Integrated Amplifiers

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Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2011
Emblematic of the evolution of the Chinese-made valve amp is PrimaLuna's ProLogue Premium - in case you hanker after a value-for-money integrated with no rough edges This year, my son turned 21 and graduated from university. That was enough of a reminder of time’s passage to depress me. Far less cataclysmic an indicator was another shock to the system (metaphorical, I stress) in the form of the PrimaLuna Prologue Premium Integrated Amplifier. It’s not that the original, which ‘legitimised’ Chinese-made valve amps for Western consumers, was shabby by any means.
Ken Kessler and Paul Miller  |  Jul 08, 2011
Upscale integrateds must be the ‘new black’: following Storm, EAR-Yoshino, Quad and others, the Audiant 80i is a charmer from Down Under – and with an onboard DAC too In its 37 years as an amplifier manufacturer, Perreaux has gone from its 22W/ch GS 2002 integrated debut product to eye-watering 750W monoblock powerhouses. Separate preamps, professional gear, D/A converters, CD players – it’s a full-line brand that’s maintained a global reputation despite the remoteness of a manufacturing base in New Zealand. Along the way, Perreaux was bitten by the MOSFET bug. Having decided not to go with valves as far back as 1974, due to the inconveniences of size, weight and heat, and not entirely happy with the sound of bipolar solid-state devices, MOSFETs seemed a godsend.
John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2011
Sleek design, comprehensive functionality and even a built-in wireless DAC make the AS-400 a thoroughly modern integrated amp – for today’s iTunes generation Not long after the introduction of Micromega’s £2800 integrated amplifier, the IA-400, and its £1100 WM-10 wireless-equipped DAC comes a component that effectively combines the two: a new version of its integrated amplifier (with ‘AS’ instead of ‘IA’ nomenclature) featuring a built-in 802. 11n Wi-Fi receiver/DAC, working to Apple’s latest AirStream protocols. As with any wireless connectivity – Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – there is something quite spooky about the ability for music stored on computer, mobile ’phone or PDA to be played through one’s hi-fi system as if by magic. Unlike open source DLNA/UPnP systems, however, AirStream (formerly called Airplay) is proprietary to Apple and works only with its iTunes media player, iPhones, iPads and the web-enabled iPod Touch.
John Bamford & Paul Miller  |  Jul 16, 2010
Hats off to the industrial designers at Emillé Labs. As with all the company’s reassuringly expensive tube amplifiers, the curiously named Cha’am integrated is a masterpiece of industrial design and it looks a million dollars. You can be forgiven if you’ve assumed the company is French. In fact, Emillé hails from South Korea, and is a specialist audio division of Kwangwoo Electronics [see ‘The Name Rings a Bell’ box-out].
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Jun 08, 2010
I find it very odd that the M2 is the most technically advanced and subjectively successful digital amplifier yet to grace my listening room. Until recently, right now in fact, NAD was not a company likely to spring to mind for its cutting edge technical innovation. The brand saw me through my penniless student days with a host of hi-fi products that majored on simplicity, great value and a remarkable immunity to spilt beer. But the M2 is very different.
Paul Miller  |  Apr 16, 2010
Once in a generation a company will emerge, often from left-field of audio’s mainstream, with a concept so original and innovative that it has the capacity to re-define the expectations of a product genre. That company is Devialet of France and its product is the D-Premier integrated amplifier, expected to cost around £12k when launched in the UK. Embarking on this review, little was known about the nitty-gritty of the D-Premier aside from its description as an ‘ADH’ (Analogue/Digital Hybrid) amplifier. It was not exhibited at CES in January nor formally announced to the press, so much of what we’ll discuss here is derived from very close inspection and even closer lab work, all exclusive to Hi-Fi News.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jan 16, 2010
As far as expressions go, a novelist would describe it as ‘eyes agog’: that’s the look that crossed my face in January 2009, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It wasn’t even an actual piece of hardware that grabbed me. It was a preliminary product sheet, a flyer for the forthcoming Quad II Classic Integrated. Talk about a well-kept secret: even the normally voluble Tim de Paravicini, who designed it, let out nary a peep [see p110].
