YBA Integré integrated amplifier Page 3
On the back, you'll see two sets of speaker terminals. One set of terminals has female banana sockets, while the other set is like a pair of Michell banana plugs built right into the amp. You might assume that the two sets of terminals are otherwise similar. You'd be wrong.
The female banana terminals have a coil connected in series with the two positive connectors, which lowers the damping factor, resulting in looser bass and softer treble. The Michell-like terminals have no such coil and are essentially neutral.
What's the point?
Use the female banana connectors if your speakers are too bright, as they might be if you're trying to make do with cheap speakers from your old system. Or if you're using your old, cheap speakers as a set of secondary speakers. Otherwise, use the neutral connectors—the ones that look like Michell plugs. (Remove the plastic covers over the plugs before you try to connect your speaker cables.)
The YBA Integré comes in several different configurations. I received the deluxe version—with dual power-supply transformers, one for each channel. That will set you back $2345. Subtract $400 for the single-transformer version. Subtract $450 (from either version) if you want line-level only, no phono stage. The phono stage, by the way, is moving-magnet only—or high-output moving-coil. The moving-coil module for the Integré is an extra $400 (footnote 2). As is usual with YBA, upgrades are available. Owners of older units can have their Integrés turned into dual-transformer versions for $400. Again, contact Audio Plus Services or see your dealer.
Like the YBA CD players, the Integré comes in black or metallic gray. Like all YBA chassis, this metal chassis is nonmagnetic. The unit looks as impressive inside as out, with very-high-quality parts, a minimum of circuitry, and short signal paths. Simplicity: It's one reason YBA gear sounds so good.
There are five line inputs plus phono stage, or six line inputs if you delete phono. Recording is by a separate switch, so taping from one source while listening to another is a doddle, as they like to say in Britain. The faceplate is uncluttered. Just the two selector knobs—Record and Play—and a single volume-control pot. No balance control. No tone controls. Mon Dieu—tone controls. Quel horreur!
Output power is specified at 50W into 8 ohms, 90 into 4 ohms. The new dual-transformer version doesn't change the power rating, but will give you more current drive, which should improve the soundstaging, particularly during dynamic passages.
Bite, but not bright
I was consistently pleased by the Integré's tonal quality: very open, detailed, a little on the light side (as opposed to thick), but never excessively bright. And yes, the unit had real bite on brass, just as it did for Brass Ear and me at HI-FI '96. Strings, too, were particularly well reproduced (for a solid-state device), sounding grainless and sweet—pure—even with the Mission 754 Freedom Five, which is not a speaker that acts as an artificial sweetener.
The bass is tight, but a full-range speaker like the Mission 754 Freedom Five could benefit from even more power. With the YBA Integré driving the Mission, the bass could go just so low, just so loud before clipping set in. This speaker is capable of phenomenal bass performance—with a bigger amp. Ditto for the Hales Concept Twos, which were okay with the Integré but can perform better in the bottom end with more power. Meanwhile, the Integré did just fine driving the Quad ESL-63s and ProAc Tablette 50 Signatures. Even with the Hales and the Missions, the Integré did just fine, so long as I didn't push it to very high levels.
I did most of my listening with the YBA CD 3, but I did try the phono stage—which, remember, is moving-magnet-only unless you buy the moving-coil module. I used my trusty Shure Ultra 500 mounted in an SME 309 arm on an AR ES-1 turntable with a Ringmat on top of the platter. My killer analog front-end. Heh-heh. Michael Fremer should have an analog rig that sounds this good!
Footnote 2: This is different from the moving-coil module sold to go with the YBA preamps, which sells for $650.