Danish brand Densen need little introduction to audiophiles in the know. Dominic Marsh has a play with their B-130XS amplifier costing £2490.
I don’t think I need to do too big an introduction to the Densen marque, or the reputation of their products that precedes this review. However, for those who are not familiar with the name Densen, I can tell you that the company has been trading for over 20 years, is located in Denmark and highly regarded for their quality products. Simplicity of their designs (especially the casework) has been the keystone of all their designs and unmistakably and uniquely Densen in the implementation.
This amplifier, so Densen tell me, is a slimmed down version of their B-150PLUS which sounds like there has been some stripping out and compromises along that road towards this product’s birth, but that is of no concern to me whatsoever as I evaluate all products purely on what is presented to me at face value.
The slim line case and simple front panel controls have always been the hallmark of a Densen product and so no surprises then that the B-130XS integrated amplifier follows in the same layout style. The review sample was supplied in a brushed black anodised finish and when it came to giving it a dusting I made the mistake of using a yellow fabric duster which left tiny particles where I had dusted, leaving it looking powdery and smeared. A lint free damp cloth did the trick.
Given that it is a rather compact unit it is surprisingly heavy, due no doubt to the large and heavy toroidal transformer contained within. The front panel controls consist of four chrome plated round buttons which control the standby, muting and volume up/down, then we find a central LED display showing the volume level setting and the selected source, followed by another set of four round chrome buttons, two for source selection and another labelled “Proc” for an external AV loop and a status button.
To the rear from left to right we find twelve pairs of RCA sockets, labelled CD, TUNER, LINE 1, LINE 2, TAPE 1 INPUT, TAPE 1 OUTPUT, PROC IN, PROC OUT and two pairs of pre-amplifier outputs which enables the user to connect additional power amplifiers. There is also a socket labelled “EPS” so you can fit an optional extra Densen external power supply which boosts the amplifier’s output capability. Below that is a “D” type male connector marked “LINK” for Denlink connections to other Densen products in multi-room installations. Finally, there is an IEC power inlet connector and integral mains on/off switch.
Above the RCA connectors is a removable blanking plate which can accommodate a Densen SB-1 and SB-2 Surround Boards for 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. While we are discussing optional extras for the B-130XS, there is available a moving magnet RIAA phono board and to follow soon a moving coil RIAA module too. For those that require a digital to analogue convertor, a plug in Densen FabelDAC module is available, so there is no need to change models for these facilities, simply plug them in as required.
Power output in 8 ohms: 2x80W
Power output in 4 ohms: 2x160W
Power supply size: 500VA
Storage capacity: 90.000uF
THD + Noise @ rated output: Less than 0.05%
Frequency response (+0 -3db): 2-500.000Hz
Weight/shipping weight: 13/14 Kg
Product dimensions (WxDxH): 440x310x64mm
Note that a remote control handset is not supplied as standard. The Gizmo remote has an RRP of £199.00, so do bear that in mind when purchasing this Densen product.
Recommended retail price of the B-130XS is £2,490.00.
I was informed that the B-130XS needed around 200 hours of running in from new so I had to oblige of course. It did sound a bit heavy and laboured at first hearing fresh out of the box, but within 25 or so hours it began to sound a lot more free and open, so at around 100 hours I began to listen with the amplifier in my system until I had clocked up the required running in period and then began the evaluation.
At switch on the amplifier goes through a brief self test routine and you can hear for about 3 seconds the tick, tick, tick in quick succession of relays being energised, which sounds not unlike an old 1940’s Smiths tin plate alarm clock ticking away. At first hearing it did surprise me to say the least.
I played a large variety of music through the amplifier and it coped well with every CD that I played, ranging from large orchestral pieces, to heavy rock and acoustic music.
