Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. Often when a new product comes my way for review, I’ve read up so much on it that I know precisely what it is and what to expect from it sonically. With the Vincent SV-500 integrated amplifier however, I did no such thing – although it has been on sale for a while now, this particular model is something of an unknown quantity to me. So, I simply remove it from its box, plug it in and start listening.
Warp back 10 years and almost every integrated amplifier you could buy was essentially an analogue preamp in the same box as a Class AB power amplifier stage, with a power supply to make them both work. Their greatest concession to modernity was a remote control, and if you were really lucky it would let you toggle between and adjust the volume. Now, the landscape has changed dramatically, and it’s products like this that show the way.
Completing Arcam’s trinity of new HDA products, the SA10 is the entry-level amplifier and I can’t help but detect a frisson of concern as you read this. After all, surely leaving its review until last is a sure-fire source of disappointment? It can’t be as good as its bigger brother, the SA20, right?
If asked to come up with the British loudspeaker manufacturer most likely to move into the amplifier sector, PMC might not be the first to come to mind. With a long-standing distribution relationship with Canadian amplifier specialist Bryston and a budding partnership with AVM in Germany, the company isn’t short of quality power options, so why build its own? The thing is, PMC has been building its own amplification for some of its active loudspeakers for some time now and has worked with Bryston to optimise design.
Launched in France in 1981 by electronics professor Yves-Bernard André, YBA today is a very different thing to the company that it once was. Some might lament the way the EU is dissolving national borders, but the real story of the past few decades has been the wholesale move of manufacturing from the West to the East. This was already happening in the seventies, with British brands beginning to manufacture first in Hong Kong, then Taiwan and eventually China.
Started in 1996 by electronics engineers Massimiliano Marzi and Andrea Nardini, Audia Flight’s philosophy is to use solid state in an interesting way, and the company’s first product – the 100 power amplifier – sported current feedback design, something that’s shared by its distant descendent the FL Three S. Being Italian, style is also a big thing – what would you expect from the land of La Bella Figura?
Arcam has been a British success story ever since it first burst onto the hi-fi scene in the late seventies. From my point of view it has always been a reliable go-to, with products that never fail to perform admirably. The SA20 is one of three units that mark the arrival of the new HDA range. This is the first selection of two-channel components announced since the acquisition of the company in 2017 by Harman International.
Despite the burgeoning popularity of the one-stop shop hi-fi component – to which one need only add speakers for a complete system covering all modern, non-physical digital media requirements – not everyone wants that degree of convergence and will happily settle for an integrated amp with on-board DAC and a decent phono stage.
Canada’s Moon by Simaudio has, perhaps inevitably, just cracked that particular nut with the introduction of the Moon 240i integrated amp/DAC – essentially the company’s highly regarded Nēo Ace streaming integrated amp minus the streaming bit and a helpful £710 from the Ace’s asking price. As such, the £1,990 240i represents a new entry point for Moon’s neatly tiered integrated amp range, which peaks – via the 340i and 600i – with the 2x 175W 700i.
We’re some way from that with the 240i, which quotes a more modest 50 Class A/B Watts per channel but, as ever, this is only a rough guide to speaker-driving ability and no guide at all to sound quality, an area in which Moon amps usually excel.