Integrated Amplifiers

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Ed Selley  |  Jun 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Icon Audio Stereo 60 Mk 3 More powerful than most and built the old-fashioned way: no printed circuit boards here! Icon’s exuberant literature makes many claims for this amp, including higher output power than most KT88 models can muster: 65-watt ultralinear or 35-watt triode. There’s nothing outrageous about that, though, and indeed we’ve seen 100-watt amps using just a pair of KT88s. The relatively high output power is partly responsible for the considerable weight of this amp, but the chassis is very substantially built too, complete with a solid copper top-plate around the valve area. Unusually, all the valves are octal-base types, including the small-signal valves and voltage regulator.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Opera Consonance Cyber 100 Signature This classic amp is as mechanically elegant as it is electronically simple There seem to be quite a few similarly-named amps in the Consonance range and this one with KT88 output valves appears to be specific to the UK market. It’s a classic design, both electronically and mechanically, and a very simple one in terms of its circuit. The valve count is typical: two double-triodes per channel looking after phase-splitting and driving the output valves. In keeping with current trends, there are a couple of 6SN7 valves, an old type that pre-dates the ECC8x varieties so popular in audio.
Ed Selley  |  May 17, 2011  |  0 comments
High-end challenger Despite just an 11-watt output this gorgeous, retro integrated tube amp is easy to love says our very own ‘golden ears’ Jimmy Hughes How much power is necessary for most kinds of music given an average-sized room? Well, the Consonance Cyber 10 Signature offers just 11 watts RMS at 1kHz, with harmonic distortion rated at about one per cent at seven watts. Frequency response goes from 6Hz to 60kHz (-3dB) at eight watts output and a signal to noise ratio of 87dB is claimed. Input sensitivity is 180mV. These are certainly decent figures, although distortion levels are higher than a typical solid-state design.
Ed Selley  |  Mar 28, 2011  |  0 comments
The new romantic Emille brings modern, digital inputs to old-fashioned valves in its most affordable amplifier ever as Ed Selley finds his top pick of 2011 so far Emillé takes its name from a giant, ornate bell that is considered a national treasure in its native Korea. Its range of well thought-out integrated, pre/power amplifiers and phono stages is entirely valve-based and has worn commensurately high-end price tags up until now. The £2,450 Ara is not exactly cheap, but is comfortably Emillé’s least expensive integrated amp ever and targets a rather more accessible and competitive price point. The good news is that there is little sign of cost-cutting.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Arcam A38 A favourite among the blind-listening panel in terms of its performance, the Arcam A38 is a solid all-rounder Arcam’s amps haven’t changed much externally since the introduction of the ‘Full Metal Jacket’ range several years ago, but their internal design has seen a fair bit of evolution. In its description of the A38, Arcam draws special attention to the output stage design which, it says, is much less sensitive to thermal conditions than traditional output stages. The issue of ‘warm-up’ of audio electronics is a long-standing bone of contention, some saying it’s of little importance, while others maintain it’s crucial for proper performance. What’s often forgotten, though, is that the temperature of the output transistors can vary by many tens of degrees during the course of a track, as the music goes from soft to loud and back.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Creek Destiny 2 The Destiny 2 is a worthy contender in the upmarket stakes and a sublime performer to boot Creek describes this model as its ‘high-end’ offering: that’s relative, of course, but it’s certainly true that this is the fanciest and most highly specified model ever made by the stalwart of sensible audio that is Creek. It’s a very solid device externally, quite slimline, surprisingly heavy, and very smart, thanks to its use of brushed aluminium for top, front and side panels. Fit and finish are excellent throughout and although it lacks the super-thick front panel that’s the usual fitment for true high-end audio, it otherwise looks the part to an admirable degree. It’s heavy because there’s a lot going on inside.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Cyrus 8xpd With its excellent credentials, the shoebox-sized 8xp d is an amplifier to contend with One of the undeniable advantages of surface-mount electronics assembly is that it allows a manufacturer to get more into a given space. The Cyrus one-size-fits-all case is half-width and of quite modest height, but this amp includes one of the biggest mains transformers we’ve seen in an integrated amp. Behind it are the output and preamplifier stages and a most impressive array of inputs and outputs. There are six ‘normal’ analogue inputs, a ‘Zone 2’ output, two preamp outputs, twin speaker outputs on BFA terminals, a mini-jack headphone output, a socket for connection to Cyrus’s popular PSX-R power supply upgrade and no less than five digital inputs: two each optical and electrical and one USB.