The IDA-16 is an excellent example of the “new” integrated amplifier, with both digital and analog inputs, a 200Wpc Class D amplifier, and a DAC capable of playing music files ranging up to 384/24 for PCM and DSD256—which includes all currently available albums— in a slim, stylish package. With five digital inputs and one analog input, and an analog output to drive subwoofers, the IDA-16 is well suited for today’s audio systems. Although listenable right out of the box, the IDA-16 becomes more dynamic and delicate with 150-200 hours’ break-in. Highs are smooth, detailed, and very extended, though not at all peaky. Bass is also extended, with tons of impact. The midrange lacks just a smidgen of the detail present in other, more expensive amplifiers. The soundstage is quite wide, with instruments realistically distributed between the speakers. Voices are unstrained and pure-sounding, indicating low distortion. At $2600, the IDA-16 offers considerable value for the money.
The Norwegian company Hegel Music Systems has sallied into the integrated market with its superlative H160. Much like the country it hails from, the compact H160 lands on the cool side of neutral. It’s a solid-state unit that never sounds strident or glassy but always provides a superbly transparent and controlled presentation. Much of this sonic purity is a product of Hegel’s innovative SoundEngine technology, which constantly adjusts the operating parameters of the Class AB amplifier’s output transistors for optimal performance. The aim of this technological wizardry is both to reduce distortion and improve damping in real time. Packed with a variety of features, including the ability to stream wirelessly via an Ethernet input, the H160 can drive most loudspeakers with ease. At its relatively modest price, it is a potent reminder of the rapid sonic advances that the high end has made over the past decade.
Jadis DA-88S Mk II
The Jadis DA-88S Mk II is not a good tube integrated amplifier. It is a superb one. It deploys KT-120 output tubes—a total of eight—to deliver a very robust 60 watts that can drive big loudspeakers like Wilson’s XLF with aplomb. The DA-88S Mk II is self-biasing for ease of use and features a balance control, something that has gone out of fashion but can be quite useful. Its imposing hand-wound transformers clearly have a salubrious effect upon the purity of the sound. The Jadis allies liquidity with great dynamic power. Its sonic character is worlds removed from current solid-state designs. This is a unit engineered by and for tube lovers. The resolution, palpability, and, above all, sense of sweep conveyed by the Jadis are seldom less than glorious.