Review: Pilium Audio Hercules Monoblock Power Amplifier

Pilium Audio's Hercules Mono Amplifier, a pinnacle of audio engineering, promises unparalleled power and fidelity. Explore its merits and limitations.
5/5 - (1 vote)

The Hercules mono amplifier takes center stage. As the pinnacle of Pilium Audio’s Divine Line, this amplifier debuted in Taiwan, promising a listening experience that sets it apart from its predecessors. This comprehensive review delves into the intricate design and cutting-edge technology that defines the Hercules mono amplifier, exploring its exceptional performance and synergy within Boyun Audio’s meticulously curated audio system. From the divine lineage of Pilium Audio to the harmonious integration of components and a mesmerizing sound test, we embark on a journey to unveil the sonic prowess that it brings to audiophiles and music enthusiasts.

What is a mono-amplifier? Read it.

Read also: Know everything about amplifiers.

Divine Line: Pilium Audio’s Mythological Amplifier Series

Pilium Audio, hailing from Greece, has established itself as a brand deeply rooted in mythology, evident in the vocabulary of its product lineup. The flagship series, the Divine Line, offers a range of high-end amplifiers, including preamplifiers, power amplifiers, mono power amplifiers, and comprehensive amplifiers. Within the Divine Line, the Hercules mono amplifier stands at the pinnacle of excellence, catering to the most discerning audiophiles. For those seeking even more elevated audio experiences, the Master Divine Line provides preamplifiers, power amplifiers, and mono-power amplifiers.

Unveiling the Hercules Mono Amplifier: A Technical Marvel

While Pilium Audio’s official website doesn’t delve into the technical intricacies of its products, it does provide vital performance specifications. The Hercules mono amplifier, in particular, is a mono design that delivers 350 watts at 8 ohms, 700 watts at 4 ohms, and an astonishing maximum output power of 1400 watts at 2 ohms. Remarkably, it maintains stable output even at 1 ohm, demonstrating its versatility and robust engineering.

The amplifier’s technical prowess extends to its frequency response, which spans within 100KHz, ensuring a broad spectrum of sound reproduction. With a distortion rate of less than 0.01%, a voltage gain of 36dB, and an output impedance of less than 0.1 ohms, the Hercules mono amplifier is meticulously designed to deliver pure, unadulterated audio. Furthermore, it offers flexibility with 1 set of XLR input terminals.

Internally, the Hercules boasts a 2.5KVA large transformer, 240,000uF ultra-long-life custom-made capacitors, and 30 ultra-wide-bandwidth powerful transistors. It utilizes military-standard PCB circuit boards to ensure reliability. The transformer is carefully isolated from the chassis, and digital control circuitry is separated from analog components to prevent interference. Notably, the amplifier employs microchips for digital control of DC power, temperature, and speaker protection, with the circuit handling music signals entirely isolated from other components. To facilitate these complex functionalities, two distinct power lines are required – one for the expansion circuit and one for the control circuit, further underscoring the amplifier’s attention to detail and engineering excellence.

Elaborate Build Quality:

The Hercules mono amplifier by Pilium Audio boasts an exceptional build quality that immediately commands attention. Crafted with precision and an unwavering commitment to excellence, its construction reflects the brand’s dedication to delivering top-tier audio equipment. One can’t help but admire the robust and sturdy chassis, which not only exudes an air of sophistication but also serves a crucial role in minimizing vibrations and electromagnetic interference. The materials used in its assembly are of the highest grade, ensuring longevity and durability. The chassis is meticulously engineered to effectively dissipate heat, essential for sustained high-performance operation.

The internal components further exemplify the commitment to excellence. A substantial 2.5KVA transformer, custom-made capacitors with an astounding capacity of 240,000uF, and an array of 30 ultra-wide-bandwidth powerful transistors form the core of this amplifier. These components are not merely selected for their technical specifications. Still, they are carefully chosen to complement one another, resulting in an amplifier that can effortlessly reproduce even the most intricate musical nuances.

Moreover, the Hercules mono amplifier incorporates military-standard PCB circuit boards, ensuring reliability and longevity. The attention to detail in isolating the transformer from the chassis and segregating the digital control circuit from the analog components is commendable. This meticulous design approach guarantees minimal interference between critical circuitry, preserving signal purity.

Design elaboration

The design philosophy behind the Hercules mono amplifier is a harmonious fusion of form and function. Pilium Audio has succeeded in creating an amplifier that excels in performance and exhibits aesthetic elegance. The sleek and minimalist exterior, devoid of unnecessary frills, emphasizes the amplifier’s singular purpose – to deliver breathtaking audio quality.

The front panel showcases a clean layout, featuring only essential controls and indicators, lending an air of sophistication. The display, backlit with soft, ambient lighting, adds a touch of modernity to the overall design.

