Arcam SA30 Network Attached Amp Page 2

To skirt around the amp's digital architecture, which is in use by default – regardless of input choice and even if a Dirac profile hasn't been uploaded – Direct mode has to be selected. But even when not using all the SA30's tech toys, it remains beguiling. With 'Ramblin' Man' by The Allman Brothers Band [Brothers And Sisters; Capricorn Records 531 262 2], the SA30 offers an expressive and unerringly accurate performance. Dickey Betts' vocal commandeers the centre stage, cleanly separated from Greg Allman's harmonies, and it becomes impossible not to sit back and enjoy the ebb and flow. The twin guitar melody and bluesy solo that carry the track to its climax are then brought forward, rich and resonant, but avoiding a bright, fatiguing edge. There's a smoothness that's immediately likeable, Arcam's SA30 proving as easy-going as the country-infused composition itself.

820arcam.remSlice 'N' Dice
'Rocks Off', The Rolling Stones' frenetic opener from Exile On Main Street [Virgin 7243-8-39503-2-4] is more of a challenge, it being a swirling, almost low-fi mélange of multiple guitar tracks, brass fanfares, rolling piano, tambourine-led rhythms and Mick Jagger's rasping rhyming couplets.

Through the SA30 it sounds better organised than it was perhaps ever intended. Keith Richards' quick-fingered riffs slice and dice through the ragtag accompaniment, the SA30 showing an ability to grab hold of the finest midrange details and elevate them to prominence, all the while keeping trebly hi-hats and cymbals distinct. It's a track that arguably favours an amplifier more inclined to cut loose, but there's no denying the cohesive nature of its presentation.

With something gutsier, and more demanding of full-range speakers, the SA30 seems to grow in stature and low-end grip. 'Madness' by Muse [The 2nd Law; Tidal Masters] lays on a stop-start electronic bass motif that has weight but also texture – it sounds gritty and rough rather than boomy and ponderous. The staccato synthetic drum pattern hits hard, with a crisp edge to the snares and faux handclaps.

At this stage, everything is mixed to be tight and immediate – particularly the solo that clearly pays homage to Brian May – and this amplifier does it justice, managing to target your listening position without feeling shut in.

Wicked Edge
Towards the end, however, the track transforms from edgy disco to soaring love song and the SA30 absolutely nails the shift in tone and scale. There's an even greater feeling of depth to lower registers, but it's joined by a deliciously lush sense of space as the soundstage expands before your eyes.

Range right on the Arcam's volume control to fully savour Muse's operatics and it happily obliges. At high volumes the SA30 remains utterly in control and free of distortion. Indeed, throughout my listening I never felt it struggled regardless of the demands made. Arcam's Class G implementation works as advertised – confident both at tick over and full-throttle.


Streaming via Chromecast brings the Arcam's DAC into play, benefiting from the SA30's organised nature, but not at the expense of its tonality. Dire Straits' 'Private Investigations' [Love Over Gold; Tidal Hi-Fi download], is a track that isolates instruments and focuses your ear. Mark Knopfler's acoustic guitar stood out here, the SA30 revealing every string slide, bend and finger pick while the single-note bassline thumped along in the background. And the amp sparks into life when the electric guitar rages in, serrated but undistorted with a wicked leading edge.

In fact, this track best exemplifies the SA30's most admirable traits. There's a palpable depth and breadth to its imaging that creates cavernous space between the call-and-response interplay of guitar and marimba. The ominous, isolated thuds of a floor tom arrive with a startling dynamic punch, as do the forceful piano chords that signal the climax. But the quietest moments are teased out with a fine touch, and importantly the transition from gentle to menacing is effortless, the sonic equivalent of an Olympian performing a gold medal deadlift.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
More all-in-one than conventional integrated amp, Arcam's SA30 finds the brand embracing modern trends and features, if not the Bluetooth functionality and fashionista stylings of some rivals. It's a timely and welcome update, offering source flexibility and clever digital EQ to the purposeful and revealing sound of its Class G power plant. Arcam may be streamlining its product range, but hasn't lost its focus.

Waterbeach, Cambs
Supplied by: Arcam (Harman International Industries Ltd)
01223 203200