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Integrated Amplifiers

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Ed Selley  |  Sep 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Electrocompaniet ECI 5 MkII Big and powerful, but calm and unfussed almost to a near-Buddhist extent It’s certainly imposing, and its non-standard width of 470mm may require some thought about siting it, but then maybe that’s just indicative of the Electrocompaniet way of doing things – not by anyone else’s book. The company has a long history of being original, going back to the days in the 1970s, when its genesis lay in Matti Otala’s documenting of TID: Transient Intermodulation Distortion. TID is now largely water under the bridge, component and design developments having ensured its demise as an issue in any decent audio amp, but Electrocompaniet continues to take an individual line on audio electronics and has a strong following as a result. Control of the unit is individual, too.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Rega Elicit The latest amp under this name is a sophisticated performer with singularly purposeful rhythmic flow The original Elicit, we were astonished to be reminded, appeared in 1990. Any resemblance to the current amp is superficial at most, as this design is new in concept, specification and design. It’s an 80-watt-rated amp built into a familiar-looking Rega case. In common with most current Rega electronics, it incorporates a heatsink on the underside: but since that’s not adequate in that position for two 80-watt channels there are also internal heatsinks at each side of the chassis.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Chip off the old block The long-awaited successor to the legendary 8000A is here: Richard Black finds out how it compares to the class of 2011 Audiolab: the brand that launched a thousand hi-fis. Many thousand, indeed. For many years towards the end of the 20th century, the Audiolab 8000A was the integrated amp to own as part of a decent-to-aspirational system and indeed plenty are still doing sterling service. After the success of the 8200CD (see HFC 340), we were even more keen to meet the successor to the 8000A; the 8200A.
Ed Selley  |  Sep 06, 2011  |  0 comments
Audiophile Airplay The first integrated amp to work with Apple Airplay is the claim, but is it audiophile? Jason Kennedy fires up his iTunes to find out Streaming digital music from your computer is a great idea, but it’s also a challenging one for the non-technical. Setting up such systems is getting a lot easier, but Apple’s Airplay is about as easy as streaming can be. All you need is an Apple touchscreen device or computer and an Airplay receiver, then you can play whatever is on the source wirelessly through the receiver. By combining the interface with the source cuts out a whole stage from regular wi-fi streaming systems.
Ed Selley  |  Aug 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Sound Ethos With high output power, balanced inputs, a DAC and USB ports, could the striking new hybrid Ethos be all things to all men? asks Jimmy Hughes The increased use of music sources other than CD has led to the need for hi-fi components with a broader range of options. In particular, the ability to accept digital source material stored on computer hard drives has become an added factor. With the Ethos, Pathos has created a powerful hybrid tube/transistor integrated amplifier capable of accepting a wide range of sources – from balanced analogue via XLR, to digital via USB (via an optional DAC). Here’s an amplifier that meets the needs of two-channel purists, while catering for those interested in using digital sources.
Ed Selley  |  Aug 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Multi-purpose Could Onkyo's TX-NR609 receiver be the best-featured audio tool on the planet? Ed Selley thinks he's found a great way to spend £500 It’s been a good few years since we featured an AV receiver in Hi-Fi Choice. But following Onkyo’s recent return to hi-fi (HFC 345) we were made aware of a truly ground-breaking new product with an astonishing spec-list, one that we felt should be put through its paces. The TX-NR609 is a seven-channel AV receiver with 160 watts (albeit into six ohms) per channel and six-HDMI inputs able to receive 3D video and every audio format you can think of. Additionally more conventional digital and analogue inputs are fitted, as well as an internal tuner.
Ed Selley  |  Jul 07, 2011  |  0 comments
Irresistible force The latest single-ended Unison S6 offers audiophiles pure Class A operation and a honey-rich glow says a smitten Jimmy Hughes Although solid-state amplifiers offer many practical benefits – smaller size for a given power output, cooler running, higher maximum power output and potentially lower noise – tube amplifiers promise a certain extra ‘something’ that many audiophiles seem to find irresistible. But is it all imagination and hype? While tube amps might seem to hark back to the golden era of high-fidelity, do they really offer any tangible benefits over a good transistor design? With its pure Class A output stage, the Unison Research S6 has all the right credentials. It undoubtedly talks the talk, but does it walk the walk? Gutsy sound Like most modern amplifiers, the S6 keeps things simple. It offers five unbalanced line inputs, a set of tape outputs and a single set of loudspeaker outputs.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 27, 2011  |  0 comments
PrimaLuna Prologue Two Basic on the features front, but beautifully built and an excellent choice for lovers of human voice Designed in Holland and made in China, PrimaLuna’s amps are essentially classic valve designs, but they bring distinctive aesthetics and a few modern design touches to the party. One such notable feature in this amp is ‘Adaptive auto bias’. Bias is a long-standing pain in the neck of valve amps: quite simply it’s the DC (‘standing’) current in the valves under conditions of no audio signal and it’s critical. Usually amps either have manually adjusted bias, which may even require test equipment to set, or auto-bias (also called ‘self-bias’), which does what it says but, in the traditional implementation, reduces maximum output power.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Pure Sound A30 Somewhat belying the name, we found this to be a very characterful amp – mostly for the better! There are degrees of valve purism. Pure Sound, appropriately enough, takes things a step further than most by using valve rectifiers in the A30, as well as valve-amplifying components. Is there sense in this? Valve rectifiers waste energy compared with solid-state diodes, they cost more and take up space and, like all valves, they have a finite useful life. Despite all that, they do have advantages in terms of turning AC into DC, with minimal high-frequency noise generation.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Triode Corporation TRV-88SE Striking to behold, very agile – but doesn’t quite knit everything together as one would like Triode Corporation makes a range of amps, which presumably all use triode connection of the output devices – this one certainly does. In many ways it’s a fairly conventional push-pull design, though the external finish is certainly among the best, with and wooden side cheeks. The removable valve cover is exceptionally resonant, but the cover over the transformers appears to be filled with resin and is completely dead, acoustically. Internal construction uses a mix of circuit boards.
Ed Selley  |  Jun 27, 2011  |  0 comments
Cayin Audio A-55T The name may be new, but the build quality and technology show all the signs of experience Cayin is one brand name of Zuhai Spark, a Chinese hi-fi specialist operation. Its amps are all valve-based designs running the gamut from relatively pedestrian valves, like the KT88 and EL34, to the exotic-looking GU29. This is one of the most comfortingly traditional models in the range, using a familiar line-up of four KT88 valves, plus two each of the ECC82 and ECC83. Like many current pentode/tetrode amps, this one has a choice of operational modes: ultralinear or triode.
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.

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