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.

Howard Kneller  |  Oct 27, 2021  |  2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Excellent sound quality
Impressive power in a small package
Extensive feature set
Minus
So-so headphone preamp
Lacks room correction
Non-backlit remote

THE VERDICT
Cambridge Audio’s feature-packed wireless network streamer/integrated amplifier offers substantial power and generally excellent performance at a reasonable price.

Now headquartered in London, English audio product manufacturer Cambridge Audio was founded in 1968 in the university city of the same name. The company's initial product was the walnut-trimmed 20 watts-per-channel (Wpc) P40 integrated amplifier. (Notably, the P40 was the first consumer audio amp to contain a toroidal transformer, a now de rigueur feature in high-end audio.)

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.

Al Griffin  |  Nov 20, 2019  |  9 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $6,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Clean, dynamic sound
Tank-like build quality
Ample power
Minus
Pricey
Streaming requires wired network connection
Unintuitive setup menu

THE VERDICT
With its extremely solid build quality, future-proof feature set, and excellent sound, Hegel's H390 could be the last integrated amp you'll ever need.

Hegel Music Systems is a Norwegian audio electronics manufacturer that has been slowly and steadily making a mark on the high-end audio world since it started out in the early 1990s. One thing that distinguishes Hegel from other audio companies is its portfolio of proprietary technologies that were developed in-house by founder and chief designer Bent Holter.

Howard Kneller  |  Mar 17, 2021  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,835

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Great sound quality
Multiple HDMI inputs (w/ARC)
Effective Space Optimisation room correction
Built-in phono stage
Minus
Dealer setup recommended
Small speaker terminals

THE VERDICT
Linn's all-in-one wireless streamer/amplifier/DAC offers impressive sound, sleek looks, and plentiful connectivity options.

According to the corporate lore of Scottish audio manufacturer Linn, in 1973 a newly married engineer named Ivor Tiefenbrun went shopping at his wife's direction to buy home furnishings. To his wife's chagrin, the story goes, he instead returned with a stereo system. After setting it up, Ivor was disappointed with the sound, but soon discovered that moving the turntable from his listening room into an adjoining room improved the system's performance since the speakers' output no longer interacted with the turntable and distorted the audio signal.

Howard Kneller  |  Jul 13, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Spacious, rich sound
Gorgeous aesthetics
Tank-like build quality
Feature-packed
Minus
Small display
Limited wired connectivity options
Lacks room correction

THE VERDICT
The Marantz Model 40n is a thoroughly modern music streaming machine that sounds great and delivers a robust set of features without losing sight of the brand’s storied past.

I attended a launch event for the Marantz Model 40n a few months ago and marveled at just how far the iconic brand has come since founder Saul Marantz took his first steps as an audio pioneer way back in 1945. In true hobbyist fashion, he modified his car radio so he could listen to it at home and, once it was up and running there, continued tinkering with it to improve its performance.

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.

Howard Kneller  |  Apr 27, 2022  |  0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $2,548 (as tested)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar performance
Powerful internal amplifier
Modular design accommodates updates and additional features
Minus
Modestly built chassis
Small front-panel display
Uninspired remote control

THE VERDICT
The C 399 delivers great performance, impressive features and flexibility, and high value in a modest, yet handsome package.

While waiting on the arrival of NAD's C 399 integrated amplifier for review, I checked it out on the company's website. What I saw there was a minimally adorned exemplar of the black-box design school, with steel chassis panels of ordinary fabrication and a small display showing mostly monochrome text. Yawn. Well, a funny thing happened when the C 399 finally arrived, and I unboxed it. I took a shine to its no-frills, understatedly handsome looks. Sure, there are more striking-looking components out there with more robust build quality, but they'll cost you.

Daniel Kumin  |  Oct 08, 2013  |  1 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 $749 (was $699 at time of review)

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.

Daniel Kumin  |  Nov 04, 2020  |  1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $4,999

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Reference-quality power and D-to-A conversion
Excellent on-board phono section
Onboard Dirac Live room correction
Minus
Coarse “app” volume control steps
No USB type-B port for computer connection
Occasionally wonky AirPlay 2 streaming

THE VERDICT
The M33 combines state-of-the- art sound, power, and broad functionality in an elegantly conceived package.

Boy, has NAD come a long way. Back in 1978, the Canadian/ American/Euro multinational's first product was an unassuming but great-sounding little 20-watt integrated amplifier in a plain gray sheetmetal box, with controls that had all the sophisticated feel of a Kenner Easy-Bake Oven.

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.

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