Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum MKIII
Rogue’s 90Wpc Cronus Magnum features an Electro Harmonix KT90 tube. Striking a balance between elegance and power, its dynamic scaling is very fine—lilting with chamber music, muscular with rock and orchestral. The Magnum is also remarkably transparent to sources in a way very unusual in its price class.
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Premium
The Premium version of the DiaLogue incorporates select parts, an all-12AU7-based front end, and an EL34 pentode output stage, but KT88 and even KT120 beam power tubes may be substituted. (DO opined that the KT120 produces the best sonics in either ultralinear or triode modes.) A tube-roller’s delight that, thanks to auto-biasing, the DiaLogue Premium can hardly be bettered when it comes to user friendliness and operational flexibility.
Marantz PM-KI Ruby
With its companion SA-KI SACD/CD player, the PM-KI constitutes the famous Ken Ishiwata’s valedictory work, representing four decades of electronics that place musical beauty and naturalness over laboratory accuracy. Ecumenical when it comes to tubes versus transistors, the PM-KI exhibits some of the warmth, richness, and dimensionality traditionally associated with tubes together with the precision, definition, transient attack, bottom-end extension, and impact for which solid-state is prized, while its 100Wpc should satisfy all but head-bangers. Its onboard mm/mc phonostage is so good it obviates the need for a separate one. Ishiwata considers the Ruby components his finest work.
Rogers High Fidelity 65V-1
Classic tube power meets modern technology in aerospace engineer Roger Gibboni’s designs—there’s a free iOS app enabling control of volume, source switching, and operating mode (ultralinear or triode). Although intended as an entry-level offering, this integrated is not a watered-down version of one of Rogers’ big push-pull amps. In fact, it’s something totally different—a single-ended design using one EL34 power pentode per channel (upon request the amp can be shipped with a KT88 beam power tube). Reviewer DO says you really would be hard-pressed to find a more cogent and emotion-packed midrange.
Linn Selekt DSM
Linn’s complete reworking of its Network Music Player platform offers an engaging level of convenience, functionality, and, especially, performance from an all-in-one streaming solution—a class of product that Linn defined and popularized. With 50Wpc on tap combined with a simple user experience with clean, incisive, and accurate sonics, the Selekt DSM exemplifies why Linn is so successful within this segment. The combination of its distinctly neutral and articulate sound, taken to the next level using Space Optimisation (Linn’s native room-correction technology), lifts this re-designed modular solution to the top of the list of a growing number of similarly conceived products.
Primare Prisma I35
Primare’s 150Wpc Class D integrated is teeming with connectivity—Wi-Fi and Ethernet for network-based storage and streaming services like Tidal, Bluetooth, and AirPlay. (It can also be configured analog-only.) Sonically it walks the straight and narrow with solid, pitch-precise behavior in the bass, a full midrange, and a treble that doesn’t etch or irritate. Its character veers slightly to the cooler side of the tonal spectrum, and transient behavior is swift and clean. Picking up on the leading edges of a tambourine rattle, a trumpet blast, or even the fingernails of a classical guitarist is part of the enjoyment of living with the I35. A rock-solid performer.
Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe
A true multi-discipline, 125Wpc Class AB, DAC-equipped, network-audio performer that summoned a neutral personality throughout the greater middle range with intimations of extra bloom and body in the mid and upper bass. Orchestral music possessed a firm, of-a-piece signature that was detailed and layered yet stable and immersive. Treble octaves were smooth and non-fatiguing. Transient behavior was unforced and natural, rather than overly etched and prickly. Italy’s Gold Note fulfills the expectations of enthusiasts across the generations by having produced a modern, musically engaging, and highly configurable amp.
Bryston has replaced its well-regarded B100 with the more powerful B1353, which uses preamp elements from Bryston’s SP-3 as well as significant technology from its SST² power amps. With ample analog inputs, an optional mm phono section, and an on-board DAC, it is a versatile unit with enough power (135W) to drive even somewhat tricky speakers. High build-quality, versatility, and overall sonic immediacy and clarity are its strong points.
$7500 (phono card option, $1250; digital card option, $1250)
The Mimas is an old musical soul and not just another high-performance entrant in the über-integrated amp sweeps. Beyond its muscular 150Wpc output, this first integrated from Aesthetix can express the full palette of tonal and textural colors with harmonic ripeness. It embodies many of the classic sonic virtues of the golden era of tubes, but with the ease, control, and extension that are the hallmarks of today’s finest solid-state. Its character has hints of classic midrange warmth and airy treble sweetness with bass response that is as nimble as it is formidable. For vinyl enthusiasts the optional and super-silent modular mm/mc dual input phonostage is a must. The very definition of what we all seek from an integrated amplifier. Includes remote control.
