Integrated Amp Reviews

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Robert J. Reina  |  Jan 27, 2010  |  3 comments
We crotchety middle-aged (and older) audiophiles frequently sit around and whine about the apparently rising median age of enthusiasts of two-channel audio. "We need to do something to attract the youts to our cause!" one of us will say. (Youts? See Joe Pesci in My Cousin Vinny.)
Larry Greenhill  |  Jul 09, 2000  |  0 comments
When I learned that Madrigal Audio Labs was marketing their first integrated amplifier, the Mark Levinson No.383, I felt this was a big change for the Connecticut company. Mark Levinson literally started the high-end marketing revolution back in the early 1970s by manufacturing cost-no-object separate amplifiers and preamplifiers. The purist designs had one overriding rule: employ the simplest circuit path possible. Each amplifier or preamplifier used only individual circuit-board components (no integrated circuits) and had a minimal number of controls, eschewing elaborate switches and tone controls. Mark Levinson Audio Systems and its successor, Madrigal Audio Laboratories, has continued this philosophy of separate components for the past 25 years.
Larry Greenhill  |  Nov 25, 2015  |  3 comments
In July 2000, I reviewed the Mark Levinson company's first integrated amplifier, the No.383, and found that its sound had "clarity, transparency, liquid mids and highs, with dynamic contrasts." Also evident were the No.383's power-output limitations, the result of building large power supplies and heatsinks into a single case that had to fulfill multiple functions. Still, the No.383's price of $5900 was much less than the total cost of the equivalent in Mark Levinson separates. Later, in April 2007, I reviewed a similarly powered integrated amplifier, Bryston's B100-DA ($3195), which included a built-in DAC.
Art Dudley  |  Feb 22, 2008  |  0 comments
Although she'll deny it, my wife thinks ill of me because I've failed to buy her a new Mini Cooper. I can point to a number of things in my defense—especially the Mini's lack of all-wheel drive, which we need for climbing our quarter-mile driveway in bad weather, and its insufficient cargo and passenger space—all of which would constrain a Dudley-owned Mini Cooper to recreational use only. And a new round of car payments would be difficult to justify for those reasons: not because I'm cheap, and not because I'm too old to appreciate a car that's fun to drive.
Wes Phillips  |  Dec 03, 2006  |  First Published: Jul 03, 1996  |  0 comments
What, I hear you asking, is an integrated drive? The MID is part of McCormack's much lauded "Micro" series (see my review of their Micro Line Drive in Vol.18 No.6), which are designed to offer the same dedication to quality as McCormack's full-size components, but at a lower price (and in a smaller package). The MID was initially the Micro Headphone Drive, sporting two ½" stereo phone-jacks on the front panel, a two-position input switch, and a volume control. The rear boasted two inputs and an output (controlled by the volume pot). It was designed to be a high-quality headphone amp and a minimalist preamp. In this configuration, I ran into it at the 1995 WCES where—almost as a gag—Steve McCormack had made up a few ½" stereo phone-plug to 5-way binding post connectors. He could, he explained, run small speakers from the headphone outputs. There was a serious purpose behind the joke, of course. Showing that the MHD could drive speakers spoke volumes for its ability to drive headphones.
Chip Stern  |  Dec 02, 2007  |  First Published: Aug 02, 1999  |  0 comments
Obviously, no one wants to listen to exaggerated bass, italicized highs, or colored mids. But if you (as I have in the past few months) plug in several high-quality integrated amplifiers, each designed to a different price point, into the same basic signal chain, you'll experience a wide disparity of sound signatures.
Art Dudley  |  Aug 02, 2011  |  First Published: Jul 01, 2011  |  0 comments
Blind though I am to the allure of blind testing, I can appreciate some degree of review-sample anonymity: Distinctive products elicit distinctive responses, but a plain black box encourages us to leave our prejudices at the door. It asks of us a certain . . . objectivity.

