Another of British hi-fi’s great ‘what ifs’, this Tellurium Q power amplifier arrived on the scene in 2012, and promised so much. This newish British company isn’t prone to bouts of hyperbole, rather the excitement came from it being a Colin Wonfor design – originally of Inca Tech fame and one of the industry’s many eccentric geniuses. This is the reason that the SOCA sounds so good; sadly though it is no longer on sale.
Here we have a very heavy, rather ugly and bulbous stereo power amplifier. It’s a DC-coupled design using Colin’s preferred MOSFETs, paralleled up and producing a modest 18W RMS per channel, thanks to its full Class A single-ended operation. It gets very hot in use, not quite as sizzling as a Musical Fidelity A1 thankfully, but that’s the exception to the rule. Damping factor is said to be 93, which is unusually high and it sounds quite unusual for a Class A amplifier as a result, as we shall see…
You do need sensitive loudspeakers; there’s no way you can skirt the issue. I tried a range but found it worked exceptionally well with Cambridge Audio AeroMax 6s; a little cheaper than you might expect, but they proved a famous combination. I used the MF Audio Passive Preamplifier for volume control duties, and again it was a heroically fine sounding result. The SOCA isn’t the world’s swishest finished product; were it Japanese then key staff would doubtless be expected to resign over the casework. But this is to miss the point, its sound is exceptional.
This amplifier is wonderfully fluid and mellifluous in a way that almost no other solid-state amplifiers are, it has an incredibly beguiling sound that sidles its way into your soul and keeps you absolutely enraptured. Tonally it’s clean and smooth and sweet; it’s neither syrupy nor stark. Bass is unexpectedly tight, providing the amplifier isn’t asked to drive a stiff load. Midband is as clear as optical glass and yet never sounds shiny, plated or artificial; female vocals are a revelation; you get the sense that this is how great valve amplifiers should sound. Some do, but most don’t. Treble is spacious, airy and sweet. For the price, it sounds remarkable.
Brilliant sound isn’t enough, though. The amplifier was withdrawn from sale soon after it went to market. The reasons are complex, but essentially the company decided it wanted a quiet life and should be concentrating on its core competence, which is of course fine sounding interconnects. The SOCA always had a feel of a special project, and Tellurium Q’s MD Geoff Merrigan once confessed to me that he never really expected it to make money, even at its £4,800 retail price. Sure enough it didn’t and took the company away from where it needed to be. That means they’re currently a great second-hand buy, but I suspect they will fast disappear from the used market as the owners realise just what a rare beast they actually have.