FULL REVIEW: Enleum AMP-23R Amplifier

If you happen to be an audio enthusiast that is only impressed with large racks of gear, and convinced this is the only way to go, skip this review. You won’t want the Enleum AMP-23R. It’s small. Tiny, actually. Like 9 inches square and a little over 3 inches tall with super cool feet attached. I’ve seen bigger apple pies than this.

In all seriousness, it has about the same footprint as a Nagra Classic component and is half the height. Listening to the Chemical Brothers “Live Again,” the amount of bass at my command is staggering, controlled, and well defined – as listening to the Chemical Brothers should be. The rest of the frequency spectrum is equally well rendered.

For the rest of you, this amplifier is so special, there’s no real cliché to describe it. Often, as you go up the range of the world’s finest components, they reveal more music – more resolution, less noise, more dynamics, more of their core voice. What if you could have a modest helping (i.e. 25 watts worth) of “as good as it gets” sound for $6,250? That’s the Enleum AMP-23R. After a lot of listening comparisons, it stacks up with the finest gear.

At first, the thought of adding another great, low-powered amplifier to work with some of the high sensitivity speakers we’ve been reviewing, and keeping the hours low on my 300Bs was appealing. However, the minute the AMP-23R was connected up to the Peak Consult Sinfonias ($55k/pair) in place of the C-J ART88/PS Audio BHK600 monos powering them for some initial run in, the AMP-23R is non stop excitement. Running through track after track of music that’s been our review staples for 20 years, the AMP-23R turns in an incredible performance.

So intrigued with this, moving the AMP-23R over to the YG Hailey 3s ($67,000/pair) with a similar sensitivity, but different tonality than the Peaks, and even slightly more resolving, this little amplifier delivers an equally engaging performance. In both instances the source component is the dCS Vivaldi ONE. This is the point in the review, where excuses are made that the review component, only a fraction of the cost of the mega gear in said reference system really doesn’t measure up. Nope. Not here. Of course, the Enleum amplifier will not drive the Peaks or the Haileys to the same level as the big Pass or big PS monoblocks.

The sheer quality of musical experience delivered by the AMP-23R at reasonable volume levels is as good as it gets. (with modest efficiency speakers.)

The only reason I mention the cost of the first two speakers used with the AMP-23R is to illustrate the level of resolution it is capable of – and that it does not sound out of context in a 200k system. Hiding it in the rack when a few friends visited made it a lot of fun to play tricks with them. No one could believe this small amplifier could deliver such an exciting performance!

A fantastic partner for high sensitivity speakers

Installing a pair of efficient speakers is an even more amazing experience. If you’ve always liked horns, or other high sensitivity speakers, but still hold a bit of trepidation about SET amplifiers, the AMP-23R will surprise you in a very good way.

The relatively high impedance of most SET amplifiers makes them slightly more speaker sensitive than other amplifiers, and it’s usually the bass response that takes a hit, combined with their low damping factor, there aren’t many SETs with true bass grip. (Though we have had excellent results with Nagra, ampsandsound, and WAVAC, but these are all much more expensive than the Enleum)

Swapping speakers for the Heretic AD612s (98dB/1-watt), and the new Zu Audio DWXs (95dB/1-watt) both make the AMP-23Rs 25 watts per channel into 8 ohms (45 watts into 4 ohms) seem like way more power than you’d ever need. Even with the higher impedance Zu and Heretics, the AMP-23R never runs out of power.

More listening

Every bit of music selected was a wonderful experience through the AMP-23R. No matter what you enjoy, I think you will be fulfilled. The amplifier possesses a prodigious level of pace and timing. When listening to the usual Blue Note favorites, every player is locked down and does not waver. Tracking through Herbie Hancock’s Main Title theme to Blow Up, the drums are planted at the rear of the soundstage, as Freddie Hubbard’s horn comes in over Hancock’s piano.

Female vocal lovers just might think they are listening to an SET, because of the sheer delicacy this amplifier portrays the human voice. Whether I was listening to Chrissie Hynde, Christine Mc Vie, or Christina Aguilera, every subtle nuance of their voices came through with spectacular feel.

Transient response is also excellent, with no sense of fog, cloudiness, or overhang. Drum heavy music (take your pick) is refreshingly open and punchy. This contributes heavily to a complete lack of fatigue when listening for hours on end. Finally, the sound field created is immense in all three directions, yet the AMP-23R allows music to scale up and down with ease, and it sounds fantastic at very low volume levels as well. Zero complaints here.

