YBA Integré integrated amplifier Robert Deutsch June 2002
If you want to evaluate audio equipment, you have your technical tests and your listening tests. Engineering types will go for the former, while music lovers tend to prefer the latter. The controversy about which kind of test is most useful continues.
There is another kind of test: the test of time. If a product continues to sell year after year without any major advertising effort to encourage its popularity, the manufacturer must be doing something right.
This seems to be the case with the YBA Integré integrated amplifier. Introduced in 1991, the Integré was reviewed by Sam Tellig in the December 1996 Stereophile (Vol.19 No.12), which led to its being listed in Class A of "Recommended Components." That was more than five years ago, and enforcement of Stereophile's "not auditioned in too long a time" rule has since resulted in the Integré's being dropped from "RC."
But the Integré continues to be YBA's top-selling model, and failure to list it in "RC" might be doing our readers a disservice. Having some experience with YBA products (I reviewed the YBA 1 Alpha HC amplifier in the March 1995 issue, and have used the Integré as an adjunct to a speaker review), I volunteered to give a current sample of the Integré a good listen.
Although the Integré is still essentially the same product that made its debut more than a decade ago, there have been a few changes over the years, the most important being the addition in 1996 of optional dual transformers. (The single-transformer version is no longer available.) The power switch is now in the rear rather than hidden under the faceplate, and the three feet are no longer all-metal. In 2000, the change of the capacitors to a new type led to the Integré Delta designation, and there have been some minor cosmetic changes. The version with phono stage is now $2500, up very slightly from the $2350 Integré DT of 1996. (Remote control adds $150 to these prices.)
Substituted in my system for the CAT SL1 Ultimate preamplifier and Quicksilver Horn Mono monoblock power amps, the Integré sounded decidedly cooler but not forward or aggressive, and had a lively, dynamic character. While not particularly tubelike, it avoided sounding hard, edgy, or clinical, the highs remaining clean and grain-free. Having 50W on tap, the Integré had no trouble driving the +100dB-sensitive Avantgarde Uno 2.0 loudspeakers to levels louder than I can tolerate, and it also proved to be an excellent match with Paradigm Studio/20 v.2s, keeping a tight rein on the bass from the Paradigms' ported enclosures. With both speakers, the sound had an open, detailed, transparent quality that made listening to reproduced music a pleasure.
Beautifully built, with a longevity that speaks to its levels of quality and value, the YBA Integré DT Delta is most definitely a "Recommended Component."—Robert Deutsch