I had an enjoyable afterhours listening session with Shane and Stacy Duffy from Perla Audio. Perla Audio is a family operated company located in Sparks, Nevada. They make a full range of electronics and some speakers with the focus on performance at a reasonable cost and above all, ease of use. Everything is designed to be plug and play. They do all their own design and manufacturing and are some of the most passionate people about their products of anyone I have met.
They shanghaied me in front of the elevators while I was waiting to go up to the NFS (Not For Sale) hospitality suite and asked me if I wanted to come to their room to listen. I was not wearing my name tag so they thought I was a civilian instead of VIP (Very Important Press). They wanted to share their accomplishments with anyone they thought might enjoy them.
With a full chain of Perla Audio electronics in front of them the PRS-2 ($7,800) speakers rivaled much larger ones for imaging and clarity. Bass quality was especially impressive and vocals were spot on. The planar magnetic columns in the picture are part of a speaker in development. As planned it will have three columns per side (bass, midrange, and tweeter). Shane hopes to have it at the show next year. The speaker will be scalable with the number of sections adjusted. Layer by layer, Shane set the pieces for just one section in my lap and my feet sunk into the carpet. Did I mention that everything they build has massive aluminum employed as part of the case work, not just the faceplates? Inside no effort is spared either. Every component is hand soldered on custom made 24k gold-plated PCB boards using Cardas ultra-pure quad eutectic solder.
The new speaker by Perla Audio is the antithesis to their stated core philosophy and mine as well but it was fun seeing the creative process happening and Shane’s enthusiasm is infectious. And therein lays the best part of any show, the people and their passion. The brave hearts who turn their dreams into reality and those who step beyond safe and sane to build the best product they can because they can. It is not the destination that impresses me as much as spirit of the journey.
This spirit is behind the creation of every product at T.H.E. Show and the same spirit that caused Richard Beers to create T.H.E. Show beginning in Las Vegas so many years ago. If a person’s spirit lives on in their accomplishments, do they ever really leave us? I don’t think so. I know I will never forget Richard or the other friends and memories T.H.E. Show has brought me.
-Don Shaulis, 2016.
Perla Audio has come a long way since I first encountered the company in Las Vegas some years back. Specializing in virtually holographic imaging, Perla's PRS-2 speakers ($5500/pair) did quite well with the family-owned company's USB DAC ($3900), monoblock amplifiers ($12,500, presumably for the pair), phono stage ($5500), and integrated amp ($9500). I assume the monoblocks and integrated were not both in use at the same time, but I wasn't told which I was hearing; what they did use was a Paradox Custom Pulse turntable, equipped with a Denon 103R MC phono cartridge mounted in a Paradox Pulse cartridge body.
On the Muddy Waters Folk Singer LP, I experienced an astoundingly high, holographic image and lots of dynamic contrast. The timbre of the guitar was excellent. Switching to full-range classical, we threw all caution to the wind with Johann Strauss, Jr.'s extremely dangerous, banned-in-Kansas Lucifer Polka. Once I got over laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, I realized that the system conveyed the waltz's broad strokes quite well, if not all of the air, instrumental finesse, and overtones on the recording.
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-Jason Victor Serinus, 2016.
There aren’t many manufacturers that offer a soup-to-nuts system approach. McIntosh and Linn come to mind. Naim is up there. GamuT has been edging in on it for a while.
Little Perla Audio hasn’t been around long, but their line is almost as complete — and more weirdly esoteric. I enthused about their analog system last year, so I was delighted to see another analog system this year. The speakers were their familiar, aluminum-ingot, PRS-2 ($5,850 per pair). The Maestro handled line preamp duties for the Motiff phono-pre ($3,500 each), and the poweramps were the spanking-new, Righello monoblocks ($9,000 each). The sound was, if anything, better than last year’s — quicker, quieter, clearer, and meatier.
But excellence in sound is only a small part of why I love insane audio. Fortunately, the Perla guys cover the rest of the bases, too.
Just look at that front end! That’s a double-platter Lenco with a custom chassis milled to match the Perla gear. That’s a rewired oddity of an Abis tonearm. That cartridge? Perla knows metal, so that’s a Perla-modified Denon 103 with a machined body and new damping (you can get one for dirt cheap). It’s probably the first time I’ve heard a 103 that didn’t have any obvious trace of Denon grain. This kind of thing is supposed to be the bailiwick of anachro-fetish tube-o-philes and steampunk sympathizers. Seeing it paired with ultra-sleek, ultra-modern solid state? It’s mindboggling.
The whole system sounded so perfectly balanced at 6pm on Saturday that I didn’t even ask for specs on the gear. Instead, I gawked and gawped at those cartridge bodies while nerding out over the distressingly encyclopedic analog lore locked up inside of this brain trust.
These guys really are on to something. Check them out.
-Mal Kenny, 2015.
First up was the Perla Audio room. Perla's PRS-2 loudspeakers ($5500/pair), Maestro preamplifier ($3500), Righello monoblocks ($9000 each), and Motif phono stage ($3500) were producing smooth and deep sound with an idler driver-based turntable ($6000) and Kesh cabling. The highs on Lyn Stanley's "Lullaby of Birdland" were a little edgy, but the warmth of her voice came through in spades.