A few comparisons

With a couple of great single ended and low powered tube amplifiers on hand to drive the Zu and Heretic speakers, it made sense to undertake some A/B comparisons. To be fair, the $24k pair of ampsandsound Bryce monoblocks deliver slightly more midrange magic and a bit larger overall soundstage. The Pass First Watt SIT-3 offers a bit more organic, warmer presentation, and the Pass INT-25 even warmer still. The Coincident Frankenstein amplifier with WE 300Bs also gives a bit more bloom, but it is in a fun, saturated way.

Except for the Pass INT-25, all of these are more expensive, power amplifiers only, and delivered the performance they did with the $38,000 Pass XS Preamplifier driving them. And tubes are tubes. Sometimes more glorious, but always needing replacement. The Pass INT-25 is more expensive, much larger, and much heavier, with a different tonality.

The point here is not to show any disrespect for the other players, but to again underline just how good the AMP-23R is. 

The Enleum difference

There have been a handful of great phono preamplifiers that operate in current mode, providing a tremendously transparent view of the music. The AMP-23R works this way as well, and the volume control varies the amplifier’s gain, instead of merely attenuating the input. Peaking inside, reveals a pair of Ensense gain modules and a single pair of output transistors bolted to the chassis as a heat sink. Please note, the Ensense modules use all discrete transistors, and no negative feedback. Taking the circuit further, Enleum’s JET2 Bias circuit works in real time to constantly monitor (and correct as needed) each pair of EXICON MOSFETS that make up the output stage.

The stark, yet highly fashionable casework takes the same approach as the circuit design. Ergonomics are top notch, and the machining quality is both tasteful and superb. Even the carefully designed trio of vibration controlling feet work with the mechanical design to keep a minimum of mechanical noise from entering the circuit board.

Around back is a pair of analog RCA inputs marked “Voltage.” These are traditional analog inputs, and the pair of BNC inputs in between them are marked “Enlink,” which are reserved for future Enleum products to work in current mode. (hopefully, a phono stage and matching DAC?) Finally, a small but efficient remote takes care of controlling things from your listening position.

A winning combination

The AMP-23R does everything right. No make that perfectly. In the couple of months that it’s been here, it’s literally a freak out every time we use it. And it’s been so much fun to have audiophile buddies visit with the AMP-23R playing on top of a rack full of massive gear and walk up to turn the level up on this tiny box. Surprise all around, and that’s a great thing.

I’d suggest a 90db/1-watt pair of speakers if you really need serious volume levels, but with the level of musical information that the Enleum 23R reveals, there isn’t a set of speakers under $100k a pair I wouldn’t connect it to. And it’s a killer headphone amplifier too. A quick email to Enleum reveals that the headphone jack is connected directly to the output stage, so it takes full advantage of the circuit, unlike so many integrated amplifiers that tack on a simple op-amp circuit as an afterthought.

Using the Focal Utopia 2022s for reference listening again shows off just how musical and resolving the AMP-23R is. Theoretically, you could buy this amplifier for headphone use only and still feel like you got a good deal.


They say that a true master knows where to pound the nail. I submit the founder of Enleum, Soo In Chae, is in the league of the true masters. The final measure of a top-quality product is the way every aspect of said product is realized. In addition to class A+ sound, this amplifier is wonderfully crafted, and finished to perfection. It is as much a joy to physically interact with and use as it is to listen to.

This amplifier more than deserves to sit on the same shelf with the world’s finest gear. I’ve purchased the review sample, and it will be doing just that here for years to come. I anxiously await what Enleum will bring to market next.



AMG V12 Turntable

Being an enthusiast of great industrial and mechanical design, I hold objects that perform as well as they look in the highest esteem.  I confess to becoming an admirer of the AMG V12 the second I saw pictures of it.  When I saw the V12 in person, had I been sitting on an analysts couch, performing a word-association drill, Leica would have been the first word that came to mind.  Imagine, those of you who own or have owned a Leica (or an older 500-series mechanical Hasselblad), that the camera maker decided to enter the turntable business and bring its level of machining expertise to turntable design.

But craftsmanship from a brand like Leica goes so far beyond simple aesthetics.  How would a turntable manufacturer translate the damped feel of a Leica focusing mechanism, or the positive engagement of a Ferrari gearshift, or the vault-like sound that a Rolls Royce door makes to the language of turntable design?  Germany’s AMG (for Analog Manufaktur Germany; no relation to the Mercedes-Benz design branch by the same initials) puts the same level of artistry into its V12 turntable.  Its design allows users to operate the capacitance-controlled power and speed switches and feel the effortlessness of the tonearm, while the uniformity of its machined and anodized surfaces provide a visual package as stunning as the turntable’s performance,

At $16,500, a cost which includes the wooden base and 12-inch AMG tonearm, the V12 achieves price parity with its peers from AVID, Clearaudio, SME and others.  During a conversation with AMG designer and principal Werner Röschlau at the Munich High-End back in May, I learned of the high level of refinement that the V12 offers and that this is not really his first attempt at building a turntable.  Röschlau, who is an engineer by trade, did high-precision machine work for a few top turntable manufacturers for over a decade.  Along with his own design expertise, Röschlau applied what he learned working for those manufacturers to the V12.

