Integrated Amplifiers

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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.
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Apr 06, 2009
After 45 years in business Rotel has every right to do things its own way. The new RSX-1560 gloriously raises its middle knob to the herd, eschewing games of specification trumps and symphony-length features lists. It is also thoroughly gorgeous to behold, and you can’t say that about many of today’s AV receivers. The clean fascia, sturdy case and chunky polished corner pieces give it high-end panache while the rear panel is a cornucopia of beautifully crafted gold plated terminals.
Richard Stevenson & Paul Miller  |  Feb 06, 2009
I have a fondness for NAD. The brand has succeeded over the decades by creating products just a few degrees askew from those of everyone else; never following the herd but, equally, rarely radical. In two-channel audio this has often meant a stripped-down, fundamentalist approach with products having an appealing Bohemian quality. However, when it comes to multichannel AV, eschewing key technologies in favour of a ‘music-first’ approach could be a little too existential for its own good.
Ken Kessler & Paul Miller  |  Feb 06, 2009
Debate that’s been raging since the dawn of hi-fi, Integrated vs Separates boils down to this: the former’s benefits over the latter include the removal of a pre-to-power cable connection, the need for one less AC outlet, less shelf space and – above all – the knowledge that the two sections are optimised for each other. Separates, however, counter with truly dedicated power supplies for each section, as well as isolation of the pre and power amp stages for less potential for undesirable interaction. Traditionally, the higher you go up the price scale, the more likely you are to opt for separates. Over the decades, milestone integrateds would appear that upset the formula: Sugden’s A48, specific models from Rogers, McIntosh, AR, et al.

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