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-Jason Victor Serinus, 2015.
“The PRS-2 is available with or without beryllium tweeters. Basically everything in the room was made by Perla, so the system synergy, or whatever, was really working. The Perla Audio room was one of my favorites.”
I’m just going to be up front about this. Friday Night in San Francisco is one of the ubiquitous evils of the superannuated audiophile. It may be well recorded, and it may be fun, but Al Di Meola had his moment of cool in 1981. I’ve never once understood why the folks who show their gear at these audiophile confabs feel the need to overplay this album so incessantly. They’re not fifteen years old, Al Dimeola isn’t Lorde, and “Frevo Rasgado” isn’t half the ear worm that “Royals” is. I just don’t get it.
The Guitar Trio needs to be thrown into the back of the station wagon and dropped off at the storage unit for a few years. Put it in a box next to your knit ties. Just give it a break. Please. You’re killing me here.
But I’ll give new-to-me Perla Audio a permanent pass because they actually made me enjoy the hell out side 1.
Part of the credit had to go to the hacked up Lenco and brutish Dynavector 505 tonearm that switched up the etherial delicacy usually favored in show rooms in favor of a propulsive and rich source. That’s right.
It probably helped that they built the rest of the chain themselves.
The Motif phono preamp ($3500), a solid state design with passive, split RIAA equalization topped the system. This fed Perla’s own Signature 50 integrated amp ($9000), a great looking, dc coupled, solid state that puts 50 watts into 8 ohms. From an ergonomic standpoint, the slanted front panel milled out of aluminum made the controls easy to twiddle even on a low rack shelf. From a lust standpoint, the stepped attenuator felt good enough to make you want to twiddle it.
The speakers, which I think were Perla’s PRS-2B ($8,800 plus $2,250 for stands), aperiodic loaded standmounts sported baffle milled from even more aluminum, a beryllium tweeter, and a paper cone midrange. The specs say that they’re good down to 70hz, and that jibes well with what we heard in the room.
What we heard? Precision, detail, and no obvious overhang. This system was fast, and it was the good kind of fast. It was the kind of speed and precision that the exuberance of “Mediterranean Sundance” absolutely requires, and it was the kind of detail that made the hall (and its sometimes ill-mannered denizens) as much of a part of the music as the guitars. With all that speed, though, it never so much as twitched into “light,” with the resonance and body of the guitars given as much of the spotlight as the snap of their strings.
Perla seems to be pretty serious about this whole audio thing.
In fact, writing up this room has made me queue up Friday Night in San Francisco at home. I’ll try to drive it to the storage unit real soon. I promise.
-Mal Kenny, 2014.
"Impressive sound from relative newcomer Perla Audio"
-Adam Goldfine, 2014.
"We do not know much about the Perla Audio but the Signature 50 integrated amplifier seems interesting for anyone who appreciates the minimalist nature, ie some line inputs and low power per channel at 50W/8O but the attention to detail with huge capacity to power supply, switches attenuator and thoughtful internal wiring."
Perla Audio Also Featured on Mono Stereo
"The Perla Signature 50 seems to be as perfect an integrated amplifier as one could hope to find. It possesses the liquidity and harmonic richness of a first-rate tube amp, combined with the extended range and total authority of a potent solid state amp. It is utterly non-fatiguing but fully revealing. In short, I love it. And I will add that while its sonic quality is its most important virtue, it is also, in its unostentatious dignity, a handsome amp to behold, obviously solidly constructed and simply but beautifully appointed. Finally, the owner of Perla, Shane Duffy, and his Audio Archon dealer Mike Kay, are both sincerely dedicated to customer satisfaction. I feel fortunate to have joined the Perla family, nor have I received any rewards for writing this testimonial-other than at long last achieving the elusive goal of audio contentment."
-Mark, Satisfied Customer, 2016.
Perla Audio wins the Most Promising Newcomer Award for its Signature 50 integrated amplifier ($9000), which consumes at idle less than 6 watts! This is an amp one can turn on in the morning and sit down to at night without suffering guilt or major expense. The sound of the Signature 50 driving Perla’s own 90dB-sensitive PRS-2 speakers ($8800 per pair, with "mandatory" stands adding $2250) was crystal clear with moderate layering -- an enticing performance despite the beryllium tweeter. Someone should review this gear, if they haven’t already.
-Jim Saxon, 2014.
All of these parameters matched the sonic signature of my reference solid-state/tube combo. In a blindfold test, I do not believe I could tell the difference between my separates and the solid-state Signature 50 integrated amplifier. The retail cost of my combo is $34,800, and yet its performance was being matched by the drastically less expensive Perla Audio Signature 50.
My next selection was Adele's breakout album 19 (Columbia) to see how the Signature 50 would handle reproducing the greatest and hardest instrument to get right: the human voice. The Signature 50, like the Pass Labs .8 series, has virtually no noise floor and allowed me to easily hear every nuance of what Adele was doing with her voice in the studio when she made this recording. These fine details were never presented in an analytical or artificial way, as if listening under a microscope, but were woven into the overall tapestry of her powerful voice. As far as rendering the unique timbres/tone of her voice (which allows you to identify what emotion she's trying to convey), the Signature 50 was up to the task in creating an intimate "feeling" connected to what Adele was trying to share in her music.
