Integrated Amp Reviews

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Daniel Kumin  |  May 29, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Unimpeachable sound quality
Impressive power and dynamic ability
Chromecast built-in, AirPlay, and Spotify Connect support
Minus
No phono input or headphone output
No native streaming (requires smartphone, tablet or similar)

THE VERDICT
Flexible streaming options enhance the appeal of this sleek-looking integrated amplifier/DAC with serious audiophile pedigree and performance.

Primare is a small audio component manufacturer in Sweden founded by an industrial designer from Denmark. The Malmö-based firm's quirky high-end electronics have found favor among in-the-know audiophiles for nearly thirty years. Recently, a new line of streaming-centric components was introduced that appear custom-made to broaden Primare's appeal, and if the entry-level Prisma I15 integrated amplifier/DAC ("streamplifier," as I like to call them) they've supplied us for review here is any indication, the move will succeed.

Michael Trei  |  Feb 22, 2012  |  0 comments

Few audio companies are as closely associated with a single individual as Pass Laboratories is with its founder Nelson Pass, a man who has always blazed his own path when it comes to designing audio gear. Pass founded Threshold Electronics back in the early 1970s, but when he wanted to explore new, simpler circuit topologies in the early 1990s, he created Pass Labs as a way to market his latest creations.

The two integrated amps in the Pass Labs line, the INT-150 and INT-30A, are a good example of his less-than-conventional approach, seeing as both appear to be  identical except for the critical question of output power. Physically the two amps are indistinguishable, with exactly the same functions, weight, dimensions, and even price tag. It’s only when you take a peek at the spec sheet that the differences become apparent, with the INT-150 delivering a healthy 150 watts per-channel, while the INT-30A tops out at just one-fifth that amount.

So what gives? Why would anyone buy an inline four when they’re offering you the V-12 for the same money?

Brent Butterworth  |  Sep 18, 2011  |  0 comments

Maybe back in the 1920s, when Sound + Vision was called Superheterodyne Journal, we might have reviewed some giant tube amplifier that put out 2 watts at full blast. But other than perhaps some forgotten device from audio’s days of yore, this storied publication has never tested an amplifier so small, so weak, so limited in utility as the Qinpu Q-2.

Brent Butterworth  |  Sep 18, 2011  |  0 comments

Maybe back in the 1920s, when Sound + Vision was called Superheterodyne Journal, we might have reviewed some giant tube amplifier that put out 2 watts at full blast. But other than perhaps some forgotten device from audio’s days of yore, this storied publication has never tested an amplifier so small, so weak, so limited in utility as the Qinpu Q-2.

Brent Butterworth  |  Sep 18, 2011  |  0 comments

Maybe back in the 1920s, when Sound + Vision was called Superheterodyne Journal, we might have reviewed some giant tube amplifier that put out 2 watts at full blast. But other than perhaps some forgotten device from audio’s days of yore, this storied publication has never tested an amplifier so small, so weak, so limited in utility as the Qinpu Q-2.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Mar 15, 2017  |  1 comments

Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $899

AT A GLANCE
Plus
USB inputs for PC and iOS
Premium Wolfson DAC
Bluetooth aptX
Minus
No DSD decoding
No Wi-Fi, AirPlay, or Ethernet
No streaming services

THE VERDICT
The Rotel A12 accepts direct wired input from PCs and iOS devices and gets the best out of both digital and analog sources with its great-sounding DAC and amp.

Connecting a computer to an audio system with a USB cable seems a perfectly logical idea. It’s simple, it’s direct, and it enables the computer to feed bits to the system and rely on the system’s digital-to-analog conversion. Yet this desirable feature is tantalizingly rare. AVRs and streaming amps tend to rely on wired and wireless network connections rather than on a USB port and asynchronous digital-to-analog converter (DAC) that can take over the clocking functions of the digital bit transfer and reduce the effects of jitter.

