YBA Integré integrated amplifier Page 2

Roy Hall, and others who import itty-bitty British eye-fye, have been proving for years that you can get great sound from small, relatively inexpensive systems. But as Roy and others find, selling this stuff in North America can be a tough go. Hell, it's hard to get people to listen, never mind buy.

There are some great integrated amps from England. The Creek stuff—better than it's ever been. The Audiolab 8000S, which I have in my listening room now, imported by Dave Lang of Artech—a killer of a line-level integrated for $995. The Myriad MI-120, now being imported (influxed?) by Michael Zeugin of Audio Influx. The Musical Fidelity E10 and A-1000, which Audio Advisor is bringing in. Have you heard any of this stuff? You should!

The YBA gear is priced somewhat higher, but it's very much in the European spirit of less often being more. Smaller size. Shorter signal paths. Fewer components, so the designer can tweak them to pieces and make them of the highest quality. No changing models every year—evolution rather than revolution.

YBA, as you may know, are the initials of Yves-Bernard André. He and his wife (his épouse, according to his poorly translated English-language product brochure) Ariane Morin founded their firm, Phlox Electronique, a decade ago. What Jadis is to French tube gear, YBA is to solid-state. Together, the two marques are the best known names in French high-end electronics.

And what YBA (and Jadis) equipment do the French and other Europeans buy?

A big seller is that 50Wpc YBA Integré that so impressed the Brass Ear and me at HI-FI '96. For Jadis, big sellers in Europe include their DA30 and DA60 integrated amps. The little DA30 looks exquisite, has enough power (30Wpc) to drive most European speakers in most European rooms, and sells big in Europe, especially in Germany.

Get this. Some of the reviewers of Haute Fidélité, France's classiest hi-fi rag, actually use the Jadis DA30 and/or YBA Integré as references.

You should be able to drive a speaker with 30Wpc of tube power or 50W solid-state. And with most of the speakers reviewed in Haute Fidélité, you apparently can. 90dB sensitive. 92dB sensitive. Even 8 ohm loads. Judging by the enthusiasm of the reviews, the sound doesn't seem to suffer. Why can't more American speaker manufacturers make efficient, easy-to-drive speakers? Why do American-made speakers have to suck up so much power? To sell more Krell?

What am I getting at?

You do have alternatives. You don't have to get caught up in the hi-fi rat race and go broke trading in your equipment every year. You don't have to alienate your wife with power amps on the living-room rug. You don't have to let your hi-fi intrude upon your living space or your life. And you can still have great sound. The Europeans prove it.

Never mind "balls to the wall."

Like I said about the YBA gear, it's more expensive than the run of the Creek, Audiolab, or Musical Fidelity gear. What you get for your money is superb build quality, exquisite cosmetics, upgradeable products that don't become obsolete, and superior sound—so long as you choose a sensible pair of speakers (preferably something British or French) (footnote 1).

You can't expect even the "high current" versions of the YBA power amps to do the "balls to the wall" thing that massively overbuilt American amps do. I proved this to myself once by trying a YBA 1 power amp on a pair of huge, current-guzzling American speakers. The amp didn't do dynamics as well as Krell. The question is, why are you bothering with huge, current-guzzling American speakers in the first place?

Cherchez le switch!
Like the CD 3, the YBA Integré is quirky.

The first challenge is to find the on/off switch. Is it where the on/off switch is for the CD 3—behind the badge on the faceplate? Ah...non. Cherchez le switch!

Footnote 1: Fortunately, more French speakers are making their way into North America. The industrious M. Jacques is importing JMlab. Frank Garbie, the Jadis importer, is leading the way with Cabasse. And speakers from Triangle Electroacoustique, France's third-largest speaker manufacturer, have just become available in the US from Richard Kohlruss of Hi-Fi Forum. Watch this column for a French speakerfest.
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