Integrated Amp Reviews

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Art Dudley  |  Mar 25, 2020  |  9 comments
I am the world's worst consumer. Not only have I made more than my share of disastrous purchase decisions, I'm also inexplicably luckless: If there's one defective sample or repack in an inventory, it will find me.

I'm also a deceit magnet, and I'm spineless: More than once in my life, I have made abominable purchase decisions solely to please a manipulative salesman or a disinterested third party (read: girlfriend). There is abundant photographic evidence that I don't know how to shop for clothes, my glasses are wrong for my face because I trust the advice of opticians with bad or no taste, and the less competent/more antagonistic the barber, the likelier I am to say "Great job, I love it" and tip them 50%. If I were smarter, I might actually be rich by now, or at least comfortable.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 06, 2020  |  18 comments
The Quad Electroacoustics Ltd. Artera Solus is a multifunction audio component that was designed to look smart on top of a bureau in a living room or office. It comes with a thick, removable smoked-glass top that complements its compact dimensions. It weighs 25lb, and, in addition to being attractive, feels genuinely solid and well-made. Like its Artera-series stablemates, the Artera Solus strikes an intriguing engineering and aesthetic balance between decorator-friendly lifestyle product and serious audiophile product worthy of the Quad name.
Ken Micallef  |  Jan 31, 2020  |  7 comments
In Herb Reichert's review of the original Schiit Audio Ragnarok integrated amplifier, he wrote, "Schiit Audio's Ragnarok [is] the first amplifier of my experience that plays earth and sky, mind and body, brown eyes and blue, speakers and headphones, with equal narcotic intensity." Herb's colorful conclusions so persuaded me of the Ragnarok's worth that, when Schiit Audio's Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffatt announced the impending release of the Ragnarok 2, I pitched a Stereophile follow-up review.
Herb Reichert  |  Jan 23, 2020  |  33 comments
In my personal life I prefer the minimalist, one-box architecture of integrated amplifiers. Always have. Before I started writing for Stereophile, my only audio system consisted of a pair of 15 ohm Rogers LS3/5a loudspeakers (with factory wall mounts) and an ancient Creek integrated amplifier, connected to my computer via a Halide DAC HD, and to an Oppo CD player. That system had pitch-perfect tone and was satisfying with all types of music.
John Atkinson  |  Dec 23, 2019  |  31 comments
High-quality playback of digital audio is evolving in two opposed directions. One is where a smart wireless loudspeaker, like the KEF LSX or DALI Callisto 6 C, needs to be connected to a simple source of data. The other is where a smart amplifier takes the data from wherever it needs and sends it to a pair of dumb loudspeakers. NAD's Masters Series M32 integrated amplifier ($4848 with its optional MDC DD-BluOS module), which I reviewed in May 2018, is a great-sounding example of the latter approach.

In the spring of 2019, NAD introduced the Masters Series M10 ($2749). At first I assumed that the M10 was a stripped-down, less-powerful version of the M32, but the new amplifier offers a unique set of features.

Jason Victor Serinus  |  Nov 29, 2019  |  16 comments
I was less than thrilled by Editor-in-Chief Jim Austin's suggestion to review the solid-state Krell K-300i integrated amplifier ($7000, plus an additional $1000 for the optional DAC). I had recently reviewed another $7000 integrated amplifier, the quite different hybrid Aesthetix Mimas, and while I ended up liking the Mimas a whole lot, I felt decidedly lukewarm about having to recalibrate expectations for another integrated, especially one that costs far less than my reference Dan D'Agostino Progression monoblocks ($38,000/pair) and whose DAC option is a fraction of the price of my reference dCS Rossini DAC/Rossini Clock combination ($31,498 plus cables). How good could it be?
Jim Austin  |  Nov 29, 2019  |  48 comments
My in-person introduction to Devialet's products was under auspicious circumstances. I was in Paris for what would be a month-long vacation; my wife was there to give some lectures, but I was free to roam the city, take pictures, practice my bad French, and enjoy the excellent food—the experience of a lifetime except that, a few days in, I was missing music. Still early in my visit, I wandered by the big Devialet retail store near the Paris Opera; it was closed but it gave me an idea. I soon had two Gold Phantom powered loudspeakers in our Paris studio apartment.
Ken Micallef  |  Nov 19, 2019  |  69 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.
Ken Micallef  |  Sep 24, 2019  |  30 comments
New York City is forever being born. Lately, transnational capitalists are turning Manhattan into both an investment vehicle and playground for their platinum-level appetites. As real estate developments blot the city's skyline with competing glass-and-metal towers, mom-and-pop businesses collapse under rising rents and a lack of protection from predatory landlords—all the while such New York institutions as the White Horse Tavern, Cafe Edison, Bleecker Bob's, the Plaza Hotel, the Paris Theatre, and the Chelsea Hotel undergo massive change or disappear altogether. (Thank God for Katz's Delicatessen!)
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jul 23, 2019  |  35 comments
I love listening to new audio products and discovering how they make me feel. I do my best to open my mind, ears, and pores, to trust the process and see where it leads me. Ultimately, for all the words and analogies I or any reviewer may conjure up, what we do isn't very different from a dog sniffing out a new patch of grass or an insect sending out its antennae to determine what's what.

In all cases, the spirit and care with which we approach new territory helps inform our conclusions.

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.
Art Dudley  |  May 21, 2019  |  9 comments
Audiophilia is nothing if not nostalgic—in fact, it's doubly so. Listening to recorded music is an act of looking back, often with the hope of re-creating some wistfully recalled wonder. On top of that, the zeal to perfect the playback experience, whether by means of better-quality recordings or better hardware, is far less common than it used to be among middle-class consumers. Although in recent years our pastime has surprised with its resilience, we're surely nearer the immolation scene than the Prelude to Act I.
Ken Micallef  |  May 16, 2019  |  12 comments
In his review in the November 2015 issue, Herb Reichert wrote that Parasound's Halo Integrated amplifier "has a recognizable sonic personality: easy flowing, mostly smooth, and decidedly mellow. . . . But don't worry—it's not milquetoast mellow or unwashed-hippy-stoner mellow. It is, instead, an everything's-under-control, don't-worry-now mellow."
John Atkinson  |  Apr 02, 2019  |  25 comments
In our February 2019 issue, when I reviewed a new integrated amplifier from Colorado-based Ayre Acoustics, I concluded that "the EX-8 Integrated Hub is a high-end contender at a competitive price" (footnote 1). In that review I promised a Follow-Up in which I would compare the EX-8 with Cambridge Audio's Edge A integrated amplifier, which Ken Micallef had positively reviewed in our January 2019 issue (footnote 2). While I'd enjoyed my time with the EX-8, I'd found its balance rather on the light side, and that it projected voices somewhat forward on the soundstage.
Jason Victor Serinus  |  Jan 31, 2019  |  40 comments
"The sound was to die for," I wrote shortly before my resurrection. I was taking notes about the sound of CH Precision's D1 SACD and CD Drive (now $38,000) and C1 D/A Controller (base price $32,000), in the demo room of Michael Woods's Elite Audio Systems, at the California Audio Show, just three months after the 2015 edition of the Munich High End show. CH Precision's L1 dual-mono, solid-state preamplifier (now $58,000), M1 dual-mono power amp ($104,000), and X1 external power supply ($17,000) had helped deliver "fantastic sound."

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