Cuttin-Edge, On-the-Spot Reporting

Temple Audio: In a Class of its Own

Among the best-known British hi-fi brands, there are some much smaller “under-the-radar” companies that almost never receive the recognition or acclaim for the quality of products that they design and produce. Some of you may already be familiar with Temple Audio, but for those who are not, the company designs and creates a range of high-end products (most notably, amplification and power supplies) at their headquarters in Manchester, North West England.

Temple Audio is comprised of a small team of highly skilled individuals who take enormous pride in their work. After six months of listening to a pair of their Monoblock amps and supplementary Supercharger power supplies, I had the opportunity to visit their workshop to learn more about their products and philosophy, and to meet some of the team.

Temple Audio

The company specializes in and exclusively uses class-D topologies in all their amplifiers. The reason for this, according to John Clayton, the founder and chief designer, is that their implementation of class D simply sounds better than what can be achieved using other topologies. Clearly this is a simplification: Clayton’s assertion is grounded on other meticulous design choices that surpass amplification type alone, such as unique design approaches, top-quality components, high parts tolerances, and good construction, that combine to achieve superb end-product performance.

Unique approach

Temple is a family-run business, and John’s father is responsible for scrupulously testing every product before it is delivered. This is reassuring given that his career was spent as an electronics test engineer for the Ferranti Engineering Company (since closed), which specialized in defense and industrial electronics, and were also pioneers in semiconductors and computers.

John’s welcome was warm and made me feel instantly comfortable. His enthusiasm as he described the Swiss-made tooling systems and highly customized British CNC machinery was infectious. The CNC tools are used to cut and form the high-grade aluminium panels, bezels, buttons, and volume knobs used in the company’s products.

As he spoke about tolerances and precision, the philosophy of pride and authenticity of the Made in Britain ethic was apparent. To ensure that the company’s impeccable standards are maintained, outside suppliers are a small but important part of the mix. By controlling every stage of manufacture there are no impediments to the creation of new designs or the rapid implementation of improvements. The quality of the work is at the core of Temple Audio’s operations, and it was certainly clear during my visit that every step of production is focused on the attitudes required to maintain these standards.

Temple AudioFreshly detailed Monoblock aluminium rear panels, ready for further processing before final assembly

Due to the density of local manufacturing companies, Temple Audio is well positioned to ensure strong relationships with the few companies to which they outsource work. The sub-contracted work is limited. For example, they outsource the metal panels they cut and machine in-house to be sandblasted, anodized, or powder coated. As well, the high-grade PCBs, to which the surface and through-hole components are mounted, are manufactured to John Clayton’s design and specification by a company in the West Midlands, England. The range of products, from the Bantam Gold amplifier upwards, are made with a higher grade of gold-plating than what is normally used in standard audio components. Final assembly is always completed in-house. These trusted suppliers, coupled with the company’s own precision manufacturing and assembly capabilities, ensure that Temple Audio’s products are proudly marked “Made in England by Temple Audio.”

The range of Temple amplifiers share some design elements in common; all inputs are gold-plated, all outputs are bridge-tied load, and there are no tone or balance controls, digital inputs, and subwoofer or headphone outputs. Like the thoroughbreds they are, they serve one purpose: to faithfully amplify audio signals. The Temple models (except for the Bantam Stealth amplifier) feature a three-year warranty, and for further peace of mind, have a 60-day money-back guarantee.

Prices for this level of amplification start with the cost-conscious, portable, and highly efficient £119.99 (approximately $168 USD at time of writing) Bantam Stealth, a 25Wpc palm-sized unit without a volume control that has a pair of RCA stereo inputs and a pair of speaker outputs. Next up is the £209.99 Bantam Gold, offering the same connectivity and power rating, but with a volume control and superior components, resulting in an improved sound spectrum. The Bantam Gold is regarded as ideal for desktop audiophiles due to its volume control capability.