There are some electronic components that immediately announce themselves with a distinctive sound, while others just do their job with a minimum of fuss and bother, preferring to remain in the background as it were. This new Yamaha is obviously one of the latter, which I intend as very high praise indeed. Its operation was flawless throughout the review period and it was fully up to the most demanding source material I threw at it, never betraying any evidence of stress, strain, or effortfulness. If someone asked me to recommend a high-quality preamp and amplifier in a single box free from quirks and idiosyncrasies both sonic and functional, one that is reliable, trouble-free, and does just precisely what it’s designed to do—which is transfer the source with as little alteration as possible to the speakers—the A-S3200 would be very high on any short list.
Bel Canto E1X Integrated
According to Bel Canto’s designer John Stronczer, “the E1X Integrated shares its architectural approach with the Bel Canto Black system design.” The 180Wpc Class D E1X utilizes a multi-circuit-board layout. Multiple processors reside on the AMiP board and control the USB, Ethernet, AES, SPDIF, TosLink, and analog input functions, while a dedicated processor contains the MQA decode and rendering function, as well as the MQA-derived filters. The E1X is, in every respect, Bel Canto’s best value. It’s a high-performance unit that delivers sonics on a par with a combination of reference components at double the cost.
Rogers High Fidelity EHF-100 MK2
The Rogers is a two-channel tube integrated amplifier rated at 65 Class A watts per channel. A classic integrated, it includes no DAC or phono section. Harmonically rich and dynamically powerful, the EHF-100 MK2 proved satisfying to listen to over long periods, with a smoothly extended high end, a detailed, realistic midrange, tight bass, and enough power to drive a wide variety of speakers. If you’ve been tempted by a tube amplifier but aren’t sure you want the maintenance hassle that comes with many of them, the Rogers EHF-100 MK2 is about as easy to maintain as a tube amplifier can be, thanks to automated bias adjustment, and offers the typical sonic advantages of a tube amp with the best warranty (lifetime and transferable) in the industry.
The 150Wpc Technics SU-R1000 integrated amplifier with built-in 384/32 PCM/22.4MHz DSD DAC and mm/mc phonostage is one of the most innovative and best-sounding pieces of electronics AHC has had the opportunity to audition in recent years. It shows how quickly integrated amplifiers are evolving and provides an exceptional mix of well-engineered features in a single unit. A product that is truly competitive with high-end separates and an excellent buy, even at its price.
Balanced Audio Technology VK80i
BAT’s first all-tube integrated is a stunning piece of industrial art that delivers over 55Wpc of pure triode power. The design combines the 6SN7 dual triode with the unique 6C33C-B power triode, originally designed for avionics applications and famously used as a regulator tube in the radio communications system of the MIG-25 fighter jet. The focus is on simplicity of operation and reliability, hence the automatic-bias circuitry. It sounds far more powerful than a comparable KT88-based amp and shifts gears without changing its sonic character. There is no perceptible textural grain or brightness even when it is driven hard. It is above all else a superb demonstration of triode power that offers a happy escape from the garden-variety push-pull beam-power or pentode amp.
Jeff Rowland Design Group Continuum S2
What do you get when you combine the Capri S2 preamp’s circuit and control features with Rowland’s own twin power conversion modules and a switch-mode power supply? You get a beefy 400Wpc fully balanced integrated amp that sonically runs the table, with swift transients and wide-open bandwidth. It won’t paint the sound with romantic brushstrokes—its neutral-cool temperament is more of a finely honed tool, designed for extracting resolution. Lavishly bedecked in the brand’s traditional aircraft-grade-aluminum sealed enclosure, the Continuum S2 can also be had with an optional easy-to-install phonostage or DAC module.
Moon 600i v2
Building on a long tradition of great-sounding integrated amplifiers, Simaudio has hit one out of the park with the 600i. This dual-mono, fully differential integrated delivers the sound quality of expensive separates with the convenience of a single chassis. The 600i’s presentation is rock-solid in the bass, unbelievably dynamic, with a slight forwardness in the midrange that increases lifelike presence.
Devialet Expert 220 Pro
This highly advanced and innovative integrated amplifier with built-in streaming support produces 220Wpc (into 6 ohms) from its patented hybrid Class A/Class D output stage. The slim and stylish chassis is packed with sophisticated technology, among which is Speaker Active Matching (SAM) that monitors speaker behavior and changes the drive signal on the fly to correct for speaker shortcomings. (SAM works only with select speakers; check Devialet’s website for the list.) With a compatible speaker, SAM sounds fabulous. REG wrote: “I have seldom been so excited about an audio development as I was when hearing a middle-sized loudspeaker put out such a convincing facsimile of an orchestra at full tilt.”