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Nov 06, 2009
Pioneer’s flagship Susano amplifier arrived amidst an unseasonable summer tempest that lashed the south of England with high winds and heavy rain. An auspicious start for an amplifier that derives its name from the ancient Japanese god of storms. Sadly, divine intervention didn’t go so far as helping me carry it to the listening room because it’s the size and weight of a small stone temple. The SC-LX90 is Pioneer’s statement of intent at the upper echelons of the AV amplifier market, sharing the same piano-black fascia and cosmetic cues as the company’s top-end plasma screens.
Hi-Fi News team & Paul Miller  |  Nov 06, 2009
Surfing the wave of new and innovative Far Eastern valve products, Emillé looks set to ride a tube of its own with the visually stunning KI-40L. The Far East has been producing quality components for many years (see boxout for company history). However in recent years, as the world has shrunk thanks to the internet, an opportunity has opened up for us to try exotic fare on offer from the likes of Shanling and now Korean company Emillé. Part amplifier, part sculpture this physically imposing component is rated at just 40W/ch and forms part of a five-strong range.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Sep 15, 2009
As inescapably all-pervading as swine flu or the taxman, Apple’s iPod is now the most popular source component of all. The generation gap is bookended by Those Who Like Physical Music Carriers and Those Happy To Use Music Files. And, as this is a transitional period, there are those who use both. We are in the middle of a revolution that will render wall-filling libraries of discs about as desirable as typewriters or cathode-ray TVs.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Jul 06, 2009
Having played with a number of PrimaLuna ProLogue products, I’m safe in saying that each and every one represents astonishing value because 1) they’re made in China, but 2) to European standards. They single-handedly established and provided credibility for the lower entry-level price point for rock-solid valve products, and showed that China was ready to compete with the rest of the world in hardware manufacture, if the proper structure was applied. With DiaLogue, PrimaLuna is attacking the next price point, with the same vigour. That in itself should be enough to make the DiaLogue Two a fascinating prospect for those with up to £2000 to spend on amplification.
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Jul 06, 2009
With HD technology and disc formats now on a firmer footing, almost every maker worth its transistors has launched a range-topping ‘HD’ amplifier. Enter Denon’s AVC-A1HD, goodbye AVC-A1XVA. Price-wise, the AVC-A1HD amplifier’s £3800 ticket nestles between Denon’s flagship AVR-4308 receiver (£2000, HFN, Dec ’07) and its new £10,000 A1HD multichannel pre/power combination. But of far more relevance is its position against its only serious competition – Yamaha’s DSP-Z11 (HFN, Apr ’08) and Pioneer’s SC-LX90, both at £5000.
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Jul 06, 2009
I always get a warm, Sunday afternoon feeling when a new product arrives from Arcam. While you can imagine the Far Eastern competition frenetically working 24/7 to be first to market with the latest multichannel widget, I see Arcam as a little more reserved, a little more British. The AVR600 may have been a long time coming with its HD-audio decoding, multi-room installer features and premium video processing but it simply exudes dedication and polish from the moment you open the box. It’s substantial for starters.
Keith Howard & Paul Miller  |  Jul 06, 2009
This way madness lies. Or so you’d think if you buy hook, line and sinker into the mythology that has grown up around the Swiss darTZeel brand. And yet our Movers & Shakers feature in the March ’09 issue illustrated that darTZeel partners Hervé Delétraz and Serge Roch are nothing if not methodical in their approach to amplifier design. Their goal is to keep the audio path as straight and simple as possible, avoiding input/output switching and even using an optically-coupled rotary encoder for volume rather than a conventional potentiometer.
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Apr 06, 2009
Yamaha’s Z11 is an amplifier of extremes. Almost every feature can be prefixed with terms like ‘most’, ‘advanced’ and ‘leading’ and the fit and finish is superb. The specification sheet is impressive and the features list is the size of the Encyclopaedia Britannica and reads like my very own wishlist of AV technology. The Z11 is right at the cutting edge of multichannel audio, HD video and multi-room technology and then goes on to incorporate a level of audiophile engineering that would compete favourably with high-end two-channel components.

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