The acid test for me though is how well this amplifier stands up to my intimate knowledge of Fink’s “Wheels Beneath My Feet” live album. The intro strikes on the Ride cymbal the drummer plays on track one called “Biscuits For Breakfast” is so convincing and just so realistic, as is the pounding kick drum that features throughout the entire album. Interestingly enough, the benchmark for true high fidelity for me personally is how almost tangible and very much lifelike how the rim shots sound on the Snare drum and the rim, stick strike and shell of the drum must all be audible, the Densen amplifier not only gave a true and life-like rendition of that sound it also managed to recreate the venue’s ambience of those very same rim shots. Wow, that IS impressive in my book.
This CD has been recorded in different venues throughout Europe during one of Fink’s many tours so the venue ambience is different for each location and the B-130XS amplifier homes in on this like a laser guided missile and missing none of it. Each audience reacts differently too and this is one of the very few amplifiers I have installed into my system that really does make you feel you are sat in amongst the audience. No “shooshing” sounds like bacon frying in a pan during the applause, each audience member is an individual, clapping, whistling, cheering and cat calling enthusiastically all around you. The bass guitar had a real deep biting growl to it and the floor tom whacks by the drummer really did make my listening room shake, which shows the amplifier has plenty of power in reserve despite the modest 80 watts per channel power rating. This track “Sort of Revolution” has a highly propulsive underpinning to it and will readily show up timing errors in the bass and drums, and I am pleased to report that the B-130XS amplifier is exceptional at bass timing.
When we talk about this level of fine detail, it might be crossing your mind reading this review that this amplifier is a bit explicit or somehow spot lit in its treble and midrange resolution, but be assured it isn’t, as you can listen to this amplifier for hour after hour and it never fatigues, despite the high quantity of fine detail and nuances it is feeding you. If it did, I would have no hesitation at all in saying so.
Of course, speaker matching is also critical to an amplifier’s performance and I had a few pairs to hand to put the amplifier through its paces. First of these was the Opera Mezza standmount speakers and this was not a happy marriage; the speakers with their innate forwardness did not suit the B-130XS’s nature so they were taken out and a pair of Roksan TR5 S2’s put in their place. The Roksan speakers have a healthy bass output and a smooth silky top end from their ribbon tweeter and this pairing was a real joy to listen to with many hours of smooth detailed fatigue free listening. Then I tried a pair of Audiovector QR1 standmount speakers and the sound took on a faster pace with a more lively dynamic presentation which managed to walk that fine line between “exciting” and “fatiguing”. The dynamics were spectacular, with transients coming rapidly and dying away equally as fast, which shows the amplifier has excellent control over a speaker’s behaviour.
Negatives? The crisp edges of the chassis coupled with the heavy weight of the amplifier left red weals on my fingers when moving the amplifier around, although for the end user once installed it will be no further problem. The remote having to be purchased separately pleases me not, as the majority of manufacturers include one in the purchase price as standard – even a cheap credit card sized one to use initially.
This is no cheap budget amplifier bought either lightly or in haste for sure and Densen acknowledge that by giving a lifetime warranty with all their products to the first owner, so that adds real value to the purchase price. It can be upgraded with additional external power supplies, a DAC board, surround sound facilities and two phono stages too if that is your desire, so you are not stuck with the one basic model or have the need to buy a better (read more expensive) model as your needs change over time. A good plus point.
It easily separates out complex musical strands and presents them as individual entities with no clashing or smearing. Imaging too is precise and three dimensional, extending way out beyond the speaker boundaries, with depth and height well portrayed.
Sound quality is refined and powerful, with seemingly unflappable power delivery. Timing is excellent, transients delivered with both speed and power, while at low level listening it is as clear and lucid as it is at high volumes.
Build quality: Heavy gauge chassis panels lend an air of solidity, beware though of the crisp edges when handling. Contemporary yet ageless styling
Sound quality: Surefooted and powerful, the specifications belie the raw energy this amplifier can produce
Value for money: Not in a budget class purchase by any standards, but this is a lifetime purchase with upgrade options available. The scarcity on the secondhand market speaks volumes
Pros: Sound quality, ease of use and lifetime warranty, are all included in an attractive package
Cons: No remote control handset as standard