Integrated Amp Reviews

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Herb Reichert  |  Nov 16, 2017  |  12 comments
For audiophiles of a certain age, the mere mention of NAD Electronics' original 3020 integrated amplifier (1980, designed by Erik Edvardsen), or Adcom's GFA-555 stereo power amplifier (1985, designed by Nelson Pass), conjures up happy memories of audio's last Golden Age—an idyllic time when working stiffs could luxuriate in the same audio arcadia as bankers and brokers. Since then, few, if any, audio components have achieved that level of iconic high value. Which caused me to wonder: What would it take, nowadays, to manufacture a genuinely high-value audiophile product: one that delivers exciting, satisfying sound at a price most audiophiles can afford?
Ken Micallef  |  Sep 21, 2017  |  3 comments
"Looking back, my life's passions have mostly been sensual: food, females, fast cars, music, wine, sailing and skiing. My motivations, activities and work have stemmed from the need to fuel these passions rather than enjoyment of the process."

Who said this? John Atkinson? Art Dudley? Dr. Dre?

Ken Micallef  |  Aug 24, 2017  |  7 comments
As a salt-and-pepper–haired bachelor living in present-day Manhattan, I admit to participating in mating rituals that have included electronic divining tools and computer-aided pleasure machines. In a phrase: online dating.

From various sites whose names begin with O or M, and which can lead to S or M with a stranger who may or may not be who or what she claims to be, I've had private zones tickled silly, and as often have found the process to be confusing, depressing, or both. I've been happily hijacked by a flexible Broadway singer, met a she who was really a he, and even found employment, all through online dating.

Kalman Rubinson  |  Jun 01, 2017  |  15 comments
Stereophile seldom reviews A/V receivers. We made an exception for Arcam's FMJ SR250 ($3600) because it's that unusual two-channel device: one that includes room-correction software, in this case Dirac Live. Many of us who listen in multichannel are comfortable with room correction, but a week doesn't pass without my hearing or reading someone say that they bypass room correction when listening to music in stereo. Spock-like, I find that illogical and, from experience, pointless.
Art Dudley  |  May 25, 2017  |  37 comments
One year ago almost to the day as I write, Peachtree Audio invited me and other members of the audio press to the New York City retail shop Stereo Exchange, where various announcements regarding the brand were bundled, by the company's Jim Spainhour and David Solomon, under the virtual banner "PEACHTREE 2.0." Among the news: Peachtree, based in Bellevue, Washington, would now be manufacturing their nova integrated amplifiers in Canada—the company's previous offerings were all made in China—and they'd signed up a new design and engineering team.
Thomas J. Norton  |  Apr 06, 2017  |  9 comments
The last few years have seen a flood of new integrated amplifiers in an audiophile market traditionally wedded to separate preamps and power amps. That might reflect the fact that integrated amps make a lot of sense, and not only because they usually cost less than equivalent separates. The latter gained a foothold in audio's Paleolithic era, when tubes were the only game in town. Tubes generate lots of heat—an enemy of electronics—and separating the preamp stages from the output devices kept this under control. Yes, there were integrated amplifiers back then, but they were generally of very low power—25Wpc was once considered monumental.
Ken Micallef  |  Mar 24, 2017  |  38 comments
As Stereophile's true cub reporter—sorry, Herb Reichert, you're senior staff!—I work in the domestic fields of the high-end audio landscape. Meanwhile, my fellow Stereophile correspondents trot the globe, attending international audio shows, experiencing all the sweet spots offered by such far-flung locales as Munich, Montreal, and Northamptonshire, UK. Am I complaining? Not! But when an audio show of merit invades New York City, still the capital of the civilized world, you can believe I'm there on opening day, pen and pad in hand. The first rooms on my must-visit list usually include Audio Note UK, DeVore Fidelity, MBL—and, when the gear is warm and the good vibes flowing, as they usually are, Wes Bender Studio NYC.
Herb Reichert  |  Dec 29, 2016  |  5 comments
When I applied for this fabulist audio-preacher gig, John Atkinson protested, "But Herb, aren't you a triode-horn guy?"

"No, that was decades ago! Today I'm still a bit of a Brit-fi guy, but my mind remains wide open."

