REVIEW – The LSA Warp 1 Power Amplifier Class D Redefined

By Jerold O'Brien

We’ve been having a great time here at TONE with the new LSA products that Mark Schifter has been sending us. For those of you that don’t remember, he was one of the principals in Audio Alchemy and remains the king of high value/high performance audio. These days he works with Walter Lederman at Underwood HiFi, continuing to fight the good fight.

It’s always tons of fun to write about mega amplifiers and monster speakers with five and even six-figure price tags, but we know that about a third of our audience has a $2,000 – $10,000 system, all in. When you’re spending five or six g on your system, you have to proceed with caution, seeking out the most bang for the buck to really maximize it. $1,199 for 150 watts per channel is awesome, because it allows a wider range of speaker options than that 25 watt per channel, modded Dynaco you were going to buy.

Seriously, as nice of a combination as the Warp 1 makes with LSA’s DPH-1 preamp, if you have to have a bit more warmth, $800 will find you a nice vintage tube preamplifier to warm things up a bit. (which is exactly what I did a little later in the review – you can’t take the cheese out of a Wisconsin guy, and you can only take so much warmth out of a hardcore tube guy…)

But Class D?

I know, you’re thinking “Jerold is going for class D? That grumpy, curmudgey guy that likes 70s CJ and ARC tube amps?” Time for a few new spots, I guess.

Back when class D amps hit the scene, they offered efficient operation in a compact size with low power requirements. (And low heat generation) But, they kinda suuuucked in the sound department. Brittle and harsh was the order of the day. Additionally, they could be tough to mate with speakers that either had a low impedance dip or were somewhat difficult to drive. Much like an SET or OTL tube amplifier. Things have changed. The breed is improved.

I’m pretty old school and get crabby when called upon to go outside of my comfort zone. However, everything we’ve sampled from LSA has proven to be excellent. I’ve been eyeing the publishers Teddy speakers in his garage, and as I still have the DPH-1 Headphone amp/DAC in my garage, it made perfect sense.

We can talk tech, or we can talk fun

If you want all the specs and an in-depth report on all the tech that’s gone into this small amplifier (14”W x 10”D x 3”H) please click here to visit Underwood HiFi’s site:

It tells you everything you need to know about power (150wpc – 8 ohms) and the rest of the specs. Suffice to say, being a car guy, I had to pop the top and peek inside, this little amplifier is robustly built. LSA claims that this amplifier is stable into 2 ohms, and while I couldn’t completely verify that, my Quad 57s that have shut down more than one “modern” amplifier at modest volume, had no problems with the Warp 1. That’s as scientific as I get.

Doing most of my listening with a pair of Vandersteen 1CE speakers, a pair of ProAc Tablettes and some Magnepan SMGs all were fantastic matches. When I returned the Warp 1, our pub and I had some more valves to adjust, so we mated the Warp 1 to his Audio GE Teddy speakers (reviewed here, by yours truly) that you can also get from Underwood. The Warp 1, a DPH-1 and a pair of Teddy’s and you’ve still got enough cash left to buy a turntable. How great is that?

Back to the fun

What really sells me on the Warp 1 is the lack of grain and harshness that I used to associate with class D has left the building. It’s still not a Mac tube amp, but this easily is on par sonically with a lot of inexpensive solid-state amps with discrete parts I’ve heard, and better than some. Compared to something like the Benchmark AHB2 that was evaluated a while back, the Benchmark is definitely more flat and somewhat sterile in comparison. Our reference Simaudio MOON ACE has a more luscious solid-state sound, but it’s an integrated, has a $3,500 price tag and is only 50wpc.

Back to those speaker choices again. While I was visiting TONE HQ, I also made it a point to connect the Gershman Acoustics Studio Twos and the Eggleston Nicos. Much spendier speakers at $3,500 and $5,995/pair, yet this amplifier still delivers the goods at a high level. I wouldn’t have any problem using this amp with these speakers.

The two things you notice right away with the Warp 1, is that unlike tube or discrete solid state amplifiers, it takes no time at all to stabilize thermally and electronically. Five minutes, and you’re rocking – with precious little change. My Pass Aleph amp (single ended, class-A) takes about two hours to be all it can be. In today’s ADD world, some of you don’t even have two hours to listen to music! However, the low power usage of class D means you can just leave it on all the time, minimizing your carbon footprint while you’re annoying the neighbors.

Second, this amp is fast. Really fast. Drums, percussion, plucky acoustic guitar solos sound great. Being the old guy I am, heading back to the Sheffield Drum Record, I was really impressed at the quick pace of this amplifier with no overshoot or fatigue. A super set of Rush, listening to a lot of Neal Peart’s drumming was equally impressive. This speed and timing also carries over to the lowest frequencies as well – even at high volume. The way this amplifier took control of the Eggleston’s woofers when tracking through Mickey Hart’s Drumming at the Edge was fantastic. No one-note bass here – another problem with class D amps past.

Final notes

As mentioned the Warp 1 did not have any speaker or cable sensitivities in our test listening. We tried Cardas, Tellurium Q, Audioquest, and Nordost cables, all with excellent luck. Driving everything from vintage ESLs (Acoustat and Quad) to a number of current day speakers revealed nothing that couldn’t be driven, and to good volume levels.

Consider my attitude changed. The LSA Warp One is a great amp, period. Class D has matured, and very well I might add. For $1,195, we’re definitely awarding this baby an Exceptional Value Award. Job well done.