Al Griffin  |  Apr 06, 2022  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Surprisingly powerful amp
Clean, detailed sound
Great build quality for price
Minus
limited feature set compared to competition
Streaming options limited to Bluetooth wireless and direct computer-to-USB input

THE VERDICT
Rotel’s affordable A14MKII integrated is light on features but heavy on performance. A great option for listeners who want to keep their audio system simple.

Back in fall 2021 Sound & Vision reviewed Rotel's RA-1572MKII integrated amplifier, an upgraded version of the company's popular RA-1572. Well, at Rotel the upgrades keep coming fast and furious: Just a few months later, word dropped that the same treatment was coming to products at more affordable price points, with the company's A12 and A14 integrated amps getting bumped up to MKII status.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 15, 2021  |  0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,099

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Generous power
First-class sound
High-quality fit and finish
Minus
Network connection doesn't support audio
Lacks Wi-Fi, AirPlay wireless streaming

THE VERDICT
Rotel's MKII version of its RA-1572 integrated amp delivers impressive power and transparent sound with digital and analog sources but lacks the comprehensive streaming features found on similar designs from other manufacturers.

True story. My very first hi-fi system featured a Rotel integrated amplifier—if memory serves, a model RA-20 of some 20 watts per channel. I bought it brand new for around $60 from K&L Sound in Watertown, Massachusetts, with money saved from my after-school job building shelves, sweeping floors, and punching holes in sheet- metal panels that would become the very first ARP synthesizers. (The late Alan R. Pearlman was my next-door neighbor and a lovely, kind, brilliant guy.)

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 13, 2013  |  0 comments

Remember integrated amps? I do — my first two real audio systems were assembled around examples of the one-component, preamp/poweramp combination form.

So does Pioneer. The firm’s new Elite A-20 is an unabashed throwback: two channels, no radio, a few analog inputs (no digital), a few knobs. 

Daniel Kumin  |  Jan 02, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,500

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Superb sonics from high-resolution digital sources
Substantial amplifier power
Unusual looks; fine finish quality
Minus
No headphone or other additional outputs
Un-ergonomic remote controller

THE VERDICT
Reference-quality sound from hi-rez music files made simple—at a reference-grade price.

What form will the Audiophile System of the Future take? It’s an open question, though it’s a pretty fair bet that the pallet-loads of tube power amps and skyscraper speakers of the high end’s golden age will not return any time soon. One proposed answer, from Wadia Digital, is the Intuition 01 power DAC, a swoopily formed oblong that incorporates very substantial two-channel amplification (190 watts x 2 into 8 ohms, rated), highly sophisticated digital-to-analog conversion facilities, and basic input-selection and volume controls.

Mark Fleischmann  |  May 31, 2017  |  1 comments

MusicCast WX-010 Speaker
Performance
Build Quality
Value

MusicCast WXA-50 Amplifier
Audio Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $500 (amp); $200 (speaker)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Streams to MusicCast devices
Wi-Fi, AirPlay, Bluetooth
55 watts per channel, Class D
Minus
No headphone jack on amp
No analog input on speaker
Loaded PC may freeze app

THE VERDICT
The Yamaha WXA-50 has a clean and lively sound, a space-saving form factor, and the ability to stream to devices using the company’s MusicCast system—including the reasonable-sounding WX-010 wireless speaker.

If you are the intended audience for the Yamaha MusicCast WXA-50 amplifier, you find A/V receivers too big, black, and boxy. You are happy with two-channel sound but turned off by doghouse-sized stereo amps sitting on the floor. Soundbars may give you Bluetooth, but that isn’t enough. You’re willing to accept the architecture of a conventional home audio system—amp, speakers, sources—but on a more modest scale. And because you live in more than one room, you want a system with multiroom smarts. That’s the WXA-50 stereo integrated amp and MusicCast multiroom system in a nutshell. To make things interesting for this review, we threw in a couple of Yamaha’s latest WX-010 wireless speakers in additional zones.

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