Integrated Amplifiers

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Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 13, 2014
The Editor’s review briefing included the warnings: ‘It’s 29kg – you may need help in unpacking it’ and ‘The S-550i is a remarkably dense amplifier, probably the most self-effacing yet monstrously powerful integrated we’ve ever tested. ’ This new flagship integrated, replaces the FBI while the S-300i remains as Krell’s entry-level integrated at £2795. The S-550i is a true ‘big brother’: the sonic resemblance is uncanny save for a brutal power delivery. While the front panel suggests minimalism, that’s only because all minor settings are relegated to a menu system, eg, balance setting and input trim, which can also be accessed by the full-function remote.
Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Nov 13, 2014
Yes, those valves – made in-house – really are a foot tall! And they radiate substantial heat once the SXI has been powered up for a few minutes, but KR Audio’s amplifiers are beautifully engineered. The company is based in Prague, founded by electronics engineer the late Dr Ricardo Kron in 1992. It’s a boutique firm of only a dozen or so people – skilled artisans who blow the glass and hand-craft the tubes. Such is the transparency of KR Audio’s Kronzilla amplifiers that at least of couple of German recording studios use them in mastering suites.
Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngThe style may be ‘retro’, but this powerful integrated amp from a Far East legend is no exercise in nostalgia: it lacks fashionable digital inputs, but has serious sonic appeal

OK, so it may help explain the whole ‘vinyl revival’ thing, from portable record players with greater tracking weight than a Caterpillar bulldozer to supermarket own-brand LPs, but looking to the past will only get you so far. Forget all that longer summers, colder winters and ‘jumpers for goalposts’ stuff: even nostalgia’s not what it used to be. Products must stand on their own merits in today’s competitive market.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 05, 2020
hfnoutstandingHigh-end headphone amps for connoisseurs of cans require total adjustability – has Manley Laboratories delivered the goods with the Absolute Headphone Amplifier?

Veteran makers of headphone amplifiers for studios, Manley Laboratories is taking on the extreme high-end of the domestic genre with a £4500 unit – the Absolute – that marries audiophiles' sonic requirements with the total control demanded of professionals. Company CEO Eveanna Manley says, bluntly, 'Our goal was simply to produce the most awesome-sounding and sonically flexible vacuum tube headphone amplifier!'.

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.
Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 08, 2019
hfncommendedMarking brand ambassador Ken Ishiwata's 40 years with Marantz, this 'Ruby edition' SACD player and integrated amplifier aim high. How precious are they?

We've been here before: ten years ago Marantz celebrated Brand Ambassador Ken Ishiwata's 30-year tenure at the company with a KI-Pearl pairing of player and amplifier [HFN Aug '09]. So its only fitting that, now he's clocked up another decade, we should have these latest KI Ruby models, limited to 1000 units apiece (500 of each in gold, 500 in black), and selling at £3500 for each unit.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Oct 24, 2019
hfnoutstandingThis latest integrated amp from a stalwart of the US high-end may be stereotypically big and bold, but it's also both extremely flexible and surprisingly affordable

Although many aspire to grabbing themselves a chunk of American high-end audio, there's all too often a problem – price. It's very tempting to look at the price-tags back home in the States and shake one's head at the UK ticket. But most of us can guess at the differences between the US and UK markets, the import taxes and costs involved in shipping and distributing small samples of heavyweight equipment.

Review: Nick Tate, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Mar 26, 2019
hfncommendedThis compact high-end integrated stereo amplifier both looks and sounds special, thanks to its old-meets-new McIntosh styling and hybrid tube/transistor design

And now for something completely different. While McIntosh has been producing big valve amps for decades and, more recently, big transistor amps – including the MA9000 [HFN Sep '18] – it is arguably better known for its use of output 'Autoformers' that manage the power into different speaker loads. Yet this diminutive £4500 MA252 actually turns out to be quite different – a compact half-width integrated amplifier with a twist. It sports a vacuum tube preamplifier section, illuminated from below, making it the company's first ever valve/transistor hybrid amplifier.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 01, 2018
hfncommended.pngBilled as McIntosh’s most powerful integrated amp to date, the mighty MA9000 combines transistors with transformers and a ‘blue’ aesthetic that’s truly timeless

Right, let’s get the ‘and fries to go’ thing out of the way first. If ever a product deserved the title, this is the ‘Big Mac’. Or at least ‘Big Mc’, for the McIntosh MA9000 is huge in every respect, from the sheer bulk of the thing – at least by the standards of most integrated amplifiers – to the 45.8kg fighting weight, increasing to 60.8kg packed, and the £12,995 price tag.

John Bamford and Paul Miller  |  May 08, 2011
Sleek design, comprehensive functionality and even a built-in wireless DAC make the AS-400 a thoroughly modern integrated amp – for today’s iTunes generation Not long after the introduction of Micromega’s £2800 integrated amplifier, the IA-400, and its £1100 WM-10 wireless-equipped DAC comes a component that effectively combines the two: a new version of its integrated amplifier (with ‘AS’ instead of ‘IA’ nomenclature) featuring a built-in 802. 11n Wi-Fi receiver/DAC, working to Apple’s latest AirStream protocols. As with any wireless connectivity – Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – there is something quite spooky about the ability for music stored on computer, mobile ’phone or PDA to be played through one’s hi-fi system as if by magic. Unlike open source DLNA/UPnP systems, however, AirStream (formerly called Airplay) is proprietary to Apple and works only with its iTunes media player, iPhones, iPads and the web-enabled iPod Touch.
Review and Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 04, 2020
hfnoutstandingA new big beast stalks the integrated amplifier jungle, courtesy of the refreshed Musical Fidelity brand. Armed with ears and test gear, we track the M8xi to its lair...

If you are into fancy-looking hi-fi with machined fascias and decorative meters then the £5649 M8xi integrated amplifier is not for you. 'Sorry, that's the way it is', says Musical Fidelity, though I suspect this declaration of intent for the entire M8 series owes more to Musical Fidelity's founder than the new owners, Audio Tuning Vertriebs GmbH, of which vinyl evangelist Pro-Ject Audio Systems is another division.

Hi-Fi News Staff  |  Jan 20, 2015
We ran the scoop review of MF’s debut Nu-Vista unit over 15 years ago [HFN Aug ’98]. Now the company has this new nuvistor-equipped integrated amp, having recently found a company to make the requisite tube bases. Blessedly, it eschews gadgetry offering just a remote, a switchable display of input and level, home theatre pass-through for one of the four line inputs and extra speaker terminals for bi-wiring. The Nu-Vista 800 has a fascia machined from solid aluminium and sides fitted with attractive heatsink extrusions – it even comes with spikes for the feet and with cups too, to protect floor finishes.
Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 05, 2019
hfnoutstandingAs a major partner in the BluOS project, it makes sense for NAD to have its own all-in-one network player, and it's aiming very high with this fully-loaded, fine-sounding system

No-one could ever accuse NAD of lacking ambition. Alongside its acclaimed core range, on which the company has built its reputation over the past four decades, it also has its Masters series of high-end components, several of which have been reviewed favourably in these pages in the past, including the EISA Award-winning M32 integrated amp – sorry, 'DirectDigital DAC/Amplifier' – [HFN Jul '18].

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.
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.

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