So it was with the Micromega AS-400 digital source/integrated amplifier ($4495), the anonymity of which was compounded, in my case, by a generous helping of forgetfulness: I suppose I was told, ahead of time, that this was a class-D amplifier, but at some point in time before my first at-home audition I apparently killed the brain cells responsible for remembering that fact. So I was innocent of conscious prejudice when I listened to this elegant cipher of a box and wrote, in my notes: "Dynamic, dramatic, and almost relentlessly exciting with some recordings. Imbued pianos with almost too much dynamism for the room—too much being very good!—but lacked some 'purr' in the die-away. Basically fine and fun. Wish it had a little more color and spatial depth."

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 03, 2016  |  5 comments
August 26, 1944: The liberation of Paris. Imagine ranks of tattered Canadian soldiers marching past the Moulin Rouge à Paris. The voice of Édith Piaf singing "Ou sont-ils, mes petits copains?" (Where are my boyfriends?). Maurice Chevalier crooning "Ça sent si bon la France" (It smells so good in France). A Canadian army tank with the words Kaput and Finito painted in white above the word Montréal, motoring past the Eiffel Tower. Remember the fresh, celebratory taste of fine Champagne.
Kalman Rubinson  |  Jan 29, 2006  |  0 comments
In September 2005, for the first time, I attended the Expo of the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA), in Indianapolis. Although I saw many familiar faces and companies, it was apparent that the event was dominated by a spirit very different from the one that pervades this magazine or the high-end exhibitions at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). That spirit, however, does suffuse the rest of CES, and is well represented at Primedia's own Home Entertainment shows. That spirit encompasses video, and a view of audio that differs significantly from that of traditional audiophiles. Multichannel surround sound is taken as read, and novel technologies are prized higher than the proverbial "straight wire with gain."
Kalman Rubinson  |  May 24, 2010  |  0 comments
An audio/video receiver in Stereophile? Heresy!
Kal Rubinson  |  Jan 07, 2012  |  5 comments
In my last column, in November 2011, I mentioned that preamplifier-processors are generally at a price disadvantage in comparison to the same manufacturer's A/V receivers. The economies of scale almost ensure this. Typically, to design a pre-pro, a manufacturer uses one of its AVR models as a platform; the result is most distinguished from its parent AVR by its lack of power amplifiers.
Robert J. Reina  |  Apr 13, 2003  |  0 comments
It was 20 years ago today that Sgt. Michaelson taught the band to play. I was living in London when Antony Michaelson launched Musical Fidelity in an attempt to make a major statement in the area of affordable, high-quality, high-value electronics. Other Brits at the time were doing the same—companies such as Creek, A&R Cambridge (now Arcam), and DNM began to compete for the destitute audiophile's dollar.
Michael Fremer  |  Feb 29, 2004  |  First Published: Feb 01, 2001  |  0 comments
The old advertising jingle "Who put eight great tomatoes in that itty-bitty can?" bubbled through my head as Musical Fidelity's Antony Michaelson proudly unboxed the new $4500 M3 Nu-Vista integrated amplifier. How did they cram it all in there?
Michael Fremer  |  Oct 22, 2015  |  0 comments
Nuvistors—miniature, small-signal, vacuum tubes made of metal and ceramic—were introduced by RCA in 1959, at the dawn of the transistor revolution. RCA used them throughout the 1960s in its New Vista line of television sets, mostly in the tuner section. But by the early 1970s, solid-state devices had all but replaced tubes, nuvistors included (with a few notable exceptions). Ampex based the electronics of its well-regarded, late-'60s MR-70 open-reel tape deck on nuvistors, which were also used in microphone preamplifiers—in both cases for their very low noise and reputation for reliability and long life. For a time, Conrad-Johnson used them as well. While nuvistors may seem exotic today, they're hardly rare. On eBay you can find for sale hundreds if not thousands of used and new-old stock (NOS) nuvistors, as well as nuvistor sockets, without which the tubes are less easy to implement. (But they can be, and often are, hard-wired into a circuit.)
Art Dudley  |  Nov 15, 2007  |  0 comments
Specialization seems to be an inevitable consequence of progress: As the products of man and God become more and more complex, they're called on to do fewer things in more focused ways.

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