Integrated Amp Reviews

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John Marks  |  Oct 23, 2009  |  0 comments
There have been lots of great, and even some fabulous books of music criticism or reportage, and I've recommended several in these pages. So far, however, only one has made me chuckle, chortle, or laugh out loud, time and time again.
John Marks  |  Apr 26, 2010  |  0 comments
There's a fantastic new two-SACD/CD set of a demonstration-quality live recording of a rather obscure work you really should get to know, not only for its own merits, but also for what I believe is its underappreciated but major influence on music and on popular culture. The piece is by 20th-century composer Arnold Schoenberg, but trust me—it's more than "listenable." It (or, at least, the music on the first disc) is beyond engaging; it is compelling—a revelation, even. The work is Gurrelieder (Songs of Gurre), Gurre being a castle in medieval Denmark that was the setting of a real-life doomed love triangle, the story of which has since loomed large in the moodily brooding artistic consciousness of Danes. The 19th-century Danish poet Jens Peter Jacobsen wrote a collection of poems based on medieval legends, including this one, and a German translation by Robert Franz Arnold provided Schoenberg's dramatic texts.
John Marks  |  Jun 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Leben Hi-Fi Stereo Company is a very small company in Amagasaki City, Japan, that hand-builds an exquisite line of vacuum-tube audio electronics. I find it intriguing that Taku Hyodo, founder and main man of Leben, once worked for the comparatively huge Luxman firm. Years back, Luxman went through various corporate owners and spent some time wandering in the desert, before returning to its high-end audio heritage. Whether, as I suspect, Leben was founded during Luxman's years of ownership by car-stereo maker Alpine, or if Hyodo simply wanted to be the captain of his own destiny, I don't know.
John Marks  |  Feb 14, 2013  |  0 comments
A particular audio interest of mine has long been cost-effective systems that work really well together. I think most of the audio sob stories I've heard can be traced to one or both of two things: mismatched equipment, and inadequate attention paid to room acoustics. I've previously written about systems that range in price from $7500 to under $1500. Here's as minimal and classy a high-performance system as you can ask for: one box for the electronics (including USB connectivity), and two stand-mounted, two-way loudspeakers. The total cost is just under $10,000, but I think the price is justified not only by swank looks, but by the sound.
John Atkinson  |  Feb 24, 2013  |  First Published: Oct 01, 1987  |  1 comments
Since its founding just over ten years ago, Mission Electronics has grown to become one of the largest "real" hi-fi companies in the UK. Although their product line originally consisted of three relatively conventional loudspeakers, it rapidly grew to encompass high-end pre- and power amplifiers, cartridges, tonearms, and turntables, and, in the mid 1980s, a system concept based on CD replay and relatively inexpensive electronics: the Cyrus amplifiers and tuner.
John Atkinson  |  Oct 12, 2020  |  0 comments
Two of the followup reviews that were published in the November 2020 issue of Stereophile have been posted to the magazine's website: Herb Reichert on the Yamaha A-S3200 integrated amplifier and the measurements of the Denafrips Ares II and Terminator D/A processors.
Ken Micallef  |  Jun 23, 2016  |  4 comments
In 1999, I visited a friend, professor of Italian history Bill Adams, at his castle lair in the mountain village of Panzano, in Chianti, Italy. The 10th-century Castello di Panzano towers over the lush Tuscan hills, offering stupendous views. Each morning we'd walk down the mountain to the town below, where squat old men drank espresso and watched soccer at the all-in-one café/general store/post office. We toured the Roman ruins at Volterra and San Gimignano, gorged ourselves on pasta, and admired the fashionable young women.
Chip Stern  |  Sep 01, 2004  |  First Published: Apr 01, 2000  |  0 comments
In Hinduism, an avatar is an incarnation of spirit—a god who descends to earth in bodily form. For Kevin Hayes of the Valve Amplification Company (VAC), the Avatar was meant to be nothing less than his defining statement of the state of the audio designer's art. Drawing on the high-tech refinements and scrupulous attention to individual components that distinguish his flagship high-end amps and preamps, Hayes has filtered it all down into one attractively priced integrated amplifier.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 16, 2009  |  0 comments
If you ever find yourself in an audiophile-type argument and need proof that, in the 21st century, manufacturing high-performance audio gear to sell for a reasonable retail price is becoming an impossibility, point to Vincent T.A.C.'s TubeLine SV-236MK integrated amplifier, designed in Germany and built in China.
Herb Reichert  |  Sep 04, 2015  |  13 comments
My girlfriend, "bb," a 6'-tall Aries artist, always says, "Math, science, religion, and even history, are all simply stories we tell ourselves about our experiences with a phenomenon we call energy."

My father, Herb Senior—the Deacon—always said, "The fundamental nature of the universe is vibratory—everything we experience is just waves!" He explained that waves—possessing power, amplitude, and frequency—are the basic building blocks of our reality. The universe actually "works" and is "comprehensible" because these waves are not random, but organized into exponential intervals called octaves. Our job, he told me, was to recognize and study this mathematical (and mystical) nature in action.

It's a shame that bb and the Deacon never met.

Chip Stern  |  Feb 01, 2001  |  0 comments
Having evaluated any number of integrated amplifiers in the past year or so, I've repeatedly been impressed by the ways in which designers build versatility and sonic distinction into their single-box designs. In matching those that sounded and measured the best—such as the tubed E.A.R. V20 (October 1999) and the solid-state Magnum Dynalab MD 208 receiver (January 2001)—with appropriate speakers and source components, I was able to attain high-resolution musicality with a minimum of fuss. Crave high-end sound but require even less complexity? You could dispense with interconnects altogether by integrating a high-quality CD player into a remote-controlled receiver, as Linn has with the diminutive Classik that I reviewed last November.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 29, 2016  |  5 comments
When I applied for this fabulist audio-preacher gig, John Atkinson protested, "But Herb, aren't you a triode-horn guy?"

"No, that was decades ago! Today I'm still a bit of a Brit-fi guy, but my mind remains wide open."

However: As a professional reviewer, I am biased toward affordable, lovingly engineered audio creations made by family businesses with traditional artisanal values. I enjoy solid-state as much as tubes—often more!

John Atkinson, Shannon Dickson  |  Dec 16, 1999  |  0 comments
Convergence is a widely used buzzword in today's consumer-electronics industry. However, other than using my PC's soundcard in the office to play back MP3-encoded music and plugging the Mac in my listening room into my reference system in order to experience Riven with the highest possible sound quality, I've kept a low profile in this area.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Aug 27, 2020  |  128 comments
Yamaha: The name evokes memories of my youth when those much-coveted receivers were out of financial reach, leading me to rely upon entry-level Kenwoods and Pioneers and others that sounded worse. Everyone who ever had a cheap receiver blow up—that's what caused me to move from Kenwood to Pioneer—or heard an old Akai that made LPs sound like 128kbps MP3s, please raise your hands.

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