Integrated Amplifiers

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Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 25, 2021
hfnoutstandingWithout any sense of irony, the man most identified with rival brand Marantz for 40 years is posthumously recognised for his work in 'tweaking' Rotel's budget CD and amp

Synchronicity is a strange thing: for whatever reason of scheduling, I found myself embarking on this review a year to the day since the passing of audio legend Ken Ishiwata. The anniversary was marked by his daughter with a YouTube video of some joyously retro Latin music performed by an all-Japanese vocal group. 'Instead of making this a very sad day,' she wrote, 'we would like to share one of his favourite songs with you. He used to play this all the time, it brings back lovely memories and a smile upon our faces'.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Feb 08, 2021
hfnoutstandingTrickledown engineering wins hands down as the core technology behind Marantz's 12 series is buffed to a new polish, gaining network compatibility at an even lower price

The expression 'hot on the heels' is one thing, but to launch two sets of products seemingly offering similar features at much the same price might be seen as inviting customer confusion. Yes, that's just what Marantz has done, with the SA-12SE/PM-12SE SACD player and amplifier [HFN Nov '20] followed within weeks by the arrival of the 30 Series models – yes, an SACD player and amplifier. Add in the fact that both ranges draw heavily on previous models – to put it charitably – and one might well wonder what exactly is going on.

Review: Tom Anderson, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 21, 2021
hfncommendedThis famous French brand was launched in 1956 – the very same year as Hi-Fi News – and continues to cut a very distinctive path. We test its latest tube/hybrid integrated

When your brand has been around for over 60 years, designing a new integrated amplifier becomes a matter of balance. You need to weigh up the company's rich heritage with electronics that compete with the best new kids on the block. Perhaps something to caress the ears with valve warmth and character, combined with the grunt of a transistor output to drive even the most reticent of speakers? Enter the Supravox Vouvray.

Review: Mark Craven, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 18, 2021
hfnoutstandingThe typically modest, functional styling of this 'entry-level' mostly-Class A integrated amplifier belies its less-than-modest capabilities, with power and sound to spare...

There's something comforting about a product with a singular focus, and Pass Labs' INT-25 fits that bill. A line-only integrated, it steers clear of the digital inputs, network functionality and onboard phono stage offered by many competitors. Instead, it presents itself simply as a conduit between your source(s) and speakers, combining a FET-based preamp and Class A power amp and nothing else. If that sounds somewhat 'basic', Pass Labs' history and the amplifier's £7200 price tag should suggest it's anything but. As does its mastery of music – but I'm getting ahead of myself…

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Jan 14, 2021
hfnoutstandingA 110-year history makes Denon a record-holder in the hi-fi industry – and it's marking that landmark with an Anniversary series that includes this very fine disc player and amp

Hi-fi companies marking anniversaries is nothing new – indeed, it seems something crops up almost every month to mark some celebration, from 25 years of the Bowers & Wilkins 600 Series upwards. However, few brands have the history to warrant an anniversary as significant as Denon, for this year the Japanese company marks not merely its centenary, but a full 110 years in business.

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?

Review: Ken Kessler, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 21, 2020
hfnoutstandingBy extreme high-end standards, it's almost an 'entry level' product – so is Dan D'Agostino's Progression Integrated amplifier the perfect introduction to the brand?

After nearly four decades' worth of using Dan D'Agostino's designs, from Krells in the 1980s through to his more recent, eponymous models (I use a Momentum Stereo as my solid-state reference and love it to bits), I thought I knew what to expect. Silly me: surprise No 1 provided by the D'Agostino Progression Integrated was that I could lift it without any assistance. Surprise No 2 was a price under £20k.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Dec 04, 2020
hfncommendedThis SE version of Marantz's former 'Japan only' SA-12/PM-12 player/amp combo borrows very heavily indeed from the costlier KI Ruby series, but saves £1000 into the bargain

So what do we have here? The new SA-12SE SACD/CD player and PM-12SE integrated amplifier, selling for £2999 apiece, are the latest in a long line of 'special edition' products from Marantz. Its family tree includes 'Original Special Edition' models, when other brands got in on the 'SE' thing, and the 'KI Signature' versions tuned by the company's late Brand Ambassador, Ken Ishiwata.

Review: Tim Jarman, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 24, 2020
hfnvintageThe sweet spot in a three-strong series of late '80s amps, this high current integrated promised to handle low impedance speakers without breaking a sweat. We listen...

Most hi-fi enthusiasts know how many watts their amplifier can produce, but does that figure tell the whole story? In the early '80s, Harman Kardon's HCC (High Current Capability) range of integrated amplifiers gave listeners another number to think about, which was how much current an amplifier was able to source.

Review: Andrew Everard, Lab: Paul Miller  |  Nov 16, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe new entry-level model in the Norwegian company's amp range is a sensible mix of facilities and performance – or at least it would be, if the sound wasn't sensational!

Oslo-based Hegel has been enjoying something of a purple patch of late: not content with raising eyebrows with the sheer performance of its flagship H590 integrated amplifier [HFN Oct '18], it went on to get dangerously near that level with the much more affordable H390 model [HFN Aug '19], offering almost all of big brother's sound quality for not much more than half the price. Our HFN review concluded that it was 'sensationally good value, with a clean, powerful sound and bags of musicality, not to mention exceptional flexibility including onboard network streaming'. Unsurprisingly, it won the 2019-20 EISA Award for 'Best High-End Amplifier'.

Review: Ken Kessler  |  Nov 02, 2020
hfnoutstandingThe extension of EAT's E-Glo range of valve phono stages into something bigger was inevitable, but not hurried – enter EAT's first integrated all-tube amplifier, the E-Glo i

Regular readers will already know that I use two of EAT's cartridges [HFN Dec '18 and '19], two of its phono stages [HFN Mar '17 and Feb '19] and a B-Sharp turntable [HFN Jul '20]. The E-Glo i is thus among family members and there's every chance I was going to be predisposed…

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  |  Oct 23, 2020
hfnvintageWhile a near dead-ringer for the amp it replaced, this '60s integrated saw Leak leverage new technology to boost performance and widen its appeal. How does it sound today?

It's not unusual for a successful hi-fi product to be updated with mild revisions during its lifetime. Often the changes are minimal: a tidied-up fascia to match a new model added elsewhere in the range, or an extra function or minor circuit redesign. This was certainly not the case with the Leak Stereo 30 Plus amplifier of 1969, which replaced the Stereo 30 [HFN Oct '10] first seen in 1963. Side by side the two looked much the same, but inside the 30 Plus was all new in order to take advantage of improved technology.

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.

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