Integrated Amp Reviews

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Al Griffin  |  Nov 15, 2018  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Effective, easily configured room correction
Flexible bass-management
Powerful stereo amplifier
Extensive phono input settings
Minus
No built-in network streaming capability

THE VERDICT
ARC room correction on Anthem’s STR integrated amp makes it a must-audition option for anyone putting together a high-performance stereo system.

Anthem AVM series preamplifier/processors have been part of my home theater toolkit going back as long as I can remember. Though they perform A/V switching, audio processing, and video upscaling as well as anything else on the market, the main feature I’ve come to depend on is the company’s proprietary ARC (Anthem Room Correction), a Windows and iOS/Android app that lets you measure the effect of your listening environment on your speakers using either a calibrated microphone or the one built into your phone or tablet.

John Sciacca  |  May 14, 2014  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $799

AT A GLANCE
Plus
High-performance Wolfson Audio WM8671 DAC handles signals up to 192 kHz/24-bit
AccuBASS designed to restore depth to compressed audio sources
Automatic input switching

Minus
Runs hot
Lack of front-panel controls may be problematic for some installs

THE VERDICT
This terrific amplifier and DAC solution improves sonics in a small package.

The quest for audio simplicity has come far closer to becoming a reality with the introduction of music streamers from the likes of Sonos and Apple. Now just connect one of these devices to an audio system, and you’ve got an entire world of music literally at your fingertips. However, these components aren’t exactly revered for their terrific audio qualities, and many dress up the sonics by running them through an outboard DAC before connecting to a quality amplifier. But in space-challenged places like an office, kitchen, or bedroom, this can be easier said than done.

Daniel Kumin  |  Dec 05, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $5,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Top-shelf sound reproduction
Enough power to handle nearly all loudspeakers
Price-no-object manufacturing and finish
Minus
Challenging input-identification ergonomics
No phono input

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio’s commemorative Edge A combines top-shelf sound with gorgeous industrial design. The price may be a cut above average, but the Edge A is no average integrated amp.

Do you really need a $5,000, 54-pound, two-channel integrated amplifier? Yes, of course you do. Especially if that integrated amplifier is the new Edge A from Cambridge Audio, a British firm with a long record of seriousness about sound reproduction. Cambridge’s gear has always struck me as a rigorously high-end/high-value proposition, but the Edge A looks, tastes, and smells more like a no-holds- barred statement design, the kind we’re more likely to expect from a company whose bottom line is that they don’t give a fig for the bottom line.

Al Griffin  |  Nov 07, 2017  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,995

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Neutral sound from Class A/B amp
Upsamples and converts PCM and DSD
Compact form factor
Minus
Futuristic design means no mechanical controls
No wired headphone output

THE VERDICT
Cary Audio’s all-in-one system looks great, sounds great, and is packed with cutting-edge features.

Cary Audio is known in the high-end audio scene for making vacuum-tube and solid-state stereo components, and the brand has also established a foothold in the home theater world with its Cinema 12 preamp/processor and multichannel amplifiers. Cary’s AiOS (All-in-One System) is the first offering in the company’s Lifestyle series. With built-in aptX Bluetooth, wired Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, AirPlay and PhoneShare support, and onboard Tidal, Spotify, and vTuner streaming, the AiOS really does have everything you need to immediately start playing music. Just download the company’s iOS/Android app, connect speakers, and you’re good to go.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 22, 2017  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Good power in compact form
Outstanding app-enabled subwoofer auto-setup
Onboard 192/24 USB DAC
Minus
No line outputs for external amp
Small display

THE VERDICT
Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G amp/DAC nails the sweet spot of price, performance, and worthwhile features with surprisingly audiophile sound and the added value of auto-EQ and app-enabled subwoofer crossover/blending.

It’s an amplifier. It’s a USB DAC. It’s a room/subwoofer equalizer. It’s a headphone amp. It’s an app-enabled Bluetooth receiver. It’s all of these, and it’s only $699—and it’s from the revived German brand Elac, whose latest Andrew Jones–designed loudspeakers have won acclaim in these pages and elsewhere. Ultimately, Elac’s Element EA101EQ-G may be best characterized as what the stereo receiver is morphing into for the 21st century.

Daniel Kumin  |  Sep 19, 2018  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $7,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-grade sonics
Outstanding digital audio performance up to 32-bit/384kHz
Gorgeous fit and finish and industrial design
Minus
Basic user interface
Comparatively limited onboard music streaming options
Ethernet connection can be finicky

THE VERDICT
The Micromega M-150 is a pricey, somewhat limited, but fine-sounding integrated amp with a super-slim form factor and surprising power.