MBL Cadenza C51
With its soft, understated lines, svelte controls, versatile connectivity, and jewelry-like finish, it’s easy to misjudge the depth, complexity, and sonic excellence of the C51—a 180Wpc, modified Class D tour de force. It has the touch of the classicist in the emphasis it places on the finest inner details; its resolution of acoustic space is almost eerie in specificity. Its top-end is top-notch—airily extended with none of early-era Class D’s darkness and constriction. A triumph in its category.
Pass Labs INT-250
With 250Wpc (500Wpc into 4 ohms), the muscular INT-250 embodies effortless dynamics, ultra-wide bandwidth, superb low-end control and grip, and effortless highs. Its soothing and seductive sonics are an ideal companion for analog LP playback—this Pass integrated just makes you want to spin vinyl endlessly. With musicality that is second to none, it operates at the outer limits of what is currently possible in today’s integrated amplifier marketplace.
T+A PA 2500 R Series
The highboy integrated amp in T+A’s vaunted R series, the 140Wpc PA 2500 R is a dual-mono, fully balanced, high-voltage design with a Class AB output stage biased into Class A for the first 20–25 watts. Clean and authoritative, and easy to operate, the PA 2500 R conveys the sense of a well-oiled machine. Its sonic signature is one of balance and control, with musical images rooted in space and vocals models of stability. Its most identifiable traits are wideband spectral response and dynamic extroversion. The PA 2500 R delivers big, high-intensity wattage that never seems to waver in responsiveness and extension regardless of load. Includes an excellent phonostage. Wunderbar!
If you lust for Esoteric’s ultra-expensive Grandioso system but don’t have the requisite massive dough or massive space, the F-03A is the solution. This integrated is designed and built to the highest standards, with a modest power output of 30Wpc (60Wpc into 4 ohms). But those 30W are Class A, and some of the sweetest you’ll ever hear. When driving a speaker of appropriate sensitivity, the F-03A delivers the harmonic richness, transient fidelity, transparency, and musical resolution of much more expensive separates. This is ultra-high-end on a smaller scale.
Rogers High Fidelity KWM-88 Corona
This integrated amplifier combines the absolute best qualities of a tube linestage and tube power amp in a single chassis. It throws in some useful technology in the form of an app that enables your smartphone to serve as the remote control, and automatic bias setting for power output tubes. Ships with either KT88 or KT150 tubes (your choice, same power). With plenty of power to drive most speakers, the Corona delivers the best bass VF has heard from a tube amplifier. What few flaws it has are quite minor.
$15,200 (optional: DAC/streamer, $3800; phono module, $1175)
This very-high-end, all-tube integrated amplifier from Bulgaria sports a modular construction that allows you to tailor the product to your needs or to upgrade as your system expands. The Enyo can be fitted with a phono module ($1175) and/or a streaming DAC card ($3500). Fully loaded, the Enyo comes in at $20,175. Although compact, the unit weighs 60 pounds, and delivers a solid 50Wpc. The phono, digital, high-level-analog, preamp, and power-amplifier sections all offer high sound quality, and there is consistent voicing in the digital and phono modules.
Constellation Inspiration 1.0
The firm’s most affordable effort and the third entry in Constellation’s Inspiration Series, the 100Wpc Integrated 1.0 has a tonal signature that is ever-so-slightly shaded to the cooler side of neutral; dynamically, it doesn’t give an inch to suppress or soften transients. Treble performance is equally exacting but open, with hints of air and sweetness and not a trace of grain. Unmistakably Constellation in its elegant, matte-finish aluminum casework and distinctive cross-drilled side panels, the Inspiration 1.0 is nothing short of a new high for Constellation’s entry level.
Jadis DA88S MkII
The 60-watt Jadis integrated amplifier is no wallflower. An explosive performer it lays down the law with Jesuitical force. While the DA88S does not produce the very deepest notes, it excels at delivering prodigious and harmonically rich bottom end that has a propulsive quality. For all its warmth and bloom, the Jadis never truncates or blunts transients. It delivers cymbal swishes or the blat of a trumpet with extreme precision. Above all, it is the sheer wallop this unit delivers that distinguishes it from many of its competitors.
$23,000 ($27,000 with phono, DAC option also available)
High-end audio is so often about compromises, trading one characteristic for another. What sets the Soulution 330 integrated apart is its ability to strike just the right balance of musical elements without compromise—and to manage to do so across so many recordings and styles. The company has somehow succeeded in keeping many of its best sonic characteristics, while paring down parts and pricing. This integrated gets out of the way of the music in the right ways, but also delivers the right stuff. The exquisite Soulution 330 may still cost a pretty penny (especially if you add the superb, optional phonostage or DAC boards), but if you have the coin, we highly recommend auditioning it.
