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.
Astin Trew AT2000 Plus- £1,740
Impressive sound and connectivity lead the way on this amp
Designed in Britain’, says the literature – though construction is actually Chinese. Wherever it was put together, though, this amp offers some impressive material value for money. Indeed, it seems to tick an unusually large number of boxes. Valves, multiroom capability, front- panel MP3 input, balanced input and output, high-grade coupling capacitors (along with some fancy cable, contributing to the ‘plus’ bit of the model name).
Cyrus 8xp D - £1,550
Superb amp that tries to cover too many bases
Possibly the hardest-working component in hi-fi, the Cyrus case moulding has done some impressive things in its time, but surely few are quite as surprising as hosting six-analogue and five-digital inputs, plus twin pre-out, Zone 2 out (usable as a record output), MC- Bus in/out, headphone socket, PSX-R power supply socket and bi-wire loudspeaker outputs, all on a rear panel one hand-span wide. You do end up needing slim fingers to plug and unplug, but that’s hardly a big deal when kit like this is unlikely to sell to full-on system- tweakers.
The digital input provision is particularly appealing. Five inputs (including one USB) is more than you get on any sensibly priced DAC and makes this amp a perfect choice for modern systems with assorted analogue and digital sources.
An amp with big potential, but a little too bright for some
Electrocompaniet has been around for a long time and while this amp certainly doesn’t date from the company’s earliest days, it’s hardly a spring chicken. Still, if they got it right first time round and all that. . .
Moon i. 1 - £1,450
Some technical flaws can’t dampen this amp’s spirit
While a £1,500 integrated is pretty upmarket for Arcam and Cyrus, it’s the very start of the range for Simaudio, whose Moon products extend to distinctly high-end territory with such products as the vast and powerful Titan power amp. But then the Moon i-1 is not exactly a shrinking violet, even though its 50-watt rating is fairly modest by current standards and the unit is not at all daunting to behold. It’s certainly neat and practical, though, as we shall see.
Unison Research Unico Secondo - £1,860
An exciting, energetic music-maker with a handy phono stage option
A large and imposing amp, this one is also pretty bare-bones, though unlike most it has the option of a phono stage. One of those was provided for review (the price given includes it, a very reasonable £125 on top of the basic model).
All kinds of amplifying devices are found inside the case, as the circuit uses bipolar transistors, FETs and valves. There’s very little use of surface-mount parts and most of the amplifying is done with discrete components, though there are a few op-amps dotted around and also some integrated circuits with part numbers intriguingly obliterated.
A £515 power amp with the ability to work in Class A makes the Swedish-made XTZ an attractive proposition, says Richard Black
XTZ hails from Sweden and is responsible for the room acoustics measurement system we reviewed a few issues back (HFC 330). The company’s range isn’t huge, but it includes an integrated amp, a CD player, a variety of speakers and some home cinema-oriented electronics and speakers, too. There’s no preamp yet, though we’d be prepared to bet on the imminent arrival of one.
The big thing with this amp is its ability to work in Class A, the ‘holy grail’ of amplifiers that avoids the dreaded crossover distortion by ensuring the output transistors are always passing current.
Thorens TD 309 £1,250 (inc. arm and cartridge)
Calling on a century of expertise, this new Thorens turntable has an enviable tonal quality
Few names in hi-fi can match Thorens’s track record. 107 years is a pretty good innings and the company continues to build on the reputation it built in the 1960s for audiophile LP decks. This model is a new addition to the range, its shape and general design bang up-to-date, even more so in the optional red finish.