Integrated Amplifiers

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Ken Kessler  |  May 25, 2021  |  First Published: Feb 01, 1990
hfnvintageKen Kessler on Bill Beard's new line-level-only integrated valve amplifier

Manufacturers should not be criticised for responding to changing tastes. CD has forever changed the face of hi-fi, so all you're doing when you mourn the passage of the phono stage is increase the value of shares in sackcloth and ashes. Instead, be thankful that the companies in the high-end are intent on making the best line-stage amplifiers they can design. What you use for a phono section can be either your existing, pre-CD preamp or an outboard phono section. With this in mind. Bill Beard has launched an all-valve, line-level-only integrated amplifier, the first product to bear his new company's name.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 14, 2019
hfnoutstandingA high-end, high-power, configurable tube/transistor hybrid integrated amplifier – tightly targeted but the Aesthetix Mimas could easily seduce the separates purist

Aaah, downsizing: if it keeps the high-end healthy, I'm all for it. US boutique brand Aesthetix's Mimas integrated amp joins a sector that's increasing in numbers if not dimensions, set to satisfy the modern affliction of space shortages, especially for city dwellers. Along with Wilson's TuneTot monitor [HFN Nov '18], the all-in-one SME Synergy turntable/phono stage package, TechDAS's Air Force V [HFN Jan '19], and other ultra-compact-yet-truly-high-end items, the Mimas demands little room.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 24, 2020
hfnvintageIn 1977, as Britain came alive to the sounds of jazz-funk and punk, a Japanese receiver arrived on UK shores promising unbeatable tech at the price. How does it sound now?

Say 'Aiwa' to most audiophiles and the chances are they'll think of cassette decks. The company was one of the first in Japan to take the format seriously and later went on to lead the field, selling machines not only under its own name but as OEM products for many other brands. So why not branch out into the rest of the audio field?

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.
Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 14, 2020
hfnoutstandingArcam's flagship integrated amplifier combines Class G amplification with features including network streaming, AirPlay 2 and offboard Dirac Live room correction EQ

Arcam is still headquartered in Cambridge, from where it took its original name, but the audiophile marque is now part of Samsung's global consumer electronics empire, through the latter's acquisition of Harman International, which had added Arcam to its portfolio in 2016. And amid these management-level changes, Arcam's product line has also undergone a refresh. The brand has withdrawn, for the time being, from the peripherals market, jettisoning its R series of docks and DACs.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 08, 2021
hfnoutstandingEagerly anticipated, Audia Flight's 'starter' FLS series integrated accommodates a suite of optional modules. Could this be the high-end hub you've been waiting for?

A'synergy of sophisticated original circuit design and Italian style'. That's the promise of Audia Flight, the company established in 1996 by Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini. Arguably a 'boutique brand' by virtue of a product line focused almost entirely on amplifiers, the lone standout is a CD player in its entry-level 'FL Three S' range [HFN Sep '07]. We are testing its newest addition here: the FLS 9 stereo integrated which pledges to showcase the brand's audiophile philosophy at a price more manageable – beginning at £5950 – than that of its other high-end creations.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 11, 2021
hfnvintageAs Lexus is to Toyota, so was Aurex to general CE brand Toshiba. We reappraise the SB-A10 – compact but full-featured, was this miniature hi-fi at its very best?

In previous vintage reviews we have featured the Technics SL-10 turntable [HFN Apr '19] with its footprint the size of an LP sleeve, Sony's D-88 CD player [HFN Jul '16] that was so small the disc stuck out of its side, and Technics' SB-F1 speakers [HFN May '17], which individually could be held easily in the palm of one's hand. So how about a complete integrated amp about the same size as the concise edition of the Oxford English Dictionary? Meet the Aurex SB-A10 from 1981.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 14, 2015
In some ways the AX-5 represents a distillation of Ayre’s ‘purist’ philosophies, as it employs both the company’s ‘Diamond output circuit’ and the elaborately-designed volume control trickled down from its flagship KX-R Twenty preamplifier. In the fully-balanced zero loop feedback AX-5 integrated, Ayre eliminated the preamp stage altogether and simply made the gain of the power amplifier directly adjustable using VGT (Variable Gain Transimpedance). The volume knob on the right of the fascia acts as an encoder to control a pair of motor-driven Shallco silver-contact rotary switches (one for each channel, conjoined using toothed belts), each of which contains dozens of hand-selected, low-noise resistors. Volume level can be adjusted over a range of 69dB in 46 steps of 1.
Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 27, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe Colorado company celebrates its platinum anniversary with a reworked version of a fully balanced integrated that sent the preamp stage packing. Another class act?

