2021 Editors’ Choice Awards: Integrated Amplifiers Under $1,000
NAD C 316 V2
The entry-level C 316 is still the go-to amp for audiophile newbies who crave sonic neutrality, good power output, nice tactile feel, and NAD’s characteristic quality control.
NAD D 3020 V2
Truly a design for our times, the D 3020 is improbably small and portable and loaded. This 30Wpc integrated offers a 96kHz/24-bit USB input and aptX Bluetooth music-streaming. With a smooth top end, its speed and openness can be truly enthralling. Although there’s a little bit of a veil over the sound, the D 3020 need make no apologies. At $449 it is a small miracle of packaging and portability, and a delight to use and listen to.
The DDA-120 was made for audiophiles who need a moderately priced, single-box amp/preamp to connect any conventional digital source to a pair of loudspeakers. If your speakers are at least 88dB sensitive and you can work around the DDA-120’s ergonomic limitations, you may find that it is simply the best-integrated amplifier you’ve heard. (Now includes an analog input.)
NAD C 328
NAD calls its new integrated amplifier a “Hybrid Digital DAC Amplifier,” a moniker that hints at its digital prowess. The C 328 can handle a wide range of digital sources and, indeed, features a topology that keeps signals in the digital domain until the switching output stage. Although the amp is rated at 50Wpc, Paul Seydor found that the C 328 wasn’t lacking for power in real-world situations. The C 328 acquits itself excellently in nuance and resolution. With rock and driving jazz it displays a lot of punch, kick, drive, and swing. Subjectively, noise and distortion are extremely low, the presentation notable for its clarity and articulation without appearing in the least analytical. A tremendous bargain and a worthy successor to NAD’s legendary 3020 integrated amplifier.
PS Audio Sprout100
Though the updated Sprout100 version’s compact, retro-modern form factor remains the same, many changes abound, including a redesign for the mm phonostage and headphone amp, an upgrade to a new ESS Sabre 9016 DAC chip, defeatable bass boost, a tiny indicator LED, and a remote control. Oh, and twice the power: 100Wpc into 4 ohms. We were struck immediately by the Sprout100’s ability to coax even more spaciousness, lively musicality, detail, and low-end extension from the Air Tight Bonsais’ single drivers. Expect big sound from a sweet, small-footprint, full-featured component with plenty of visual and tactile appeal.
The Marantz PM7000N integrated stereo amplifier is a good-sounding product that can shrink audiophile sprawl down to something more manageable without sacrificing what matters most. It’s an all-in-one solution that comes equipped with built-in DAC, network streaming, Apple AirPlay, multiple line inputs, multiple digital inputs, and a phono section. Despite having a foot firmly in every camp, its presentation is gracious—an overall solid performer packed with value. Digital is easy to set up, and while the phono section isn’t perfect, it reveals plenty of detail and has a nice, engaging sound.
NAD C 368
NAD’s C 368 is a great-sounding and forward-looking integrated that will satisfy now and well into the future. The 80Wpc C 368 (240Wpc IHF dynamic power into 4 ohms) incorporates not just a DAC, but a full suite of interchangeable modules thanks to NAD’s Modular Design Construction. The C 368 sounds more powerful than its rating, capturing music’s continuously changing dynamic level with noteworthy precision and exhibiting a dynamic exuberance typical of NAD equipment.
Is there any other audio component with as many features as the A-S801 amplifier? And it’s not like the features were just thrown in to impress; the A-S801 surprised reviewer Vade Forrester by how good it sounded driving the inefficient KEF LS50 speakers in his largish room. Optional Bluetooth connectivity expands the A-S801’s functionality and appeal. A flaming bargain.
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