Temple AudioThe Bantam Gold is available in two colors, black or silver, but customizations can be ordered, including a change of color, as shown above, or special engraving treatments at additional cost

Up-range is the aptly named Monoblock power amplifier, featuring a single input type (XLR or RCA) and a single set of speaker outputs. The Monoblock amp is available as a pair for £500 and includes two high-quality, low-noise switch-mode power supplies. An additional £500 will buy you the pinnacle of power, consisting of 100Wpc (70wpc with the standard PSUs) via the addition two Supercharger external, linear power supplies.

The use of super capacitors in DACs and portables is seldomly replicated in standard amplification but Temple has embraced and harnessed this technology to their advantage. To put these Superchargers into perspective, most class-AB amplifiers around the £1000 mark use around 20,000uf to 80,000uf of capacitance in the power supply. A single Supercharger power supply utilises 11 x 10f super capacitors, and since 1 farad (f) = 1,000,000 microfarads (μf), you can appreciate that there is plenty of power on tap to deal with the dynamic range encountered in recordings.

The super capacitors in Superchargers are constantly charging and operate in a linear fashion, which eliminates the need to switch from a bank of “flat” to “charged” super capacitors, and in turn eliminates the additional circuitry and noisy switching distortion that would result from such an arrangement. This is another example of Temple Audio’s impeccable design and implementation philosophy in action.

Temple AudioThe “guts” of the Supercharger power supply before being placed into its aluminium housing

At time of writing the top-of-line product is Temple’s Bantam One integrated amplifier, a more traditional, comprehensive, and less modular offering than the two Monoblocks and Superchargers, due to the inclusion of three stereo inputs (again a choice of XLR or RCA) and a single set of preamplifier output jacks. The Bantam is available for £1200, which includes a handcrafted, Bluetooth remote control made of wood, and can be purchased for £1080 without it. This amp is a dual-mono design developed from the previously described units. It is housed in a striking body of juxtaposed aluminium casing and hand-finished hardwood front panel. It also features an active preamp with its own separate toroidal transformer and super-capacitor power supply, a shunt-configured volume control, and a huge array of super capacitors in the power amp section.

Temple AudioThe Bantam One—a compact 100Wpc two-channel integrated amplifier

Listening

For audio evaluation sessions in my personal system, I initially connected a pair of Monoblocks with Superchargers to the excellent but surprisingly inexpensive Topping E30 digital-to-analog converter set in its Pre mode, allowing it to operate as a preamp. Wiring used throughout the listening sessions comprised a pair of 0.5m HD1000 interconnects and Van Damme LC-OFC 4mm speaker cables, both from Mark Grant Cables. Music was streamed from Tidal to a MacBook Pro running Audirvana.

Listening through a pair of KEF LS50 loudspeakers, the Temple gear sounded phenomenal. “Fuel to Fire,” from Agnes Obel’s album Aventine (16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC, Play It Again Sam/PIAS Recordings/Tidal), was presented with such acuity, there was a real sense of spatial exactness between instruments and within the recording space. While subtleties in Obel’s piano performance were convincingly expressed, the most impressive articulation was the textural and tonal realism revealed in the strings section—from the attack and decay of the violin to the much deeper resonance of the cello—which were reproduced flawlessly, as were lower-order harmonics with impressive detail in the midrange.

Temple AudioThe Monoblock uses Nichicon electrolytic, high-quality film/polyester, and tantalum polymer and high-performance ceramic capacitors. Their arrangement, interaction, and calibration result in better performance than just using one type of capacitor alone.

Tame Impala’s “Is It True,” from the album The Slow Rush (24/88.2 MQA, Modular Recordings/Tidal), is an energetic, bassline-driven track layered with bongos, drums, electronica, vocals, and palm-muted rhythm guitar. The Temple Audios delivered these layers cohesively and with superb timing, allowing one to enjoy the overall musical mise-en-scène, yet easily track specific elements of the mix.

