Pre/Power Amplifiers

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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.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThey may typify Stateside heavy-metal hi-fi, but this pre/power amplifier from one of the high-end's best-known names is really all about simplicity and directness

Depending on your point of view, what you see before you are either objects of absolute hi-fi aspiration or a symbol of everything that's wrong with high-end audio in the 21st century. Along with compatriot Krell, Mark Levinson is one of those names that's likely to be known even by those with only a passing interest in hi-fi and – though the marque has undergone several twists and turns in its near-50-year history – it remains one of the best-known in the audio business.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngWhile designed for the pro market, this rugged little workhorse of an amp from 1978 found its way into domestic systems of the day. How does it sound, 30 years on?

How sad. Last year was the 70th anniversary of the founding of Crown, and the event seems to have gone unmarked. The only notable occurrence was that its parent company, Harman International, was acquired by Samsung, which is a rather forlorn way for this most American of brands to celebrate seven decades.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngCombining simplicity with flexibility, this pre/power combination from one of the best-known names in French hi-fi has much to offer – including the odd quirky feature...

Like some other French audio companies, Yves-Bernard André's eponymous brand has hovered on the periphery of UK hi-fi enthusiasts' perception. But the company has been on a mission to change all that, taking a more global view with a lineup extending to no fewer than five product ranges. The Passion models, represented here by the £6750 PRE550A preamp and £5750 AMP650 power amp, sit near the top of the pile.

Review: Lee Dunkley, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngThe svelte D 3020 contrasted with the iconic 3020 amp of '78, but this V2 trades-in USB for phono and Bluetooth in a bid to regain its crown as the ultimate 'starter amp'

The original NAD 3020 integrated amplifier of the late '70s was a genre-defining product – a compact integrated full of useful features that cost relatively little and became recognised for bringing high-quality home audio to a much wider audience. I wouldn't mind betting that many readers will have owned one at some point or at the very least be familiar with its reputation as an 'all go, no show' audiophile amp for its remarkably likeable sound but rather retiring 'grey slab' looks.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngIt was an amp that gave fresh meaning to the term 'cooking on gas', but how does one of Sony's last classic super-integrateds shape up today? Time to find out...

The '70s was a time of great social change. At the beginning of the decade, black and white TVs, bicycles and outside toilets were the reality of life for many British people. But by the end of the '70s, most folks had colour TVs, family cars and swanky modern bathrooms – along with fitted kitchens, wall-to-wall carpeting and stereo systems in their homes. Although the music centre was the height of fashion, separates hi-fi was growing fast and many were willing to pay for serious equipment.

Review: José Victor Henriques, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngInspired by the ‘Momentum’ circuit and industrial design that put D’Agostino Master Audio Systems on the map, its Progression series could make the biggest impact yet

The Progression Stereo amplifier is built around a dual-wound 1400VA toroidal transformer coupled to 400,000µF of power supply storage capacitance that feeds no fewer than 48 power transistors – 24 per channel. On paper this is said to generate 300W/8ohm, doubling into 4ohm [see PM’s Lab Report]. And it’s yours for roughly half the price of a pair of the company’s Progression Monoblocks [HFN Jun ’17].

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngWith an upgraded specification including an asynchronous USB input with DSD capability, ATC’s CD player/DAC/preamp aims to be a complete system front-end

Is this a new twist on the CD player? Or yet another new variation on the DAC? Well, neither actually, for as that ‘Mk2’ suffix suggests, this is a revised version of ATC’s innovative CDA CD player/DAC/preamp combination, selling for £2950 and designed as the perfect partner for the company’s £3375 P2 power amplifier [HFN Mar ’17], or its range of active speakers.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngThe British contender for the late '70s budget amp crown won the hearts and wallets of many a budding audiophile thanks to some canny tech. How does it sound today?

In the early days of hi-fi, the budget amplifier was usually considered an object of disdain, to be quickly upgraded as soon as funds allowed. More capable designs such as the NAD 3020 changed this view and by the late '70s improvements in component technology had made it possible to produce really good amplifiers that still could be sold for reasonable prices.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngSitting at the top of the German company’s range, this flexible pre and hefty stereo power amp are designed to take on the high-end’s big names, and take no prisoners

The PA 8.2 preamplifier and SA 8.2 stereo power amp sit at the top of the German company’s Ovation range, although there’s also the option of buying its MA 8.2 monoblock amps in place of the SA 8.2. These are essentially the SA 8.2 bridged internally to give even greater power – rated at 600W/8ohm in place of the stereo amp’s 250W a side. However, despite the commonality, there’s no bridging option on the stereo model reviewed here.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 01, 2018
hfnvintage.pngIt wasn't a budget buy, but this late '70s integrated from the masters of the MOSFET spearheaded fresh thinking on amplifier design. But how does it sound today?

The advantages of using separate pre and power amplifiers over an integrated is a discussion that can still occupy audiophiles for hours. What was almost a necessity in the valve era became less technically significant once transistors were established, a quality solid-state preamp circuit being undemanding in terms of space and power.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfnvintage.pngDesigned by James Sugden in collaboration with Richard Allan, is the second iteration of this milestone Class A transistorised amp the one to buy? It's time to check it out...

The late '60s provide an interesting choice of equipment for the vintage hi-fi enthusiast. The rapid development of high-quality transistor amplifiers during the period resulted in some intriguing models and the Sugden A21 is a fine example. Why? Because it was the first successful domestic hi-fi amp on the UK market to offer a fully transistorised implementation of Class A.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 01, 2017
hfnoutstanding.pngBased on the popular Inspiration series, the new Revelation range offers upscaled performance for gimmick-averse audiophiles. Its new pre/power is a formidable package

High-end hi-fi offers many flavours of weird and wonderful design, technology and functionality. In a sense, that’s what it’s there for, in order to differentiate itself from more prosaic, modestly priced products. Yet it’s all too easy to get lost in ‘surprise and delight’ features, wild styling or wilfully alternative engineering – and lose the plot.

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