However: As a professional reviewer, I am biased toward affordable, lovingly engineered audio creations made by family businesses with traditional artisanal values. I enjoy solid-state as much as tubes—often more!

Ken Micallef  |  Dec 01, 2016  |  1 comments
My entrée to high-end audio was in the late 1990s, when I bought a used pair of Cary Audio CAD-572SE tubed monoblock amplifiers to add to my Marantz CD player, Audio Note M2 preamplifier, and ProAc Response One SC loudspeakers. This system reproduced recordings with a sound that made me happier than a country boy with a glass of milk and a helping of peach cobbler. (I was reared, as my grandmother would say, though not born, in North Carolina, where Cary is based.)
Herb Reichert  |  Nov 23, 2016  |  7 comments
If I told you that Pass Laboratories' INT-60 integrated amplifier ($9000) was engineered by meth-lab trolls, its faceplate was wonky, its transformers buzzed, and it made every instrument sound like a tambourine, you'd think I was a crackpot with some kind of axe to grind, right? Because I suspect that, like me, you've never experienced or even read about a Pass Labs amp that didn't sound good.
Ken Micallef  |  Oct 27, 2016  |  1 comments
I recently watched Terra, an exceptional film by French directors Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot. It's not a nature documentary per se, rather a history of life on Earth from lichens to lions, amoebas to humans. Terra boasts stunning cinematography of the natural world, revealing a beauty that nearly softens the film's cautionary message.

"How have our relations with other living beings changed so much?" asks Arthus-Bertrand on his website. "What do we still see, or notice, of the living world around us? . . . We no longer see the wild, we dream of it. It's an age-old fascination, visible in the paintings of the Chauvet Cave. But this dream is today disappearing, vanishing in factory smoke and industrial smog. . . .

Ken Micallef  |  Jun 23, 2016  |  4 comments
In 1999, I visited a friend, professor of Italian history Bill Adams, at his castle lair in the mountain village of Panzano, in Chianti, Italy. The 10th-century Castello di Panzano towers over the lush Tuscan hills, offering stupendous views. Each morning we'd walk down the mountain to the town below, where squat old men drank espresso and watched soccer at the all-in-one café/general store/post office. We toured the Roman ruins at Volterra and San Gimignano, gorged ourselves on pasta, and admired the fashionable young women.
Herb Reichert  |  Apr 28, 2016  |  23 comments
This is a story about vulgar words and what is likely one of the most innovative and exciting, yet self-consciously idiosyncratic, audio components of the 21st century: Schiit Audio's Ragnarok integrated amplifier ($1699).

I never use vulgar words—at least not in public. I rarely use the word shit as an adjective, a verb, or a noun. Therefore, when I first heard of an audio company founded by legendary audio engineer Mike Moffat (formally of Theta) and award-winning science-fiction author and audio polymath Jason Stoddard—a company named Schiit—I could permit myself to pronounce its name only as Shite. I thought it made me sound British instead of rude.

Art Dudley  |  Mar 24, 2016  |  10 comments
Described by manufacturer April Music as an "all-in-one music center," the Aura Note Version 2 ($2500) is a 125Wpc integrated amplifier with a built-in CD player, USB DAC, and FM tuner. The Aura Note is further enhanced by a Bluetooth receiver, a pair of line-level output jacks, and a headphone jack.

The hackneyed but not inappropriate comparison to a Swiss Army knife comes to mind—but where that well-loved tool does a great many things with less than perfection, I've now heard the Aura Note V2 do at least two different things well enough that no excuses need be made on its behalf.

Herb Reichert  |  Mar 03, 2016  |  5 comments
August 26, 1944: The liberation of Paris. Imagine ranks of tattered Canadian soldiers marching past the Moulin Rouge à Paris. The voice of Édith Piaf singing "Ou sont-ils, mes petits copains?" (Where are my boyfriends?). Maurice Chevalier crooning "Ça sent si bon la France" (It smells so good in France). A Canadian army tank with the words Kaput and Finito painted in white above the word Montréal, motoring past the Eiffel Tower. Remember the fresh, celebratory taste of fine Champagne.

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