Ypsilon has brilliantly grafted the electronic DNA from its flagship Aelius monoblocks and PST100mk2 preamp into its sole integrated amp. The result is a 110Wpc hybrid analog amplifier utilizing only three active gain stages. Few others capture the earthy sense of “being there” like the Phaethon. It does this with wide color and velvety textural contrasts, micro-detailing, harmonics, and a vise-like grip. Quality of construction is Herculean—70 heroic pounds of satin-finished aluminum and heat-sinking that would take the demigod himself to lug up Mt. Olympus. Includes a remote control, plus four inputs.
Vitus Audio SIA-025
Conventional wisdom states that integrated amps are hopelessly compromised at birth. Vitus Audio obviously didn’t get this memo when it created the SIA-25. Built to the same Olympian standards as its preamps and amps, this 25Wpc Class A (on-the-fly switching to 100Wpc Class AB) integrated gives you the best of separates in a single chassis—liquidity, presence, a 3-D soundstage, and the finest gradations of timbre and dynamics. It may not fill a cathedral (unless horns are your thing), but the SIA-25 is the pinnacle of a breed never again to be underestimated.
$26,500 (Signature $34,500)
This hybrid amplifier combines the tube preamp stage of Absolare’s superb Passion preamplifier with a newly designed 150Wpc solid-state output stage. Despite the transistors, the Integrated sounds remarkably like a pure-tube design—and not just any tube design. Specifically, the Integrated delivers much of the sonic character of Absolare’s Passion SET power amplifier, with a richness of texture, harmonic density, and a gorgeous and grain-free midrange that make this amplifier special. Beautiful leather-clad casework and minimalist controls exude class and elegance.
Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II
In direct comparison with an exceptional preamp and amp that cost more than four times as much as it does, the $30k Goldmund Telos 590 Nextgen II didn’t just hold its own; it excelled, particularly in the bottom octaves, where it killed. When you add to this the fact that the 215Wpc into 8 ohms (350Wpc+ into 4) 590 II comes with an excellent built-in 384k/DSD128 DAC, it’s a single-box package that’s quite attractive—especially if astounding speed, neutrality, resolution, and realism are your priorities. Pity it doesn’t come with provision for a built-in phonostage or more than one output (so you could connect to speakers and subs simultaneously). Still and all, one of the best integrateds Old Graybeard has heard.
The Argo integrated amplifier’s mission is to deliver the classic Constellation sound at a lower price point. To accomplish this, Constellation’s designers merged two existing Performance Series (one down from the ultimate Reference Series) components: the Virgo II preamplifier and half of a Centaur II power amp. The splicing was a solid success, as evidenced by the Argo’s seductive-yet-propulsive, forgiving-yet-detailed sound. Timbres are beautifully complex from top to bottom. Soon the Argo will support a phonostage and a DAC card, adding to its already impressive versatility and value.
CH Precision I1
$38,000–$50,000, depending on configuration
Though dubbed an integrated amplifier, CH Precision’s I1 barely resembles typical members of that ilk. Its modular nature allows users to configure it to handle virtually any combination of digital inputs, analog inputs, streaming audio, even a moving-coil cartridge. Moreover, the I1’s sound quality is every bit as sonically and musically revelatory as that of far more expensive CH standalone components, several of which it incorporates virtually intact. Dynamics, in particular, are extraordinary, and the excellent phono card obviates the need for an external phonostage. Overall, it’s hard to think of another $50k electronics choice—either integrated or separates—that boasts the same pedigree, versatility, footprint, value proposition, and sonics.
The Humbolt grew out a project to pack as much performance as possible into a single chassis. It shares much of the technology of its more costly brethren, offers a full feature set, and can output a whopping 320Wpc into 8 ohms. The Humboldt delivers a bottomless noise floor that lets the music breath, and supreme dynamic prowess, conveying music with passion, soul, and energy. The sense of rhythm and pace are extraordinary, and the extremely low noise floor confers a see-through clarity and transparency that render tone colors more vivid and alive. Extreme bottom-end grip is not quite as convincing as state-of-the-art separates.
VAC Statement 450i iQ
The epitome of “form following function” electronic design, the Statement 450i iQ integrated amplifier sets new standards for the product class, and not just for tube-based designs. Its abilities to accurately render tonality, with its complex harmonic structure and texture, its broadband transparency, its astonishingly unconstrained transient fidelity, and its exceptional low-frequency performance make it the most accomplished offering in its class. If you think tube-based amplification can’t compete with, let alone compare to, solid-state power, go hear the 450i. Its exceptional clarity, superb resolution, unflappable transient fidelity, unswervingly authentic tone, and virtually perfect broadband pitch definition are only closely matched by some mega solid-state amplifiers.
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