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Roksan Caspian M2 With its tuneful performance and natural detail, the Caspian M2 is lined up to be the perfect hi-fi partner Roksan started out in turntables, but quickly diversified into amplifiers and the Caspian name goes back a long way in the company’s history. This particular iteration is in outline specification, your completely average integrated amplifier circa 2010, with six line inputs, an 85-watt nominal output and no funny business at all, unless you count the deeply funky touch-screen remote control. The appearance is distinctive, though, with that stainless steel top panel and as you’ll expect if you know the maker, there are a few interesting touches inside. The most obvious of those, after removing the cover, is the pair of mains transformers which between them take up the left half of the chassis.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Sugden Mystro From a brand with a long pedigree, the Mystro could well be the answer to all your amplifier needs We’re not sure how to pronounce the name, but we are sure that this is a Sugden unlike those we’re familiar with. For over four decades (!) the firm has been synonymous with low-power Class A amplifiers. This one changes everything, offering 50 watts of Class AB power from an all-new circuit. Mind you, in many ways it harks back to yesteryear, offering as it does a mere three-line inputs plus phono, single speaker outputs, no preamp or even ‘tape’ output, and remote control for volume only.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Leema Acoustics Pulse III With its proprietary interface and stylish controls, the Pulse III is the next phase in Leema’s enviable amp range As one of our listeners observed after the veil had been lifted on the amps, “That Pulse looks like a set-top box”. Maybe it does, too – and Leema mentions in its literature that the Pulse is intended to be for all the family. Maybe, indeed, hi-fi with the easy familiarity of a set-top box is no bad thing in this day and age. It’s a bit of a deluxe STB, though, not least thanks to the milled-from-solid aluminium front panel and solidly made casework.
Ed Selley  |  Feb 02, 2011  |  0 comments
Count on Cantata Jason Kennedy looks at the matching 50-watt integrated for our favourite CD player of 2010. Can Resolution Audio shine with its amps, too? Last year we had some bad news. Resolution Audio discontinued one of our favourite CD players, the Opus 21. The good news, however, was that it replaced it with the Cantata Music Centre, which went on to win several HFC awards in our 2010 Awards issue.
Ed Selley  |  Dec 07, 2010  |  0 comments
Progressive electronica Electrocompaniet has heavily revised its flagship integrated for the MkII version. Ed Selley rings the changes Electrocompaniet has been rather more active in the pages of Hi-Fi Choice over the last few year or so, but a major revision to a product in its ‘classic’ line is still sufficiently unusual to warrant us giving it some attention. The ECI5 MkII replaces the ECI5, which in turn replaced the ECI4. 7.
Ed Selley  |  Oct 22, 2010  |  0 comments
Fast lane for new M3i Musical Fidelity has gone back to basics with its new, affordable M3 Series. Ed Selley test-drives the ‘engine’ behind the new range Over the last fifteen years, Musical Fidelity products have literally come in all shapes and sizes. They have sported both extremely high and comparatively low power outputs and frequently mixed a variety of valves into the mix. This has, of course, resulted in a number of interesting products, all of which incorporate design thinking from the flagship Titan power amplifier (see the Talking Point box opposite).
Ed Selley  |  Aug 27, 2010  |  0 comments
Luxman luxury For sheer musicality and agility, the Luxman L550A-II has the potential to delight vinyl lovers everywhere. Ed Selley cues up Luxman has begun to rebuild a worldwide reputation as one of the premier Japanese audio brands. The current product range is considerable and expanding and features a bewildering variety of solid-state and valve amplifiers, SACD and universal disc players and phono stages. The latter is an interesting product line for Luxman to make as every single integrated it produces, be it valve or solid-state is already equipped with an internal phono stage.
Ed Selley  |  May 28, 2010  |  0 comments
Arcam A38 - £1,480 Comprehensive features list makes this amp a star performer Not much has changed with Arcam’s amps in recent years, at least superficially. That’s absolutely fine by this observer, who thought they were nicely thought-out when they first appeared and hasn’t found any reason to change opinion since. The A38 is the top model of three integrateds in the current range and it does many of the same things as most modern integrateds. For instance, it has fully electronic switching and volume control: but you still get a unique push button for each input and a decent size volume knob that is, at least, reasonably solid and generally nice to the touch.