Finally, I wanted to test how well the Signature 50 would do in the areas of slam/punch, bass extension, and overall micro-dynamics. Sotho Blue (Sunnyside), a recent album by the highly regarded South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and his group Ekaya, was recorded at a very high reference level with world-class dynamic range, deep extended impactful bass, and transient speed. Amazingly, the Signature 50 was able to effortlessly reproduce the "kick" and "pop" of this very dynamic recording, considering it was only rated at 100 watts into four ohms. My explanation for this would be that the very sophisticated and robust power supply, along with being a dual mono design, gave the Signature 50 the reserves to handle the macro-dynamics in a spectacular manner and render this aspect of the music with an iron-clad grip and impact.
-Terry London, 2015.
The Signature 50 represents Perla Audio’s grand entrance onto the high-end scene. It is not only a contender for top honors at its price point but it possesses the brawn and finesse to compete with much more expensive integrated amplifiers. Yes, it does need to be mated carefully to a speaker load that is comfortable with its darkish presentation, but the payoff is a soulful and vivacious connection with the music. It reminds me of one of my favorite classic solid-state stereo amps, the Class A Threshold 400A, sharing as it does a similar tonal balance. Mini-monitor aficionados rejoice! You will not be disappointed by the S50’s imaging specificity and soundstage transparency.
-Dick Olsher, 2015.
“The system from Perla Audio was impressive, with a smooth tonal balance, natural dynamics, and absolutely spectacular imaging. Instrumental and vocal images had a rare tangibility and vividness, existing in space completely detached from the loudspeakers"
-Robert Harley, The Absolute Sound, 2014.
Sparks, Nevada-based Perla Audio has come a long way in a short time. Founded only in 2012, the family-owned company has increasingly been generating attention at the major shows. Newport 2016 was a continuation of that trend, with Perla presenting its best-sounding system yet.
Perla was showing its PRS-2 speaker, a sharp-looking minimonitor that features a 7-inch spliced-paper cone driver and a 1-inch beryllium tweeter. Frequency response is listed at 70 to 20,000 Hz, with a sensitivity of 90 db.
A demo of Roxy Music’s “Avalon” showed the PRS-2s ($7,800 a pair) offer the detail, pinpoint imaging and deep soundstage of the best stand-mounted speakers. The high frequencies, especially, were clean and smooth. There was a slight leanness to the presentation, which I prefer to an artificial upper-bass bump on small models that try to do everything. This, for bass fans, could easily be solved by a well-chosen subwoofer, such as a REL, dialed subtly to fill the bottom out.
The speakers were driven by a rack of mostly Perla gear, which, by the way, is built here in the good old USA. The rig included the company’s monoblock amplifiers ($12,500), integrated amp ($9,500), preamp ($4,000), phono stage ($5,500) and USB DAC ($3,900). Also on hand was a Paradox Custom Pulse turntable.
Shooting for the moon like this could be a Las Vegas-style gamble for the young company, but if it indeed can take the performance improvements of its present models to another level, Perla could end up with a hand strong enough to challenge the industry’s big-time players. We’ll keep you updated.
Manufactured in Sparks, NV by two families who "all have an insanity for music" and sold direct, two-year old Perla Audio's complete system was set up for extreme nearfield listening. Having entered to the assurance, "You're gonna love this," I made my way to the front, favored-by-Perla seat to hear the Perla Signature 50 integrated amplifier ($9000), PRS-2B ($8800/presumably for the pair) and PRS-2 ($7800/pair?) loudspeakers on $2250/pair stands, and Perla SB-400 subs. Connected by Perla's KESH Reference cable (series 1), the system at very close range sounded like a good hi-fi with nice air and depth. When I moved back a seat, the sound was less assaultive, but seemed somewhat gimmicky.
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-Jason Victor Serinus, 2014.
Newcomer, Perla Audio, was showing two systems. The larger system featured the Composer USB DAC, the Signature 50, amplifier and PRS 2B speakers. Folks, these products are all CNC machined billet aluminum and look fantastic. The surprise was the sound. At the end of the listening session I knew we had a winner. Listen for yourself on the upcoming video! Wide dynamic range with crystal clarity is the Perla signature sound.
-Peter Breuninge, 2014.
Stopped in next door, (well next door in Vegas is a mile) to see T.H.E. audio show and managed to hear a couple of nice demos, the most striking was from Nevada based Perla Audio that designs and builds everything on display from the Signature 50 integrated amp at $9,000 and the PRS-2 and PRS-2B at $7,800 and $8,800 respectively. It was impressive from the positioning of the chairs, up and close for the near field experience. Superb clarity and definition!
Perla Audio Signature 50 Integrated Amplifier Reviewed
By: Terry London, May 20, 2015
Perla Audio Signature 50 Integrated Amplifier
Brawn and Finesse
Perla Audio Righello Monoblocks
The Refinement of Solid State Amplifiers
By: Mike Girardi