“Ultimately there is something more painterly than photojournalistic in the EAR 861 Power Amplifier’s presentation… As beautiful as a photograph of the English countryside may be, a Constable landscape has more depth and soul, and can capture an ineffable sense of time and place. The EAR, in similar fashion, has an unerring ability to go straight to the emotionally evocative heart of the musical experience rather than focusing on some of the more hi-fi qualities cherished by some as a part and parcel of the audio experience…”– Paul A. Bolin, The Absolute Sound #117
“The EAR 861 Power Amplifier is a superbly performing power amplifier. It is capable of extracting fine detail without sounding dry or electronic. The midrange is sweet but doesn’t cross the line toward lush. The EAR 861 Power Amplifier’s strength lies in its handling of dynamics. Its finesse with microdynamics allows for the emotion of the music flow. The sheer power of the macrodynamics is exceptional, providing a major startle factor.”
Enhanced Triode Mode (ETM) circuits behave like a true triode and are in fact more linear than the majority of directly heated triodes. Compared with the latter, they have the additional advantage of being a tough, more robust tube, capable of much longer operational life.
Each output transformer has a massive 5 kilogram weight, with no feedback applied around it. The circuit is balanced push-pull from input to output, allowing balanced (professional-style) inputs as well as conventional unbalanced (RCA phono jack socket). Similar to the 859, the circuit is direct-coupled. Tube choice is not critical; perfect operation does not rely on matched tubes, nor on user adjustable bias.
Subjectively the amplifier has the same family sound as the EAR 859. Listeners will find it builds heavily upon this, with an increase in authority and attack. The lower bass has real grip and feel with this amplifier, way in excess of the 32 watt power rating while the treble is smoother, cleaner and sweeter, mainly due to the lack of overall feedback. A single word can sum up the EAR 861 Power Amplifier: effortless. It has real power and control, the power to convey the emotion of the most demanding of recordings, whether the source be our preferred analogue or digital.