Pre/Power Amplifiers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe sound of music is raising the rafters in Eastern Westphalia as Germany's T+A celebrates its 40th anniversary with a set of very special monoblock hybrid amplifiers

Not so much monoblocks as monoliths, these new flagship power amps from Germany's T+A certainly have what you'd call 'in room presence'. At least they do when you have got them in position, a task hampered by the fact each is a 50kg+ dead weight, although admittedly the two substantial handles sprouting from the top panel – and the assistance of a friend – will help.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngNo shortage of machismo – it has to be an American power amp, right? Parasound's Halo JC5 conforms to some of these stereotypes, but there's more to it than just slam

There's nothing terribly unusual about a big, hefty US-made power amp: after all, it's almost an archetype of what we think the US high-end is all about. Long cable runs from preamp to power amp(s), short tails to the speakers – it's just the way they do things over there, and at first glance the Parasound Halo JC5 seems to conform to all those preconceptions.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngBack in the '80s, several British 'cottage industry' companies made integrated amps for purist customers, but this is surely the most 'mysterious'. How will it sound today?

In hi-fi as in life, the 1980s was a transformative time. From speaker stands and audiophile speaker cable, to mini monitors and expensive, minimalist integrated amps – the 'go for it' decade of Filofaxes, red braces and VW Golf GTis showed us what was to come.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngNagra’s monumental HD amplifier series reaches completion as its monoblock power amps are joined by this sensational, two-chassis, fully-balanced HD PREAMP

Nagra has, with the exception of the now-best-forgotten Pyramid amplifiers [HFN Feb ’05], a near-faultless track record. When you consider that the company leapt from professional tape decks to audiophile-grade valve electronics 20 years ago, the transition has been remarkable. With the second of its HD models, the HD PREAMP (joined by the HD DAC), one witnesses the completion of ‘Phase One’ of Nagra 2.0.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngSharing the same chassis design as its 3010 series, but boasting double the clout, Exposure’s latest pre/power also offers modular MM/MC phono and DAC options

Available with silver (‘titanium’) or black front panels, both with black main casework, Exposure’s 5010 models replace the rather more overtly styled – and huge – MCX series, with their large outrigger feet, as the company’s flagship models. They sit atop a range running from the entry-level 1010 series through the 2010S2s and 3010S2s [HFN Dec ’14], with the half-width XM lineup as an alternative [HFN Apr ’18]. This top-end range is kept much simpler than its junior counterparts, for where those lineups extend to disc players and integrated amps, here we have just two models: the £2000 5010 preamp, and the £4550-per-pair 5010 mono power amps.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngDesigned to match its compact DACs, Benchmark’s all-analogue headphone amplifier employs the same THX ‘Achromatic’ tech debuted in its 100W AHB2 power amp

With the boom in headphone listening outpacing even the uptake of new turntables, the hi-fi landscape has changed to a significant extent. Not only are hi-fi shows shining a spotlight on the personal listening experience but dedicated headphone events have spun out in their own right. And the hardware is changing, too: the market is awash with DAC/headphone amp combos, all the way from the tiny (and highly portable) AudioQuest DragonFly models [HFN Oct ’16], to the ‘transportable’ Chord Hugo 2 [HFN Aug ’18] and mains-powered units such as the iFi Audio Pro iDSD [HFN Sep ’18].

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe Norwegian brand’s latest amp is not just its most powerful integrated, but comes complete with network audio capability. Is this the ultimate one-box amp solution?

Obviously not afraid of a spot of (Russell?) crowing, Oslo-based Hegel describes its new Reference H590 integrated amp, just going on sale at £9000, as ‘Master and Commander’. Apparently it’s ‘A master at musicality’ and ‘The commander of any set of speakers’. Mind you, you might be tempted to forgive the company for its exuberance – after all, the new arrival is something of a monster, standing an AV-receiver-challenging 17.1cm tall, tipping the scales at 22kg and delivering over 300W per channel. Well, 301W a side actually, according to Hegel, making it at least 50% more powerful than its previous top integrated, the H360.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThis neatly packaged, sleekly-styled Scandinavian integrated offers DAC and streaming functionality, plus a very fine sound thanks to its proven Class D power amp modules

Many think of Apple as creating today’s world of sleek, minimalist consumer electronics – but the business and creative heads of that Californian company – Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ive – were themselves inspired by great talents working in hi-fi, long before the iconic iPod was ever launched. Lest we forget, Jacob Jensen did amazing industrial design work at Bang & Olufsen for decades, as did Dieter Rams at Braun 15 years earlier.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngWith a claimed 550W on tap, this US-made pre/power amplifier combo offers serious quantities of sound per pound. How does this muscle amp-on-a-budget perform?