Back in 1993, Charles Hansen – the designer and founder of respected US loudspeaker specialist Avalon Acoustics – formed Ayre Acoustics. Over the 25 years that followed, he built up the brand, adding a range of innovative preamps, power amplifiers and integrated designs, all descended from the company's original 'zero-negative feedback' V-1 power amplifier. Bolstering the current lineup are various digital sources, such as the Ayre QX-5 Twenty USB/streaming DAC [HFN Dec '17], phono stages, and head-fi products like the Codex DAC/headphone preamp [HFN Jul '16] – all at prices that indicate they're not aimed at the mass market.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 07, 2020
hfnvintageCombining cool cosmetics with touch-sensitive control, this late '70s receiver was a watershed when it came to the way we interact with our kit. How does it sound today?

Released in 1977, B&O's Beomaster 2400 receiver brought touch-sensitive operation and full remote control to a world that expected nothing more from its hi-fi components than knobs and buttons. Its impact was immense, and soon the company's factory was unable to make receivers fast enough to satisfy demand. What's more, the unit's basic form and function lived on through a series of models that remained in production until 1992. And even by then, the design still looked fresh and modern.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 21, 2021
hfnvintageWith its four-channel amp and on-board SQ decoder, this '70s receiver was the lynchpin in what was arguably the most leading-edge quadraphonic system of its time...

The era of quadraphonic sound was not the hi-fi industry's finest. Appearing around 1973 but moribund by 1978, quadraphonic was the first big marketing failure by a sector that had so far enjoyed unalloyed success in convincing the public to buy into its latest developments. Confusing advertising, a damaging format war and a lack of consumer demand all played their part in the downfall of a concept which, at its peak, had been hailed as the future.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 14, 2021
hfnoutstandingPromising 'extraordinary power with exquisite tube finesse' BAT's new VK-3500 integrated marries the brand's REX 3 triode preamp with a robust solid-state output

Please indulge me while I discuss the design of BAT's (Balanced Audio Technology) VK-3500 amplifier. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all that, but I'd be surprised to find anyone who didn't admire the styling of this hybrid integrated. Even without the 'BAT' logo conjuring images of Gotham City's caped crusader, it has a purposeful, high-quality look and feel. There's an argument that the appearance of a hi-fi product is unimportant, but at this price you expect some attention to detail and craftsmanship – and that's what you get. Of the silver and black finish options, the latter is the obvious choice if you really want to emphasise the Dark Knight vibe…

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 11, 2014
If proof were needed of Bryston’s mettle for embracing the modern world beyond purist two-channel analogue pursuits, it’s the B135 SST2 C-Series Integrated Amplifier. While the unit reviewed here is two-channel, purist and analogue, it can be fitted with a DAC module for £1575 that adds two coaxial and two Toslink inputs. Other options include a £500 universal remote and an MM-only phono stage for £650. Bryston offers neither MC nor USB.
Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 02, 2019
hfncommendedIs the no-frills CD player/amplifier combo making a comeback? Cambridge Audio is not alone in thinking so, but its latest AX series also looks to offer uncommonly good value

Whether a car, hi-fi component or a general electronic gadget, the promise of 'trickle-down' technology from a flagship model is always an alluring prospect. Cambridge Audio is the latest to claim such an advantage, with the assertion that its new AX models 'take design and innovation cues from the CX and Edge [HFN Nov '18] hi-fi ranges'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 01, 2018
hfnoutstanding.pngNamed after Cambridge Audio’s founding father, this new integrated amplifier includes a DSD-compatible DAC and Bluetooth aptX HD. But does it really have an Edge...?

There’s one very noticeable thing about the new Edge range from Cambridge Audio – well, apart from the fact that these hefty new high-end components are quite a long way from the company’s usual entry/midrange territory, that is. Look at any of the new products and you’ll notice the branding – it simply says ‘Cambridge’, as if to set this range apart, and fit in with the minimalist-but-purposeful vibe of the whole lineup.

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