It’s not unknown that KEF LS50s require “grunt” to get them playing at their best, but nothing I played stressed the Temple Audio units. In terms of limitations, it was the LS50s that demonstrated theirs when playing at higher SPLs (due only to their size), with the Monoblocks with Superchargers likely having plenty of power in reserve. I never detected an emphasis, deficit, or premature roll-off at any particular frequency range, which corresponds to Temple Audio’s claim of a flat response across the audible frequency spectrum. What the Temple Audio units do is reproduce music faithfully! The Monoblocks strike an engaging and enjoyable balance of transparency and musicality, with resolution being the ever so slightly wealthier partner of dynamics and timing.

To test further, I moved the Monoblocks and Superchargers into another system fronted by a Musical Fidelity M1SDAC, an older though superior and talented digital preamplifier than the much less expensive Topping E30. The speakers used were the more open-sounding Rega RS3s, which while able to breathe at lower frequencies, do not sound as lush or as warm as do the KEFs.

Temple Audio

Listening to the emotive “Solid Ground” by Michael Kiwanuka, from his album Kiwanuka (24/96 MQA, Polydor/Interscope), the vocals and organ were delivered with a richness of texture, and again, I felt a tangible sense of place and presence, as Kiwanuka’s tones faded into an airy and expansive soundstage. It was apparent that Temple amps enabled both sets of speakers to display hidden attributes that were not displayed using comparable amplification in the Temple price range. I don’t believe this can be credited to the power supply alone or the class of amplification. It is the result of many engineering and design considerations that produces sound of such astonishing realism, correctness, and control. That, ultimately, is what amplification should do in terms of sound quality alone—to deliver an experience that is as close to an artist’s/studio engineer’s vision of the performance as possible.

“Rise” by Hans Zimmer, which can be found on the original soundtrack to the film The Dark Knight Rises (16/44.1 FLAC, WaterTower Music/Tidal), is a great test of resolution and dynamics giving even the most expensive systems a lot to contend with. The amps delivered the fast and deep drums, vivid brass, and string sections with clarity and comprehension. Certainly, the Hans Zimmer track can sound very choked on lesser-talented equipment, but not so with the Temple Audios. Looking inside the Monoblocks, there is a neatly laid-out and minimal signal path, which is based around a low-noise, ultra-efficient Texas Instruments stereo-amplifier chipset, which Temple Audio has bridged into monaural operation, and claim operates well within its limits. This, coupled with the Superchargers, ensured that complex and dynamic recordings were conveyed with great control and energy from a backdrop devoid of noise.

In summary

While the Monoblocks will not satisfy everyone’s requirements, due to their single connections, they should be on your radar if you simply need a quality unit that does its job (great for the purists among you). Whether building a new system or replacing an older one, Temple Audio units command pride of place and deserve serious consideration.

I was extremely impressed with the quality of sound the Temple Audio Monoblocks and Superchargers delivered and can highly recommend them. I don’t mean that in comparative terms either by suggesting that they “sound good for class-D amplification,” or, “they sound great given their size.” Yes, they are class-D designs, and yes, they are small in stature, but none of that matters. What matters is this: the Monoblocks with Superchargers sound amazing.

Temple Audio

Temple Audio is a testament to quality British engineering and manufacturing. They represent what can be achieved on such a small, local scale, and the positives attributed to that notion. Firstly, and notably, the aforementioned units sounded stunning (I certainly really enjoyed them in both systems and across all genres of music), are undeniably well-made, and will likely last a long time (as essentially there is not much to go wrong). Additionally, in this age of excessive waste, rampant consumerism, and environmental anxiety, it is quite rare to find a product of this quality that produces such a miniscule carbon footprint. This can be credited to the high efficiencies achieved by Temple Audio’s manufacturing criteria and real concern for the environment. I like this company and its products; have a look, have a listen, and decide for yourself.

Rhys Brindle
UK Contributor

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