Integrated Amplifiers

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Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 10, 2020
hfnoutstandingIn what is looking like it might be a trend – tube hybrid integrated amplifiers – Copland joins in with a Danish beauty at a sensible price, the all-singing, all-dancing CSA100

Three thoughts hit me as soon as I switched on the Copland CSA100 integrated amplifier. The first was that it was an all-embracing, do-everything tube/transistor hybrid like the Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE [HFN Jul '20], rated at a similar 100W/8ohm if at a fraction of the price, at £3498. The second was that I want it to kick off a fashion for cool, fully-loaded integrated hybrids because they are the smartest option for offering the best of the tube/solid-state worlds. The third is the realisation that I need to look deeper into hi-fi system building.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Sep 07, 2020
hfnoutstandingEver at the cutting edge of both analogue and digital Class D amplification, NAD's new M33 is the first to utilise Purifi's groundbreaking modules. All this and streaming too...

Launched last year, NAD's M10 all-in-one streaming system [HFN Jun '19] was remarkable in two ways. One was that this compact 'just add speakers' package was actually part of the brand's elite Masters Series, more usually populated by high-end DACs and amplifiers, while the other was that this little system, selling for around £2000, was exceptionally good, receiving a glowing review in HFN before going on to win a 2019-20 EISA award as Best Smart Amplifier.

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 The brand has withdrawn, for the time being, from the peripherals market, jettisoning its R series of docks and DACs.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: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Aug 10, 2020
hfnedchoiceCan't choose between tubes and transistors? Vinnie Rossi may have the answer with the L2i-SE integrated amplifier, which deals with that conundrum in a unique manner

So overwhelming is the matter of choice when putting together a system that it can cause as much anguish as pose a fun challenge. What type of speakers? MM or MC pick-up? Integrated or separates? These usually sort themselves out due to space or budget, but 'tubes versus transistors' almost calls for a leap of faith – unlike 'digital versus analogue' because most enthusiasts can manage two sources. The valve/solid-state conflict, though, may find a cure in the Vinnie Rossi L2i-SE integrated amplifier, the 'SE' standing for 'Signature Edition'.

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.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 25, 2020
hfncommendedIt's all there in the suffix 'Play', which transforms Quad's Vena II from a comprehensive all-in-one amp/DAC solution into something with wired and wireless future-proofing

Is Editor PM simply testing me, or coaxing me? I'm not merely uninterested in streaming, Wi-Fi, et al to the point of virulent loathing, I'm actually reverting to decades-old formats for daily listening: CDs, tapes and LPs. That said, I am not unaware of DTS Play-F, having used it for many months for the wireless speakers on my kitchen counter – though with no more concern than I show a spatula or potato peeler. Yet here I am faced with Quad's update to the Vena II, its entire raison d'être being the full-on wireless experience.

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jun 05, 2020
hfncommendedAn artisan brand with its own take on Hypex's tried-and-tested Class D amp module offers both tube and transistor variants to taste. Here's the low-down on the latter

Hybrid amps have always amused me. I still dream of Radford's TT100. This hi-fi equivalent of grafting two plant species hopes – ideally – to combine the best of a brace of disparate technologies. Too often, they marry the worst. Extraudio's X250T represents a first for me in that it promises to take efficient, compact Class D amplification and endow it with the sonic virtues of Class A, hence Class AD. Which made me think of playing with Krells way back in 1985.

Review: James Parker, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 27, 2020
hfncommendedDenon's Design Series brings us this attractive-looking two-box system, combining disc playback with streaming. But does style and flexibility mean a compromised sound?

Each of Sound United's two mainstream hi-fi brands – Denon and Marantz – has its own take on compact, room-friendly separates. In the case of Marantz, it's a lineup comprising an integrated amp and a USB DAC/headphone amp, each styled in 'retro' casework designed to evoke memories of Marantz amps of the past.

Review: Jonathan Gorse, Lab: Paul Miller  |  May 11, 2020
hfncommendedAs T+A's midrange E series is reinforced by a new amplifier, based on the PA 1000 E but equipped with BT and a USB DAC, we ask 'is this now the stereotype for modern amps?'

As the latest in a long line of amplifiers from the German brand, T+A's PA 1100 E integrated is also one of the more innovative and comprehensive in its scope. The company (T+A stands for 'Theory and Application') has been manufacturing audio equipment since 1978 and prides itself on both its deep technical capability and in-house manufacturing. However, despite this heritage, the PA 1100 E is only the first of its amplifiers to include an onboard DAC – something very many competing brands have been doing for years.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Apr 27, 2020
hfnvintageMarketed by Philips yet made by Marantz, is this purposeful-looking integrated packed with premium components an unsung hero of hi-fi's past? It's time to find out...

Philips should have been a dominant player in the hi-fi arena, yet many of its products somehow missed the mark. Despite these repeated failures, every now and again the sleeping giant would wake from its slumbers and produce something miraculous – Compact Disc, Motional Feedback speakers – only to disappear until inspiration struck again.

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!'.

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: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 28, 2020
hfnoutstandingHere's a compact amp with both digital and analogue inputs, plus a full Roon-ready network audio implementation, and radically lowered price – what's not to like?

Alot can happen in three years, and while the amplifier we have here is very much the smaller sibling of the DIA-400S [HFN Oct '16], it's also boosted by the inclusion of the Danish company's NPM module, a complete network audio solution giving access to a wide range of streaming options.

Review: Adam Smith, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 21, 2020
hfncommendedIcon Audio's new Stereo ST30SE amplifier makes use of beefy KT150 output valves in an effort to overcome the traditionally low power of SE tube amps. Does it succeed?

The single-ended valve amplifier is still something of a niche product. Low power outputs and often equally low damping factors mean that very careful system matching, plus sensitive loudspeakers, are a prerequisite if you are to hear such designs give of their very best. However, the UK's very own guru of all things thermionic, David Shaw of Icon Audio, has decided to address these issues with his £2299 single-ended Stereo ST30SE, an integrated amp having, shall we say, a tad more welly, thanks to it being equipped with KT150 output valves.

Review: David Price, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 17, 2020
hfncommendedDespite its diminutive dimensions, this half-size CD player/integrated amp combination offers a grown-up sound along with facilities normally seen on full-width separates

Size matters – or does it? Most hi-fi manufacturers stick rigidly to the traditional 'full width' separates model, but not all. The former often maintain that the market simply isn't ready for the latter, arguing that many key countries demand 'proper size' boxes. Yet over the years we've seen brands like Cyrus make high-quality, half-width hi-fi their stock in trade. So which is it to be? The answer, reckons Exposure, is to offer both.

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