YBA Integré integrated amplifier Page 4

What did I hear, by way of the phono stage?

Absolutely superb performance—lots of detail, a wide, deep soundstage, tonal neutrality, and a complete absence of any splashiness or spitting—the kind of thing that can drive you mad with a crummy phono stage. YBA separate preamps are noted for their superb phono stages; my guess is that the phono stage in the Integré is not far behind in quality.

A 50Wpc integrated amp, even with phono stage, hardly seems like a bargain at $2345 (footnote 3). But it is. You get beautifully detailed, neutral sound, a superb tonal balance, magnificent build quality, and exquisite styling—all for a fraction of what you'd pay for YBA separates. The $450 extra you pay for the moving-magnet phono stage seems almost ridiculously cheap when you hear the quality of the phono reproduction. If you need the moving-coil module, doing phono via the Integré may be less of a bargain.

You won't feel cheap
Best of all, you get a YBA. Not a — or a ——. You know what I mean. YBA doesn't look cheap, feel cheap, or sound cheap. And you don't feel cheap either, owning it.

YBA gear is like a Mercedes automobile—even the less expensive models are built to a very high standard. Yes, you can buy someone else's separate preamp and power amp for the price of the YBA Integré. But you wouldn't own a YBA.

What's more, especially with the CD 3 and the Integré, you've simplified your life. No separate transport and digital processor. No separate preamp and power amp, or separate phono stage, preamp, and power amp. (The moving-coil module is an extra complication.)


More of a comment, actually.

The YBA Integré is a little on the lean side—it sounds a mite thin (like most Frenchmen these days, or starving young Russian hi-fi editors) as opposed to thick (like me). That seems to be YBA's sonic signature. I'm reminded of certain French orchestras—the playing is typically light, open, and supple rather than heavy, thick, and dark. One nice thing about it is that the music always shines through. But if you want a very warm, rich, romantic, tube-like sound, YBA gear is probably not for you.

Or maybe it is.

Curiously (because I often like a warm, rich, romantic sound), I found it easy to adjust to the leaner, cleaner YBA sound, possibly because there was nothing irritating about it. In fact, I found it downright bracing. Some of the French critics like to contrast YBA solid-state gear with Jadis tube electronics—very different, obviously. The Francocrits sometimes refer to the YBA as "Apollonian." That is, serene, austere, balanced, intellectual. You know...like me.

The opposite, of course, is the Dionysian. Like Jonathan Scull. In conversation, J-Ten talked about the difference between Paris (YBA gear is made near Paris) and Bordeaux (the Jadis factory is deep in Bordeaux wine country). I'll let J-Ten tell it, but it's obvious we're hearing the same thing.

I'm reminded of two very different French conductors. If Jadis, the marque, is Georges Prêtre, then YBA, the marque, is Pierre Boulez. Me? You guessed it. I admire both.

Merry Christmas.

Gift idea (after you buy Rejoice: A String Quartet Christmas, John Marks Records JMR-12): Buy your spouse a YBA CD 3 and YBA Integré. The SAF (that's spouse acceptance factor) should be 100%.

Footnote 3: Remember, you can save $400 by going for the standard, single-transformer version. You can upgrade to the dual-transformer version later.
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