This turntable is the epitome of simplicity in look and operation.  Röschlau tells me that every aspect of the tables’ design revolves around simplicity, functionality and longevity.  “I truly hope that these turntables outlive me,” he says with a smile.

Sharpen Your Skills

The V12 offers an amazing combination of weight, stability and delicacy.  The SME arms that I use on a number of tables feel thick and clunky compared to the V12 arm (though the former are easier to adjust at first).  Again, the comparison to a Leica comes to mind with the V12, as I reflect on the turntable’s small, lightweight, minimalist controls that make perfect sense once you get used to them.

It’s often said that people who are masters of their craft make things look deceptively easy.  Sitting at home watching Sebastian Vettel win the F1 championship, you think, “How hard can it be? I can drive a car.”  I was thinking the same thing, as Garth Leerer, the US importer for Musical Surroundings, fine-tuned this table.

But this tonearm does not invite constant fiddling like a Tri-Planar does; the V12 arm is perfect for someone who sees turntable setup as something you do once, rather than for someone who sees it as an ongoing sport.  AMG includes a full set of allen-head screwdrivers for every one of the V12’s adjustments, though the instruction manual falls woefully short in terms of helping the uninitiated—there are no pictures.  If you haven’t set up your fair share of tonearms, this may not be the best place to begin your analog-setup journey.

The manual does warn you to use a light touch when making all adjustments.  The screws are all tiny: .65-, 1.5- and 2-mm allen-head screws that disappear into the casework, further contributing to the ultra-clean design.  But excess torque will destroy the subtle handiwork, so proceed with extreme care.

Another tip for those of you adding the V12 to your system:  Level the plinth before you attach the platter, as one of the three-adjustment screws is under the platter and cannot be accessed once you’ve fully assembled the table.  You should also be sure that the V12 is on a very solid surface, as the weight of this table will sink into any wooden rack shelves you might have.

Adding the optional HRS platform made specifically for the V12 boosts performance even further, with better low-level detail and transient slam, but the upgraded platform is not necessary—the V12 is enjoyable delivered from the factory as is.  But Leerer mentions that he feels the sound of any turntable can be improved by better isolation, such as that offered by the HRS platform, which offers a similar performance increase when I pair it with my fully suspended AVID Volvere SP turntable.  The HRS platform is a $2,500 upgrade that is well worth the investment.

Though the V12 requires a steady and patient hand to optimize it, the end result is more than worth the effort.  And if you subscribe to the philosophy of form following function, there may be no better example of record-spinning art than the V12.  Even the belt-drive mechanism is handily hidden beneath the platter—the mechanism slips on easily if you use the enclosed spiked wooden tool according to the manual.  (The turntable manual is much better than the tonearm manual, and it’s well illustrated.).  Röschlau makes it a point to mention that even this step, while appearing a style move, “Keeps the belt out of the environment and free of dust and UV rays.”

Recalibrate Your Senses

The V12 sounds as good as it looks, perhaps even better.  Immediately upon power up, the V12 feels solid and elegant—this is a serious record-playing machine.  The glowing red speed buttons turn to green with a mere touch.  And the V12 can accommodate 78RPM playback, for those with legacy collections.

We can argue about the merits and shortcomings of a 12-inch tonearm versus a shorter tonearm, but the main argument for a longer arm is minimized tracing distortion.  Here, the V12 succeeds brilliantly by utilizing an incredibly stiff yet lightweight tonearm wand that has an effective mass of only 12.9 grams.

A non-suspended design, the V12 table utilizes a massive CNC-machined plinth and an adjustable, high-mass aluminum “pod” pre-drilled for the tonearm mounting.  This removable pod uses a bayonet mount and is geared towards the analog enthusiast wishing to explore multiple tonearm and cartridge options. The finely gradated scale, where the base of the pod meets the plinth, makes it easy to perform the necessary adjustments for other tonearms with slightly different spindle-to-pivot distances.

Listening begins with a well-broken-in Lyra Kleos that has spent enough time on the AVID Volvere SP/SME V and the VPI Classic tables to be a familiar starting point for my review of the V12.  The AMG is considerably more expensive than the VPI and still almost a third more than the AVID/SME combination, and the presentation is markedly different.  Immediately, there is an increase in resolution from top to bottom, as well as a decrease in distortion.  A handful of albums from the “chronic-inner-groove-distortion” bin track through much easier than before.