Nominally, French firm Micromega would seem a deeply conflicted organization. Is it micro, or is it mega? We may never know. (For the record, “Micomégas” is an 18th-century, ur-science-fiction novella by that most French of Enlightenment figures, Voltaire.)

Either way, the south-of-Paris firm has an established record of filling niches in the ever-shifting digital-audiophile world, beginning with several notable high-end CD players. Today, like most such manufacturers, Micromega is redefining itself for the post-physical media age: Witness its latest M-One duo of streaming- capable, digital-input integrated amplifiers—streamplifiers, as I like to call them.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 08, 2013  |  3 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fine performance and sound
Elegant looks
Clear value
Minus
No mute control
Limited detail in volume readout

THE VERDICT
As an integrated amplifier/DAC combo for serious listeners, the D 3020’s audio quality and value are unmistakable.

Audio types old enough to have viewed Chevy Chase’s pratfalls live rather than on demand may remember an unprepossessing integrated amplifier from an unfamiliar brand. The NAD 3020, despite a power rating laughably modest even in 1978 (20 watts per channel) and next to no features, gained notice because, as the lore went, “it sounded great.” And it did—thanks to intelligent amplifier design, a conservative power rating, and the value—widely underappreciated, then and now—of dynamic headroom.

Daniel Kumin  |  Feb 27, 2019  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive power and sonics from a sub-compact design
Dynamic enough to handle a wide range of speakers
Useful Bass EQ/subwoofer filter options
Minus
Digital conversion does not extend to 32-bit/384kHz

THE VERDICT
The D 3045 is a surprisingly powerful compact integrated amplifier with an eminently capable onboard DAC that's equally at home on the desktop or component rack.

Five years ago, when I examined NAD's $399 D 3020, the progenitor of the D 3045 before us here, I liked it—a lot. The D 3020 was among the first of what I've come to call DAC-lifiers: small-ish integrated amps with onboard digital-to-analog facilities intended for audio-streaming or computer sources and projecting at least some level of audiophile sophistication.

Al Griffin  |  Aug 07, 2019  |  0 comments

Speakers
Performance
Build Quality
Value
Integrated Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $400 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great value
Tidal, Spotify, and TuneIn streaming
Digital and analog inputs accommodate multiple sources
Minus
Subwoofer output
Treble-forward sound with some music
Coarse volume steps
No USB-DAC input

THE VERDICT
OSD Audio’s compact, component-based system is a great value and offers a high-er-performance alternative to many all-in-one wireless speakers.

OSD Audio is a company that seems to make everything— everything audio-related, that is. When I stopped by the company's booth at the CEDIA trade show in 2018, CEO Dave Chai took me on a guided tour of the vast array of in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, outdoor speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, accessories, and cables on display, thoroughly impressing me with his ability to speak about each product in detail. While much of OSD Audio's catalog is aimed at custom installation pros, two new consumer-oriented categories for the company are bookshelf speakers and integrated amplifiers with wireless streaming capability.

Mark Fleischmann  |  Oct 04, 2010  |  0 comments
Price: $999 At A Glance: Desktop stereo integrated amp, including tube preamp and DAC • Apple-approved digital iPod connection • Jitter reduction

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Like many surround-sound audiophiles, I listen to a lot of twochannel material as well. It’s part retro sacrament, part necessary evil. Although I haven’t turned on my ancient stereo amp and preamp in months—their presence in the rack is mainly symbolic—I regularly run my 5.1-channel system in stereo mode when the nature of the content demands it. I also get a lot of use out of the cheap speakers and chip-amp in my kitchen, not to mention the powered iPod speakers in my bedroom. I use my 2.1-channel desktop rig throughout the day—not only when I’m at my desk, with the inevitable YouTube distractions, but also during the evening, when I curl up with a book. My armchair happens to sit across the room from my desktop system. Because the distance from the speakers is greater than the distance between the speakers—about a 3:1 ratio—this isn’t an ideal setup for stereo imaging. But it’s great for casual listening. I’ve spent some of the happiest hours of my life sitting in that chair, listening to that system.

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.

Al Griffin  |  Oct 11, 2018  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $599

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Impressive power from compact box
Built-in phono stage
Subwoofer output
Minus
Slightly forward sound on some tracks

THE VERDICT
PS Audio’s new Sprout 100 is a worthy option for anyone seeking a compact integrated amplifier/DAC that also handles vinyl playback.

The original PS Audio Sprout integrated amplifier/DAC was noted as being part of a new trend of ultra-compact ampDACs when Sound & Vision reviewed it back in 2015. We’ve since tested similar models from Elac and Teac, though it was the Sprout that most grabbed our attention due to its moving magnet phono stage—a feature those other models happen to lack.

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.

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