Matthew James
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Looking back at the more than 25 years that there has been a Cello, the endeavor has always had the same motto,

"The justification for a great music system is the same as for a great instrument: It makes possible a musical experience that cannot be duplicated by lesser means"


Continuing the tradition of stimulating the senses through power, while adding a delicate touch

For those audiophiles who seek transient speed, sharp contrast, extreme analytical capability, refreshing sound quality, lean upper low frequencies, transparency at all frequencies, an outstanding ability to convey energy, astonishing control, an overwhelming sense of three dimensionality, pinpoint positioning and first-class focus, Cello products from the by-gone era were the ideal. In fact, my own opinion is that if these attributes are those that you quest for, there was no substitute for Cello.

For some time there have been rumors that the Cello factory had been shut down, employees had been dismissed and gone their separate ways, and that there would be no further products bearing the Cello brand name in the market. These rumors were almost impossible to believe. How could a brand, with such a long and glorious past, disappear without a trace?

The fact of the matter is that the brand does survive, through the individual perseverance of Jim McCullough. Under his leadership, Cello has been resurrected and is once again pursuing the goal of creating products that strive to be the best available. The introduction of the Rhapsody, a 200w/ch stereo AB-mode amplifier, is the first pleasant surprise delivered by Jim to the fans of Cello. Listening to the 15th track on the Manger Test Disc, featuring the O-Zone Percussion Group, I had the absolutely perfect experience of hearing both the power and the delicacy of the sound of drums. There was an excitement of both the body and soul. I could immediately sense that the Rhapsody was illuminating the complexity of the drums, and that the upper harmonics were clear and transparent. By this virtue alone, the Rhapsody eclipses all previous Cello products. It matters not whether there is a single violin or piano playing, or an entire orchestra, the position of every instrument is precisely rendered, along with all the complex harmonic structure of each instrument's sound. Delicacy and continuity are virtually perfect, and the sound quality is clean and fresh, displaying a superior character.

Swift changes and sharp contrasts were characteristics of the previous Cello amplifiers. When reproducing electronic music or percussion recordings, they were quite satisfying. However, when attempting to recreate recordings which contained delicate textures, they were significantly less satisfying, coming across as mechanical. They were able to produce much bombast but precious little subtlety. It is obvious that this new Rhapsody design builds upon the strengths of the products that have gone before, while adding an emotional responsiveness previously missing.

When listening to the tracks Jazz Variants (from the aforementioned Manger CD), Take Five (from the Dave Brubeck Quartet's Time Out SACD), Drumset (from the High-End Audiophile Test SACD), and Mating Dance (from Wilson Audio's Ultimate Reference CD), in addition to the power of the percussive effects, I was astonished by the nuances evoked by the Rhapsody, which conveyed the emotion of the performances at a much deeper level. The Rhapsody is certainly muscular, but it has the disarming virtue of simultaneously being delicate.

Referring to the Rhapsody as a more subtle amplifier, I must mention its outstanding performance in reproducing voices and stringed instruments. I have no idea how Cello fans, especially those who prize the brand for its powerful capabilities, will react to my opinion that it displays refined sensibility. I can only tell you that I was definitely moved emotionally by this breakthrough in performance achieved by the Rhapsody. The combination of assured confidence, speed, grace, precision, and its first class ability to distinguish the component parts of a performance in a way that more clearly reveals the whole, is truly outstanding.

I think that when most people take a look at the components that make up the power supply, and see the 200 watt per channel rating of the Rhapsody, they will naturally conclude that there must be a limit to the amplifier's continuous output capability. However, after being subjected to the continuous explosive tests we put it through, I can report with confidence that the Rhapsody has a limitless source of power. After enduring the requirement of delivering extraordinarily high sound pressure levels in an unusually large room, the Rhapsody remained unfazed, delivering a perfectly controlled performance with no disturbance to the sound field, with every instrument within that field solidly and clearly placed. It seemed that the more difficult the task presented, the better the amplifier performed.

-Winston Ng