One cannot ignore the practical aspects of the design either. The amplifier is designed to be user-friendly, with accessible input terminals and controls. The incorporation of XLR input terminals adds versatility to its connectivity options.

The Hercules mono amplifier masterfully marries top-notch build quality with an elegant, functional design. Its robust construction and meticulous attention to detail ensure reliable, long-term operation and make a powerful visual statement in any high-end audio setup. This blend of artistry and engineering excellence is a testament to Pilium Audio’s commitment to delivering a transcendent audio experience.

Synergy in System Design

Boyun Audio has gone to great lengths to curate a system that complements the Hercules mono amplifiers. This includes integrating the high-end Alexander preamplifier from Pilium Audio into the setup. The Alexander preamplifier incorporates a power supply separation design, fully balanced dual-mono architecture, and independent power supplies. These features contribute to a sound characterized by its purity, minimal coloration, low distortion, and dynamic range. An innovative volume control design, reliant on a single resistor and a short signal path, ensures maximum fidelity. The material components are meticulously crafted to achieve zero signal loss, making the Alexander preamplifier a top-performing component among high-end brands.

Stenheim Speakers: Swiss Precision and Efficiency

The sonic character of the system is further shaped by the inclusion of Stenheim speakers, a Swiss brand known for its impeccable craftsmanship and rapidly growing reputation. Stenheim, founded in 2010, has quickly earned acclaim worldwide. Their commitment to using all-aluminum alloy construction, regardless of speaker size, ensures exceptional durability and resonance control. Although smaller in Stenheim’s flagship series, the Reference Ultime Two exemplifies their commitment to precision.

The Reference Ultime Two boasts a d’Appolito array monomer arrangement, incorporating two 12″ woofers, two 6.5″ mid-range drivers, and a 25mm ball tweeter. This meticulous cabinet design segregates the internal chambers into six independent sections, housing the tweeter, midrange driver, and crossover networks in isolated compartments. The two bass drivers also maintain their dedicated enclosures, venting through bass reflex ports on the rear of the cabinet. Remarkably, these speakers achieve an astonishing efficiency rating of 95dB, sustaining a maximum power of 400 watts and an instantaneous peak power of 800. With a recommended minimum amplifier output of just 30 watts, the Reference Ultime Two offers tremendous flexibility for pairing with various amplifiers while also providing frequency gain adjustment to adapt to different room acoustics.

Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC: Dutch Precision in Digital Audio

Handling digital source and DAC decoding within this system is the mola Tambaqui DAC, representing Dutch efficiency and technological prowess. This DAC offers network streaming playback and boasts Roon Ready compatibility, making it a versatile and feature-rich addition to the setup. As a Dutch brand, Mola mola distinguishes itself by delivering high-level technology and sound performance within compact chassis dimensions. This efficiency ensures that the system remains uncluttered while delivering top-notch audio quality.

Exquisite Wiring: The Backbone of Sonic Excellence

Boyun Audio has strategically incorporated wiring components from reputable brands to optimize the system’s overall performance. Brands such as Luna Cable from Canada, MoonWires from Switzerland, and the latest addition, Dutch IKIGAI Audio, play integral roles in ensuring harmonious and high-quality music playback. This holistic approach to wiring underscores Boyun Audio’s commitment to achieving a seamless and harmonious listening experience.

Wattson Audio: An Upcoming Swiss Sensation

Adding to Boyun Audio’s impressive portfolio, the company recently secured the Taiwan agency for Wattson Audio, a Swiss brand with exciting prospects in the high-end audio industry. With this new partnership, audiophiles can expect to explore a broader range of offerings from this innovative Swiss brand shortly.

The Sonic Mastery of the System

The auditory experience delivered by this meticulously assembled system is nothing short of astounding. While Stenheim speakers have graced numerous listening rooms, their performance consistently evolves when paired with different amplifiers and components. The synergy is particularly noteworthy in the Reference Ultime Two speakers and the Hercules mono amplifiers.

The system impressively balances power and resolution, providing an immersive listening journey. Even when pushed to high volumes, the Hercules mono amplifiers maintain precise control over the Stenheim speakers, ensuring that music remains dynamic yet composed. This level of control extends to the finest nuances in string details, where the system excels in revealing subtleties without compromising the musicality of the performance.

Diving into Musical Details: A Delicate Rendering

To appreciate the system’s ability to capture the smallest dynamics and musical details, look no further than Janine Jansen’s rendition of “Vivaldi, The Four Seasons.” The system exhibits remarkable finesse in depicting the intricacies of string instruments. Despite the complex arrangements, the system engages the listener effortlessly, drawing attention to the subtleties of the composition. In this presentation, harmony and resolution coexist harmoniously, offering a clear and pleasurable auditory experience. The music gracefully transcends the physical space, creating a sense of proximity to the piano’s sound, with depth and liveliness that transport the listener.