Camper Van Beethoven’s Key Lime Pie just happens to be at the top of this list.  A record that has always felt fairly grainy and etched on top plays now tracks clean.  The inner cut on side one, “Light From a Cake,” used to have a more gravely feel to the vocals, usually causing me to prematurely end the side, but now it sounds smooth, with the drums greatly improved and the violin fluid, where this experience used to be torturous.

Investigating other problematic tracks reveals the same thing: an overall continuity and sonic integrity, with no sign of drawbacks.  Thanks to the Furutech’s incredibly handy disc flattener, there are no more warped records in my collection, so I can’t comment on the longer tonearm’s ability to track highly warped records.

Time Flies

Now that I’m comfortable with the sound of the V12, exploring different cartridges is in order.  Next stop is the Sumiko Palo Santos, which has been favorably reviewed here, and offers a similar tonal balance to the Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum.  Slightly rich tonally, this combination provides excellent extension and a somewhat warm rendition of the lower frequencies.

The AMG tonearm transforms the Palo Santos cartridge.  Sounding almost too warm and a little tubby with the SME 312 tonearm (also 12 inches), the Palo Santos snaps to life on the AMG, now with more definition in the lower registers.  Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic Street Survivors, via the recent MoFi Silver Label release, proves enlightening, with the multiple layers of guitars now having more bite than before; yet, the overall presentation retains the smoothness that is the signature of the V12.

The more time I spend with the V12, the more the palette it paints feels like open reel tape.  Herbie Hancock’s masterpiece, Empyrean Isles, unfolds just as it did when I heard the master tape during the Music Matters remastering session, with the presence of each of the four virtuosos retaining distinctly separate spaces and with the musicians’ complex improvisations intact.  The V12 delivers percussion and cymbals that are rich with attack and decay, but that strike a perfect balance of timbre and tone.

Diva Approved

Of course, the female voice is the litmus test for so many audiophiles, so a thorough exploration again reveals the extremely low distortion this configuration is capable of.  Now, having moved to the Clearaudio Goldfinger cartridge, the bar is raised considerably.  Anyone doubting that this table can carry what is arguably one of the world’s finest (and, at $15,000, most expensive) cartridges is selling the AMG table short.

Marianne Faithfull’s take on the Rolling Stones’ classic “As Tears Go By,” from her 1987 record Strange Weather, is sublime, with the V12 extracting every bit of her addiction-scarred voice, and with Bill Frisell’s guitar hiding in the background, wandering in and out of the mix.  Faithfull’s voice is tough to capture, but the V12 gets every bit of grit out of the vinyl, highlighting the differences between the original pressing and the ORG 45RPM remaster.

Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez’s rendition of Aria from ‘La Wally’ illustrates how well the AMG/Goldfinger combination paints the striking sustain of the solo voice in an operatic setting.  Much like being called on to reproduce the violin, the combination demands tonal purity and a wide dynamic range, or else the illusion is lost.  Fernandez’s voice feels as if it is floating in front of me, even on the most dramatic passages.  For those unfamiliar with this piece, it is featured on the soundtrack of the ’80s cult-classic film, Diva.

Let’s Review

After living with the AMG V12 since mid June, I’m as smitten with it as the day I first unboxed it—not always an easy feat in the wacky and rapidly evolving world of high-end audio.  It’s often too easy for the charm that captures you in a dealer or hi-fi show demo to fade all too quickly after the excitement of the purchase wears off.  A cursory look at the online buying-and-selling community Audiogon will reveal this to be the case with so much gear.

I’m happy to say that this has not happened with the V12—hence I’ve purchased the review sample to make it a permanent part of our reference system.   There is still more information to be culled from your LP collection, but it’s going to take a lot more money to get there, especially if you’ve paired your V12 with a flagship cartridge like the Clearaudio Goldfinger, Lyra Atlas or something comparable.

The AMG V12 is such an excellent value, in terms of performance for the price, meticulous build quality and timeless style, that we award it our Analog Product of the Year award.  -Jeff Dorgay

The AMG V12 Turntable

MSRP: $16,500 (includes wooden base and 12-inch AMG tonearm)

Please click here for the AMG Factory site

Please click here for Sierra Sound, the US Distributor of AMG


Phono Cartridge Lyra Kleos    Sumiko Palo Santos    Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement
Phonostage Audio Research REF Phono 2SE    Simaudio Moon 810LP
Preamplifier Audio Research REF 5SE    Robert Koda K-10
Power Amplifier Pass Labs XA200.5 monoblocks
Speakers GamuT S9    Sonus faber Aida
Cable Cardas Clear