Quite compact but reassuringly solid and heavy, this 85wpc stereo integrated amplifier is purposeful in appearance. Eschewing the current Euro-fad for ultra-clean starkness, the Caspian M2 looks like a purposeful high-tech machine, unashamed of its lights, buttons and knobs! I like it – it has a blunt and honest ‘this is what I am’ attitude that also carries over into its sonic performance.
So, yes, 85WPC – and with 6 line level inputs, and a stereo pre-amp output allowing bi-amping or a separate power amp to be used. Also, and quite unusually, there is a stereo input to access the power amplifier section directly, bypassing the Caspian M2’s own pre-amp, although this has to be set at the factory. A single set of stereo loudspeaker output posts is provided.
If you use a turntable for playing vinyl, then you’ll need a separate phonostage.
The current UK retail price is £1699.
The Caspian M2 has remote control of source and volume, plus volume ‘mute’. Unusually, the mute function only drops the output level by 20dB, which isn’t a massive reduction in sound level. Personally, I would prefer a full mute with no sound at all when the mute function is selected.
Low level detailing and transient speed are very good – you can follow with ease the intricacies of fingerwork on plucked instruments – whether acoustic guitar (Nils Lofgren Acoustic Live), lute (Robert Barto plays Silvius Weiss sonatas) or harpsichord (Huguette Dreyfuss playing Bach keyboard partitas).
Left to right soundstaging and image focus is very good, with individual musicians or sounds well localised against an appropriate ambient background. 3D depth isn’t at all bad, but I have heard further into a recording venue’s acoustic space with other amps. It’s more of a ‘wall of sound’ than an immersive holographic experience — which is fine, and certainly very enjoyable and involving on many musical genres.
The Caspian M2 can start and stop with grin-inducing rapidity. Fast drumwork really brings out this ability, with individual ‘thwacks’ and subsequent decays being clearly resolved within the overall presentation.
The amp really captures the exhiliration and hard hitting excitement of 1980’s pop group The Buggles in their classic album, Age Of Plastic, with its demonstration class sound.
On Yello’s Touch virtual concert DVD the synthesised bass was deep and vibrant, the left / right stereo panning was nicely captured, and the bass transient-led dance tracks were appropriately grin-inducing – all this making for a very enjoyable listening session. I have to say that I loved it!
The amp always felt in control of the loudspeakers, at any volume level. There are more powerful amplifiers out there, if you look at wattage specifications; but look a bit closer at the specs and you’ll see that the M2 has a commendably high 60 amps of current delivery – aha, so that’s where the control and dynamic heft comes from!
Without doubt, the bass frequencies are impressive. Deep, powerful, highly resolved and articulate, with real heft and slam. Mmmm — lovely stuff! I can well imagine many folk falling head over heels in love with this amp for its bass performance alone! I think it is excellent by any standards.
Further up the frequency spectrum, the Caspian does not choose to go down the path of sweetness and euphony; it is a touch on the dry side and seems a little ‘matter of fact’ on some music. Perhaps a little too dry to me on a wide range of classical music, personally I’m looking for a richer tonal palette here.
Oh, those rhythms! —
I suspect it is because of the combination of excellent bass control and somewhat dry tonality that the Caspian amp really locks-on to rhythms and subtle dynamic inflections – and this really brings, for example, dance and rock music alive. Older readers may well be reminded of the ‘Flat Earth’ type of presentation of earlier Naim equipment, for example, where a similarly balanced presentation won vociferous admirers and detractors around the world!
Playing Roots from Show of Hands’ live ‘Best of” album, the Caspian M2 really comes into its own – the full rhythmic swagger and foot stomping beat of this amazing track just made me laugh out loud in enjoyment. A really exhilarating experience — Fabulous!
Overall, I found the Caspian to have quite a distinctive sound. Well-resolved but somewhat dry high frequencies, mids that are clear and articulate and with a touch of that same dryness, and bass that is deep, powerful and well controlled. Imaging is a bit 2D – if you want to explore the rear of the concert hall in painstaking detail I suggest you look elsewhere.
It’s the rhythmic ability of the Caspian M2 that really stands out for me and will ensure it many friends and happy owners. Probably not my choice for delicate “girl with guitar” music, where I would like a little more in the way of soundstage depth and tonal sweetness, or even for die-hard classical fans, but play something with rhythmic swagger as its underlying foundation and this amp is bound to please.
So it’s not an amp for everyone, there are many other choices if you want a jack-of-all-trades (but master of none!); but if bass-led music with rhythmic drive is important to you, and you want a clear and controlled overall presentation that veers away from sweetness and euphony, then the Roksan Caspian M2 integrated amp is well worth an audition. I would expect you to be impressed by its many sonic virtues, as well as its functionally attractive appearance, and excellent ergonomics and build quality.
Review system: MBL 116F speakers, Parasound Halo A21 power amp, Restek Consens pre-amp, McCormack UDP-1 universal disc player. RFC Pluto i/c and Audio Technica OFC bi-wire speaker cables.
Author – Jerry