Really, the only difference I can tell between the Rialto 600 and Bijou 600, aside from their form factors and intended installation locations, is that the former features two sets of incredible, fancy, five-way binding posts (which are not only gorgeous but also handled 12-gauge speaker wire just fine in my testing) and a bottom-mounted cooling fan, whereas the latter sports a phoenix connector for its speaker-level outputs and a mountable 1U half-rack design. (It can also be mounted behind a TV or in a wall cavity box with optional hardware, sold separately).
Because the two are so utterly similar, and because the Rialto 600 aligns a little better with my needs for such a product, I leaned on it for the bulk of my testing, using it essentially as a preamp/DAC/amplifier for my desktop-based two-channel system in my home office. Both Zone Amplifiers come with a handy optical digital audio cable, which wasn’t quite long enough to reach from my Maingear PC around to my pair of GoldenEar Triton Ones, so I brought my own optical cable to the party.
AccuBASS is engaged via the included (itty-bitty) remote and can be dialed up or down much the same way a standard bass control might be. To my ears, though, it isn’t simply a bass boost. It added not only volume, but also weight and dynamics to the bass, and in most cases, I found it best used sparingly, if at all. Where it really helped was with beloved but hard-to-listen-to albums like the notoriously bright and thin Tesla album The Great Radio Controversy.
With the Rialto 600/Triton One system still hooked up, I also connected the Bijou 600 to a pair of Paradigm Prestige 15B bookshelf speakers and Artison’s little RCC Nano 1 subwoofer, which gave me a chance to test out its bass management capabilities. Given that bass management is handled via back-panel dipswitches, you’ve probably already guessed correctly that you can’t adjust the crossover frequency. There’s one switch to engage an 80 Hz high-pass for the speaker-level outputs, and another for an 80 Hz low-pass on the LFE output. That turned out to be the perfect crossover point for these speakers, though, and no doubt for most any 2.1 speaker system you might tie to the Bijou or Rialto.
The real fun began when I started digging through AudioControl’s truly awesome instruction manual for clues as to how to make use of the rest of the dipswitches: Bridged Mode, Sleep Defeat, High Gain, and individual Volume Defeat for each of the three inputs.
The Rialto 600 features fancy five-way binding posts and, like the Bijou 600, is packed with toggle dipswitches.
Two of those, in particular, were crucial to another setup, in which I used both the Rialto 600 and Bijou 600 in the same stereo system. I used the Rialto to drive the main stereo speaker (the Paradigm bookshelves again), with the highpass and low-pass filters flipped on. Instead of running the LFE output to a sub, though, I ran it to the Bijou 600’s analog input, with its Volume Defeat engaged, Bridged Mode turned on, and the speaker-level output routed to Beale Street Audio’s excellent ICS8-MB passive subwoofer.
In this case, I had exactly the opposite concerns that I did with the Triton One system: 400 watts of amplification is way more than the Beale Street sub is rated to handle. But a careful hand on the volume control of the Rialto 600 kept things from getting explodey at all, and quite frankly the system straight up rocked my face off. And that’s just one of the possible setups suggested in the (again, ridiculously entertaining and informative) manual.
If I have one beef to pick with these incredible little Zone Amps, it’s that they lack any sort of USB audio input. That’s understandable, given that they’re both positioned (and designed) as small pieces in a much larger whole-home audio puzzle. In fact, the back panel is so crowded with connectivity and setup switches that I’m not sure there’s really room for USB, even if it made sense for the amps’ intended functions. Maybe if AudioControl ditched the headphone output? I dunno. What I do know, though, is that I’m picking nits here. These amps are absolutely incredible.
Incredibly flexible, high-performance amps that perfectly straddle the audiophile and custom installation markets, with a wealth of integration features
► 2 Channels x 100 Watts at 8 Ohms
► 2 Channels x 200 Watts at 4 Ohms
► Pre-amp Volume Control Via Infra (IR) or RS 232
► Stable Down to 4 Ohms
► Bridgeable as Mono Block 400 Watts
► 2 x Digital Optical & COAX inputs and Analog Stereo Inputs
► Subwoofer Output
► Wolfson Digital Analog Converter (DAC) For Audiophile Performance
► Source Switching Via IR or RS 232
► Patented AccuBASS ™ Bass Response
► Crossover • 12v Trigger Input • Bridgeable • Headphone Input 4 Remote Control Included (Remote Control Codes Available on Bijou 600 Web Page)