It’s often said that less can actually be more. For example, many high-end hi-fi products are devoid of fripperies because the lion’s share of the build budget is spent on the bits you can’t see, such as high quality components. This in turn gives better sound per pound, or so the theory goes. Yet other designs come festooned with features and often lack ability in the sonic stakes.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngLuxman’s update of its fully-loaded, flagship headphone amplifier has resulted in the heavyweight P-750u – is this incarnation a contender for the best of the breed?

Decades on from the likes of the EarMax, AudioValve RKV and other pioneering headphone amps, born before cans became a ‘thing’, we are now spoiled for choice. Luxman, which has been on dazzling form of late, has upgraded its no-compromise champ to produce the P-750u, and it just may be the go-to unit if you’re 1) crazy for cans, 2) use various models and 3) love added fine-tuning control.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngLaunched in 1980, these slimline separates proved just the tonic for those seeking sophisticated sonics wrapped in eye-catching casework. How do they sound today?

Who buys top quality hi-fi equipment? First there is the audiophile, who is willing to devote considerable resources in the pursuit of components that deliver what he or she regards as the best sound quality for a given budget. There was once also a largely non-technical group who had equally high musical expectations. Wealthy and design conscious, they wanted complete systems that not only sounded good but looked good too, and included all the latest technological refinements.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngNot just a new model but a radical change for the venerable Reference Series, the REF160M mono power amp heralds a fresh direction in both looks and performance

A genius mix of both rebellion and restraint, Audio Research's latest chapter in the Reference saga, the REF160M monoblock power amplifier, is one of the biggest departures in the much-lauded series' evolution. Most obvious is the new look, which takes its cues from the G-Series, bringing with it a cool oversized meter, but the rest of the amplifier has been redeveloped, too, not least to incorporate features that will improve system matching, reliability, ease-of-use and initial set-up.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngA reversal of digital direction marks out this hi-tech integrated amp from the Masters Series, so can NAD's innovative thinking make the M32 stand out from the crowd?

Just in case you can't work out what the £3499 NAD M32 actually is – straight from the box only a volume control sets it apart from the company's similarly styled M22 v2 power amp – the front panel tells you, at least when powered up, that this is a 'Direct Digital DAC/Amplifier'. Of course, even powering it up may be a challenge for those for whom 'RTFM' is a sign of weakness. After a bit of stabbing of the NAD logo, which glows amber in standby, suggesting it might do something, they'll probably eventually alight on the little touch pad top and centre above the display. Brush this and the amp gets ready to do its stuff, at which point the amber surround on the logo turns white and you're in business.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jul 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngInspired by its own VPA amplifier, but with the intent to drive the ultimate high-end systems in large rooms, Nagra set to work designing its 'Statement' monoblocks

Look at the photos: the Nagra HD AMP's slim, vertical layout will remind fans immediately of the company's first power monoblock amplifier, the VPA. This vertical stance is not all that common – remember Halcro? – while the small footprint it affords makes a vertical model instantly appealing for those who value floor space. Nagra's new, top-of-the-range unit, however, is purely a solid-state device which – profile aside – is the antithesis of the all-valve VPA, which was rated at 50W in 'Pure Class A'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThis slimline amplifier from an established French brand may suggest another product from the same country, but it's a very different prospect with some unique features

So, it's a slimline amplifier, and it's French – already thinking of the 'D' word? But while it might seem that the M-One amplifiers from Micromega could be 'inspired' by the success of Devialet's range, in fact they have little in common beyond their country of origin and a passing resemblance in dimensions: under the skin they're very different animals.

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