Integrated Amp Reviews

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Ken Micallef  |  May 03, 2018  |  8 comments
We're well past the day when the sound of top-tier tube amplifiers can be described as "syrupy" or "too warm" or producing "soft bass." Equally true, solid-state designs have reached a level of maturity at which "sweetness," "fluidity," and "flow" are similarly applicable descriptors, thus smashing the cliché of "cold transistor sound."
Art Dudley  |  Nov 17, 2011  |  5 comments
Let's not beat around the bush: this is what an amplifier is supposed to look like. The silver front panel contains over a dozen knobs and switches, yet somehow avoids seeming cluttered. The solid wood cabinet wouldn't look out of place next to Hugh Hefner's cognac decanter. And the controls! The SQ-38u is as full-function as they come ("as they used to come" would be closer to the truth), with a Balance knob, separate Bass and Treble Tone Controls, a low-frequency cutoff (aka "rumble") switch labeled Low Cut, a Mono/Stereo switch, and a mute button; plus switching and connectors for two pairs of loudspeakers. Everything but curb feelers.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 19, 2019  |  73 comments
In 2007, Luxman Corporation released the SQ-N100 tubed integrated amplifier as part of the company's NeoClassico Series, which focused on smaller, space-saving designs. The 12Wpc (into 6 ohms) SQ-N100 proved very popular, both in Japan and internationally, possibly owing to its use of EL84 pentode power tubes, cherished among audiophiles and electric guitar players alike for their midrange-to-treble luster and visceral sense of drive.
Chip Stern  |  Jan 25, 2001  |  0 comments
Musical arguments in favor of separate components are compelling and well-documented. But there's also something musical to be said about reducing the number of power sources, keeping signal paths short and direct, and hard-wiring connections between components rather than employing multiple sets of interconnects. So while a designer must inevitably confront certain tradeoffs, the explosive growth and popularity of single-box products in the past few years contradicts the received wisdom passed down by some of the more sniffy audiophiles: that such unduly proletarian products are terminally compromised in terms of absolute levels of music reproduction.
Chip Stern  |  Dec 07, 2003  |  First Published: Dec 01, 1999  |  0 comments
There's an aesthetic dimension to the Manley Laboratories Stingray that transcends high-end audio and borders on modern sculpture—not unlike the E.A.R. V20, which I auditioned in the October issue. Still, the Stingray is by no means an exercise in gimmickry. Form has clearly followed function at every step in the design process, the ultimate goal of which was to fashion a vacuum-tube integrated amplifier with real-world power that defined the outer limits of high-end performance in a functional, affordable, bare-bones package...with a touch of style.
Erick Lichte  |  Mar 22, 2010  |  0 comments
Years ago, when I taught high school choirs, I had many types of kids in my ensembles. Though none exclusively fit the overly stereotypical lineup of kids on Fox TV's Glee, I always managed to have a nice assortment of jocks, preps, goths, motorheads, geeks, wastoids, and dweebs. One of the things that always fascinated me was how the big, tough jocks would turn out to be the most sensitive, emotional singers. It was always a touching moment when an otherwise stoic football star or wrestler would get all misty while singing the final song of the year-end concert. It showed me that the toughest exteriors often hide the creamiest creampuffs.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 18, 2020  |  12 comments
DeKalb, Illinois, 1971: When I was in college, my anthropology professor would invite me and a few of his other favored students to his house for fondue parties. We sat on shag carpet around a glass-topped coffee table, drank wine, and dipped vegetables in molten cheese. The stated purpose of this rite was to discuss Margaret Mead or Franz Boas, but that was obviously a ruse. The gathering was really about excessive pot smoking accompanied by coughing fits and the telling of ridiculous stories, all while playing LPs on his top-of-the-line Dual turntable/record-changer.
Michael Fremer  |  Apr 23, 2010  |  0 comments
To celebrate his 30 years with the company, Marantz threw designer Ken Ishiwata a birthday party in the form of an assignment: Design a new, limited-edition integrated amplifier and SACD/CD player bearing his initials. (Only 500 of each will be made worldwide.)
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.
Jim Austin  |  Jun 20, 2019  |  27 comments
Mark Levinson isn't known as a budget brand, and most people would not consider $8500 a budget price for anything short of a new car. One could argue, though, that Levinson's new No.5805 integrated amplifier ($8500 with DAC and phono stage) is a budget component—combining high performance and build quality with a price tag that's moderate by hi-fi standards. Plus, there's a lot of functionality in one box.
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.
Larry Greenhill  |  Dec 30, 2020  |  38 comments
Recently, I received an email from Editor Jim Austin. "Larry, do you still use your Day Sequerra FM Reference tuner1 to listen to FM radio?" he asked.

"Jim, yes, I still listen to FM classical music in the Bay area. Why?"

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