Whether one’s passion lies in music or equipment, this audio system offers an unparalleled feast for the senses, leaving little room for critique.

A Luxurious Sound Experience at TAA Taipei International Audio Show

At the 2023 TAA Taipei International Audio Show, hosted at the illustrious Grand Hotel in Taipei, Boyun Audio showcased the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two floor-standing speakers in their exhibition room. With their captivating sound, these speakers captivated a continuous stream of visitors during the event. While exhibition environments offer a taste of the potential, the true magic unfolds in the controlled confines of a dedicated listening room. This occasion presents an ideal opportunity to savor the exquisite sound of the Stenheim Reference Ultime Two speakers.

Harmonious Collaboration of Components

The listening session featured various components, including the Dutch mola mola Tambaqui DAC, the Pilium Audio Alexander preamplifier, and the Hercules mono amplifiers. This amalgamation of components produced a sonic tapestry that was rich and immersive, characterized by a lush, velvety quality.

Enveloping Musicality: Jane Monheit’s “Over The Rainbow”

The system’s ability to convey the subtle nuances of music was brilliantly demonstrated with Jane Monheit’s cover of “Over The Rainbow.” The sound emanating from this luxurious setup was both dense and layered, creating aural depth. Alongside the timbral sweetness, a hint of moisture was discernible, enhancing the overall experience. Vocal details were rendered with striking clarity, capturing the nuanced articulations between words. Towards the song’s conclusion, the delicate sway and gentle tremor in the voice were portrayed with lifelike realism and beauty. The system responded with remarkable speed and unveiled a spacious, pristine soundstage during moments of silence. Cadences in the lyrical lines were masterfully rendered, allowing the highs and lows to weave an engaging and dynamic tapestry of sound. With precise control, the Hercules mono amplifiers effortlessly commanded the speakers, ensuring an effortless presentation.

Vibrant Musicality: Boyce Avenue’s “Hallelujah”

Switching to Boyce Avenue’s cover of “Hallelujah” showcased the system’s vitality and its ability to breathe life into vocal performances. The human voice resonated with captivating charm, exuding beauty and charisma. The sound exhibited fullness and solidity, accentuating the contrasting expanses between virtual width and intimacy. The nuances of the surrounding ambiance were subtle but compelling, never overwhelming the primary vocals. Every facet of the sound was meticulously captured, revealing intricate elements that enriched the sonic landscape. The instruments came to life with lifelike realism, their string sounds resonating with elasticity and brilliance yet retaining a soft, airy quality. The soundscape extended beyond the physical space, imbuing the overall presentation with a captivating three-dimensional quality that drew the listener deep into the musical narrative.

Transcendent Realism: Emilie-Claire Barlow’s “Almost Like Being in Love”

The grand finale of the listening session featured Emilie-Claire Barlow’s rendition of “Almost Like Being in Love.” The performance, both vocal and instrumental, was exceptionally beautiful. Vocals resonated with striking realism, conveying a three-dimensional presence that was captivating. The sound enveloped the listener, possessing a gentle airiness that retained warmth and coherence, avoiding any hint of hollowness. Details in the sound were brought to the forefront, whether the slightly pronounced or softer articulations of mouth shapes, all meticulously amplified and delineated. Instrumental performances displayed exceptional beauty, with the piano exuding clarity and three-dimensionality. Each keystroke was vividly portrayed, accompanied by outstanding textural richness. The piano’s hammer strikes were conveyed with solidity and prominence, never overshadowing but enhancing the overall presentation. The strings were a highlight, dancing with dynamic vivacity and imbuing the music with vivid colors.

Elaborate Sound Test:

When evaluating the Hercules mono amplifier from Pilium Audio, the proof is in the listening experience, and doesn’t disappoint. This sound test reveals a sonic journey transcending expectations and elevating the musical encounter.

Imposing Power and Resolution: Upon firing up the Hercules mono amplifier, what immediately strikes the listener is its commanding power and remarkable resolution. With a robust output capability of 350 watts at 8 ohms, 700 watts at 4 ohms, and a staggering maximum output of 1400 watts at 2 ohms, this amplifier has the headroom to tackle any musical genre with authority. It maintains stability and composure even when pushed to its limits at 1 ohm. The bass response is tight, deep, and full-bodied, effortlessly delivering thunderous lows that make every note resonate with intensity.

Expansive Frequency Response: The frequency response of the Hercules amplifier extends well beyond the audible spectrum, with a range spanning up to 100KHz. This broad bandwidth ensures no subtlety or detail in the music is lost. The highs are crystal clear, allowing delicate cymbal strikes and the shimmer of strings to shine through with brilliance. Midrange frequencies are presented with exceptional warmth and accuracy, rendering vocals and instruments in a lifelike manner. The bass frequencies are deep and incredibly articulate, making each note distinct and impactful.

