“Just for fun tonight, as I’m recovering from flu, I spotted my son’s innocuous little Carvin DCM200L stereo guitar amp resting against the wall of his room and wondered what it might sound like in my hi-fi system. What the hell, it would be fun, and I was tired of lying down, so why not?

This small 1U height rack mount stereo power amplifier claims 100W per channel into 8 ohms, has too many controls and lights for my liking and is ridiculously small and light to be able to supply the claimed power for any length of time. The blurb says it has a switched mode power supply and class AB circuit. There are no external heatsinks or fans.

The Carvin is so light that the combination of decent power cable and speaker cables wanted to pull it off the rack so I put it on four sorbothane feet and weighed it down with a FluxDumper. I used the XLR balanced inputs (no phono inputs on a professional amp) and plugged the Yannis cables normally feeding my lovely Chord in, not expecting it to stay for long.

Well, I say! It’s clean and uncoloured and unfeasibly powerful. I hit it with my Sheffield Lab James Newton Howard vinyl containing some of the hardest hitting drums ever recorded. This thing rocks! Played as loud as I ever go, I could not get the clipping lights to flicker even once. The drums hit very hard and very cleanly with no sign of dynamic restraint. My Ushers were very happy with it. There is no glare or shoutiness at all, something I had expected from what I envisaged is a rough but robust circuit. Music emerges from blackness, is detailed with good dimension to the soundstage and imparts some degree of delicacy. What is missing is the last word in fine detail and a slightly dark overall balance – a very much better performance than I had expected.

Oh yes, the price – I spotted a new one for $269 on eBay. Now that’s great value for money and should scare away some of the more mimsy hi-fi creations at five times its price. It’s clearly priced for a different market and that makes it a steal. If you’re looking for an inexpensive sandy beast with some proper welly, try the Carvin range. This one is the entry level model.”

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