Perreaux R200i integrated amplifier

Does the modern audiophile want a sleek, compact, powerful, remote-controlled, microprocessor-driven, two-channel integrated amplifier? Perreaux Industries, based in New Zealand, thinks so. They've designed all that, plus good looks and impressive build quality, into the R200i. Despite its relatively small size—4.1" tall by 16.9" wide by 13.4" deep—the R200i packs a punch. It's rated at 200Wpc into 8 ohms and 360Wpc into 4 ohms, yet it weighs just a fraction under 30 lbs.

In addition to power, the dual-mono R200i is packed with performance and convenience features. The preamplifier section features four single-ended inputs and one balanced XLR set. A set of Direct Out and Pre-Out jacks give you line-level Out and Preamp out for taping, and for using the R200i as a conventional preamplifier. One of the four inputs features a switchable Direct-In function that bypasses the preamp section, allowing you to use the power-amp section independently—useful for home theater integration where a separate controller will be used. Optional moving-coil and moving-magnet phono cartridge and USB/DAC modules (not available in time for this review) will allow direct turntable and computer connections.

Dual sets of high-quality five-way binding posts can be used for biwiring or for a second set of independently controlled speakers in a remote location. Trigger jacks allow remote on/off switching of peripheral devices. The backlit, cell-phone-like remote controls all functions via radio frequency—which, unlike infrared, does not require line-of-sight operation—and lets you bypass the menu system to change certain setup parameters as well as to access some operating information.

If you're not familiar with home-theater jargon, you may be gagging by now. Fear not! Though the R200i is microprocessor-controlled and menu-driven, it's not overly complex to set up or to use, and Perreaux has kept all digital circuits for these interface, monitoring, and switching functions separate from the signal path.

Design and Circuit
Despite its small size, the R200i features dual-mono "mirror-image" construction, including separate power supplies using hefty toroidal transformers and 40,000µF of storage capacitance per channel. There's a separate toroid for the preamplifier with a separate tap for the digital control circuitry. Ladder-type resistor networks control volume, two-sided circuit boards with 2-oz copper traces are used throughout, jacks are direct-soldered to the boards, and the speaker output wire is heavy-duty. Because of the R200i's compact layout, signal traces are short; in fact, there's very little wiring to be seen inside. The amp is fully DC-coupled from preamp input to speaker terminals, and six high-current Toshiba MOSFETs are used for each channel's output stage. Computer-designed heatsinks allow it to run cool when pushed, and at low output levels the output stage runs in "heat-seeking" class-A mode, switching to class-A/B above 10W.

Setup and Use
The Perreaux R200i came with the best instruction manual I can recall receiving with a review product. Still, I had a few gripes: Neither the manual no the amplifier's back panel identify left and right speaker terminals. I thought the left channel's terminals were on the left, but nope. The only clue is that the right balanced XLR input is to the left of the left balance XLR. The A and B terminals are mirror-imaged, but at least they're labeled. The manual needs to be better organized, each page number should also include the chapter number, and an index would be useful. Otherwise, it's packed with information both practical and technical, and sets a standard for high-end manuals that few other companies can match.

For audiophiles used to knobs, the R200i's clean, gleaming aluminum faceplate, with its oval vacuum fluorescent display, might look alien. The dancing stars that morph into "Perreaux" on turn-on are a bit much, and having an audio component say "Good-bye" when I shut it down is an electronic intimacy I can do without. But once you switch on the R200i via the remote's Standby button and dive in, you might learn to love it. There are buttons on the front panel, they're just very small and hidden within the oval display. The only time you'll use them is when you misplace the remote.

P.O. Box 47 413
Ponsonby, Auckland
New Zealand
(800) 942-0220