Minimal Distortion and Remarkable Clarity: One of the hallmarks of the Hercules mono amplifier is its commitment to minimal distortion. With a distortion rate of less than 0.01%, it faithfully reproduces music without adding any unwanted coloration or artifacts. This results in an audio experience that is exceptionally clear and true to the original recording. Even at high volumes, the amplifier maintains composure, ensuring that complex musical passages are rendered precisely and clearly.

Precise Voltage Gain and Isolated Circuits: The Hercules boasts a precise voltage gain of 36dB, ensuring that the signal is amplified accurately without introducing noise or distortion. Using military-standard PCB circuit boards further contributes to the amplifier’s noise-free operation. The meticulous separation of the transformer from the chassis and the isolation of the digital control circuit from the analog components eliminate interference, guaranteeing that the music signal remains pristine.

Digital Control and Protection: The Hercules incorporates advanced digital control and protection mechanisms. Through microchips, it manages DC power, temperature, and speaker protection, offering peace of mind during prolonged listening sessions. The circuit responsible for music signals is entirely isolated from other circuits, ensuring the audio path is free from electronic interference.

In conclusion, the sound test of the Hercules mono amplifier by Pilium Audio is a revelation in high-end audio. It combines raw power with finesse, offering an expansive frequency response, minimal distortion, and remarkable clarity. Whether you’re exploring the intricate details of a classical composition or getting lost in the pulsating beats of contemporary music, this amplifier delivers a spectacular audio experience. It honors the nuances of every genre and breathes life into your favorite tracks, making them sound fresh and exhilarating with each listen.

In Conclusion: A Sonic Masterpiece

In summary, the system curated by Boyun Audio represents a harmonious amalgamation of components that collectively deliver a listening experience that defies critique. The Hercules mono amplifiers, Alexander preamplifier, and Stenheim Reference Ultime Two speakers collaborate seamlessly to offer an immersive, powerful, and nuanced sonic journey. With a keen ability to capture the smallest musical details, this system is a testament to high-end audio’s heights in terms of technical excellence and emotional engagement. Whether you’re a dedicated music enthusiast or an equipment connoisseur, this audio feast is an unmissable opportunity to immerse yourself in extraordinary sound.

Advantages of the Hercules Mono Amplifier:

  1. Exceptional Power: The Hercules mono amplifier delivers an impressive 350 watts at 8 ohms, 700 watts at 4 ohms, and a maximum output of 1400 watts at 2 ohms. This extraordinary power capability ensures it can drive even the most demanding loudspeakers effortlessly, making it suitable for a wide range of audio setups.
  2. Broad Frequency Response: With a frequency response extending up to 100KHz, the Hercules faithfully reproduces a wide range of frequencies, capturing the finest details in your music. This broad bandwidth contributes to a more immersive and lifelike listening experience.
  3. Minimal Distortion: Boasting a distortion rate of less than 0.01%, this amplifier ensures your music remains unaltered and pristine. The minimal distortion allows for accurate audio representation, making it ideal for audiophiles who demand the highest fidelity.
  4. Precise Voltage Gain: The Hercules maintains a precise voltage gain of 36dB, resulting in accurate amplification without introducing unwanted noise. This precision in signal handling contributes to the amplifier’s exceptional clarity and transparency.
  5. Advanced Digital Control: Including digital control and protection mechanisms, including DC power, temperature, and speaker protection, enhances the user experience by providing peace of mind during operation. The separation of digital and analog circuits ensures interference-free audio playback.

Disadvantages of the Hercules Mono Amplifier:

  1. High Price Tag: One of the primary disadvantages of the Hercules mono amplifier is its premium price. Its high-end components, build quality, and performance come at a cost that may not be accessible to budget-conscious consumers.
  2. Large Footprint: This amplifier is physically substantial, requiring ample space in your audio setup. Its size and weight may pose challenges for those with limited room or specific installation constraints.
  3. Complex Setup: Due to its advanced features and extensive capabilities, setting up and configuring the Hercules amplifier can be intricate, especially for users not well-versed in high-end audio equipment.
  4. Power Consumption: Amplifiers of this caliber tend to consume substantial power, which may result in higher electricity bills. Users should be prepared for the increased energy demands of such a powerful amplifier.
  5. Limited Connectivity: While the Hercules offers exceptional performance, it may have a limited range of input and output options compared to more versatile amplifiers. Users with diverse audio sources and devices may require additional adapters or equipment for compatibility.

In summary, the Hercules mono amplifier by Pilium Audio offers impressive power, fidelity, and advanced features, making it a standout choice for discerning audiophiles. However, its premium price, size, and complexity may deter some potential buyers, and users should be mindful of its power consumption and connectivity options to ensure it suits their specific audio needs.