Integrated Amp Reviews

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Herb Reichert Posted: Nov 07, 2014 7 comments
It was spring. I was planting kale and cabbage, wearing bib overalls, and listening to Pigboy Crabshaw (aka Elvin Bishop) on my iPhone. My girlfriend, "bb," came out, and just stood there laughing. "What's this? American Gigolo: The Alabama Years?"

Now, please, don't start worrying about your newest Stereophile reviewer. I've owned my share of Julie London and Jennifer Warnes records, but these days I'm more into Hazel Dickens and Maybelle Carter. It's summertime, fish are jumpin', and that dirt-road American music is getting me high.

Herb Reichert Posted: Sep 26, 2014 3 comments
Some among us remember a time when audio was divided into rival interests. On the left side of the pond was the New World, where left-brainers believed that vanishing harmonic distortion meant that "all amplifiers sound the same," and that good loudspeakers are a high-fidelity audio system's most important components. Across the waves, so-called flat-earthers claimed that the most important part of the playback chain was the turntable. (Of secondary importance were the tonearm and cartridge, followed by the preamp and amplifier. Loudspeakers were deemed relatively unimportant.) In the 1980s, this extremist idea of the "front end first" captured the imaginations of audiophiles, mostly in the Mother Country.
Herb Reichert Posted: Jul 31, 2014 6 comments
Once, on a cold, dank, soundless day deep in the Eastern bloc, I watched a man spend over a million dollars on an audio system: a turntable, a fancy horn tweeter, a few wires, and some amplification for his modified Klipschorns. I asked him what he did for a living, and he told me he was a notary public.
Art Dudley Posted: Jul 25, 2014 4 comments
They spoiled all my fun.

When I receive a product sample for review, I look forward to taking photos while I unpack the thing, as a guide to repacking for later on. This company provided an illustrated packing list—it was the first thing I saw on slitting open the carton. I look forward to crafting amusing remarks about poorly written or whimsically translated owner's manuals; this company provided the clearest, most comprehensive manual I've ever seen. I look forward to having some sort of anomalous event—smoke, noise, or smoke and noise—to write about. This product offered nothing of the sort.

Stephen Mejias Posted: Jan 02, 2014 2 comments
"J-10? What's an integrated amplifier?"

It was fall 2000. I'd just begun working at Stereophile, and I clearly remember sheepishly, innocently putting this question to former senior editor Jonathan Scull.

I think the question confused him—not because he didn't know the answer, but because the answer seemed so obvious, the question itself should have been unnecessary. How could anyone not know what an integrated amplifier is? I might as well have asked, "What's a song?"

Art Dudley Posted: Jan 02, 2014 5 comments
Last summer, in an uncharacteristic fit of wanderlust, I took an American Airlines flight to London. Two days later, I rode the Eurostar train to Paris in the company of my daughter and my wife, a travel agent, who had secured first-class train accommodations on her professional discount. Our ride was brisk, but the upgrade would have been a waste at any price: The Eurostar food was vile.
Stephen Mejias Posted: Oct 25, 2013 Published: Nov 01, 2013 26 comments
In the mornings, just before I leave for work, I power up the system, turn the volume down low, and set the CD player to Repeat. I like to think that if I play calm, soothing music while Ms. Little and I are away, the cats will feel less alone and more relaxed. It's also nice, on returning home from work, to walk into a room filled with music. One evening a few weeks ago, I stepped into the apartment, dropped my bags to the floor, settled down into the couch with my iPhone, and began scrolling through text messages. I'd been seated for only a moment before I had to turn my attention entirely to the sound of the system, which, even at a very low volume, sounded warm, detailed, and unusually good—unbelievably, almost unbearably engaging.
Art Dudley Posted: Sep 27, 2013 14 comments
The name sounds perfect. It fits neatly next to those of Messrs. Leak, Sugden, Walker, Grant, Lumley, and others of Britain's most rightly revered amplifier builders. In fact, when their distributor called and asked if I'd like to review the latest amplifier from Croft Acoustics, I accepted without actually knowing who they are, simply because they sounded like someone I was supposed to know—someone who's been around for 60 years or so, shellacking bell wire in an old mill with a thatched roof.
Robert J. Reina Posted: Aug 26, 2013 Published: Dec 01, 1995 3 comments
In this, my first equipment review for Stereophile, I'll begin by explaining my philosophy regarding reviewing inexpensive components. In my quest for products by designers who strive to establish new benchmarks for reproducing sonic realism at lower prices, I'll be looking for "value" components (a more appropriate term than "budget") whose designers logically fall into two camp. . .
Robert J. Reina Posted: Aug 01, 2013 3 comments
It seems I'm always reviewing an integrated amplifier from Creek Audio. It started in the late 1980s, when I fell in love with the capabilities of inexpensive, well-designed audio equipment, sparked by the spectacular sound of a pair of Celestion 5 bookshelf speakers at a Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. I was reading an issue of Hi Fi Heretic (now defunct), for which my friend Art Dudley wrote, and it included a survey of various inexpensive British integrated amplifiers, some of them made by Creek. I was already familiar with the company, but hadn't listened to affordable British electronics since I'd lived in London, in the early '80s. I got a Creek 4140s2 integrated and was amazed at its neutrality, its lack of etched sound, its natural reproduction of instrumental timbres. I ended up buying it, and used it to review bookshelf loudspeakers.
Art Dudley Posted: Jul 25, 2013 Published: Aug 01, 2013 3 comments
The only thing better than a review that writes itself is a product with a compelling story. Although the latter asks a little more of us here, it's usually the more enduring pleasure.

So it goes with the new AX-5 amplifier ($9950) from Ayre Acoustics, in which designer Charles Hansen has both revived an overlooked technology from a half-century ago and brought to market a more affordable embodiment of one of his own most well-received products.

Sam Tellig Posted: Apr 25, 2013 Published: Jan 01, 2013 1 comments
With Peachtree Audio's new nova125 integrated amplifier, most decisions are made for you.

Need a DAC with three S/PDIF inputs (two coax, one optical)? An asynchronous USB DAC? A line stage? A tubed output buffer? A power amp that should be able to drive even difficult speaker loads? Remote control? You've got them all for $1499. Just add speakers. (I assume you have a laptop computer and several disc spinners.) You may want a separate phono stage, because there is none onboard.

Erick Lichte Posted: Mar 20, 2013 7 comments
As a young music lover, I never knew there were such things as separate preamplifiers, amplifiers, and FM tuners. All I knew was that if I wanted to play music from my CD player, hook up my VCR to my stereo, or listen to the radio, I needed that magical device: a receiver. It was all I ever wanted.
Art Dudley Posted: Feb 28, 2013 Published: Mar 01, 2013 6 comments
Whether one was surprised, in 2010, by the success of Peachtree Audio's iDecco may have more to do with age than anything else. My peers and I wondered, at first, who would want their high-end integrated amps to come bundled not only with digital-to-analog converters but with iPod docks, of all things; at the same time, younger hobbyists wondered who in the world still wanted their integrated amps to contain phono preamplifiers. (Respect for the elderly, myself especially, prevents me from adding "and mono switches.") Color me chastened.
John Atkinson Posted: Feb 24, 2013 Published: Oct 01, 1987 0 comments
Since its founding just over ten years ago, Mission Electronics has grown to become one of the largest "real" hi-fi companies in the UK. Although their product line originally consisted of three relatively conventional loudspeakers, it rapidly grew to encompass high-end pre- and power amplifiers, cartridges, tonearms, and turntables, and, in the mid 1980s, a system concept based on CD replay and relatively inexpensive electronics: the Cyrus amplifiers and tuner.

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