2 or more years. By that time if you study well and work fairly hard then you can afford a finished product at a higher price.

During this stressful transition of your life, the little VOLT+D will support you mentally by playing soothing melodies or some jazz or blues or classics so that you can sit back, forget your earthly worries and immerse yourself into the world of music.

On that good note, I'm concluding my review.
HAPPY LISTENING.
 
I replaced my tube amp (Cadence VA 1.0) with this volt+d amp from allo. Very satisfied. The other thing I did was that in my case there was something wrong in the way the speaker output terminals were connected to the PCB. It was a minor soldering job. I have kept the attenuator at maximum volume and have never used the mute and gain switch till date.

Overall, extremely satisfied with this AMP.
 
I replaced my tube amp (Cadence VA 1.0) with this volt+d amp from allo. Very satisfied. The other thing I did was that in my case there was something wrong in the way the speaker output terminals were connected to the PCB. It was a minor soldering job. I have kept the attenuator at maximum volume and have never used the mute and gain switch till date.

Overall, extremely satisfied with this AMP.
Are you using this with Cadence speakers?
 
Yes. Cadence Arista electrostatic speakers.
Wow! that's definitely noteworthy of Allo if the Volt amp is driving those to satisfaction. I heard that the VA1 pairing with cadence electrostats is almost like a match made in heaven. Do you prefer the Volt pairing over the VA1?

I do have the Vana player from Allo that has their first volt amp board, was impressed with it driving tabaq full ranger.
 
Wow! that's definitely noteworthy of Allo if the Volt amp is driving those to satisfaction. I heard that the VA1 pairing with cadence electrostats is almost like a match made in heaven. Do you prefer the Volt pairing over the VA1?

I do have the Vana player from Allo that has their first volt amp board, was impressed with it driving tabaq full ranger.
Yes. I prefer the volt. The High Frequency is more detailed.
 
The Marantz PM7000N offers big, spacious and insightful sound, class-leading clarity and a solid streaming platform in a award winning package.
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